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"I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can," Mulye told the Financial Times, "to sell the product for the highest price.” CNN, Sept. 11, 2018

This quote appears in a CNN article recently, encapsulating the flaw in the Milton Friedman mandate to corporate leaders that their only duty is to make the most money possible for shareholders. This dictum has prevailed since the 1980’s when major corporations took to the Friedman doctrine en masse. The results have been a startling growth in the gap between rich and poor. Corporations gained the Constitutional rights of citizens, but abandoned their civic duty to serve the public.

Until the 1980’s, there was a social contract between the people and government in American democracy: the people give up a slice of freedom in order to gain security. This gives rise to laws of restraint on the behavior of individuals and various groupings of individuals. The 80’s saw the various restrained portions of society strain to break their bonds, first the Moral Majority who fought against separation of church and state, then various conglomerates who wished to expand at will, and finally the tax payers who do not value the public good.

The weakest members of society have paid the price for this “freedom.” Security is reduced when I have less income in old age, when I’m ill, when I’m a minority, when I don’t follow an accepted religion. My security is victim to the freedom of those who produce shoddy goods and charge the maximum, to those who feel superior to me, and to those who object to my belief structure.

This has been the tradeoff of the last 30 years. After a period of increasing equality among genders, races, and religions, a backlash of freedom developed. Grover Norquist weaponized the revolt of the wealthy. He offers financial backing to candidates who sign a pledge never to vote to raise taxes. Hence, starve the beast. That beast is Social Security and the Affordable Care Act to most of us.

HARRIET H. YOUNG

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