Has our society become so obsessed with economic growth that people have become a commodity? Two items in my morning newspaper strongly suggest the answer to be an emphatic, shameful YES.
The first is a national story about how smuggling people across the Mexico/US border has become a billion dollar business. The Associated Press story reports on “a clandestine business worth billions a year, people packed tighter than cattle and transported like consumer goods in tractor trailers to the United States.” The United Nations estimates this to be a $6.6 billion people-trafficking business.
Making babies makes money
The second is a local editorial lamenting census reports that fewer Coloradoans are families with children. The rant warns of the “dangers of population decline,” and that “we cannot sustain the economy…when old, non-working Americans – dependent on pensions and government subsidies – outnumber people of working age.” It advises we’re in for “a future of poverty and despair,” if we don’t either get busy making babies or importing children. I kid you not! The headline reads, We Must Produce or Import Children.
These sad, but true pieces of modern Americana from today’s paper reveal that the bean counters have won. Persons are now perceived as little more than a commodity, an asset on the balance sheet to be bought, sold, exported, and imported.
The value of a human life is now too often counted by its contribution to an economy. We’ve been seeing the signs of this for quite some time, but today’s local editorial just begged for a bright spotlight to be shone on its unapologetic stance.
The best laid plans…
If it weren’t potentially so tragic, it’d be pretty funny. The writer actually had the temerity to pen, “a minority cannot provide adequately for a majority, any more than a pyramid can balance upside down.” He’s apparently unashamed that he’s defending a (right side up) pyramid scheme. And he clearly disregards that a pyramid scheme, unlike a diamond, is not forever.
The editorial completely ignores what other headlines this week have revealed: populations are starving, oceans are dying, rivers and aquifers are drying up. But don’t let that stop the grow-at-all-costs mind set. God forbid we interrupt this scheme of Ponzi demography and let the rate of population growth – whether it be global, national or local- decline.
Growth-pushers frequently use the pension and Social Security population Ponzi scheme to defend and encourage population growth. And while they’re correct in identifying one of the difficulties inherent in achieving a sustainable population, their analysis is grossly slanted and incomplete. They blow the problem out of proportion, ignore myriad smart solutions, and jump on the easiest but most deadly solution of adding more players to the bottom of the pyramid.
My local paper’s editorial opinionator might just be an uninformed hack. Or perhaps he’d rather hang on to his readership the easy way – by trucking new subscribers into town when the labor and delivery rooms aren’t meeting their quotas, rather than the more difficult way – writing informed, enlightened, thoughtful pieces more of us will want to read.
It’s hard to say.
Life for life’s sake
For now, I offer an alternative view. People aren’t financial assets. We’re not drones to be exploited in service to corporate profits or government tax coffers. We’re not products to be produced or imported.
Continued population and consumption overshoot will result in very serious resource shortages. This is already happening.
Adjusting to the relatively minor challenges of ending an unsustainable population and economic growth scheme is much preferred to dooming our children to a life of hunger and misery. Unless you’re a soulless growth-pusher counting nothing but dollars, a good life for fewer is better than a crappy life for more.
–Dave Gardner for Transition Voice