CONTRIBUTION · 16th February 2010
The fact is that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are and have been chronically underemployed and unemployed since the recession of 1981. When Canadian legislators allowed the mortgage rate to soar to twenty-one percent causing untold numbers of Canadians to lose their homes, our nation ceased to be a ‘just’ state and became an exploitive one.
We never really recovered from the downturn in 1981. Sure, the stock markets did; they even rallied to unprecedented heights but the gains were not passed onto the people but were cornered by the growing class of technocrats and money managers who have no loyalty to their fellow citizens unless profit is to be gained.
Profit dictates that the citizens of this great nation forthwith be referred to as ‘consumers’ and reduced to units of gain or liability. Profit, as the defining characteristic of rampant capitalism has caused one and a half million Canadians and thirty-seven million Americans to live in poverty. Profit has re-alligned Canadian society so that it can boast the highest rate of children in state care in the industrialized world. Profit for the few and misery for many is the social reality that has gained ascendancy due to the sin of omission by our regulators and politicians.
Because our state has failed to protect its citizens from economic enslavement and ballooning poverty; drug use, youth suicide, homelessness,and social upheaval are the inevitable results. But this trend can be altered; it must be.
The social and economic policies of the state can change all of the preventable and negative tendancies of the spiralling downturn in living standards and the shameless exploitation of its citizens. The markets will not do this; in fact, the markets will resist any design that might affect its quarterly bottom line. One need only look to the U.S. to see how the just notion of universal health care is being ‘tarred and feathered’ by the profit mongers to the detriment of millions of people.
One would think that common sense for the common good would be the prevailing stand as it was when Tommy Douglas introduced the concept of medicaire to Canadians. Apparently, special interest groups such as pharmaceutical companies, and medical supply companies are able to trump the obvious needs of the people in the ‘land of the brave and free’. Does profit trump democracy too?
In British Columbia, the democratic impulse does not apply to the economic policies and social programs designed to protect the struggling masses. Here, we have the highest child poverty rate in Canada and the lowest minimum wage rate in the nation. During the 60’s and 70’s, British Columbia was renowned for being the best region in the world in terms of worker’s rights and wages.
Following the purge of workers unions by American parent companies and special committes at the end of the 70’s and early 80’s, British Columbia has been reduced to a shadow of its former glory. We are overtaxed, underpaid and exploited by both government and big business.
Banks make obscene profits and, with the sanction of the state and, in partnership with the credit card companies, they are charging userous interest rates that formerly were considered criminal. The government is supposed to protect its citizens from any threat such as userous debt, not escape its responsibilities by telling the people that the onus is on them. We shouldn’t be required to accrue debt to keep alive in an economic system that bilks us at every turn.
We have allowed ourselves to become economically enslaved and we deny it to ourselves. It doesn’t have to be; the will of the people is excercised through their MLA’s and legislation can free the people from the coercive economic forces that daunt us.
Let your voice be heard so that our politicians are induced to distribute the wealth of this nation equitably even if it means going against the profit treadmill, which promises, but only uses.
Following are excerpts from various sources that exposed and suggested remedies for the economic pathologies that have beset our civilization. Note the dates of publishing of Rifkin’s and Greider’s works and the obvious question arises,
“Why have the national governments of the most influential states not acted on the scholarly advice of their economists and social architects?
“The End of Work” by Jeremy Rifken : “The Decline of the Global Labour Force and the Dawn of the Post Market Era”
Copyright 1995 ; Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
The death of the global work force is being internalized by millions of workers who experience their own individual deaths, daily, at the hands of profit –driven employers and a disinterested government. They are the ones who are waiting for pink slips, being forced to work part-time at reduced pay, or being pushed onto the welfare roles. With each new indignity, their confidence and self-esteem suffer another blow. They become expendable, then irrelevant, and finally invisible in the new high-tech world of global commerce and trade.” Page 197.
“We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroad in human history, Global corporations are now capable of producing an unprecedented volume of goods and services with an ever smaller workforce. The new technologies are bringing us into an era of near workless production at the very moment in world history when population is surging to unprecedented levels. The clash between rising population pressures and falling job opportunities will shape the geopolitics of the emerging high-tech global economy well into the next century.” Page 207.
