Can’t Fix What Ain’t Broke

Our economic system (a.k.a. capitalism) is broken!  The number of times I’ve read and heard this is countless, and thus quite telling.  It tells me that far too many believe that our economic system is basically fine, but that it just needs some fixing.  A little tweak here and there will do it. 

Continuing to strive to fix an economic system that never was intended to serve everyone’s very human needs, such as; basic life needs (i.e. food, water shelter, health, safety) and ensuring a sustainable environment in support of the viability of life—is a fool’s errand.  You can’t make something fit our needs that was never designed or intended to do so—a badly designed suit can never really fit well.  

Capitalism, as argued in so many postings here (which I invite you to explore), is a system that disregards life itself for the sake of the wealth accumulation of a select few—the winners.  It is a system of competition where I win and everyone else loses. Now some might say I like competition, I enjoy competing. Well competing by participating in a game might be fun, and even enjoyable, but playing the game doesn’t determine or impact how you live and you can stop playing the game and take on other activities.  But to make living your life a win-lose phenomenon would be a brutal way of existence—life’s experience should not be that of The Hunger Games

Furthermore, the very nature of competition lends itself to autocorrelation, where winning (next time) favors those who’ve previously won: those without substantial holdings can’t possibly be competitive and are thus destined to experience loss, and lots of it. Why do you think professional sport leagues engage in player drafts whereby the worst performing teams the previous season get first picks?

Profit Contextualizes Everything

Why is profit maximization and material value the guide in all decisions and not quality and human value?  Why are collectives of workers (i.e. labor unions) discouraged if not outlawed and yet collectives of corporations (i.e. industry associations) very much allowed if not heeded?  Why do so few own and control so much?  Why does the saying those having gained so much have done so at the expense of so many seem to ring true?

Everyone and everything out there is an object to be manipulated and exploited for the benefit of someone’s—but clearly not everyone’s—material self-interest.  In this system, your life my life—even the life of the exploiter–has no inherent (human) value since what counts is the sought-after material gain.  All that matters is whether the exploitee, the other, can serve some measure of outer value for the exploiter.  

Unavoidably, in this system of self-interest maximization we serve the system’s interest, it doesn’t serve us. Accordingly, through our participation we (tacitly) cast ourselves as objects in the game’s overarching process of exploitation.  In effect, the characteristics and size of the exploited population has changed and increased over time to meet the ever-increasing profit desires of the capitalist class.  With the goal is unlimited wealth accumulation then exploitation has no bounds!

If you doubt this, just take a few moments to look around at what’s happening, and has been happening for far too long.  The practice of capitalism is doing what it is intended to do, exploit and destroy life itself.  This destruction manifests as unhealthy water, air and food products, unlivable environment (ever-increasing heat, prolonged drought, significant melting of polar ice, rising sea levels, massive and longer-lasting wildfires, frequent and stronger hurricanes/typhons), and rising income inequality with below or barely subsistence wages for an increasing proportion of the population and exorbitant gains realized by the (already) wealthy.  All of this is the effect from the motivation for unlimited material growth by any means possible.

Capitalism is the ultimate competition system, enacting war on the universal needs of life for the material benefit of a few.  It is a system for and of losers, a parasitic system that destroys its host such that eventually there will be no ultimate winner.  Eventually, we all lose!

How can such a system be embraced by so many?  Why is it that the vast majority of people are complicit in the destruction of their own life, that of their family and more profoundly in  diminishing the viability of life on earth?

A Couple of Answers Why

Two interrelated answers come to mind: internalization and addiction.  Internalization of the notion that extrinsic motivation is the seed of all human behavior and thus it is our very nature to strive to maximize our material self-interest. Consequently, an individual’s life’s aim is in alignment with the system’s aim, so there is no questioning and no alternative. This is further supported by a tacit societal commitment to a materialistic and mechanistic worldview, the system of orientation of capitalism. This all fits quite nicely into the capitalist’s need for compliant individuals, while simultaneously each holds in their mind the illusory notion of (their) individualism and autonomy. All substitutable cogs in the wealth accumulation machine.  So it follows, individually we feel we must strive to be successful, which is defined and measured by the size of one’s bank account and the number of toys it affords. 

Life in society is a competition, where each individual strives to make him/herself more saleable—a marketable commodity—in pursuit of a materially rewarding career. The educational system, which should be about human development, has increasingly become about job skill training.  All of this contextualizes life as a competitive game, and of course we not only feel the need to stay in the game, we are led to feel the need to become more marketable. The need to develop a career far exceeds that of developing our humanness, developing as a human being, which would benefit the welfare of everyone.

