In Ann Arbor, Now

Two long and hot drive days sees us in Ann Arbor, where we will be staying overnight at Wendy and Lars' place. The trip back to Kitchener tomorrow will be much lighter -- only four hours if the border cooperates with us -- but what will we be coming home to? It's still pretty hot, and I hear that new wildfires in Quebec are having an effect on the pollution count.

Still, as great as this trip has been, I'm still looking forward to being home again, and seeing Gus, our cat.

I've been thinking about the Worldcom scandal in the United States (it's all over the news, here). Actually, try Enron/Worldcom/Xerox/Imca. Corporate America is having a lot of its skeletons coming out of their closets all at once, it seems. And this is the reason why Socialists have a place in our world.

I am a Tory, and unlike Socialists believe in the ability of the marketplace to best develop wealth for the majority of the world's population. However, we've just seen what happens if we let the corporations off their leash. And the only scandal here, really, is that these four corporations' drive for profit led them to lie, cheat, and commit criminal acts of fraud. Well, if they hadn't committed criminal acts of fraud, what would have happened then? How many other unethical things have corporations engaged in that weren't illegal? The incidents of environmental degradation, downsizing, and raising services charges so profits could be in the tens of billions instead of just billions are too numerous to list.

Neo-conservatives advocate getting governments out of our lives, saying that the free market knows best. But as Worldcom and Enron have shown, the first priority of the free market, even before law-abiding activity, is profit (greed). Are these the people we want in charge of our hospitals, our schools, our emergency services, our power grid and our transportation networks? We know that public interest and profit don't always go hand-in-hand, so we can expect the corporations to try to screw the consumer at every turn, if it is advantageous to the bottom line. Just look at Microsoft.

I hope that the Worldcom scandal breathes more life into democratic socialism. I don't agree with all of their principles, but clearly a balance has to be struck between public interest and private enterprise, and for the last twenty years the pendulum has been swinging hard towards private enterprise. I wish the socialists success in pulling the pendulum back. And I hope the thing comes to a stop halfway between the two poles.

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