Reclaiming the Marketplace
From Sickness to Health

excerpted from the book

Myth America

Democracy vs. Capitalism

by William H. Boyer

Apex Press, 2003. paper


When people put their money into stock already circulating they depend on the psychological effects on the public of reports of growth for the company. Large amounts of capital are circulated that are doing nothing-they are not productive and they serve no real economic or social need. Jobs are created in the "securities" business as people buy and sell stock and try to stimulate a bigger speculative bubble. The more people who have stock, the more optimism about growth must be created to keep the house of cards from collapsing. CEOs want their stock to stay high when they bail out, so they commonly release distorted figures to encourage public buying of their stock. Ultimately, the value of the stock depends on a shared illusion, that something with the label of a corporation but disconnected from the corporation has value. It is really a sham.

When illusory wealth is created that has not produced anything substantive, it becomes a zero-sum game, providing nothing except a transfer of "wealth" from one person to another. Stocks are only useful to the economy initially, at the time they are issued by a corporation in the initial public offering. The corporation uses the funds for whatever it produces. Most stocks are traded after they are issued in secondary markets and provide wealth to those who buy low and sell high, but to do this others must buy high and sell low. No real national wealth is created, it is only transferred between people. The net result is to provide no wealth to the society, no aggregate wealth whatsoever. The axiom that there is no such thing as a free lunch still applies to economics. The stock market is largely a zero sum game. The main wealth is in the "friction" of charges made by brokers during transactions.

But why would people play this game? John Cassidy details the stock market of the 1990s in Dot Con. The Greatest Story Ever Sold. "To be willing to take a risk, people needed to see others doing the same thing-and see them making money doing this." Based on this psychology "a rising stock market turns into a speculative bubble (2002, 4)." Within this mob psychology people can lose all connection to reality. "The peak of a speculative mania is a sight to behold. In the scramble to cash in before it is too late, all prior reasoning, sentiment, and knowledge count for naught. No one is satisfied with even exorbitant gains, but everyone thirsts for more, and all this is founded upon a machine of paper credit supported only by imagination (191)."

John Kenneth Galbraith referred to the same psychology in the September 1929 speculative bubble, saying with his usual irony that if there must be madness, something may be said for having it on a heroic scale.

In the 1990s a dream world of a "new economy" was becoming fashionable. Many people believed that companies that had nothing to sell but a faith based plan based on an "information" economy created by computers, was the best place to "invest." Billions went to Silicon Valley internet companies that had nothing to sell except hope. Their initial public offerings were bought up at inflated prices and resold on the stock market at even higher prices. The standard of "price/earnings ratios" disappeared because there were no earnings in most dot corns. People followed others into this wonderful world of rising dot corn stock prices. Reality inevitably superseded faith and illusion, and the bubble broke, leaving millions with losses.

People put real money into stocks and therefore shifted their wealth into financial speculation in which money moves around doing nothing useful but rather deprives society of the real development that should have occurred-getting rid of slums and decay in inner cities, replanting forests, building schools, cleaning up toxic dumps, etc. Instead they get only a symbolic piece of paper with the name of a corporation. This diversion of public capital from socially useful purposes is an indication of why our social legacy is so meager. The dot corn bubble at the end of the 1990s produced a social shock, but not enough to examine the assumptions on which the entire stock system is based.

Is the stock market necessary? New stock issues provided only 4 percent of the capital of U.S. corporations, according to the 1993 Federal Reserve figures, which indicate that U.S. non-financial firms raised 82 percent of their financing internally, 12 percent from borrowing.


The two major political parties in the United States are largely instruments for keeping an oligarchy of the rich and powerful intact and supporting the ubiquitous propaganda required to obscure this fact. If the "bottom" four-fifths of the population understood what was happening, they would not likely continue to cooperate in supporting rules that concentrate economic power in a power elite.

The American public does not really provide intentional support for the rules that support the oligarchy. The rules and institutions are reinforced primarily by a public that has largely lost hope for a better government and sees no other alternatives. Elections in the United States attract only a minority of the electorate, and the common comment reflecting political apathy is that both political parties are essentially the same, so why vote?

This is a half-truth. Democrats use government to provide more public services than Republicans, but both parties are dedicated to keeping the power of the economic system under the control of corporate capitalism, which means the primary power is in the hands of large, increasingly global corporations. This is oligarchy-government by the rich and the economically powerful.

