Posts Tagged ‘Consumerism’

The profound concept of what value is and what value society should try to attain is explored in this worthy documentary.

I would like to highlight a number of the take home messages which I found to be praiseworthy and challenging of conventional wisdom;

  • ‘Not all profits are created equal’ implying certain gains could potentially be more worthy than others, the simple metric that something is profitable should not be an absolutist criterion. Profit should be based on sustainability not success
  • The components of the Value Chain should be continually assessed not for whether they are profitable but for what real value they provide the wider society, what positive aspects do they contribute?
  • Price, a key market signal, does not reflect the true cost to society or the environment, therefore how ‘profitable’ are certain activities
  • Our environment governs our behaviour therefore is there is any such thing as free choice, do we even have the freedom to make a choice?
  • The rewards we have currently have in a market economy incentivise us to make potentially harmful choices, not the beneficial choices
  • Contrast the theory that markets allows us to allocate resources adequately with the knowledge that this allocation may be to detrimental activities
  • Some say society at large has never been more prosperous nor peaceful, but the point of how fractured it is bears contemplating
  • The final scene where the following advice was given had much resonance with me, ‘…it’s time. Serve’ This could also be interpreted as in order to serve (society/the natural world order, and therefore establish justice to ourselves and others) we must SUBMIT…the basis of the concept of Islam
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It has been oft repeated that in our democratic, liberal societies, the few have greater power over the many

Is it the top 1% that owns a greater share of the capital and wealth than the remaining 99%? It is interesting to think of how many of these ‘many verses few’ statistics genuinely exist when analysing our reality

Given the freedom to own property and generate capital, which can indeed be a positive thing, to what extent is this so open to abuse that the rules of the game were never really meant to create fairness and a degree of equality? Is human nature, which is left unchecked, too prone to avarice that such freedoms will always result in a small elite hungry to capture ever more resources than required?

This is not another post looking to promote controlled economies,  however its purpose is to illustrate that, with the best of intensions, will some freedoms, when applied to a population shaped and conformed to behave in a certain manner, always result in a pyramidical structure taking shape where these conditions exist? Is this shape the overriding effect of all the freedoms at our disposal? Consider the following;

Top Asset Management firms by total value of assets under management

Think about what this data is actually telling us; when asset managers acquire equity, or interest in another business enterprise, they take a degree of ownership in that firm. Thereby, over time and because of the funds that flow to these giant institutions, the few in combination, have ended up in a position of ‘owning’ in part or in full, the many corporations that they have a share in – allowing them to ascend to the top of the pyramid; the few owning much greater proportion combined than the many. It also follows that this leads to a common source of control and influence across an economy/region given this limited pool of effective ownership.

Another perspective on this could be that much of this capital originates from the mass population who are the ultimate owners, through their long term savings and pension provisions invested with these providers. Therefore, is this an attempt to invert the structure, allowing the many to benefit? I would argue not, the masses, when considered individually, on average, do not financially benefit as much as the managers who take material cuts from the pool of funds at their disposal. Often their reward incentives are not adequately aligned with the retail investors at large, allowing the elite to become disproportionally better off than the investors who are searching for gains. The small investor is also not the party which excercises the controlling power.

In addition to this asset ownership, consider more generally, how much land the few own in comparison to the larger population, the size of GDP of the few regions compared to the many, the distribution of resources, the access to what is classed as the best quality of education, the trend continues and the structure that we can continually see forming is that of a top down, hierarchical pyramid – it should be clear from such insights what the ultimate power structure of the contemporary world is and what the fruits of everybody’s efforts are really delivering.

 

 

By following the money trail it is possible to  discover how intertwined British Imperialism was with its emergence as an economic power and the prosperity created for the nation.

Please read the following eight short pieces by James Walvin, on the monuments and show pieces across Britain and the people behind them, all connected to various trades directly linked to Slavery.

I will continue to explore this topic in a number of posts in future under a similar title

Imaging rights? Monetising the right to use your likeness…even when you are dead….they say money never sleeps, well it doesn’t much die either

Muhammed Ali sold his rights while he was alive….but now he has passed, it will continue to be used. Much like the rights of Elvis Presley which have financially benefitted his estate long after his death.

