Mr. Selby, Mr. Bloom, and Pastor Biller have brought an interesting conversation on governing, religion and the economy to this page.

Governing. The U.S. Constitution establishes a representative Republican form of governing the USA and in each state. The power to democratically elect their representatives for governing resides in the people and the right of one person, one vote for all citizens, regardless of religious or spiritual affiliation, ethnic origin, orientation or gender. The Declaration of Independence plays no role in our governing design.

Religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free expression thereof.” After the war over secession, there have been efforts to amend the Constitution to declare the USA a Christian nation. All of those efforts have failed, reinforcing the USA as a nation of religious and spiritual diversity.

The economy. Nothing in the Constitution specifies that the USA must have a certain type of economic system and certainly not that it must be capitalism, however defined. We have a wide range of choices available to us for our economy. At one extreme would be an economy where there is a totally free market system where all ownership of all property is held privately by individuals. There is no government, consequently there are no regulations and no taxes. Individuals and corporations are free to do whatever they wish as there are no constraints on their actions. It is essentially anarchy. At the other extreme is an economy where the national government owns everything and dictates all production and prices. This other extreme is equally odious as there is no individual freedom, only the government as the absolute dictator of activities.

In between these two extremes, however, we have a wide range of possibilities for our economy, politically and socially. Capitalism encompasses a fairly wide segment of that range. “Capital” can be property, plant, equipment, patents, trademarks, inventories, stocks, bonds and cash. Fundamentally, capitalism is a means of wealth accumulation for those who have sufficient capital to put it to work earning more capital. Those who have little or no free capital are employees in that wealth accumulation process.

There are, however, opportunities for imaginative entrepreneurs to break into the capitalist elite. Unfortunately, over the past 50 years in the USA, the wealth gap between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of us has risen dramatically.

Our political/social economy includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, workmen’s compensation, unemployment insurance, the Affordable Care Act and numerous other programs that benefit the citizens of Allegany County and the USA. Mr. Selby labels these as socialist. Missing from Mr. Selby’s comments is corporate socialism at the federal, state, and local levels in the form of large corporate tax breaks and subsidies as well as the unlimited ability to use corporate funds to support candidates for elected office who reflect their interests.

Capitalism seeks to monetize as much as possible, hence the fascination with money as the medium of exchange. But not all or even most of what we value can be monetized or measured. How do you value the worth of the volunteer work that is so important to our community? And corporate capitalism does not include in pricing the externalized costs, such as air and water pollution, unsafe food and products and unsafe working conditions.

Rather, those costs are shifted onto the citizens and the environment. We need to find a level of governing processes, rules, regulations and taxation for our economy that focus on the well-being of people and the environment. We also need to have a healthy measure of reward for innovation, initiative and effort.

We need to find a healthy and dynamic balance between the two.

Thomas F. Hawk


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