With a look at how the economic pie is divided, let us see what the results have been.

1. The total net worth of the top 1 percent of the population is equal to the total net worth of the bottom 90 percent of the population, and the rich are getting even richer. The wealth of the top 20 percent has increased while the wealth of the bottom 80 percent has decreased. Under "Reaganomics" from 1980 to 1987, the average net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans tripled! The Congressional Budget Office indicates that the lowest fifth has declined in the last 20 years while the middle has stagnated.

2. The two political parties have supported legislation that transfers public finds in various ways. 'When "welfare" is mentioned, it is usually assumed ( that welfare goes to the poor. The fact is, however, welfare to the rich is / \ about three and a half times as large as the welfare to the poor, much of it being corporate welfare. Even the mainstream Time magazine ran a series on corporate welfare in early 1998. Pointing out that "during one of the most robust economic periods in our nation's history, the Federal Government shelled out $125 billion in corporate welfare, equivalent to all the income tax paid by 60 million individuals and families (Bartlett and L Steele 1998, 36-37).

3. In 1950, corporations paid 26.5 percent of the federal government's general revenues. Now they pay about 10.2 percent (Phillips 2002, 149). Payroll taxes in 1950 were 6.9 percent, now they are over 31 percent. If businesses paid taxes at the same rate as 40 years ago, the federal deficit would soon disappear. The more "conservative" the political party; the more the argument is for lowering taxes on corporations and on individuals with high incomes. Lowering the tax rate for capital gains down to 20 percent has affected mainly the rich, and this has been at the center of conservative platforms for years.

4. Conglomerates are forming at an accelerating rate. Small corporations are bought up and become part of a giant corporation that increases its economic power and its influence over the political system. Even the press, which presumably is essential for democracy under the first Amendment of the Constitution, is now controlled by fewer and fewer corporations and wealthy individuals, and is used to serve the politics of its owners. Television is a key part of this oligarchy, shaping the ideas and messages conveyed to the public. It too is under more and more centralized control of a few giant corporation .

As PBS accepts more and more advertising from corporate sponsors, it is highly unlikely to broadcast any program that offers a fundamental critique of capitalism.


The United States represents a model of advanced capitalism, while Cuba is probably a good example of (a particular) kind of socialism. By the end of the twentieth century, the U.S. model dominated the world. Yet the United States had shown such fear of the attractiveness of the Cuban model to other countries that it tried invasion, assassination attempts on Castro, an embargo, and then a blockade in an (unsuccessful) attempt to destroy Cuban socialism.

People need to understand the difference between these two political-economic systems to help identify some alternatives for the twenty-first century. The core differences are: (1) in the U.S., the economy is owned privately under a market system, while in Cuba, the economy is controlled by the government; (2) the U.S. system focuses on maximizing the gross national product while the Cuban system focuses on human development; (3) the U.S. system focuses on the growth of the national product to respond to the wants of people as they make purchases through the market. This is a "wants first" system. The Cuban system, on the other hand, focuses on people's basic needs, such as food, housing, medical care, and education. This is a "needs first" system. While the U.S. is stronger on speech and political rights, Cuba strongest on economic rights.

Cuba is the only country in the western hemisphere that the United States has not controlled, conquered, or at least opened up for American corporate investment. We invaded in the Spanish-American war and kept the option to interfere if need be and we retained the Guantanamo military base. The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 was a declaration that no foreign country should have control in the western hemisphere. It turned into an excuse to put the United States in control of the western hemisphere, driving out governments (often democratic) that were independent of American power.

A long line of countries in Latin America-Mexico, Chile, Panama, Honduras, Grenada, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic-fell to combinations of CIA manipulation of internal politics, Marine invasions, economic support of dictatorships, control of the press, embargoes, and assassinations of heads of state. Cuba is the hold-out.

To understand the United States it is useful to understand Cuba. American claims of exporting "freedom" and "democracy" can then be seen as a deception to cover up the meaning of capitalist "freedom." The United States has wanted Latin American countries to be safe (free) for American corporate investment. Because she won't cooperate, Cuba is the pariah-a haven for the poor, out of bounds for rich investors.

