Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Great Moments in Capitalism

I'm not a socialist. On the other hand, unlike those on the other side of the aisle, my embrace of capitalism is not without reservations. If lots of people cooking up schemes to make a buck happens to create a system more or less worth living in, I can proudly shout "that's the best we can do!!!" But excuse me if I don't jump up and down over it.

Mostly my reservations come from the fact that capitalism can produce just as many ridiculous outcomes, create just as silly a tableau and waste just as much capital, resources and human spirit as any wooly-headed Great Society program. An example caught my attention today -- the Cause-Free Rubber Bracelet.

First there were LIVESTRONG bracelets, and they were good. The more cynical among us may have been tempted to quip "Holy AIDS ribbon, is it the Nineties again?" But all in all, it was hard to argue with the concept. The first time I saw one up close was on the wrist of a dear friend who is just coming out of her stuggle with cancer. I can't be so hard-bitten as to quibble with that.

Then we started to get other colors referencing other causes. O.K., I'll try to be patient. I'm not about wearing my cause on my wrist, but O.K. for you.

Well today I was at a local sporting good store and saw . . . rubber bracelets signifying nothing. Yes, if you want to wear a colored rubber bracelet without that annoying warm glow that comes from supporting a worthy cause, head over a pick one up. If you can't stand your money going to disease research or reducing poverty or supporting the troops, but instead want your money to support the shareholders of a worthy for-profit company, the system has scrambled to fill your need.

These bracelets are entirely devoid of any social significance. They are made of synthetic rubber in other-worldly colors that eerily mimics the other-worldly colored synthetic rubber of the originals. And -- here's the best part -- at $1.49 you actually pay more than the LIVESTRONG foundation charges for bracelets that support the cause.

The guy at the checkout says we can thank Adiddas and Nike for looking out.