When I was young, industry was seen and talked about, ideally, as a wonderful and beneficial achievement. Industry was seen as having the inseparable goals of producing a product that genuinely benefits the community and providing a way for people to earn a decent living. Of course we realized that those higher up in the creation and administration of the industry received more of the income the industry produced. Maybe they received 3,4, or even 6 times what the average worker in the industry received. But they were our neighbors, we knew how they lived. They had more but it wasn’t as though they lived on an entirely different planet than the rest of us. In keeping with how I perceived the values and goals of industry from that time (1950’s) I began the graph at left, a representation of my perception of industry’s evolution of values.
As time has gone on there can be no question that there has been a dramatic shift in the priority industry, especially “big business”, places on these two values. Producing profit has become much more important than being of genuine benefit to the community. This is evidenced by the outsourcing that industry in the U.S. (and elsewhere) is engaged in, moving factories to areas where they are able to decrease workers’ wages to a fraction of what a decent living wage would be in the U.S. The question needs to be asked of whether or not these industries pay the workers in the foreign countries enough for them to have a decent living in those countries. From the cases I am aware of, the answer is “no”. Other indicators of the lack of value that industry places on being a genuine asset/benefit to the communities it markets within are: toxic contaminants in food and other products, environmental pollution, unsafe conditions for workers, and inordinately high pricing.
Shouldn’t industry, of every kind have being a benefit to the community as a central value? Isn’t that the fertile soil in which industry’s roots began?
At some point the idea that “business is war” crept into the business/industrial mentality. Nowadays business, especially big business, is conducted in a manner consistent with that idea. So if business is war, who is business making war upon? A knee-jerk response would be that competition for better products and more sales is the war involved, that the war business is involved in benefits consumers. However, look around, the fact is the methods businesses are resorting to, some are listed above, are in effect, a war upon the very communities businesses operate within and rely upon.
Another commonly occurring phenomenon is the case when a company, often a health care related company, offers a product or service which truly is beneficial for the consumer. However, their profit motive leads them to charge so much for the product or service that the resultant consumer financial hardships and community-wide economic imbalance effectively offset whatever good their product or service may accomplish.
If healthy, vibrant consumers and communities aren’t inherent in the goals and practices of businesses, what on earth are they doing?
From the study of psychology, sociology, medicine, environmental studies, and more, we know so much about what we as a species need for healthy and enjoyable lives. Why isn’t this readily available knowledge being employed? Apparently it is because the knowledge of what human beings need to be healthy flies in the face of runaway capitalism. Until we can restructure our economic, industrial reality, our institutionalized values, to reflect what we know to be genuinely conducive to healthy people and communities, we are going to be plagued with collateral damage from the economic warfare which rages around us.