My most-recent column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is inspired by a student at Wayne State University who e-mailed me from his iPhone to inform me that “Capitalism. Is. Not. Working. ” A slice:
If my correspondent is a typical American college student, he has ready access to — in addition to his smartphone — an automobile; computer hardware and software; at least a dozen changes of stylish clothing; automatic washers and driers, and detergents, to cleanse those clothes; refrigeration; reliable indoor plumbing; artificial lighting and air conditioning; historically amazing health and dental care; and seats on jetliners that whisk him comfortably and safely across the country and even to the other side of the earth.
In the morning, my correspondent likely drinks coffee brewed from beans grown in Colombia or Ethiopia. For lunch, he eats a chicken sandwich or a quinoa-and-beet salad. Each of these foods is made available to him only through the efforts of countless strangers — producers such as chicken farmers, beet growers, truck drivers, insurance-company actuaries — spread across the globe and connected to him by a thick web of consensual capitalist acts of commerce.
If my young friend awakens in the morning with a headache from having drank the previous evening too many bottles of India pale ale, he’ll relieve his headache with aspirin that costs only a few cents.
And then — with headache gone, stomach full and body well-showered — he’ll dash off to class to hear yet another lecture on how capitalism isn’t working.