Traditionally, the profit motive has been a pretty good driver of innovation. But this has only been true as long as someone’s product or service didn’t wind up predominating. Then, the quest always changes from innovation to protection. The conglomerate officer will do whatever he (or she) can do to stifle anything that may be better, and/or cheaper, than the product being offered by the conglomerate. And when the conglomerate entrenches itself in Government, the rapid decline of everything always ensues.
Such is the case these days in the United States, where conglomerates have managed to whip up a small, uninformed minority with tales about the horrors of change. We are not allowed to talk about climate change, even though the evidence is all around us, and growing, of the disasters yet to be. We are not allowed to talk about alternative energy sources, even though we have bankrupted ourselves and dispatched thousands of our own citizens in a quest for oil. We are not allowed to talk about a public option for healthcare, because idiots continue to screech that the MARKETS! are the only way to get anything done, and other idiots blindly follow them. Hell, it seems to me that we aren’t supposed to talk about any of our problems anymore.
Well…. I think I’ll talk about one of our biggest problems. One might say it is a root problem. We have a flavor of “capitalism” that is worse in some ways than Stalinist command economics was. We are privatizing things left and right, but we aren’t sending any ethics along with it. And of course, privatizing a public service without insisting on an ethical approach is nuttier than nuts. We privatize prisons, and then wonder why we have so many prisoners. Very soon, we will wonder why roads in a lot of places have become so hazardous. The free marketplace, as it exists right now, is all about maximizing profits, and over and over again, we’ve seen the chase of profits simply drown out any considerations about the citizenship of the corporation, or the responsibility that a corporation has to a community, or even to our country. Can you imagine what World War II would have been like for this country if the corporate boardrooms had been full of Waltons and Fiorinas? One has to believe we’d still be at war, and that the Koch brothers would organize a bus tour of idiots anytime someone attempted to introduce any sensibility to what we were doing. This “capitalism” as we now practice it simply does not work. It’s a parasitic insect that is draining the lifeblood right out of our society, as schools go unfunded, health services go unavailable, and jobs are continuously offshored to places where there are people who are hungrier than we are. This ain’t working for anyone save a handful of people.
What would the answer be? I think there must be several answers. First of all, we must begin to use the tax code as a punishment device, rather as a ladle, for the parasitic super rich. If a CEO saw his salary slashed for offshoring, instead of seeing his salary sent through the roof, he’d think long and hard about how to best use local resources. The same goes for corporations that pollute foreign lands, and sicken people. Let’s begin to hold their profit margins in peril for the crimes they commit against the planet. If they pull up and leave entirely, so what? We’ve still got a large enough consumer base to hurt them mightily by simply rewriting our tariff laws to favor domestic, responsible concerns. It is time to make them play the game more ethically, or find a new team to play.
I also believe that a serious ethics course should be mandatory for any MBA program. Those who cannot grasp the concept of responsibility would not be awarded a diploma. Yes, sociopaths will still get by, but we’ll get them later with tax and tariff laws. Plus, maybe we could encourage more decent human beings to seek the MBA. And those decent human beings would later emerge as corporate officers.
Last but not least, we don’t need less Government in the marketplace. We need more of it. Much more. Germany is presently generating 6,000% more electricity via solar panels than we are. Government could encourage the monoliths to get on board by raising the carbon tax to a level that makes continuing to use coal, or oil, unattractive. And since we hold huge reserves of coal, it simply isn’t like a polluting state overseas can readily replace us as a source. Indirectly, we could encourage a worldwide wave of clean energy, and maybe even save some piece of this planet for those who follow us. It seems to me to be a hell of a lot better idea than waiting around to get Raptured off this stinking carcass, right?
I have a few other ideas. This is the first part of many.