“ While millions of urban and rural poor languish in poverty, and an increasing number of suburban middle-income wage earners feel the bite of re-engineering and the impact of technological displacement, a small elite of American knowledge workers, entrepreneurs and corporate managers reap the benefits of the new high-tech global economy. They enjoy an affluent lifestyle far removed from the social turmoil around them. The frightening new circumstance the U.S. finds itself in, led Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich to ask, “ What do we owe one another as members of the same society who no longer inhabit the same economy ?” Page 180.
“ Less than half of 1% of the American population now exerts unprecedented power over the American economy, affecting the lives of some 250 million Americans. This small elite owns 37.4% of all corporate stocks and bonds and 56.2% of all U.S. private business assets.” Page 174
“Below the super rich is a slightly larger class consisting of 4% of the working population of the U.S. Their ranks are made up largely of the new professionals, the highly trained symbolic analysts or knowledge workers who manage the new high-tech information economy. This small group numbering fewer than 3.8 million, earns as much as the entire bottom 51% of U.S. wage earners, totaling more than 49.2 million. “
The Gospel of Mass Consumption :” The metamorphosis of consumption from vice to virtue is one of the most important yet least examined phenomena of the twentieth century.” Page 19.
“ The ‘ technological frame of reference’ became a permanent feature of American life, locking successive generations into a world view that glorified the machine culture and made everything that was alive and part of the organic world appear technological in nature. In the new age, human beings began thinking of themselves as tools _ as mere instruments of production. The new self-image reinforced the modus-operandi of an emerging industrial economy whose first order of business was to be productive, In less than half a century, the technological vision had succeeded in converting the American masses from foot soldiers for the Lord to factors of production and from sentient beings created in the likeness of God to tools fashioned in the image of machines.” Page 44.
“The specter of the world’s farmers being made redundant and irrelevant by the computer and biotechnology revolutions is deeply troubling. Even more unsettling, the manufacturing and service sectors, which have traditionally absorbed displaced rural workers, are undergoing their own technology revolution, shedding millions of jobs to make room for re-engineered, highly automated work environments. Transnationals are entering a new era of fast communications, lean-production practices, and just-in-time marketing and distribution operations relying increasingly on a new generation of silicon-collar workers. Much of the human work force is being left behind and will likely never cross over into the new high-tech global economy.” Page 127.
“Although still in its formative stage, the Third Industrial Revolution has led to the casting aside of tens of millions of workers in the agricultural, manufacturing, and service sectors. The new technologies have paved the way for a revamping of the global economic system along high-tech lines with a concomitant decline in the global work force required to produce goods and services. Still, the current wave of re-engineering and automation is only the very beginning of a technological transformation that is destined to greatly accelerate productivity in the years ahead while making increasing numbers of workers redundant and irrelevant in the global economy.” Page 162.
…”The same technological forces could, however, as easily lead to growing unemployment and global depression. Whether a utopian or dystopian future awaits us depends, to a great measure, on how the productivity gains of the Information Age are distributed. A fair and equitable distribution of the productivity gains would require a shortening of the work week around the world and a concerted effort by central governments to provide alternative employment in the third sector _ the social economy _ for those whose labor is no longer required in the marketplace. If, however, the dramatic productivity gains of the high-tech revolution are not shared, but rather used primarily to enhance corporate profit, to the exclusive benefits of stockholders, top corporate managers, and the merging elite of high-tech knowledge workers, chances are that the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots will lead to social and political upheaval on a global scale.”
“Two very specific courses of action will need to be vigorously pursued if the industrialized nations are to successfully make the transition into a post-market era in the 21st century. First, productivity gains resulting from the introduction of new labor-and-time-saving technologies will have to be shared with millions of people. Dramatic advances in productivity will need to be matched by reductions in the number of hours worked and steady increases in salaries and wages in order to insure an equitable distribution of the fruits of technological progress. Secondly, the shrinking of mass employment in the formal market economy and the reduction of government spending in the public sector will require that greater attention be focused on the third sector : the non-market economy. It is the third sector _ the social economy _ that people will likely look to in the coming century to help address personal and societal needs that can no longer be dealt with by either the marketplace or legislative decrees. This is the arena where men and women can explore new roles and responsibilities and find new meaning in their lives now that the commodity value of their time is vanishing.” Page 217.
