Tag Archives: billionaire hero myth

Billionaires Won’t Save You, And Socialism Won’t Kill You

In 2010 I wrote an essay titled, “The fundamental problem with the economy,” in which I argue poverty exists because most business owners pay their employees the lowest wages possible while charging their customers the highest prices for the cheapest-made products, and I suggest that business owners could eradicate poverty by paying equitable wages and fair prices. A few days ago, one of my readers left the following comment and video in response to that blog:

 

“We can start by having the biggest US companies follow your example; like Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Walmart, Microsoft, Exxon-Mobile, Chase, Wells-Fargo and Berkshire Hathaway. You think they would do it? Most of the giant corporations are run by liberal-leaning CEOs.

Look at Venezuela, they have Socialism and the governments seized too many companies and they’re not producing enough food to feed people. People are going hungry and babies are not getting their milk. What is your analysis on the Venezuelan condition? You should do a blog on it.”

 

 

CEOs could end poverty tomorrow if they all collectively agreed to pay their workers a fair share of profits and charge customers fair prices, but small-to-medium-sized business owners can’t do that. As long as most businesses charge extortion prices, they force each other to pass on their operating costs to their workers and customers to keep up with the price of doing business in a cut-throat economy.

Every Fortune 500 company could afford to lower their profit margins, but they don’t, not because it would hurt their business’s chance of survival, but because the owners and investors wouldn’t be able to horde as much money for themselves.

If Microsoft and Berkshire and Hathaway needed every penny of their profits to operate, then Bill Gates and Warren Buffet wouldn’t have been able to pocket billions of dollars in profit. So the price of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway’s products and services aren’t based on necessity. They’re based on two factors:

1: How badly Gates and Buffet want to stockpile money they’ll never spend

2: How little Gates and Buffet care about their workers and customers’ quality of life

This makes them either the most evil or delusional people in the world. They may talk progressive and give fractions of their fortunes back to the poor through charities, but they’re still driving the train of economic inequality full speed ahead. Even billionaire, George Soros, who American conservatives hate for sponsoring Democratic politicians, is still raping the lower classes to feed his insatiable bank account. Today’s billionaires are the modern-day version of feudal lords or colonial slave plantation owners. No matter how neat their ideas are, or how many pet charities they support, they’re still the reason poor people’s lives are a living hell.

Take a minute and let the gravity of this sink in. Generations of our ancestors wasted their lives, working themselves to death at jobs that treated and paid them like they’re less than human. They spent their lives working against their will, doing things that had no personal meaning to them and only kept going to work out of fear. Fulfilling their boss’s contrived responsibility robbed them of the time they had to fulfill their potential and give their lives meaning.

This is why economic theories like Socialism and Communism were invented, because business owners have been literally and existentially killing their workers and customers for all of human history, and they still are.

The poor need a new economic system more than the rich need more expensive luxuries, but America is the world’s dominating superpower, and the majority of America’s population identifies as pro-Christian, conservative and Capitalist. Most Americans couldn’t tell you what Communism or Socialism are, but they know they’re evil and, every country that has tried them has failed, which proves (to them) Capitalism is the best economic system.

America can’t change until it can have a sane national dialogue about economics. It can’t do that as long as the majority of Americans believe anything divergent from Capitalism is evil. To that end, they need to learn it doesn’t make any sense to demonize Communism and Socialism for at least four reasons:

 

1: None of the countries that called themselves Communist or Socialist were what they claimed to be.

Immediately after Lenin seized power in the Soviet Union, his countrymen raised an army and went to civil war with him because he didn’t implement Communism. He implemented a fascist dictatorship with some poorly implemented aspects of Communism. When his followers pointed this out, he justified this by basically saying, “Yeah, I know it’s not really Communism, but that’s a goal we have to work towards, and these are desperate times. So what we’re doing right now is ‘War Communism,” which will be replaced by real Communism when things settle down a bit.” But instead, he reinstated a limited amount of Capitalism and turned a blind eye to black market Capitalism.

 

 

After Lenin died, Stalin took Lenin’s fascist leadership style to the next level, and in less than one hundred years, corruption and greed imploded the U.S.S.R. before anything resembling Marx’s Communism could be implemented.

