I came up with this question while teaching Sociology a number of years back, and I think it’s a good one. It was an evolutionary process; I had for years been trying to get at the essence of what was wrong with what I saw as predatory capitalism. One day it hit me: Who Really Benefits?
Who really benefits from marketing to children? Who really benefits from casino gambling? Who really benefits from liquor sales? Who really benefits from televangelism? Who really benefits from the sale of violent video games? And on and on.
I challenged my students to ask this question prior to every purchase, or even every decision. But in order to ask the question, they had to understand who all the players in the game were: Who were the beneficiaries involved in every purchase they made? You’re buying a house? The bank is a beneficiary, the real estate agent is a beneficiary, the builder perhaps, the home inspector, the closing lawyers, and on and on. But hopefully, so are you, and so you purchase the house because you’re buying a home. You really benefit. The trade-off is worth it (unless you buy a money pit). You could say the same about the purchase of a car and many of other things.
But who really benefits from the increase in the sale of vices, like gambling? Who really benefits from the 50% sales at the discount malls? Who really benefits from an overflowing plate and unlimited refills for just a dollar more? Who really benefits from convincing people that the outdoors is a bad place to get fit for free?
It’s a good question to ask in our personal lives as well. Who really benefits from our having sex together at age 15? Who really benefits if I take this first marijuana hit? Who really benefits when I get drunk on Friday night?
This could probably go other places, but I’ll just throw it out there for starters.