“The forced redistribution of wealth away from American workers and to corporate management and stockholders led conservative economist Scott Burns to remark that,“ the 80s will be known as the decade of the fat cats, a time when entrepreneurial pieties were used to beat the average worker into cowed submission while America’s corporate elite moved yet higher on the hog.” Page 169.
“ A spate of studies conducted over the last decade have found a clear correlation between rising technological unemployment and increased levels of depression and psychotic morbidity.” Page 195
Excerpts from ‘ One World, Ready or Not ‘
‘The manic logic of global capitalism ‘ by William Greider copy. 1997 by William Greider Touchstone edition Simon and Schusterl.
…To put it more crudely, capital is being invested in new factories to make more things when the market is already struggling with a mounting shortage of buyers. One way or another, losses will multiply – for firms or nations or global investors. But when? When the realization takes hold that the expected returns from these new productive investments are grossly overvalued against the actual market prospects.” Page 49.
…”Today, there is the same widespread conviction that the marketplace can sort out large public problems for us far better than any mere mortals could. This faith has attained almost religious certitude, at least among some governing elites, but, as Polanyi explained, it is the ideology that led the early twentieth century into the massive suffering of global depression and the rise of violent fascism. So long as the dogma reigns unchallenged, this revolution will continue to hurtle forward, fatefully out of control. Page 53.
…”By insisting that technology, not the global trading system, was responsible for the displacements, economists and political leaders could argue that it was the workers, not the system, that had to be corrected.”
…”In the 1980’s, higher skills have simply not led to higher wages, “…”In industry after industry, average educational attainment rose while wages fell. Indeed, wages fell more rapidly for younger workers, despite their higher educational attainment.” Page 74.
“The bottom line came down to this: capital was claiming a larger share of the returns from production…” Page 75.
“… The capital owners stopped sharing gains with labor because they found they had the power to do so…. They mobilized both political and economic power to weaken labor’s bargaining position. “ Page 77.
“While business and finance pursued the economics, it was the deteriorating social conditions that in the long run might become more threatening to free capital than unions.” Page 79.
…”The instability of American politics revolves around many stressful questions, but the central one is at present unfashionable : economic inequality. Until American politics confronts the subject again, the various forms of social deterioration and conflict are sure to continue.” Page 218.
… In financial market history, when people of modest means become swept up in the speculation, it usually means that a climax is approaching.” Page 230.
[ “I cannot see the global system surviving,”] Soros (George) mused in a new book. [“Political instability and financial instability are going to feed off each other in a self-reinforcing fashion. In my opinion, we have entered a period of global disintegration only we are not yet aware of it.”] Page 248.
“In time, when people of future generations are able to look back on this system with clear eyes, they may recognize its true ugliness : the rich nations of the world are acting like ancient usurers, lending money to the desperate poor on terms that cannot possibly be met and, thus steadily acquiring more and more control over the lives and assets of the poor. This is done mainly by commercial banks and private capital, but amplified by policies of the public lending institutions. Citizens on the wealthy end of the global system may claim to be innocent of these practices, but their ignorance and indifference make them complicit, too. The facts would seem ludicrous if they were not so tragic for people. By 1993, the foreign debt of all developing nations had reached 40 percent of their total GDP, the highest level ever by that measure.” Page 282.
“The disjunction between the real economy of commerce and the high flying economy of finance, created and made worse by the rentiers regime’s control (deflationary policies ) , has incendiary potential for the world. If breakdown occurs, it would likely begin in the facts of this divergence. By 1996, for instance, the U.S. stock market was reaching again for record highs, riding another bubble of investor’s exaggerated hopes, while the real economy of production and employment sputtered along at a tepid pace, accumulating more losers from the deflationary momentum.” Page 305.
…Governments, in essence, must reclaim the governing obligations of the nation-state from private markets. To disarm the exaggerated power and random follies of the global bond market, governments can begin by tightening the terms for easy credit that are routinely extended to financial markets. That is, regulators must reign in the hedging and derivative devices that allow speculators to multiply the size of their plays many times, magnifying the subsequent financial shocks on real economies.” Page 317.
As the G-10 economists noted, financial liberalization has contributed not only to the decline of savings in the advanced economies during the last two decades, but also to the unprecedented level of global interest rates. The exaggerated level of interest rates is not likely to subside until governments, once again, compel capital owners to accept more moderate returns on their wealth.” Page 318.