China’s ruling party calls itself Communist, but the country is run by billionaires and is full of sweatshops. The definition of “Communism” is, “a political theory advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.”

The definition of “sweatshop” is, “a factory or workshop, especially in the clothing industry, where manual workers are employed at very low wages for long hours and under poor conditions.” Billionaires, sweatshops and iron-fisted authority are all antithetical to Communism.

If you were to study any Communist country without knowing it was Communist, and then tried to identify what kind of government it has, you’d probably guess fascism every time. That doesn’t mean Communism is fascist. It means fascist leaders use doublespeak.

I’m not saying Communism is better than Capitalism or that it should be tried again. I’m just pointing out that claiming Capitalism is the best system in the world because Communism failed, is like saying Coke is better than Pepsi because Faygo is disgusting, and Juggalos are crazy.

 

 

2: America has made efforts to destabilize every country that has ever called itself Communist or Socialist.

 

A long quote by Will Blum from "Killing Hope," which says every non-capitalist country has been sabotaged by capitalist ones.

 

The Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis were campaigns in the war between Capitalism and Communism. America orchestrated dozens of coups and bloody revolutions in its war against alternative economic models. So the argument that Capitalism is the best economic model because every Communist and Socialist experiment has failed, is like saying your Nike shoes are better than someone else’s Adidas shoes because you won a race against them after shooting them in the face.

 

3: Socialism is a blanket term for a wide range of nuanced economic models.

Socialism is defined, “a range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production, as well as the political theories, and movements associated with them. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective, or cooperative ownership, or to citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them. Social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms.”

Ultimately, Socialism means employees share ownership and profits of the company they work for. This means co-op grocery stores are the smallest example of Socialism, but you can scale the concept up and mix and match it with different government styles. Just look at Wikipedia’s list of different flavors of Socialism.

 

Saying Socialism doesn’t work because Venezuelans are hungry is like saying it’s impossible to raise dogs as pets because you know somebody who tried to raise a wolf and it ate their children. Even if Chavezism is a legitimate example of one type of Socialism, the argument that Socialism doesn’t work because Venezuela is collapsing, would still be tantamount to saying fishing is a failed method to get food because people have been injured fishing with dynamite. Just because dynamite fishing is crazy, that doesn’t prove hunting is the only way to get food.

 

 

Technically, those metaphors don’t apply to Venezuela anyway, because Venezuela is arguably no more Socialist than China is Communist. Hugo Chavez nationalized a few industries in Venezuela, but he didn’t nationalize every business. So the economy was still predominantly Capitalist.

In theory, the companies he nationalized became the property of the state, and since the state belongs to the people, therefore those companies belong to the people. However, the people didn’t get an equitable share of the profits. A lot of it was stolen by corrupt politicians, and the rest went to subsidizing prices and giving away free stuff.

Plus, the workers didn’t have any control over the companies, and even though Chavez was democratically elected, the policies he implemented and enforced, were his own creation, not the will of the people. When civilians protested him, he ordered police to shoot them in the streets.

If Socialism equals social ownership of businesses, then what happened in Venezuela wasn’t Socialism. It was just fascism, corruption and inefficient bureaucracy failing to fix the problems of a predominantly Capitalist economy.

 

4: Communism, Socialism, and Capitalism aren’t the only possible economic models.

Communism is one man’s theory on how to fix a country that doesn’t exist anymore. Socialism and Capitalism are both spectrums of ideas. The flavor of Capitalism used in America can be more accurately described as “Predatory Capitalism” than “Free Market Capitalism.”

Capitalism is defined, “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”

Ask anyone who works for a co-op, they’ll attest private ownership of business isn’t inherently evil. Capitalism only becomes predatory when business owners squeeze the life out of the people they’re meant to serve. So claiming Capitalism is evil because America has apocalyptic levels of economic inequality, is like saying nobody should eat cake because your dad owns a poison cake business.

The easiest solution to economic inequality is for business owners to treat their workers and customers as they would want to be treated. Barring that, there are a million other economic models we could design using concepts taken from Communism, Socialism, Capitalism and new ideas we haven’t thought of yet.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

The Legacy Of A Billionaire

Comic in which Steve Jobs goes to Heaven and tells Saint Peter he's a Buddhist who believe in reincarnation. So Steve Jobs is sent to be a sweatshop worker in an Apple factory.