The ability to recreate an actors image from CGI…most recently seen by the reimaging of Peter Cushing’s Star Wars character is also not a new thing, but something which is becoming increasingly believable and sophisticated, and therefore a potential market exists which can only become more lucrative for the living celebrities who have distinctly popular images.

This allows people to ‘trade’ on their own image, in life and increasingly, in death. Creating revenue streams beyond your physical presence, or even your own labour, in this life.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned how money defies the some of the basic laws of the created realm, notably the way it is created…out of nothing

It seems it can cheat death now too

 

An oft repeated argument by numerous commentators about the benefits of free markets and capitalism is the incentive system it fosters.

Whilst constructively shaping human behaviour is needed in order to positively reinforce the benefit humanity can bring to the wider universe/environment, a question continues to linger about what type of incentive do alternative systems propose, and can they indeed work?

This post by a Muslim Counter Racist activist sheds meaningful light here and in my opinion makes a compelling argument if fully analysed

One particular point I would like to highlight here is the final part;

If this all sounds too ‘idealistic’ and ‘anarcho-libertarian’, I should like to draw attention to the closing phrase in this sign / indicator (ayat) – which is also the closing phrase of this enclosure / chapter (surah), viz. “and if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you.” In short, if a people are not willing to measure up to this ‘ideal’, then they will be replaced by others.

Capitalism might appear robust and permanent, but it is nothing but the ‘froth’ that mounts up on the surface of the water and is destined to pass.

I draw your attention to this because it ultimately plays to another well rehearsed attribute of capitalism and pluralism which should be supported; the idea of ‘Creative Destruction’, if an idea is deemed to fail, then it should be allowed to, naturally (no bail-outs/artificial support), and a more robust, stronger idea will take its place by having learnt from the weaknesses of what came before.

The true form of Deen-al-Islam is not with us in the contemporary world and how can we therefore assess accurately if it can indeed work. If it is not implemented correctly, it will indeed fail.

How do we assess whether our flirtation with capitalist principles have failed – do we really have the freedom to choose to replace it, or have we been coaxed into believing that it works?

The above three part documentary (The Foods that Make Billions) is a well worth a view

For me it explores an underlying truth: the business of capitalism is to exploit and manipulate

Nowhere is this better shown than in the first of these episodes on water. How do you sell something that is readily available to people for free – you change (manipulate) people’s perception and convince them that they are better for paying to consume it.

As one commentator in the first part profoundly observes, (and to paraphrase); “The backdrop to this predicament should be clearly understood where one part of humanity can’t get access to any clean water to live, yet another part spends remarkable amounts moving/selling vast quantities of water from those that have to those that already have”

A further example of how insane behaviour can be shaped by the desire to accumulate capital and sell anything for the sake of profits is the following business which was recently seeking to raise investment. An extra-marital affairs website encouraging spouses to cheat, thereby increasing business potentially for divorce lawyers (very expensive), possibly increasing leisure/retail consumption (with the new partner, maybe even another wedding?), perhaps a spill over into the housing market too (new abode, sell old home?), whereas the real cost (and how would you like to measure this exactly) on any offspring from the marriage, on the wider family, the established correlation to crime statistics with those who grow up in broken homes and the consequences for society generally, is completely ignored.

The monetary benefits from such a business venture will readily show up in financial performance, shareholder returns, GDP indicators, but most of us will be left to argue about the drawbacks which no-one will be capturing and therefore any debate can be calmly brushed aside as unsubstantiated moral opinion.

The fact this company specifically targets married couples as a differentiator to other peer-to peer dating websites speaks volumes for the no limit approach to capitalism in the name of liberty and free markets.

I have previously discussed the argument about how the allocation of resources works more ‘efficiently’ under this approach than the alternatives, but it should be noted how severe misallocations of capital can easily occur which the wider community will pick up at the expense of the individual or select few participants.

Clearly, its not only bad tax law that significantly affects human behaviour. The amount of manipulation exacted in the name of profit should be appreciated.

 

 

Consider the following two articles about some growing disruptive trends, which we should all be at least slightly familiar with in our everyday lives;

We must unleash the sharing economy to help drive living standards

Farewell Corporate Power: How the rise of the blockchain could change everything

Of course, as long as there is money to be made, we will continue to be exploited for the goal of maximizing shareholder returns. However I posted these to enlighten us about the realm of possibility in our modern age, and how, if used for different reasons than those prevalent today, we already have the means to shape a fairer, more just world.