Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 10 - Las Vegas

Las Vegas was a lot bigger than I expected. My brothers and I had a Nintendo game years ago in which one of the car racing courses was Las Vegas; you could drive around the city, crash and burn, and even shoot down the ½ scale Eiffel Tower. It was rather entertaining. But, it only had one big strip and a few side roads.

So that was my impression of Las Vegas: small town, kind of junky, in the desert (minus the armed race cars). It’s funny how experiences from your youth can really shape your perception of the world without you even realizing. (Yet another thing my parents were so right about!)

Leading up to our arrival in Vegas a few people were talking a bit negatively about the whole idea of a “Disneyland for grownups.” The hyper-sexual advertising and legal prostitution really disgusts me, and gambling isn’t really my thing (although if it’s someone else’s money I’m sure I could have some fun for a short time), but the whole idea of Vegas as a little break from real world stress isn’t something I’m totally against. Most everything is okay in moderation.

I wouldn’t spend more than a weekend there every now and then – the flashing lights, noise, excessive stimuli, personal unproductiveness on my part, and the cost (!) would get to me. But I did enjoy the experience of walking down the strip and exploring some of the mega-hotels and their many chocolate shops and high-fashion boutiques. I could definitely see myself lounging blissfully by one of the giant pools and drinking pineapple margaritas!

Something that seems to go hand in hand with Vegas is capitalism; in fact, we’ve seen it in play in every city we’ve visited. Capitalism is an integral part of America. However, I sense a general vibe of displeasure with the capitalistic system from some of my friends, both here on the trip and at home. Some of the more outspoken individuals tend to voice that being in certain places (such as the big store next to the Grand Canyon or an extravagant high-end mall in Vegas) “disgusts” them because of all the commercialism and capitalism.

One of the main arguments is that capitalistic corporations, like Wal*Mart (a recurring topic of discussion on this trip), take advantage of people in foreign countries. Okay, so don’t shop at Wal*Mart, but ask yourself: “Does its unethical practices really have anything to do with capitalism?” Unethical businesses exist all over the world in all different types of economic structures. I’m no economist—economics is something I still have yet to master—but I’ve been enough places to know that capitalism generally promotes a higher standard of living for everybody.

One of my most vivid memories of encountering a system other than capitalism took place in China, last summer. I went to China having learned a little bit about communism (China’s goal) and socialism (the reality). I know that socialism is based on the principle of collection and equal redistribution of resources by the government. The goal is that everyone receives equal opportunity and equal access to resources. (I don’t think that an equal voice in the government is something they try to provide for their citizens….China is far from a Democracy….a few leaders control everyone else.)

Anyway, I went to China expecting to see a more or less equally rich/equally poor people; I expected to see a society in which every individual put the good of the group before his/her personal gain. Instead, what I saw was a wealth disparity the same as—if not larger than—the disparity we have here in the U.S. And it’s not like this is a newly instated program—the wrinkles should have been worked out by now.

I still have a lot to learn about both systems. But for now, I’m not convinced that capitalism is evil….in fact, I like the whole “reap what you sow” idea. It only seems fair.

4 comments:

  1. Shirah, your travels abroad have made you wiser than your years. It is so easy to see how crooked our system of Capitalism can seem but, like every other economic system in the world, it is only crooked because people are crooked. Greedy, power-hungry people are everywhere in every country on earth (of course so are selfless, loving people!) We live in a crazy world that will only be set to rights when the King of Kings returns! Thanks for your wonderful insights I'm enjoying your trip and wish I were along for the ride!

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  2. It's no secret that socialism has been a horrendous, big, fat failure. It creates an apatheic, mediocre society. Everyone's on the same crappy level. And I'd quit working, just for the record;).

    “One of the consequences of such notions as "entitlements" is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.” -Thomas Sowell

    “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” -Winston Churchill

    -W
    P.S. Vegas is fabulous, but you're right, in small doses as it can be 'sensory overload' after about 3 or 4 days!
    P.P.S. Love you!

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  3. SIRAH;
    Seems like some conflicts in your comments on capatilism. You say "Capitalism promotes a higher standard of living for everybody"
    tHAN YOU SAY 'cAPITALISM IS EVIL'
    'like reap what you sow better. Capitalism is reap what you sow.You get rewarded for your hard work,sacrifice and risk taking.

    BOB STEPNICK

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  4. Hi Bob,
    Thanks for following along!

    Regarding your comment, I think you might have misunderstood my last few sentences. I didn't say, 'capitalism is evil,' I said, 'I'm not convinced that capitalism is evil,' despite what I'm hearing from several friends/colleagues.

    And yes, I do think that capitalism generally promotes a higher standard of living for everyone. My point with the China illustration is that they set their sights on communism, achieved nothing more than socialism, and still didn't make any headway in evening out incomes. Their political leaders and mining operation owners (along with a few others in different categories) control the vast majority of resources while the vast majority of China's population lives on a few hundred dollars (or less) a years.

    Thanks again for reading, and don't hesitate to reply!

    -Shirah

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