I did my best to be non-confrontational yesterday, since Lord knows, I don’t want any trouble. However a few of my loyal readers out there registered complaints about what they saw as my overly-kind treatment of UFC. One of you also pointed out, not without merit, that Cecil Rhodes isn’t a terribly precise parallel to UFC. The argument being that at least the British upper classes possessed some sense of gentlemanly duty to civilize the world. American business interests are and were purely profit driven.
That’s true and it isn’t. The bottom line for business is, of course, the bottom line. However more than a few utopian thinkers in the Nineteenth Century believed firmly in business’ ability to form the basis of stable, well-rounded societies. In other words, they believed that capitalism, in addition to being a vehicle for creating wealth, also had moral dimensions. Look back at America circa 1850 and what you find is a hotbed of utopianism — of all stripes. With so much land to populate, big idea men (and women) fanned out across its rolling hills, hoping to create pure societies based on ideals, not entrenched biases. Most of us are familiar with at least some of the towns that were founded on religious and/or political ideals like, say Utopia, Ohio or New Harmony, Indiana. But there were also attempts at industrially-based utopias like McDonald, Ohio and Pullman, Illinois just outside Chicago. These places were social experiments as much as they were entrepreneurial ones. Indeed Chicago itself was a capitalist utopia of a sort, seen by many in the 1800’s as the first city on the face of the Earth built on the principle of pure commerce. That had its up sides and its down sides. After Chicago burned in 1871, Queen Victoria sent a train car of books to restock the public library there. What she wasn’t told was that Chicago had no public library to begin with.
So perhaps better comparisons to UFC in Central America, rather than British Colonialism, are some of the American company towns. However I believe on reflection that the Rhodes comparison holds water also. As for not being hard enough on UFC, I’m not going to touch that one. I’ve got bananas to talk about.