Grayson's Book of Essays

Capitalism Is How Assholes Say Playground and Democracy Is Clueless Straight Dudes Choosing Your Footwear

by Grayson Bray Morris ⋅ 2018

There will always be assholes: people who think they’re inherently more entitled than others, people who view the world as their personal playgrounds, people who maximize their own pleasure with no thought for collateral damage. I’m pretty sure that unbridled capitalism enables these people to do maximum harm. I think “ability to hamstring assholes” should factor into the way we structure our economic systems.

The aforementioned assholes and this set of graphics from Five Thirty-Eight have also made me consider that democracy only works the way it ought to when those voting on an issue are also those who stand to lose. Bystanders must not be allowed to make crucial decisions that affect others’ human rights and the balance of power.

What’s a bystander? If your life won’t be profoundly affected by the outcome of the vote, you’re a bystander. Here are two really simplified examples: Not gay? Then your life will not be profoundly affected by laws that regulate access to same-sex marriage. Not in chronic pain? Then your life will not be profoundly affected by laws that regulate access to pain medication.

Of course it’s more complicated than that. If I’m not in chronic pain but my husband is, then I’m also affected by his access to painkillers. But my point stands: if the best I’ve got is an abstract idea that “some people feel crappy a lot of the time,” I’ve got no skin in that game and I have no business influencing legislation that affects them.

But I pay taxes, you might be saying. I’m paying for their access to pain medication! I’ve got skin in the game! Yeah, you’ve pretty thoroughly missed my point. I hate to break it to you, but you’re one of the assholes.

Here’s an example to highlight the absurdity of giving everyone a vote on everything: Suppose your entire office had a say in your choice of shoes. You’d like a nice comfy pair of flats, but too bad! You work with a bunch of clueless straight dudes so it’s sexy stilettos for you. (“Wait, what, those are uncomfortable? Really? Oh, sorry. Okay, well, try not to walk too much, okay? Tell you what, we’ll bring you back a doggie bag from lunch. They do look good on you, though.”)

Silly examples aside, determining who’s a bystander would be incredibly complex (and who would do the deciding?). But it’s clear the system doesn’t work the way it is.