“The shocking lesson of economic history - experience that now seems largely forgotten - is that vast human suffering and random destruction of productive capacities are unnecessary. From the crisis and turmoil of the twentieth century, nations painfully discovered that there is nothing inevitable about the market forces or the social convulsions they sow if societies will act to counter them. A world of wondrous new labor-saving technologies ought logically become a world of general abundance. But this condition does not arise inevitably from the marketplace alone, not without political and social struggle. A shared prosperity emerges, as Keynes taught, only when people throw off passivity and learn to take control of their fate.” Page 320.
Some possible solutions according to Greider:
1. Tax capital instead of labor.
2. Reform the terms of trade to ensure more balanced flows of commerce, compelling exporting nations to become larger consumers of the global production.
3. Bring the bottom up - raising wages on the low end as rapidly as possible -by requiring trading nations to honor labor rights.
4. Forgive the debtors - that is, initiate a general write-off of bad debts accumulated by the poorer nations.
5. Reform the objectives of the central banks so they will support a pro- growth regime instead of thwarting it.
6. Reform national economic agendas on the priority of work and wages, rather than trade or multinational competitiveness, as the defining issue for domestic prosperity.” Page 322.
“A revolutionary principle is embedded in the global economic system, awaiting broader recognition: Human dignity is indivisible. Across the distances of culture and nations, across vast distances of wealth and poverty, even the least among us are entitled to their dignity and no justification exists for brutalizing them in the pursuit of commerce. Anyone who claims to hold humane values cannot escape these new connections.” Page 336…
The terms of trade are usually thought of as commercial agreements, but they are also an implicit statement of moral values. In its present terms, the global system values property over human life. When a nation like China steals the property of capital, pirating copyrights, films or technology, other governments will take action to stop it and be willing to impose sanctions and penalty on the offending nation’s trade. When human lives are stolen in the “dark Satanic mills” nothing happens to the offenders since, according to the free market’s sense of conscience, there is no crime.” Page 359.
…”For fifty years, the world’s affairs were organized by a blunt choice between the competing alternatives - market capitalism or the centralized command economies of the Communist realm. The choice is now irrelevant. The future will be determined by weather people can confront capitalism’s repetitive pathologies and organize a new system that genuinely merges the market with democracy.” Page 469’
“Human dignity is indivisible everywhere. The ownership of productive capital must be broadly shared in societies as the predicate for discovering genuine democracy and general social well-being. The industrial system must be reinvented to save the earth. The social values that are precious to most people must be freed from the confinements of economic imperatives and allowed to find fuller expression. These ideas are not utopian platitudes but the hard, practical work of the future.” Page 470.
… “ Restore national controls over global capital. Tax wealth more, labor less. Stimulate global growth by boosting consumer demand from the bottom up. Compel trading nations to accept more balanced trade relations and absorb more surplus production. Forgive the debtors, especially the hopeless cases among the very poorest nations. Reorganize monetary policy to confront the realities of a globalized money supply, both to achieve greater stability and open the way to greater growth. Defend labor rights in all markets, prohibit the ancient abuses renewed in the “dark Satanic mills”. Withdraw from the old labor-capital battleground by universalizing access to capital ownership. Reformulate the idea of economic growth to escape the wasteful nature of consumption. And, in the meantime, defend work and wages and social protections against assaults by the marketplace.” Page 472.
Excerpts from “The War Against the Family” by William Gairdner Copyright 1992; Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd. Toronto, Canada.
“The top down concept of government operates like a state magnet that hovers over the people, who are seduced, induced, and coerced to align themselves with it like iron filings on a table. All truth flows from one source, creating an enormous pressure for conformity, the homogenization of social attitudes, and a consequent fear of differences. Legitimate public debate is overtly discouraged, gradually replaced with the emotionalism of those defending the utopian status quo. This signals the end of eccentricity, the beginning of Orwellian man, and wide-spread top-down pressure for “political correctness.”
Political members of this new managerial class are expected to represent the government, not the people who put them in power. Hence the Canadian confusion over the meaning of democratic representation.” Page 10.
“John Locke’s view : “ the only legitimate function of government is to protect, “lives, liberties, and estates.” …”the democratic-capitalist system permits the individual to challenge the invading power of the State.”,,,”our Western system is permanently revolutionary because it represents an ongoing rebellion against State power.” Page 73.