Consider, the context of  capitalist society as one large monopoly board wherein we all move around the board in pursuit of material gain. Forever seeking that ephemeral feeling of pleasure from winning in this game, has us addicted to the game itself. Addicted to hoping that this time we (just might) win, so we stay in the game by repeatedly throwing the dice.  But with each throw the rentiers are the ones amassing increasing material gain. Yet there is a very large number of players who never get a chance to even Pass Go, never earn the minimum subsistence.  Needless to say, the rentier class needs us to stay in the game; if we refuse to throw the dice the game ends.  So we’re exhorted to dream and hope that our day will soon come; all we need to do is continue to work hard (in service to their interest of course) and play by the rules of the game.  

We all lose the more capitalism is practiced! The need to re-think the intent of the economic system (and correspondingly the intent of each and every business) is paramount.  Each business enterprise must cease participating in the system against life; the system that is increasingly diminishing our development as human beings and the viability of humankind.

On Management in Crisis

In these times where the emergence of crises is seemingly unending, it might be instructive to step out of the chaos, just for a moment, to critically think about and reflect upon what we’ve experienced for a good number of years in organizations, institutions and society in regard to the phenomenon we call management.  I purposefully avoid the use of the term leadership here simply because it is so misunderstood and too often self-ascribed in an attempt to elevate status. We’ll keep to the use of the term management consistent with that found in W. Edwards Deming’s Out of the Crisis, where he concluded, management is the problem! Continue reading

Dissolve the Climate Crisis

Carbon offset programs are failing as climate solutions.  Of course they are!  Paraphrasing Einstein, problems can’t be solved with the same system of thinking that created them.  In other words, one can’t solve a systemic problem by applying the same system of orientation that was followed in creating the system and thus the problem.
Carbon offsets or carbon allowances, are market-driven solutions to the climate crisis that cannot possibly work, since they are devised by the very same system of thought whose consequence is the climate crisis; it’s a capitalist resolution to a capitalism caused problem! Continue reading

Who’s for Business?

It seems opposition to proposals intended to help the greater mass of people, such as providing a livable wage or ensuring healthcare for all or having regulations that ensure a healthy and safe environment, quite often is that they would not be good for business. It does seem that business is opposed to being helpful to people in society, which is consistent with Milton Friedman’s (neoliberal) contention that a business enterprise has no responsibility apart from maximizing profit and shareholder value (over the next quarter).

 

So, who’s for business? Continue reading

Avoid Change in the Extreme

The only thing constant in life is change—Heraclitus. With change being constant in life, change is not avoidable through life.

 

With this in mind, denying (the need for) change, is denying life. Refusing to deal with it in the present is refusing to be life affirming in the present. This way of being doesn’t stop change from arising—given its constancy—it only ensures having to deal with it in its extreme later. Continue reading

Presence of Fear Requires Courage

Fear is an emotion, a type of energy we all have available to us to help protect us against threats and danger. Thus the emotion of fear can be quite useful, unless of course it is the only or predominate energy that animates us. A fearful person—one largely motivated by it—will likely see danger and threats to him/her self everywhere and in most every other person. Moreover, when every other person is a potential threat to ones’ success toward fulfilling one’s goal in life, then fear of others—especially those not like oneself—inevitably emerges. Continue reading

Globalization Delivers

Globalization has delivered, as it was intended, for the 1%. Globalization is not so much a paradigm, as some frame it, as it is a strategy of corporatist. It has preserved the gains of capitalism’s elite upper class by affording worldwide exploitation and extraction. Continue reading

A Drowning Class and the Invisible Hand

Whether as a symptom of or as a commentary about the state of affairs of the U.S. economy we hear many (pundits especially) say the middle class is declining… if not disappearing. A growing number of people the state of affairs is quite stormy as they are finding it harder and harder to stay above water, yet for a select few who are smoothly sailing along it has never been better. Continue reading

There’s No Substitute for Understanding

In a December 3rd Harvard Business Review article (Rescuing Capitalism from Itself) Henry Mintzberg noted “since 1989, the United States has experienced some alarming changes, for example the massive infiltration of corporate money into public elections, disquieting levels of corruption in business, rising income disparities, and the decline, of all things in this country, of social mobility.”

 

How have these alarming changes come about? Are these the result of outside forces or are they the result of the economic system itself? Continue reading