Everything costs as much as possible. When you see a sign in a store that says, “50% off,” what it really means is “Fuck you 50% less than normal.” Extortion is the norm. It’s half the reason the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poor. It maximizes profits for the rich and minimizes what the poor can afford. High prices are cruel. High prices kill people. High prices create misery. Yet, most of the world’s business owners have decided independently to set prices as high as possible so they can live opulently. Business owners wouldn’t do that if people were more important to them than paper.
2: Low wages
Business owners know how big their paycheck is, and they know how small their workers’ paychecks are. Business owners know they couldn’t get their big paycheck without all their employees working their asses off day in and day out for barely enough money to survive. That’s cruel, but it’s the norm.
Businesses spend a lot of time and money trying to manipulate customers into buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have for reasons that aren’t important. Advertisements warp people’s perception of reality and make them act in their own disinterest. That’s cruel, but that’s the norm.
4: Subjugation of customer service workers
When an advertisement convinces you to go to a business and spend money on a product or service, you’re going to be greeted by a customer service representative who will be wearing a monkey uniform. You can yell at that person. You can treat that person like shit, and they’ll have to stand there and take it and smile and act like this is the best day of their life and you’re the best person in the world. Their boss will fire them if they stand up for themselves, and they have to take abuse from their boss too. And their boss will yell at them if they don’t work as hard as possible for longer than is healthy. So their lives just suck on every level every day they go to work. That’s the norm. That’s insane. Our society really doesn’t value people.
5: Acceptance of sweatshop workers
Most of the stuff you own was made by slaves in sweatshops. Most of the food you eat passed through a slave’s hands at some point between the fields and your kitchen. We know this. We know our iPods were made by people who live in dormitories with suicide nets outside the windows. If you knew that one of our family members had been kidnapped and was being forced to live in those conditions you’d make it your life’s mission to free them, but we don’t feel more than a slight twinge of guilt over it happening to the people it’s actually happening to. If all people are equal then we should be equally concerned for everyone.
6: Unequal rights
We take it for granted that women don’t have the right to take their shirts off where men can. We accept that gays can’t get married where straights can. We get offended at the idea of people from another part of the world moving to the part of the world we live in because we take it for granted that they don’t have the right to move. We accept that soldiers and prisoners have had almost all of their rights stripped away. We make excuses to justify these lapses of equality.
War is hell on earth. It’s the worst thing that can happen, and it’s never necessary, but there are lots of wars going on right now, and they’re going to keep going on, and after they end new wars will take their place. Hell is here to stay, and we don’t care. We don’t even care enough to pay attention to which wars are going on or why. We go further out of our way to find out about the latest blockbuster movie coming out, and we’re more emotionally involved in Hollywood stories than stories of people living in war zones. Where do we draw the line?
How bad of an atrocity has to happen before the world puts its foot down if we won’t draw the line at unjust wars? Based on the precedents we’ve set, we clearly don’t value our fellow-man enough to ever draw the line. If we don’t value our fellow-man then we must not understand why our fellow-man is important.
People are important. Every one of us is an animate, sentient, autonomous cosmic supercomputer. We’re the rarest, valuable and most powerful thing in the universe. Any one of us is worth all the money in the universe.
Being the rarest thing in the universe, we have the rarest opportunity to explore and experience the majesty of the inanimate, unconscious and yet uncannily elegant universe we’ve found ourselves in. There are wonders to behold, and we could have them all. We’ve got about seven billion animate, sentient, autonomous cosmic supercomputers we could use to design and create an interstellar chain of utopian planets. But we’re not doing that. We’re forcing them to assemble cheap junk in sweatshops that customers are going to be manipulated into paying too much for.
Not only are we throwing away the future’s potential but we’re throwing away the present as well. When you’re on your death bed the thing you’re going to remember fondest in life is your friends. Everyone you meet is a potential friend whose wonder you can bask in right now. Everyone is has a beautiful universe in their mind, and even if you don’t like someone, there’s someone who loves them because beneath their faults they’re worth loving. Everyone brings beauty into this world, but that beauty is minimized when you’re worked to death at a job that treats you like crap. That takes a diamond and turns it into coal.