Excerpt from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis Rev. ed. 1952.
“Now another point. There is one bit of advice given to us by the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the Middle Ages, which the modern economic system has completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money at interest - what we call investment - which is the basis of our whole system. Now it may not necessarily follow that we are wrong. Some people say that when Moses and Aristotle and the Christians agreed in forbidding interest ( or Usury” as they called it) they could not foresee the joint stock company, and were only thinking of the private money-lender, and that, therefore, we need not bother about what they said. That is a question I cannot decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the investment system is responsible for the state we are in or not. This is where we want the Christian economist. But I should not have been honest if I had not told you that three great civilizations had agreed (or so it seems at first sight ) in condemning the very thing on which we have based our whole life.” Page 66.
Proverbs : 1:19 “Thus are the paths of everyone making unjust profit. It takes away the very soul of it’s owners.”
Excerpt from, “Powershift : Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the edge of the 21st Century.” A Bantam Book November 1990 by Alvin Toffler.
“Governments serious about economic development will also have to recognize the new economic significance of free expression. Failure to permit the free circulation of new ideas - including economic and political ideas, even if unflattering to the state - is almost always prima fascia proof that the state is weak at the core, and that those in power regard staying there as more important than economic improvement in the lives of their people.” Page 410
“… where the main charge against finance capitalism ( “Usura” a latin term borrowed from Scotus Erigena ) is that it destroys the sacrament of Eros.”
“ Poverty in time of trouble is something riches can’t buy.” “The War Lord” by Malcolm Bosse.
“ Alienation is the disease of the unsoiled.” “Another Roadside Attraction” by Tom Robbins.
“ That indeed, the Home Front is something of a fiction and lie, designed, not too subtly, to draw them apart, to subvert love in favor of work, abstraction, required pain, bitter death.” “ Gravity’s Rainbow “ by Thomas Pynchon
Comment by Ron Savard on 21st February 2010
Thanks Kevin for the excellent and appropriate related video suggestion; I enjoyed it immensely. Sincerely, Ron Savard
Awareness is key
Comment by Karen Dedosenco on 21st February 2010
Very informative and entertaining video Kevin. This would be very beneficial if shown in schools to spread awareness of the damage our spending habits are having on the world.
Join the facebook group 'The Story of Stuff' and start making a difference.
Comment by Kevin Gooden on 20th February 2010
Good article. For more on this important topic watch the "Story of Stuff" video at this link:
Comment by Karen D. on 16th February 2010
This article is well worth reading in it's entirety.
I was reminded of many situations throughout my life that obviously pertain to the topic of this article.
No longer can families get by with one working parent and the other ensuring a stable home environment, to simply survive rather than maintain the same level of lifestyle we enjoyed as children. Stress levels have escallated. Children have less needed attention and now rely on technology for stimulation physically and mentally. Health has declined due to a lack of available time ensuring processed food companies and fast food restaurants reap huge benefits.
In the mid-1980's I worked for a finance company that made it policy to charge exorbitant interest rates (up 24% on mortgages and 34% on loans) to clients who's income was insufficient to qualify for the going rate. The company needed to protect it's investment but I only saw the treatment as a recipe for failure on the borrowers side.
It now seems like we are in constant struggle to keep up with escallating utility bills, grocery costs, fluctuating gas prices and to stay employed. We are always given convincing excuses when costs are increased and companies close their doors. The excuses always have some correlation to the need for increasing profit on a steady incline. It seems that no company is content to coast for any amount of time.
Governments are intent on eliminating programs and social services that are pertinent to a healthy population. But now that population has become expendable.
I am so tired of hearing that the health of the economy only depends on the success of the corporate and industrial world. To the exclusion of us 'consumers'.
People not Profits
Comment by Dr. Bruce Bidgood on 16th February 2010
It was with pleasant surprise that I read this article in the Terrace Daily. There are some very important treatise here for people to read. I had thought that the words of great Canadian critics of "unfettered capitalism" such as Maude Barlow, Mel Hurtig and John Rolston Saul had simply faded away. Good for you for resurrecting such ideas. We need to confront the seemingly "untouchable" growth of capital concentrated in the hands of so few while blindly accepting the plight of the growing number of poor.
Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone." ... (John Maynard Keynes)