The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number of Great People

The Government is supposed to punish criminals, which is why the Obama administration’s crusading Justice Department has given notice that the feds will seize America’s largest — and best organized, and best known — medical marijuana dispensary, in Oakland.

The Citizenry is supposed to punish bad politicians by voting for good ones, which is why George W. Bush earned fair-and-square a second term as President and why Kentuckians return their champion of unlimited corporate political donations, Mitch McConnell, to the Senate whenever his seat comes up for election.

The Market is supposed to punish financial miscalculations, which is why America’s largest banks are no longer too big to fail and are doing quite nicely.

That’s the great thing about accountability. When people or corporations — same thing, of course, as we’ve learned from our Supreme Court — mess up, they’re held responsible for their actions. Otherwise there would be a scandal. No one would stand for it! Sure, some scabrous malingerers behave as though acceptable behavior is whatever they can get away with. But most of us nice churchgoing folks wouldn’t much approve of that way of thinking. It’s really not what Jesus would do.

Checks and balances. That’s what it’s all about. One hand watching the other. Or is it washing?

We have in place a most lovely system that produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. That’s marvelous, when you think about it. It’s good for everyone. Especially if you’re a Manager. Especially if you’re a hedge-fund Manager. No, the American Way ain’t perfect. But what is? At least our method of doing things ensures the greatest profits for the greatest members of society. And if anyone can tell me why the CEO of Coca-Cola, a man who spreads the high-fructose corn syrup Good News to every precinct of the planet, shouldn’t earn 385 times the salary of the average worker who extracts the high-fructose corn syrup from the corn, well, then, I’ll just have to unplug my cable news channel, give away my advance purchase tickets to “Spider Man 4: More Loud Aerial Fighting,” and join a commune.

In the Animal Kingdom, only the strong survive, and there’s no law in the wild except that of the jungle: eat or be eaten. That’s the wondrous aspect about us human beings. We’re better than the animals. Sure, we’re technically “animals,” but we’ve got ourselves organized in a way that’s far superior to schools of fish or herds of impala. Yes, these low creatures also seem to be organized around the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. But a springbok never had the chance to own property in Sun Valley, or drink wine that other people can’t afford. A yellowfin tuna will never know how sweet it is to own stuff, and how much sweeter it is to own lots of stuff.

We’ve got everything figured out quite nicely, which is why “change” — and what’s “change” anyway? — isn’t necessary. All we need to do is conserve — as in, “conservative” — the great system we have in place for producing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Or greatest quailty of people. Whichever’s most convenient.



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