Puppies and Capitalism

This newsletter will take a heavy turn at the end so, first, some puppies

The documentary Pick of the Litter (Hulu) is about raising guide dogs from newborn nuggets to grown-up doggos — and about all of those who are “career changed”1 along the way. It’s a perfectly fine piece of filmmaking and shows the nuts and bolts of a program I only abstractly knew about.2 I might have wept a tiny bit when the fosters who raise the puppies have to turn them over for their last few months of training because ooooof. While everyone knows that’s the deal going in, it would be hard to let go, even though it’s for a good cause.

So. There you go. Puppies.

And now — capitalism, which will grind us all under its boot heel if left unchecked.

In an early March issue of The New Yorker,3 Sheelah Kolhatkar wrote a great piece about mobile home parks being snapped up by corporate investors. The short recap is this: trailer parks were mostly owned by individuals who had community ties and, therefore, a good reason to not be a total dick to their tenants. Hedge funds and the like are buying up all of these locally owned businesses and mining them for every single penny they can lay their hands on,4 no matter what it does to the actual humans who live there.5

And the actual humans who live there are not able to absorb additional expenses because they are retired, on a fixed income, or otherwise in need. They also don’t have the cash in hand to get lawyers when the new park owners try this nonsense, nor do they have the funds to move their trailers to a different piece of land.6 The money quote7 is below:

Read that again. Their business model is not to create value but to extract as much of it as possible by fleecing vulnerable people so that your shareholders/investors make as much money as they possibly can, human cost be dammed. This is example one tht should be cited when someone makes an argument that markets should be free no matter what. Letting the invisible hand decide the price of goods and services does make a certain amount of sense on paper, yes. But we don’t live on paper.

What gets me is that most of the folks calling for lifting regulations are convinced they would be a lord of the manor, rather than a serf, despite all evidence to the contrary. In a totally free market system, 98% of the people trapped in it are prey who will never amass enough capital to become a predator.89

Unfettered capitalism is a shitty system — for the underclass, yes, but also for anyone in the upper class attuned to human suffering (and who doesn’t want to meet the sharp edge of a guillotine).

Which is why the U.S. has always managed markets to some extent through regulation, otherwise the class mobility of which we are so proud could never happen. We will never find the sweet spot between too much and not enough when it comes to keeping the free market fair and balanced.10 When we get it wrong, the situation Kolhatkar wrote about is the result. But the new problem right now is that there is too much money on the corporate lobbying side to really bring about new rules of engagement.

The same is true when it comes to all kinds of national problems like guns and health care. Because we didn’t regulate enough when the issue started to unbalance, all of the Americans making money off of human misery have enough money to keep the situation just as it is and absolutely no incentive to change it. Until you can convince people that people who live in trailer homes, have medical conditions, or don’t want to be shot are actually people whose lives also have worth, the situation will never change.

Which is why I led with the puppies.

1

the nomenclature for a dog who shouldn’t be responsible for the safety of a person who can’t see and is eased out of the program. Most pups wash out but are still very good boys and girls.

2

Back when I taught at Hartwick College, I’d frequently have students who would bring guide dog-wannabe puppies to class to socialize them. The dogs were better behaved than a couple of the humans. The bummer was that you’re really not supposed to snorgle with the pups when they are in their harnesses, which they always were.

3

Here is my issue with The New Yorker: so many of there stories are so good that they are worth the thousands of words they take to tell and because of all of those wonderful words I can’t get through one week’s issue before the next week’s issue shows up and I am continuously waging a war against the onslaught of New Yorkers and it’s a good problem to have but still.

4

This is also happening in the funeral industry, btw.

5

If you don’t feel like reading and need jokes, John Oliver did a good piece on this, too.

6

Fun fact about mobile homes — they aren’t really all that mobile. It can cost thousands to move them, if you can find a place that has space to rent. While most trailer home dwellers own the structure itself, they don’t own the land underneath it and have very few protections that traditional renters have.

7

so to speak

8

“Predator” and “prey” are the only two options.

9

Also: here’s where I point out that I’m not an economist

10

I know. It was intentional.