When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. “
Nothing is more important than your health….except for your money – FerengiLlaw of of Acquisition # 23
My Mom was a Communist, She didn’t mean to be, she didn’t want to be. But she was born in what was then Stalinist Russia (now Belarus) and was indoctrinated as a “Red Pioneer” to sneer at all things Capitalistic. However, since we are all walking paradoxes, she never stopped nagging my father about the fact that he didn’t make enough money. To say I grew up with mixed signals would be an understatement. All capitalists are corrupt. Money may not buy you happiness, but it helps. Don’t ever compromise for money. You can’t live without money. No wonder I became a street mime.
I’m a Trekkie. When I was a teenager, all fighting stopped, all dramas were suspended, all trouble was postponed during an episode of Star Trek. When it was canceled my mother, in her Russian accent which she insisted was not an accent said, “Of course they canceled it. It was a good show.” So besides offering me the possibility of someday getting to use a transporter beam (which Gene Roddenberry, by the way, created because there was no budget for extra space ships), Star Trek is forever associated for me as an oasis for my troubled family.
When Star Trek was finally revived, we were introduced to many species who reflected aspects of human archetypes. One civilization, called the Ferengi, are an endless source of comic relief. This is because of their obsessiveness with making money. Their life is all about commerce, money and trade. Their buffoonery rivals Donald Trump’s. Each time they are on an episode, I know I’m going to see a caricature of America’s passion for money and acquisition.
When I took economics in college, it was a bewildering blur of statistics, formulas and theories that were so far beyond my mathematically challenged mind that I dropped the course lest I affect my grade point average. Because you see, a good grade point average for a theater major is so useful in one’s future career. Or so I thought. Truth is, no one ever has asked me what my grade point average was
I did learn one thing, which I retain to this day. Money makes money. And how hard you work has nothing to do with how much money you make Ask anyone who works at McDonalds. I just read that the average CEO makes between 10 and 15 MILLION dollars a year. (Really, why do we even bother?)
One definition of economy (which by the way, comes from the Greek for Household Management) I learned calls it “the large set of inter-related production and consumption activities that aid in determining how scarce resources are allocated.”
That’s it. Make people want it. Then make it scarce. Or make it expensive, which is as good as scarce. And poof! You have a capitalist economy!
One of my favorite Ferengi Laws of Acquisition is “You can’t make a deal if you’re dead.” (#125.). Clearly this was written before our current relationship with various members of the undead. (Although if you’re undead, are you really dead?) In this country, keeping people alive is a multi-billion dollar industry. Not keeping us healthy. Just alive. U.S. health care spending grew 5.3 percent in 2014, reaching $3.0 trillion or $9,523 per person. As a share of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, health spending accounted for 17.5 percent. I sure as hell didn’t spend $9,523 on my health. I smell a Ferengi here somewhere. There are people in this country who don’t even earn $9.523 a year. In fact there are people in India who only earn $1 a week. But that’s another rant.
So according to the above definition of economics – health has become an expensive and scarce resource that is now driving our economy. Somewhere along the line, the cabal that runs our country looked up in alarm and said, “Wow! People are losing interest in stuff! They’re just not buying things like they used to. What can we make expensive and scarce to keep the commercial engines running? We could start a war, that’s always good for our economy. No. We’ve done that a bit too often lately. Let’s convince them all they are sick and need medication. Then let’s charge thousands of dollars for care and medicine that costs us a fraction of that amount. That should help the economy!”
As new research is showing, we are over tested, over medicated, over procedured. Too many mammograms with inconclusive results. Too much prostate intervention. Dangerous anti-cholesterol drugs. And of course, our latest debacle, the opioid addiction. Drugs that cost literally thousands of dollars per dose, even though they cost pennies to manufacture. All thanks to the medical industrial complex.
According to Star Trek, by 2364, humans will have eliminated war, disease, and poverty. Civilizations obsessed with commerce are objects of ridicule. Scarcity no longer exists. As always, my timing is a little off.