My work in the U.S. forces the question of the role of capitalism and privatization in all spheres of life. I mentioned, many posts ago, the simplistic assumption (by some) that capitalism's "value" to drive health advances neglected all sorts of important aspects of health and may even be detrimental, if one's goal is to actually improve health outcomes for all.
I've been noticing that one of the gazillion listservs I'm on keeps sending business or company recommendations. The first one I noticed (and I'm not sure if it was the first time they've sent such a thing, or if it was the first time I'd remarked upon it) was a promotion for buying land in Ecuador. It was the strangest thing to me, about being able to live a certain kind of life in Latin America, among a community of like-minded people. It contained all sorts of admonishments about not getting scammed, some of which were amazingly simplistic about who "these people" were, but it also had an eerie colonialization feel. (I admit, I'm woefully under-read on colonialization theory (strange especially since I worked in Morocco, a place that to my uneducated eyes, seems to have all sorts of post-colonial connundrums), but I grasp the basics, I think!) The romanticization of both under-developed land and a place with few regulatory restrictions about health (this was the central gist of the email update) seemed extremely ill-thought out. (To be fair, the newsletter author pointed out that one has to be prepared to be self-sufficient as one wouldn't have access to the health care system Americans are used to. But it still sounded incredibly naive.) Subsequently, this newsletter has also sent out "coupons" for products and will make recommendations for some food or vitamin product.
What stands out for me, however, is that there's no self-reflexivity about condemning the majority of products (sunscreen is bad for you! vitamins contain contaminants! who to trust for pharmaceuticals!). And I guess what I'm trying to parse out is why some categories of things do not elicit the same scrutiny as others. I've written about this in other contexts -- why do government regulations of vaccines elicit anti-government reactions from some of my informants, but other forms of regulation do not?
In other words, the forms of libertarianism that come out of these reactions do not seem to be internally consistent. Of course, few of us are ever consistent, even when we think we've developed our belief systems carefully. But I think the contexts in which people react so strongly are revealing about other social and political convictions. And what I think I want to do is to uncover what these anxieties are about, to propose that there is a connection between the types of government suspicion and conspiracy theories I hear circulating among my participants that have deeper resonance and meaning for America today.
God, so bloody grandiose.