Bittman’s NYT Op-Ed ‘What is the Purpose of Society?’

Bittman’s NYT Op-Ed ‘What is the Purpose of Society?’

New York Times columnist Mark Bittman poses a question about society.

What Is the Purpose of Society?

The world of food and agriculture symbolizes most of what’s gone wrong in the United States. But because food is plentiful for most people, and the damage that conventional agriculture does isn’t readily evident to everyone, it’s important that we look deeper, beyond food, to the structure that underlies most decisions: the political economy.

It’s clear to most everyone, regardless of politics, that the big issues — labor, race, food, immigration, education and so on – must be ‘fixed,’ and that fixing any one of these will help with the others. But this kind of change must begin with an agreement about principles, specifically principles of human rights and well-being rather than principles of making a favorable business climate.

Shouldn’t adequate shelter, clothing, food and health care be universal? Isn’t everyone owed a society that works toward guaranteeing the well-being of its citizens? Shouldn’t we prioritize avoiding self-destruction?

For example, is contemporary American agriculture a system for nourishing people and providing a livelihood for farmers? Or is it one for denuding the nation’s topsoil while poisoning land, water, workers and consumers and enriching corporations? Our collective actions would indicate that our principles favor the latter; that has to change.

–Mark Bittman, New York Times

Here, Thom Hartmann comments on Mark Bittman’s New York Times Op-Ed:

We have a food system that’s failing us, it’s destroying our soil, but it is making a small number of people mind-boggling rich.

The question becomes, Why do we grow food? Most of us would say we grow food so we can have a decent life, so we can live. Food is necessary for survival. But if that’s true, than why is so much of the American food supply actually poisonous?

The only possible answer is that we don’t produce food in the United States for the public good. If we did, we wouldn’t be sterilizing our soil with chemicals. We wouldn’t be contaminating our environment with genetically modified organisms. None of this stuff would be going on if we were producing food for a public good.

— Thom Hartmann

Every business deserves to make a fair return on their efforts, but must the drive for excessive profits endanger our society? Is society supposed to generate obscene wealth for a few, or is the real purpose of wealth to maintain a thriving society?

Businesses, large and small, can make a lot of money in a thriving society. Earning good profits and the common good do not cancel one another out. In the proper balance, they perpetuate one another.

Balance, please! But corporate powers appear incapable of balancing or regulating themselves. Common sense is out the boardroom window, as well as a long-term sense of survival.

We must intervene. Do whatever you can, personally. Pick your favorite anti-corruption warriors, and support them to the hilt. Corporate powers are in the throes of an addictive disorder. They cannot see clearly. Society must stage a massive intervention.

Written by
JoAnn Chateau
JoAnn Chateau

Who’s Writing?

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She writes fiction about Chester, the Alpha Bichon -- with a dash of humor and a dab of Poli-Sci. Her views and insights are tinted by a former profession in Counseling, Christian theological studies, and training in Library and Information Science. Retired now, JoAnn enjoys the creative life.


Chester is a scruffy little Bichon dog, with a congenial Napoleon Complex, and stars in "The Chester Chronicles." He sometimes reports independent Canine News -- NO corporate treats accepted, NO corporate bias. Woof!

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Graffiti Girl (GG) is curator at She's progressive to the core, and easily blown away by serendipity and/or good food. (OK, GG is really JoAnn.) GG's posts signal that news or content from another website is a "must-see" and "must-remember."