It might seem like a lot to ask everyone to value everyone regardless of how different we are, but you shouldn’t have to be guilt-tripped into doing it, because we’re all family, and you don’t have to be guilt tripped into helping your family. No matter how different we are, we’re still human; we’re not just on the same team, we’re on the only team. We’re all we’ve got.
Every one of us count. We should value each other and treat each other accordingly. When we treat people badly we should be reminded how important we are so we don’t waste the opportunity to live, grow and experience the majesty of existence to the fullest extent possible, together.
If you’re just finishing high school and are about to enter the adult workforce, your brain is probably full lofty ideas about what to expect. You were likely raised to believe if you work hard, then all your dreams will come true. You were told your future employers are looking for bright, creative problem solvers who are energetically looking to change the world. You may have also had it beat into your head that all humans were created equal and everyone has the right to life, liberty, dignity and the pursuit of happiness. Well, let me save you a few years of slow, painful, confused disillusionment and just pop your bubble right now. All of those promises were lies.
The economy isn’t designed to help each and every individual achieve their full potential. It’s designed to make business owners and investors as rich as possible at all costs. Bear that in mind when you apply to work at a business. Their bottom line isn’t their workers’ lives. It’s profit.
The managers who will be interviewing you understand this. They don’t care about your happiness, potential or fulfillment. They don’t even care about improving the company. Those kinds of big decisions are made by people who do business on golf courses and never get their hands dirty. Your managers’ job is to be your slave driver. They take orders from above and make sure everyone below them keeps their noses to the grindstone. So the last thing in the world they want to hear an interviewee say is, “I’m a genius who wants to change the world and a creative problem solver who can help you improve your business.”
If you say something like that to a prospective employer, all they’ll hear is, “I’m going to question your instructions at every turn and be a huge pain in your ass. Plus, I’ll probably end up quitting when I realize I’m nothing but a disposable cog in a machine that will be worn down, broken and replaced at your convenience.”
If you want to win the interview game, don’t tell your boss how bright and creative you are. Instead, stress how eager you are to serve and how good you are at following orders. You don’t want to come across like you can’t think for yourself, but when in doubt, err on the side of caution. It’s better to come across as an obedient dog than a self-respecting human being.
When you do finally begin your life of thankless toil, remember to live up to the promises you made in your interview. Never tell your boss any good ideas you have for the business. It’s not that they’ll see your potential and realize that you would be better at their job than them and thus feel threatened by you. There’s no chance of you taking their job. Business doesn’t work that way. They’ll just peg you for an insolent brat who doesn’t know your place. So act like your boss, and don’t ask questions. Just take your orders and complete them.
Also, remember to address your superiors the way a slave would address their master: by calling them “sir” or “ma’am” gratuitously. And always smile and pretend like the greatest thing to ever happen to you was being granted the esteemed privilege of sacrificing your life to make your employer richer. They’ll appreciate that, not enough to pay you a fair share of the profits your work generates for the company, but enough not to fire you and replace you with the next poor person willing to trade their dignity for a paycheck.
If this kind of life doesn’t sound appealing to you then start your own business, and do the future generation a favor: Don’t run it the way your parent’s generation ran theirs. Give your employees a fair share of the profits, and treat them like they’re more important than your next car.
You must be very proud of your company. You started it on your own and took it from a garage-sized operation to an award-winning and internationally known brand. Few people in the world ever achieve that much success. Equally impressive is the fact that success doesn’t seem to have gone to your head. The few times anyone has asked me what you’re like I told them you’re a down-to-earth kind of guy, a little shy even. I told them you’re always smiling and friendly and that I can’t even imagine what you’d be like when you’re angry because that would just be so out of character for you. It’s unusual for someone as gentle as you to make it so far in the dog-eat-dog, cut-throat world of business. You should be proud.
