Saturday, June 23, 2007

The downside of capitalism and the Americanization of Romania

I've just seen two movies: Sicko and Maxed Out, which describe, each in their own way, the issues arising from aggressive capitalism like the one in the USA. Some people are really quick to jump with the "oh no, it's socialist propaganda!" line and ignore the message, but, if you think about it, there is nothing wrong with some socialist propaganda now and then, since we are bombarded with capitalist propaganda every day in the form of ads and commercials and corrupt government propaganda.

I will make a (hopefully) short detour and talk about my perception of capitalism and democracy. I've always felt that there is something wrong with them, but could not exactly pinpoint it. Well, democracy is easy: the majority of people are idiots, therefore the rule of the people means you are lead by idiots. But capitalism? What is wrong with being competitive? Isn't that the only guarantee of performance? And then it struck me! Competition is not the problem, it's the performance! It's about one's definition of performance!

And now I return to the two movies, of which Sicko tells of insurance companies that pay doctors depending on how many people they refuse treatment to and Maxed Out shows how people are graded by the income they bring to the credit card companies, meaning that people with a high risk of being late on payments or even the ones that are not capable of paying are their main income sources, since they pay all those additional risk interest fees and late payment penalties.

Because this is grading performance. What it would be like for the police to try to catch mainly the people that will post bail and then run? What would it be like to have firemen being promoted on how little water they use? And since performance is now more and more defined exclusively in economic terms, who will inherit the world? The economic performers! banks, insurance companies, salesmen, marketeers, the ones that put everything into financial equations and care nothing about anything else.

The police and fire department, as brilliantly observed by Michael Moore in Sicko, are social services. In countries like the UK, Canada, France and even Cuba, getting professional medical help for your injuries for free (in other worlds universal health, health service socialization) is available. And doing great!

And now I look at Romania, I see the same thing that bothers be about America: everything is sold and bought. You need money to pay hospital bills, a lot of them not being covered by medical insurance, even if you have one; pharmacies payed by drug companies to sell their expensive products instead of for getting the right medicine to the right person; governments, no matter their political color, being bought and payed for by wealthy industrialists; banks and financial services effectively robbing you blind.

Oh yes, I agree, a socialist system does not work, but some services must be social. I would imagine welfare, health and education should be social services. The state should pay for them from taxes we all pay. No matter what company does the service, its income would originate from the state, rewarded by the real performance of their service: people not dying from poverty and disease, people cured from illness, people getting a high education and paying higher taxes because of it when their time comes.

But how can this happen in Romania? The government is so impotent and corrupt that it only does what large corporations, banks and political interests tell it to. And when people have had enough, here comes a superhero saviour, manufactured to look like the thing the people want by the very people that rob this country dry. I would hate to see Romania becoming a pale imitation of the US, a poor country with a cut-throat capitalism that benefits thieves only.