Capitalism is Broken

“There can be no doubt,” the report states in its introduction, “the primary responsibility for misconduct in the financial services industry lies with the entities concerned and those who managed and controlled those entities: their boards and senior management”.

“Too often,” it says further on, “boards did not get the right information about emerging non-financial risks; did not do enough to seek further or better information where what they had was clearly deficient; and did not do enough with the information they had.”

The primary responsibility is a little more complex. (Italics mine)

Generally the people at the executive and board level of our big corporations globally are not bad people. There are exceptions to this, however, the epidemic evil of taking money for no service, or for ‘up’ selling products to people who do not need them, or for converting 2.5 billion plus people into products for the benefit of a very few while manipulating them to think and behave as you want, rarely happens as part of the initial business design.

Mark Zuckerberg did not start off with evil intent. Katie Page, CEO of Harvey Norman, an Australian company, probably didn’t start with evil intent.

The Source Idea of most enterprises that become global behemoths rarely survives the progress through time intact. The Pattern Integrity gets chipped away, bit by bit, one little atrocity at a time. And it does so because of the forces that dictate success in our current capitalist system.

The pace of violation of the Pattern Integrity is so slow that few see it for the fullness of its arc. A small perpetration is so easy to say yes to. Good people on the board say yes. And then again, they say yes. And several years later we have a product that extracts from the ignorant and innocent, bundled in a layer of complexity, and part of so many other products that the terrain that was simple is now filled to the brim that few would be able to keep up. This is part of how the Global Financial Crisis transpired in 2008. The complexity and obfuscation is rarely seen in its totality. Hannah Arendt wrote about this while observing the trial of Eickmann in Jerusalem. History is worth remembering.

Place this into the field of publicly traded companies and the expectation of the shareholder, which has as a primary impulse to create the biggest return possible, and you have a field ripe for corruption.

Add to this the ability for major shareholders of these big corporations to ‘purchase’ politicians through legal means of political funding, and we now have a toxic mix.

Into this field ripe for peak exploitation – violation of the Source Idea and its Pattern Integrity, a system that values the return for the shareholder as primary, and regulatory structures that favour those with money and power, we finally add the pawns – the regular humans who have limited money and power.

Here is an example of how it might play out.

A young women, with little knowledge of technology, walks into a Harvey Norman/Domayne Store in Australia to buy a computer worth $1500. She walks out with a debt to be paid over two years of $3000. A debt she cannot afford. The salesman is happy. He followed his training to ‘up’ sell as many products as possible. All wrapped in a perfectly convincing story about how they are essential products. He may or may not have been on commission. He would certainly have been rewarded for his ‘good’ work.

And the Australian public revere Gerry Norman and Katie Page as super stars of business. They might be nice people, even good people, but to even make a dollar of their profits through outright exploitation of the naive should put them in the same category as the Board and Executives of the banks called out by the Royal Commission. 

When I walked back into that same Domayne store with the young women on the same day of purchase I fought for 2 hours to get justice. In the end we went from $3000 to $2000. At the end of the battle I asked the store manager, “If this was a member of your family wouldn’t you have done what I did, and fight for someone who had been manipulated into buying $1500 worth of unnecessary goods and services?”

His answer. “No, I would have let them learn the lesson.”

Touché. He knew. Of course he knew. It was a game of winners and losers and he had been well trained.

It made me sick to the stomach thinking of all the elderly who get seduced into buying stuff they do not need with money they do not have while the Gerry Harvey’s and Katie Page’s swan around as heroes of business.

The system is broken. It is time we stopped re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is going to sink. 

We have to build new boats, urgently.

There is a question that has shifted from the far fringe towards the centre in the last six months on why the world should have even a single billionaire? How is it moral to have a small number of people have so much money that they could never spend in several lifetimes while children go hungry or are without basic medicine? This, if nothing else, is evidence of a very broken system.

We need to redefine the meaning of corporations, and technology. To serve all humans. And Earth. Without ecological offence of the disadvantage of anyone. No more technology controlling humans, instead humans creating technology to serve us. Technology is not the solution. Humans are.

We need to remove money from politics – totally. Publicly funded elections, and limited terms. No more career politicians. And voting systems like Mi-Vote that give people the vote on issues in real time making the politicians job one of execution rather than spending their days fighting each other.

We need to prevent monopolisation. It is wrong that one family own 70% of the media in three countries. It is wrong that several companies hold 2.5 billion people’s data for their own profit. And manipulate these people without their knowledge.

This happened on our watch, bit by bit. Every single politician who said yes to the monopolisation of the media in the UK, Australia and the USA over the course of the 20-30 years it took, is complicit. All of us who did not protest are complicit.

The Mark Zuckerbergs of the world are no longer innocent. They know what they have unleashed. Like Pandora, they simply couldn’t resist the temptation of opening the box more and more. And now it is open, they have no idea how to close it. All those creatures unleashed have now taken hold and grown deep roots.

Katie Page might actually believe that you need $1500 worth of peripheral stuff with every computer purchase. But I think she is smarter than that. I think she knows the game she encourages her company to play.

Beyond continually and completely ineffectively saying sorry, or throwing money around as philanthropy, as if the spoils of the kill will cleanse them of the sins of the kill, our executives and billionaires might take all that stored capital they have accumulated off the backs of people and build a completely new boat, one that serves humans and our future. 

This is unlikely. The rot has infected too far. Only regulation and a break up of extreme monopolisation is likely to create change.

And then there is us. The entrepreneurs and small business owners, the salaried workers and the marginalised everywhere. Those rare few in business like Phillip Ullmann from Cordant Group, and Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia, who have the means, the resources and the will to lead genuine change.

We can enable people to come together around a purpose that we care about, and build enterprises that actually support our todays and tomorrows, without any exploitation or extraction. 

It is not utopia, and it is not idealism. In the Aussie lingo…it’s a bloody good idea. 

Because there is actually enough to go around, and we can meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals if we have the will. We certainly have the resources to do it now. Even billionaires knows this. They also know that the models we have now are broken. They might want things to change but only enough to ensure they do not lose their money or power or the means to get it. At the same time they are preparing their bunkers in New Zealand for when the collapse comes and the riff riff (you and I) show up as the rebels wanting to tear down their walls.

Change is going to happen with or without our co-operation towards a more beautiful world. One road is hard and painful, where those with the least will pay the most. Another road, also hard and painful, requires the will of the grassroots humans who find their voice, find each other, and call time on a nasty game.

And yes, we will always need regulation, because all of us are capable of little atrocities, of small acts of evil that become gradually bigger. The market forces will never be able to effectively police integrity no matter how the libertarians think.

Finally, each of us, no matter our status and power, have each day to consider our own integrity. 

No pass Katie, Mark, Gerry, Larry, Jeff and many others.

There is still time to change. If not you, then we, the people, grassroots led, will be the change. Unlike you, we have nothing to lose. 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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