Capitalism – Setting the Bar above Absolute Zero
There is a perception all across the United States [or every comment section on the internet], and perhaps abroad, that a business has only one purpose to exist and that that purpose is to make money. How that money is made is neither here nor there as long as what it is doing is legal. This is about as close to nihilism as any popular belief really reaches, it is so phenomenally dark that I’m a bit shocked that folks don’t cringe whenever they hear it.
Firstly lets start with the concept of something being legal. What makes something legal or illegal? Time, Money, and Persistence. These things come into play with every war, every environmental limitation or freedom, every cultural law shift, and certainly every substance definition. Something is illegal for only as long as it is left illegal, sure it is currently illegal for you to smoke Marijuana or to drink as a Teenager. But before Prohibition this was an unenforced situation, children drank and nobody batted an eye at it, at least in the states. Similarly before 1860 it was legal for just about anyone to smoke Marijuana in the US, however with time, money, and persistence some interested parties got it labeled a poison.
Laws about poisoning water supplies, clear cutting forests, or even paying employees were all brought along with time, money, and persistence. There is nothing altruistic about the legal system because it tries to take an objective view of the world, the problem with this is that it lays way for sociopaths who use law as a justification for their sociopathic tendencies. Similarly you can find people with power complexes moving into positions of power such as law enforcement or security.
So a business is considered OK when it is doing things legal by the general agreement of capitalism, the problem is that this bar is about as concrete as toilet paper. So we’ve effectively given a joker card to any business and told them the only way they’ll be rewarded is if they go to the utmost extremes to raise us revenue (as shareholders) or raise their revenue (as private businesses).
I would argue that the essence of capitalism is whatever the citizenry state it to be, and furthermore that we should expect businesses to return the largest amount of revenue with the least amount of intrusion or destruction. This involves overseas affairs and all environmental impacts. Oil companies shouldn’t be flooding the sea with crude, diamond companies shouldn’t be profiteering from African civil wars, and food companies shouldn’t be pouring thousands of gallons of animal feces into the drinking supply of the town.
People should not turned a blind eye to abuse merely because a business is a heartless entity constructed to turn a profit because profits are not the most important thing in the world. This view is dangerous and is at the center of much of the world’s problems. This race to the bottom is caused by legal actions of large businesses which are trying to maximize their profits. Any time the law conflicts with the profits they merely lobby to change the laws. This takes us back to the first point where merely stating that something is legal does not make it right and things being right should be at the core of all judgment.
But what is right? Obviously its subjective, if you asked me I’d go back to a previous point and say that rightness is by creating the largest positive impact with the smallest negative impact. This is something that a person must believe at their core and not merely be able to state they have done outwardly. Paper companies that run tree farms are a great example, while it isn’t the best option they still manage to produce an immense amount of paper without reducing all our forests to nothingness. The act of clear-cutting rainforests in Brazil is a wonderful counterexample, its terrible, wasteful, and they’ve already got more than enough land to run a self sustaining logging operation. However they choose to continue on the maximum profit model which causes maximum damage.
You also cannot count on bad businesses going away by lack of customer support. The ability to rename, rebrand, and otherwise mask the source of a product makes it nearly impossible for people to align their buying choices with their knowledge of the business world around them. For example, try and name all the different paper products that the Koche brothers supply. After you have done this take a stab at your own kitchen, how many things do you have in there that is giving them revenue? How about your bathrooms?
Is the food you are eating produced by a company that pays terrible wages in Mexico and ships the food by refrigerated boat and truck to the states? Is that milk from cows that are abused and flooded with drugs? In all cases above the answer could be no, especially if you live outside of the US. But things like toothpaste, hard drives, speakers, soaps, and even the oil that lubricates your engine are likely made by a company you didn’t realize was behind it. A business you’ve enjoyed for two decades may have been silently acquired and is now run by a much more destructive parent company.
To expect the average person to keep track of all the shifting when laws are routinely passed to make it harder (such as it being illegal to visit industrial farms just about anywhere) is far above irrational.
In many cases people will purchase the cheapest option, and if they decide to choose something else a business will acquire that competition in order to reduce competition. Monopoly laws do exist but take a gander in the electronics and software sector, this sort of acquisition race is widespread and there are few if any legal cases put against it. Any field that congressmen are not comfortable with gets utterly ignored.
An anecdotal example is Bullfrog, Westwood, Maxis, and Bioware. These are names of highly popular brands that outmatched products by Electronic Arts, in response EA did what it is fairly famous for and purchased all of them to remove the competition. The list is considerably larger than this, but they are hardly alone in this, Oil company acquisitions and mergers have been happening at a faster and faster pace, with these mergers prices go up, quality goes down, and choices go down.
This all happens while the environment and humans themselves are treated poorer and poorer. But its all legal.
So before I rant any longer, and considering the stark lack of images in this text wall, I’ll leave it at that. Don’t be alright with businesses that are only looking to maximize profits, look down upon investors who expect nothing besides this, and raise your expectations. Everything will rise to the bar that is set for it, setting the bar for something to greed is about as damaging and foolish it gets.