Noam Chomsky

Cuba is one of the poorest countries in the world and it has approximately the same quality of life index, in terms of health and so on, that the United States has. That's really scary and that's an enemy. That's what they mean when they say. "We can't tolerate another Cuba. It is bad enough that there is one country that can serve as model for this kind of development. Suppose there were two, suppose there were three" (Chomsky 1999, 42).





Every year, half a million Americans die of heart disease. Every year mo than a million undergo coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty to enlarge the openings in closed or partially closed arteries. The cost: $15.6 billion for the two procedures alone. The cost in pain and suffering: incalculable. Most people are told "You have to have a bypass or you're going to die" says Dr. Dean Ornish, a physician and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "That's not usually true. For most people, diet and lifestyle changes can be a safe alternative at a fraction of the cost and without the risks of trauma of going through surgery. In other words, they can halt or even reverse heart disease (June 1999, 1)."

Dr. Dean Ornish, in a 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British journal Lancet, reported that "77% of people who were eligible for by-pass surgery or angioplasty were able to avoid it safely by changing diet and life styles, saving almost $30,000 per patient."

Dr. John McDougall, a physician who helped pioneer diet as prevention, has told people for years that, based on the evidence, people should simply say NO to by-pass. He shows that the evidence indicates that those who say no usually live as long as those who say yes, since by-pass, except in unusual cases, merely reduces pain which can be reduced by non-surgical means (1990).


In the early part of the twentieth century doctors routinely took out people's appendixes. It was virtually a fad to do so. Later (during my era) they took out tonsils and adenoids. Presumably, nature had no reason to put an appendix, tonsils, or adenoids in people. Organs could be removed like ornamental parts on a car. Next came hysterectomies. They were popular in the 1960s. If a woman's menstrual period was too irregular or she had problems around menopause, the doctor removed half of her sexual organs.

Fees for these medical procedures were increasing according to the demand, but the big jump came with by-pass heart surgery. Such surgery became possible and therefore it became desired by both the patient and the doctor. As Dr. McDougall used to tell surgeons-There is only one reason to do a bypass: you want $20,000 (1983, 68-9). This infuriated many until he revealed the evidence that, except in rare cases, those who had bypass did not live any longer than those who refused. The operation can also diminish a person mentally. According to Dr. McDougall, the blood-circulating machine congealed platelets which could hamper some areas of the brain.

Over the years the $20,000 fee for bypass surgery has gone up and also, therefore, the incentive to recommend that people have this operation. The procedure consists of having one's chest cut open and then a vein taken out of one's leg and then attached to the heart. There can be double, triple, or even quadruple bypass.

Bypass relieves angina-the pain of a heart trying to get enough oxygen. Relief of the pain is the main reason for doing the procedure. Yet with the proper diet and certain medication, the pain can be rapidly diminished. Within a few weeks of a low fat, high starch diet, there is often some reversal of the clogged arteries and the symptoms that caused the angina. Unless there is structural damage, continued correct diet can produce basic reversal of the entire problem.


The aristocracy of the Middle Ages demonstrated behavior that continues to be the world pattern-wealth then as now encourages people to eat high on the food chain. Roast lamb was preferred over potatoes. Meat costs more, and so it was associated with higher social class. The wealthy aristocracy saw no connection between their eating habits and their high levels of gout, heart failure, diabetes, and cancer. But the connection was there.

This connection came to light after World War II, when the German people were discovered to have very low levels of heart problems while the liberating Americans had very high levels. If stress was the main cause of heart problems, how could this be? The German people had been under very high levels of stress for years throughout the war, during which they survived on meager meals based largely on potatoes, grain, and black bread. The liberating Americans, on the other hand, ate high on the food chain-beef, eggs, and dairy food.

Groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists became prime study group because they are composed of two groups who each follow a strict diet-one eats everything except meat, and the other excludes meat and all other animal products such as eggs and dairy foods. This provided three large, measurable groups: 1) the average American group that eats all animal products plus some fruits and vegetables, 2) the minimal vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists who refrain from meat but eat other animal products, and 3) the Adventists who consume no animal products (also known as a vegan diet). Research findings were distinct. For heart failure, cancer, and diabetes, the average American sample had the highest rate. Seventh Day Adventists who consumed dairy products and eggs but ate no meat had a much lower rate. And the "vegans" who ate no animal products had the lowest rates of these diseases ...

