Abraham Lincoln and many others in his time were against slavery. Yet they opposed its abrupt end on the basis of necessity. To push for the abolition of an institution too entrenched to fail, they feared they would destroy the economy and cause civil conflict. Thus, permitting the existing evil was necessary to avoid what they considered a greater evil, the collapse of the Union. This claim of necessity betrayed millions of our fellow Americans, condemning them to shackles, suffering and death. And it did not prevent the loss of over 600,000 lives in the very war that was feared.
At Munich in 1938, Neville Chamberlain and some Western leaders reasoned it was necessary for European stability to appease the Nazis in their territorial demands. This claim of necessity for “peace in our times” betrayed the people of Czechoslovakia and gave Hitler more time to build a military that led to a world war, costing millions of lives.
Today, necessity argues in defense of an economic system that has turned against the people. Workers are paid poverty wages, go without health coverage and struggle to take care of their families while opponents of a living wage, universal health care and paid family leave say they are too costly, that business will go bankrupt. As they suck up the wealth of our country, oligarchs argue that environmental protections, banking regulations, worker guarantees, campaign finance reform, and economic, racial and gender justice will destroy the economy.
Current capitalism, divorced from any past sense of domestic responsibility, preaches greed, winner take all, deregulation, slashing of the safety net, erosion of worker rights, environmental devastation, voter suppression, dark money campaign financing and income and wealth inequality. Capitalism, no longer pretending to be a partner in our collective political experience, has become the enemy of the people, destroyer of the American Dream.
For those who argue today’s capitalism is too big to fail, that necessity permits its takeover of our democracy and moderation is the correct response to evil, I suggest they turn to history for instruction.
John Moran lives in Wardsboro.