I haven’t had much of a chance to do any Jasper the cat cartoons this year, but I have done a few quick color cartoons for the Cartoon Movement website that criticize the economic system. I’ve been influenced on my views on the capitalist system by the Papal encyclicals and by the writings of Charles Dickens. Both the Popes and Charles Dickens give a moral critique of the economic system, and both believe the flaws of the economic system lie somewhere in the root of the system. In their view, the flaws of the capitalist system are just a magnification of the flaws of human nature. I agree with that view. Any system based on competition and the pursuit of self interest will always be vulnerable to selfishness and greed.
I personally believe that the capitalist system has great benefits and great flaws. If left unchecked, the flaws of the capitalist system will eventually overcome any benefits that the system provides.
One saw this in the economic collapse of 2008. Looking at American history, you can see the tendency of the economic system to self-destruct in the Panic of 1839, the Panic of 1857, the Panic of 1873, the Panic of 1893, the Panic of 1907, and the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Almost all of these crisis were the result of overspeculation, a groupthink mentality, and greed. The resulting economic damage wrought by these crisis was more than most of the middle class and poor could cope with.
I did this cartoon based on a project that the Cartoon Movement website was doing. They wanted cartoonists to depict the idea that it is in the interest of busines to help the poor. Since I agree with this, I did this cartoon. In this, I was influenced by my recent readings of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens was often critical of the attitudes of the rich in his society. In Great Expectations and Little Dorrit, Dickens was critical of the way Pip and the Dorrit family were corrupted by status and money as they moved up the social ladder. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens noted how centuries of oppression by the French aristocracy sowed deep resentment among the poor that made the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror inevitable. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens criticized Ebenezar Scrooge for being so obsessed with the pursuit of money, he lacked compassion for the plight of the poor.
I relate to this because of my own experiences in Silicon Valley. Though I am firmly middle class, compared to many of the engineers, my income is relatively small. I’ve often experienced instances where I was looked down upon because my financial resources were not up to those of the engineers and managers around me. This was not true of all wealthy people I know, but I’ve encountered this enough times to relate to Charles Dickens’ criticisms of Pip and Scrooge for valuing people based only on their economic status.
Though Dickens is critical of the wealthy, he does not want to destroy them or to take away their wealth. In A Tale of Two Cities, he shows how the Reign of Terror destroys the innocent as well as the guilty, and it makes the revolutionaries just as oppressive as the aristocrats that they have overthrown. What Dickens wants is for the wealthy to have greater empathy for the poor and to get out of their sheltered lives and engage in the community. The best example of this is in The Christmas Carol, where Ebenezar Scrooge befriends Bob Cratchit and his family and helps out Tiny Tim.
Though I’ve met some status-driven wealthy people, I’ve also met rich people who care about their community and are concerned about the plight of those less fortunate. In the food kitchens that I’ve volunteered at, I’ve met rich individuals who regularly volunteered to serve food to the homeless. Many of the wealthy have organization skills and managerial skills that would be of great benefit to the many charities and homeless shelters that serve the poor.
Sometime in the near future I’d like to do another Jasper the Cat cartoon. Since the Occupy Wall Street protests, I’ve checked out some library books on economic inequality and they gave me some ideas for Jasper cartoons. Below are some books that you could check out at the local library or buy at a local bookstore.
THE PRICE OF INEQUALITY: HOW TODAY’S DIVIDED SOCIETY ENDANGERS OUT FUTURE by Joseph Stiglitz talks about how the growing economic inequalities of the past few decades have led to slower economic growth, less economic mobility for the poor and middle class, and a growing concentration of economic and political power in a tiny percentage of our population. I liked this book because Stiglitz gave an understandable explanation as to why economic inequality is so bad to the economy and offers some solutions to remedy the growing problem. Here is a youtube video of a lecture that Joseph Stiglitz gave on economic inequality
COMING APART: THE STATE OF WHITE AMERICA 1960-2010 by Charles Murray talks about the growing cultural divide between the white wealthy class and the white middle and lower classes. Murray focuses on white America to show that the growing divide among Americans has less to do with race or ethnicity and has more to do with class and wealth. Murray believes that since the 1960s, the values and culture of the upper and lower classes have diverged so much that these groups have little in common to bind them to a common American community. Murray is a libertarian, so I do not agree with all of his observations, but I agree with his idea that the wealthy have to get out of their gated communities and engage in the community to help the middle class and the poor to help regain some social cohesion. He also points out some of the flaws of a meritocracy. Here is a youtube video of Charles Murray talking about his book.
INEQUALITY AND INSTABILITY: A STUDY OF THE WORLD ECONOMY JUST BEFORE THE GREAT CRISIS by James Galbraith emphasizes how the rise in the financial industry paralleled the rise in economic inequality. This has led to greater instability in the economy. Here is a youtube video of James Galbraith talking about “Inequality and Instability”
If you enjoy this cartoon, take a look at these links for more of my political cartoons at Everyday Citizen. You could also join my Jasper the Cat facebook page. If you’d like to email me, you can write a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Jasper Writes A Blog
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Jasper and the Cop
The Parents Visit the Occupation
Cartoons About Occupy Wall Street
Jasper and the Moderate Republican
Obama and the Republicans
Jasper And the Homeless Veteran
Jasper Celebrates the 4th of July
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Jasper and the Nature Poem
Government and the Market Economy
Jasper Joins Two Protests
Bob the Nerd Vampire
Jasper Debates War
Jasper Finds His Way Home
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Jasper At A Detention Center
Jasper Meets a Poet
Jasper Tackles Health Care
Jasper Protests the War
Jasper and the Economy
Jasper Sings a Protest Song
The Road To Health Care Reform Cartoon
A Cartoon about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
A Cartoon about My Experience in an Evangelical Church
A Cartoon about Political Debate
A Cartoon On Gay Marriage