 

Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, died recently, and the internet has been flooded with eulogies and praises about him. If he had been a member of the Catholic Church, I swear they would have awarded him posthumous sainthood, and I’m not surprised by this at all. When Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Warren Buffet die they’ll get the same treatment. Even Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers will get some kind of glowing recommendation letter to Heaven from someone.

I’m not saying all this praise is completely undeserved. Every billionaire puts a lot of mental and physical effort into building companies that provide useful products to humanity. I respect that, but I also recognize it’s only half the truth. It’s misleading and unethical to only acknowledge the high points of any billionaire’s career, and the fact that we praise billionaires so eagerly and consistently, is a sign of a deeper flaw in society which desperately needs to be addressed and rectified.

You can become a millionaire by working hard, but there isn’t enough time, energy or opportunity in one person’s life to become a billionaire through hard work. The only way you become a billionaire is by underpaying your workers and over-charging your customers… or by owning stock in companies that underpay their workers and overcharge their customers.

So the only way to become a billionaire is to steal. The way you do that may be legal, but it’s still stealing. Steve Jobs may have been a technological visionary, but the cold, hard fact of the matter is he was a thief. I can respect the work he did, but I can’t respect him for the unreasonable, unnecessary mountains of cash he skimmed off the sweatshop slaves who built and sold Apple products.

Why did Steve Jobs deserve eight billion dollars, no limit on his lunch breaks and thousands of heartfelt eulogies, while the people who build iPods apparently don’t even deserve to be treated like human beings? You could ask the same question about any billionaire, but almost nobody ever does. So we keep rewarding robber barons while punishing hard working poor people.

 

 

Nobody ever talks about how much money Steve Jobs deserved for each iPod sold. He wouldn’t have died with eight billion dollars if the cost of an iPod reflected its production value. I’m not saying Steve Jobs should have sold his products at-cost. I’m raising the question, how high you can mark up the cost of goods and services before it becomes unethical? If you mark it up high enough to accumulate eight billion dollars without being guilty of price gouging, then how much money do you have to horde before your ethics become questionable? How about sixty-eight billion dollars?

 

 

As it stands, the generally accepted answer to this question is that there is no limit; the more money you horde, the bigger of a hero you are. Furthermore, the blame doesn’t lay on the CEO for overcharging for products. The blame lies with the customer for agreeing to pay the advertised price. There is some truth to that, but again, it’s only half the truth.

Steve Jobs knew there was no logical reason for his customers to pay the price he wanted to charge for iPods. So he created one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history to frame the iPod as a status symbol first, and an electronic gadget second. In other words, Steve Jobs went down in history as a visionary business leader for orchestrating a propaganda campaign that exploited his customers’ mental weakness to swindle them out of more money. That’s not admirable. That’s dishonest and cruel, but he gets praise for it from so many people because the entire economy operates under the assumption that if you can be swindled, then you should be.

This isn’t how a utopia operates. This philosophy creates poverty, which in turn creates misery and crime. This is part of Steve Job’s legacy, and whatever good things he did, don’t change the fact.

It’s worth noting that Steve Jobs did give some money to charity, but every old granny in the world who puts a dollar in a collection plate at church gives a higher percentage of their income to charity than he did. I don’t want to sound ungrateful or discourage billionaires from giving to charity, but at the same time, I can’t give them too much street credit when they’re giving away money they were never going to spend anyway. They didn’t lose anything by giving to charity, but they got a lot out of it in the form of lucrative tax breaks and a reputation for being generous. At any rate, if you have billions of dollars to give away, why not just cut out the middle man and leave that money with either your workers, customers or both? Does it justify burning your workers and customers if you’re nice to other people?

I haven’t heard any news about Steve Jobs leaving all of his money to charity after his death, but other billionaires have contrived a reputation as saints for making that claim. I don’t believe billionaires deserve praise for this either, because it’s tantamount to cruising down the street in a stretch Hummer limousine drinking a glass of $10,000 wine and shouting at homeless people through the sunroof, “You’ll get my money when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!” I fail to see the honor in that sacrifice, not that Steve Jobs was even that generous.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

%d bloggers like this: