Stealing music is the American way. Unfortunately.

So this 20-year-old intern at National Public Radio’s ‘All Songs Considered’ division wrote an essay to explain why she doesn’t feel bad about her 11,000-strong collection of (mostly) illegally downloaded music. The gist of her argument is generational (computer-age generations expect their music to be easily found and instantly downloadable) with a strong undercurrent of situational ethics (it should be FREE!) and, you might argue, amorality.

Stealing is wrong. We all know this well enough, or should know, the letter of the law shouldn’t make any difference. Even if your neighbor accidentally leaves his keys in the Porsche he left unlocked in his driveway you still can’t hop in and drive it away.

Cue the online hurricane of responses to White’s column, and (especially) her 11,000 pieces (give or take; she says she actually paid for a small portion of her collection) of stolen merchandise. Arguably the best was this nearly 4,000-word open letter written by David Lowery, a musician/writer whose career includes stints in hip bands including Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, pointing out how stealing music not only devastates the lives of the edgy, non-huge artists who make the music, but rechannels that income into the pocket of the enormous corporations whose own sense of social responsibility is tenuous at best.

Which is why stealing from the lesser-privileged in order to maximize the profit of the plutocracy is so very American.

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Consider Mitt Romney, the extraordinarily wealthy Republican presidential candidate whose appeal rests largely on his expertise as a businessman, investor, and corporate leader. Consider further the chilling history of Bain Capital, the investment/takeover company with which he made a lot of his fortune over the years. Like a lot of big corporations, Bain followed the modern big biz playbook with strict precision: buy undervalued/failing businesses; slash expenses (e.g., pricey American factories full of American workers); find cheaper ways of doing business, especially overseas with lower-paid foreign workers) leverage the value of the company (taking on enormous debt), spend that money on other investments, declare victory, flip the company to some other investors and move on.

So what about the American workers? What about the communities they live in, the economic ecosystem that once kept their town thriving, or the sense of responsibilty to their fellow Americans and the satisfaction of having such an enormous, and enormously positive, impact on their fellow Americans and the nation at large?

Not a factor. Not by the modern playbook, anyway, where the only measure that matters is the number on the quarterly bottom line and maximizing value for the investors.

That’s the job, they say. At the end of the year the one responsibility that looms above all are the needs of the investors. They make the jobs, is the rationalization. And it’s true! Only now hardly anyone cares about making American jobs. Not that they can’t be profitable working on American shores. They can. But if you’re after enormous profits; the kind you can squeeze out of a developing country where workers are thrilled with their $5-a-day, benefitless pay; where ecological/sustainability laws hold no power; well my friend, that action is overseas.

Go east, businessman, and become massively wealthy without the country. Then use your massive fortunes to pay for massive political campaigns meant to insure that every remnant of government-enforced corporate limits vanish and business can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, all the time.

Social responsibility, let alone patriotism,  doesn’t enter into it. But the investors….for God’s sake, man, the investors!

Ain’t that America?

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