Are You a Victim of Predatory Capitalism?
Trusting your employer or service provider can carry a high price.
Posted Sep 21, 2012
On the other hand, capitalism—and competition—is regularly extolled as bringing out the best in us. It prods us to be more productive and remunerates our efforts accordingly. At least, capitalism at its best does that.
But in this country today, we seem to have drifted toward a mutant (cancerous?) form of capitalism, or free enterprise. One that's under-regulated, dysregulated—or both. One that's all too likely to reward those who excel not in generating useful products or fertile ideas, but rather in manipulating and deceiving the populace for personal gain. One that enables cold-blooded individualists to craftily “work” the system to their economic advantage (loopholes, anyone?). These relentless opportunists—or corporations—frequently prevent others from succeeding through hard work, diligence, and perseverance. In other words, the American Way (not to mention the American Dream) has become increasingly perverted.
So, for example, we have private equity firms—which don’t so much “run” corporations as take them over and “raid” them. (Think Gordon Gekko and someone currently seeking high—well, very high—office.) In practice, this whole “greed is good” ethic (derived in part from the highly influential novels of “pop” theorist Ayn Rand) hurts the middle class and, alas, undermines the very foundations of democracy. For here is a corrupted form of capitalism calculated not so much to produce more revenue for the corporations it takes charge of as to transfer their assets into the pockets of those who’ve taken them over. This is capitalism as vulture-like self-enrichment. Or, regrettably, capitalism without a conscience. If, for the owners to achieve their mercenary purpose, workers must be fired or have their pensions voided, or if the business itself must be driven into bankruptcy, then so be it. After all, it’s just business, right?
A second insidious form of what I see as “culpable capitalism” relates to the service industry. Consider a recent article by Brad Tuttle in Time (09/06/12) entitled: “Proof That Loyalty Is for Suckers: Best Customers Get Penalized with Higher Bills.” This piece delineates a common practice among service providers of TV and wireless, auto and home insurance, and other subscription services. In this industry it’s become almost standard to “sock it to” longer-term clients. Note how Tuttle’s piece begins—half-humorously removing all the layers of deceptive gloss from the message such service providers impart to these unwary consumers: “We appreciate your business. And as thanks for being a loyal customer all these years, we’re going to overcharge you [!].”
. . . No, not really (heavy sigh).
In the current climate of predatory capitalism—which perceives people, cynically and disrespectfully, as dehumanized objects—all that counts is beefing up the bottom line. Implicitly, the thinking seems to be that if you’ve succeeded in putting together something akin to a captive audience, it’s only fair to “milk” that audience for all it’s worth. If overcharging them (though not particularly ethical) is perfectly legal and it’s practically guaranteed that you won’t lose their business by doing so, then—for the sweet sake of profits and shareholders alike—don’t you actually have a competitive, and “ethical,” responsibility to, well, rip them off?
© 2012 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
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