Sunday, May 27, 2012

So many questions

I'm losing faith in our capitalist society. There - I said it.

Maximizing profits has become so important that nothing else seems to matter. The attitude seems to be 'to hell with the environment', 'to hell with peoples' health', 'to hell with established rights'. Some examples follow.

When the economy tanked as a result of the financial melt-down on Wall St., it was the result of greed. In simple terms, investors ran out of things to invest in, so Wall Street invented new things that looked shiny on the outside, but were in fact worthless on the inside. We crashed so hard, our governments had to bail the financial industry out to prevent world economic collapse. At least - that's the line they fed us. We will never know what would have happened if no bail-outs had been given. While we're on that subject, you know how Canada's government keeps bragging how our banks didn't need any bail-outs? What they meant to say was "They didn't need any from us - they got some from the US". In the end, what did the bail-outs accomplish? Raises and bonuses to senior management in the financial industry resumed within weeks of the bailouts and those who invested in the crap lost everything. What do I take away from that? The government helped the industry while ignoring the needs of the people.

When the entertainment industry realized that their decades-old business model could no longer work in the new reality that included the internet and rapid technological innovation, they lobbied the government to create laws to protect the industry and usurp the rights of the consumer. This is something they tried to do many times before and failed (cassette tape; VCR; CD-ROM), because at the time, the industry didn't have any government members in their back pockets. The ultimate goal is to control technology, stifle innovation and invade privacy while throwing due process out the window. Worse, they don't even understand the technology they're trying to fight. They don't seem to get a very simple concept - an IP address is not a person. But once again, the government listened to the industry while ignoring the needs of the people.

When the food industry made packaged food cheaper and less nutritious, or began using processes on fresh food that might put our health at risk, as soon as the government proposed tougher regulations, the food industry lobbied to eliminate those improvements. Labelling on food packaging is misleading almost to the point of fraud. Harmful additives are still here and continue to rise. Corn producers are outright lying to consumers to deflect the awful truth that high fructose corn syrup is extremely bad for you. Subsidies keep various food producing sectors alive when they should have died natural deaths. Vibrant and varied local production of food for local consumption is almost non-existent. And still, the government helps the industry while ignoring the needs of the people and protecting their health and welfare.

When the oil and gas industry tried to get pipelines built in Canada, concerned citizens spoke out against them, hoping that at the very least, government would study and try to lessen the environmental impacts of such pipelines if and when they were built. What happened next? The environmental review process was slashed to speed up assessment times. Worse, government representatives in Canada labelled environmentalists 'terrorists'. Industry 4, consumer 0.

When large content corporations like Disney asked the government to extend the life of copyright from 'life of the author plus 70 years, for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier', you'd think the answer would be 'no'. It was not. The consumer (and the independent creator) loses again.

When new drugs are created, their inventors are allowed to maximize their profits before sharing the drug with competitors, artificially propping up prices and making the people who need the drugs most - the poor and 3rd world countries - unable to afford them.

When governments need to cut costs, the first things they go for are social benefits. They have no trouble cutting back on health costs, education costs, social assistance, effective public transportation. But they balk at cuts to corporate subsidies, increasing taxes to the wealthy, or cuts to their salary and eliminating their gold-plated pension increases.

When government officials leave office, they tend to go working for the exact industry they were empowered to regulate. This is a serious conflict of interest, but we don't do anything about it. It also explains why government is essentially powerless to do anything about industry misbehaviour, because who would hire a bureaucrat that punished an industry too much?

I am confident that if we were allowed to fully see how our government officials are lobbied by industry, we would understand why the kinds of laws we see today are created and why we don't see the kind of laws taxpayers want. I recall reading a sci-fi book decades ago that described a world where large corporations were the new governments, overtly and completely. I suggest that we have achieved that reality, albeit a bit more covertly. Governments act like they're in charge and are serving our best interests. But the reality is so much different. Not everyone in government has been 'bought', but those who have not are having a hard time stopping the motion of the industry-driven machine.

Our current Conservative government made it crystal clear when they said that their prime directive was to secure our prosperity. That speaks volumes. Not promote prosperity, not ensure more people get to enjoy prosperity. The new way of the world is to protect the rich and the rest of you - you're on your own. Protect the 1% - they drive the economy. Those of us smart enough to understand the real world know the truth. It's the middle class that drives the economy. The rich just keep socking their riches away. What disturbs me the most is that all of this doesn't disturb a lot of people. I've even heard folks say it's all about protecting the capitalist dream of making it big. In other words, leave the rich alone because I'm going to be one someday.

I'm going to Mars someday too.

1 comment:

koneko said...

i can't share this on facebook, it says that is "spammy"

brilliant piece though. and very frightening.

we need to overthrow our government and try to repair the damage somehow.

people come first, not profits, not corporations.