In regard to the health and well-being of society, most decisions made by those in both politics and business are wrong-headed (self-serving) decisions. A narrow focus of attention can’t help but to lead to far too many unintended consequences!
Examples are everywhere and emerge almost daily—in regard to healthcare, climate crisis, education, economy, etc. Let’s look at just one: the current rise in consumer prices (a.k.a. inflation). Evidence shows that the vast majority of large corporations—those providing products and services to people in society—are realizing remarkable increased profit while at the same time consumers are finding meeting basic needs is costing more. Application of a little logic leads one to conclude that the large gains in profit are the result of increased prices. Moreover, as Dean Baker’s analysis shows, with a declining wage share of corporate income inflation can’t logically be influenced by wage growth.
Corporations are profit maximizing entities—the intent of business—and thus it is the primary reason why corporations increase the price of their products and services. You can rest assured, that the business-minded understand this relationship between prices and profit quite well!
So what has the political class decided to do in the face of this inflation? Raise interest rates. Why? It gives the impression of doing something without (actually) doing anything to address the problem. It is a decision that preserves profit making for corporations while intensifying the negative impact of higher prices on the public. Let’s not forget that price is not automatically/mysteriously set by some dynamic in the ether, but rather by people in the corporations—that is, the corporate decision-makers.
Accordingly, the malarkey unquestioned by the press and offered to the general public is that the reason there is inflation is that demand is too high and so there is a need to place downward pressure on demand. So who winds up paying for this price hiking profit maximizing scheme (a.k.a. profiteering)? The consuming public, who repeatedly pays—first for having basic needs (like the demand for food, shelter/housing, transportation to get to work, etc.) and in turn for continuing in seeking to satisfy these basic needs.
Moreover, there is little indication that the cost to consumers informs decisions and that the health and well-being of society is a concern. There is absolutely no evidence supporting the notion that these decision-makers are thinking critically; since doing so would necessarily mean that they’ve considered and assessed a wide range of perspectives. But to the contrary, in essence, the decision-makers are saying to the general public, it sucks to be you!
What are we to do?
There are two options:
1) Change minds of the decision-makers
2) Change the decision-makers
The first option is to provide the learning experiences that would change the thinking, knowledge, understanding and values held in the minds of the decision-makers. This of course will only be effective if the mind of the decision-maker is open to learning things that challenge, if not run counter to, the beliefs they’ve long held. How do you change the mind of someone whose career success depends on no such change happening?
The second option is to replace the decision-makers with decision-makers who are of a different mind. That is, replace a mechanistic material-based minded person with a living system people-caring minded person. Unfortunately, there are so few of these both critical and systems thinking people. Moreover, those of such a mind likely have very little interest in business school and/or have a slim chance of rising in the hierarchy—perhaps this is why there are so few people of such minds in business, or politics for that matter.
Correspondingly, in America’s two-party political system, wherein each party is beholden to their very own group of oligarchs, realizing such a replacement among the political class is very near impossible. Why is it that a politician espousing business needs is applauded while a politician supporting people’s needs is disparaged and scoffed at?
I repeat: A narrow focus of attention can’t help but to lead to far too many unintended consequences!
If only people understood!So, what might be a third option? Could it be that we, the people, need to learn, to think critically?
Greg, your essay leads to a rather thorny conundrum. I agree whole-heartedly with the logic of your argument. Right now, we’re confronted with an historical dilemma, the two horns of which are high capitalism, which you have described with precision, and socialism, which has to date led to bureaucratic authoritarianism, economic inefficiency, and ultimately to a different kind of oligarchy, also known as kleptocracy. Is there a third way? That critical thinking on the parts of the “rest of us” is a precondition of it–whatever it turns out to be–is an easy one to admit. What would we do with such a widespread dissemination of critical thinking? Is there an alternative template for a better future for humankind?
I suspect that with wide spread critical thinking we’d actually have a functioning democracy. As far as an economic system is concerned, critical thinking would surely lead us away of one wherein material self-interest is the guide and toward one where care and concern for the viability of life and a livable environment is the guide toward serving the human development of people.