... The research showed what happened when these groups moved from their home area to another part of the world where eating habits were different. Results have been dramatic. Each group took on the diseases (or lack of them) associated with the eating habits of its new home. For example, women from rural Japan had exceedingly low levels of heart disease, but when they moved to urban Japan and had higher incomes, their levels of heart disease increased. 'When they moved to the United States, they had even higher levels, and their children had virtually the same pattern of high "degenerative" disease exhibited by other Americans-for they had usually abandoned their parents' eating habits. Genetics was, therefore, not the cause. The irony is that the poor of the world generally eat a more healthy diet than the rich, when they have access to sufficient food. They are forced to eat low on the food chain. Their high death rates are usually connected to infectious disease caused by the pollution and contamination of their food and environment, or by actual starvation.

... The most definitive research, the Framingham study conducted by the American Heart Association, began in 1948 and is still continuing. It has provided strong research evidence for a virtually direct relationship between cholesterol levels and heart attacks. Industries that produce cholesterol, such as beef and dairy companies, saw the need for public deception and spent many millions of dollars on public misinformation which ranged from individual testimonials to "bought" MDs who tried to confuse the public by suggesting that "more research is needed."

The first deception was that vegetarianism created health risks because of certain nutritional deficiencies. But the evidence shows the reverse. Vegetarians, especially those that avoid all animal products, have the highest health levels. Starches like pasta, rice, and potatoes have become the favorites of long-distance runners and many other athletes who require a lot of strength and stamina, though lots of starch is not necessary for people who exercise less. And people do not suffer calcium loss from vegetarianism, for vegetables, especially leafy greens such as collards, mustard cabbage and turnip tops provide plenty of calcium. The calcium in milk after all comes from cows that graze on green vegetation. The loss occurs when lots of meats and dairy products and other high proteins are consumed, which causes calcium leaching. Protein excess is a major cause of osteoporosis.

A Harvard School of Public Health study of 70,000 American nurses found that women with the highest calcium consumption from dairy products have more fractures than those who drank less milk!

The American Cancer Society has provided extensive PR that gives people "a sense of unwarranted optimism about cancer cures. This strategy has been exceedingly profitable. What is almost never mentioned is that most cancer is caused by environmental factors. The American Cancer Society will tell J people not to smoke but will not take aggressive action for control of nicotine as a narcotic. In a real sense, much cancer is caused by bad politics. Placing emphasis on personal responsibility rather than public policy is often a way to keep power in the hands of corporations, such as the tobacco, dairy and beef industries, that profit from a product that can increase one's chances of ending up with cancer and/or heart attacks (Zepernick 2001, 181-182).

Dr. Samuel Epstein has been in a 30-year fight against the cancer establishment, especially the American Cancer Society. In the International Journal of Health Services (Vol. 29, No. 3) he has an article titled "The American Cancer Society: The World's Wealthiest 'Non-profit' Institution." He says the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute have "incestuous conflicts of interest" with chemical and pharmaceutical companies and, therefore, spend huge sums of money on the treatment of cancer instead of on prevention.

He blames our cancer epidemic on the poisoning of the planet. He says the overwhelming emphasis is on damage control- on diagnosis and treatment rather than on prevention. "You don't just expose people to carcinogens and then repair the damage by giving them a pill." Epstein's The Politics of Cancer describes the prioritizing of economics and politics over health and shows how cancer has now become profitable. But he also shows how cancer can be prevented (1978, 1998).


When American capitalism dominates public health, as it does, and when treatment and diagnosis dominates rather than prevention, the effects are that we have one of the world's worse health records, compared to other industrial nations.

The Journal of the American Medical Association documented the sad state of American health in July 2000 by ranking the health of countries. Of the 13 countries in the comparison, the United States ranks an average of 12th. The best in order of ranking are Japan, Sweden, Canada, France, Australia, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, and then the United States followed by Germany.

* United States is 13th for low birth-weight, 13th for neonatal mortality and infant overall mortality, 13th for years of potential life lost.

* The U.S. is 11th for post-neonatal mortality, and 11th for life expectancy for females.

* Life expectancy moves to third for people 65 years of age. Medicare may be the significant factor.

The dismal comparison is probably connected to the kind of American politics that treats medical care as mainly a market commodity while other nations presume that medical care is a right which is supported by national systems. Of the more advanced nations only the United States and South Africa do not have a universal system of medical care.

Noam Chomsky

Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism.

Myth America

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