Monday, January 9, 2012

Jan. 9: Why corporations don't give a damn about the damage they do...

In that variety of capitalism we like to call "free market" (because free is a nice word), there is no morality, no responsibility, no mercy. The corporation exists to make money. Nothing else. To make money whatever the cost to people or nature or the future.

Indeed, the only future that exists is three months. That's the time for the quarterly report - the test of the corporation's worth in the stock market, the test of CEOs for the bonuses they hope to make. The corporation will impoverish, poison, even kill for that profit.

Canadian railway builders worked Chinese labour to death because it was the cheapest way to get track laid/ For the same reason, they also used Chinese for the dangerous work of dynamiting. Until the the early nineteenth century, New France and Canada had slaves, both African and native. Few slaves lived beyond their twenties. But they were good for profits. George Washington was probably the biggest slave-holder and the wealthiest man in the United States.

Infant mortality is high in the US. that's because it's good for business. Without medicare, the infants of the US poor have the highest mortality rate in the developed world. But their sacrifice keeps taxes down, and boosts the profit margin.

Private business has often enough fought foreign wars for oil, for resources, and for cheap labout. It has killed millions in just the last fifty years. (It's never labelled as war for profit, of course. It's always to fight terrorism or spread democacy. Sometimes, we even bomb people for "humnitarian" reasons.)

As well, we support oppressive and corrupt governments in places like Haiti, Guatemala, all over Africa. We poison the land with our cost-saving mining pracrices; and we maintain poverty for profit. We do it to provide corporations with cheap resources and cheap labour.

That's not the way capitalism is supposed to work. But it's the way we have allowed it to work.

Anyone who reads the news even casually knows that. Captialism can work. So can cars. But both work properly only if we control them.  If we don't control cars, they smash lives and, eventually, the cars themselves. Uncontrolled capitalism, the kind we live under, has the same destructive and suicidal tendencies.

In other countries, out capitalists impoverish and kill quite freely for the sake of profit. There is no reason to think we at home are exceptions to the rule. In the US, for example, one-half of the population is now officially classified  as poor. That means hunger, homelessness, ill health, high infant death, early adult death. Meanwhile, the rich are actually getting richer at a record rate - and demanding ever more savage cuts to government spending on the poor. The rich are getting richer BECAUSE the poor are getting poorer Eventually, that will break down because concentration of wealth in the hands of the few will so far reduce purchasing as to make the system unworkable. But, of course, it only has to work for three months at a time.

Significantly, Harper is looking at cuts to medicare and social services and pensions while he spends record amounts to make huge profits for North American defence corporations. As American presidents have, he is working to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few which, inevitably, means less in the hands of everybody else.

But don't worry about the very rich. They will simply transfer their investments to other countries (as they already are doing). And then we become the land of cheap labour.

Now we can narrow the field to New Burnswick and to Moncton.

The New Brunswick budget is set by a cabinet minister who is (or was) an Irving executive. He is officially advised by a committee appointed by Irving and friends.

This is a good idea because they know about economics?  Well, no.

What they know about is making profits for the quarterly report. The know all about getting money. Running a province is quite different. It's not about making profits in the short term. It's about serving people, the voters of the province and their families. To say that  a corporate executive would be good to plan a provincial economy is like saying a holdup man would make a great bank manager.

New Brunswick is owned by a handful of corporations. That means, given the short-term thnking of corporations and their indifference to human needs, we're on a suicidal course. In this rush to disaster, corporations have the full cooperation of Brunswickmedia. For a sample of that cooperation, read the comments on the op ed page (AKA the dumbdown page) of today's Times and Transcript.

Craig Babstock thunders, "Crime that victimize the innocent are reprehensible" (So crimes that victimize the criminal - as in a gang war - are okay?) The people of Sussex are, I should think, generally a pretty innocent bunch. Was the crime of carrying out illegal shale gas exploration there reprehensible?  I will eat my hat and the TandT the day Babstock ever says so.

(The other "duh" column is one by Allen Abel about a brave  little horse that won a race.  Some commentary. We really needed that story to be well informed.)

As for Moncton, why is it so big on attracting special shows? Who benefits from all the time and money we put into them? You and me? Not likely.

Conventions and spectacular events will bring in money; but much of it will go to hotels whose owners live far from Moncton. Most of the jobs for people who live here will be short term, low skill, and low paid.

Will a one or two hundred million dollar hockey rink make money for us? Not likely. Most of the jobs in it will be low paid; and it's possible, even likely, that the cost of it will never be recovered. But who cares?

The owner of the hockey team will get what he cares about - the use of a very expensive arena at a relatively modest price. He'll make it profit, three months at a time. If we lose money on the deal, that's our problem.

Of course, you need to stir the public up to sell it such a deal. You need emotion. You need an almost patriotic goal. So you talk about what a shame it is that Main Street is not what it used to be, and pretend that all this is about restoring a glory that, in fact, never existed.

Why would a city council buy such a silly scheme? Is it corrupt? Probably not. Commonly, most councillors are overawed by meeting with the rich and prominent. They want to agree with the rich and prominent as a mark of their own, new social status. You can see the same phenomenon with  MNAs.

Besides, most MNAs and councillors don't know anything more about the world than anybody else does. And newspapers like the Moncton Times and Transcript make sure it stays that way.

The result is a western world that  is in the grip of a perversion of capitalism that is short-sighted, indifferent to human needs and, ultimately, self-destructive. That is why we need to get democracy back. That is why we need journalism that informs us.

The alternative? You're watching it next door in the death throes of the last of the great Western empires.

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