I sometimes wonder if you ever imagined your company would grow this large when you first started out. If so, I wonder how you envisioned your company would look. I wonder if you imagined it being a progressive, Utopian(ish) workplace like Google where your employees would almost rather be at work than at home. You certainly seem to be trying to take it in that direction, what with the idealistic company values printed on the giant poster in the front office, the lack of dress code, the free milk and coffee and fruit and the occasional company-sponsored fun-night. Some workers even get a dollar an hour bonus for meeting their “key performance indicators.” I know some of the executives get bonuses for reaching their targets, and their bonuses are so big that nobody ever talks about them. You’ve also set a sales goal, that if we meet, the company will divide up one million dollars between all the employees. We both know you’ve been far more generous with perks than most companies.
I wonder if this is how you envisioned the future of your company when you first started out. I also wonder if sometimes you look down from your corner office and think, “You guys are all suckers. I can’t believe you’re doing this. Thank God I’m not as naive as you.” Let’s be honest for a minute and spell out the math, so to speak. I know this must have crossed your mind before.
You pay your workers as little as possible within the context of the law and supply and demand. Some of us get fifty cents or a dollar fifty over minimum wage, but let’s be honest. If the minimum wage were six dollars you’d be bragging about how you pay some of your workers seven dollars an hour. If the minimum wage were four dollars you’d be bragging about how you pay some of your workers five dollars.
In addition to paying your workers as little as possible to maximize the profits you get to take home you work us as long as the law will allow. You also exploit the loophole that as long as overtime isn’t mandatory you don’t have to pay over time, and despite the fact that we do intense mental and physical work for you, we’re expected to keep up the highest pace humanly possible the entire time, every day. And you guarantee that we’ll exhaust ourselves to that limit by designing the computers we use to monitor, record and report everything we do. So even if our boss doesn’t see us resting the system will show it. If there’s any doubt that we’re pushing ourselves to the limit (which there’s not) you can always play back the video footage from the dozen cameras that keep a constant watchful eye on us.
Even though nobody counts the way you spend every minute of your day and you can take as long of a lunch break as you want and take time off whenever you want I know you’re a busy man. So I’ll get straight to the point. I wonder how fully conscious you are of the fact that your business model is based on exploiting wage slaves, which is just a fancy way of saying, “slavery.” I wonder how fully conscious you are of the fact that every dollar you put in your pocket was earned by us, and every dollar you spend on luxury is a dollar we can’t spend on necessity. I wonder how fully conscious you are of the fact that every day we come to work we’re fighting against your “key performance indicators” for survival. I wonder how fully conscious you are of the fact that the key performance indicators are based on the best worker working at their best speed and doesn’t take into consideration all the little tasks we have to do every day like tidying up, looking for a pen, changing stations, finding a computer that works, waiting for the constant little lags in the system caused by the tragically designed infrastructure, restocking supplies, tying our shoes, going to the bathroom and so on. So in order to reach the ninety-five percent productivity rate that’s expected of us we actually have to work all day at a one hundred to one hundred and ten percent productivity rate.
Granted, all the stress would be worth it to us if we meet that sales target and get that one million dollars… except everyone in the company knows it would take fifty miracles to make that happen. That bar was set low enough to (theoretically) motivate us but high enough that there was never any risk of you having to pay up. So all that “incentive” has accomplished is sending a clear message to everyone who works for you that we’ve made you enough money that you can afford to give away a million dollars but you’re not willing to share that wealth with us. In fact, you’re willing to insult our intelligence and lie to us to try to squeeze as much sweat and irreplaceable time out of our fleeting lives as you can so you can convert it into cash in your pocket to squander on more luxuries for you and your family.
This is why your best workers leave. This is why you have so many immigrants and potheads working for you, because they’re the only ones desperate enough to endure the working conditions you’ve created.
I often wonder if this is how you imagined you’d build your fortune when you started your company. I wonder if you dreamed of wasting the best years of people’s lives slaving away for you for barely enough money to survive. I wonder if you even realize you’re doing it and if you’ve excused it all away by telling yourself things like, “That’s business.” or “If you don’t like it you can get another job.” or “I have to do this to stay competitive.”
I wonder how much thought you’ve put into the value of human life, and by that, I don’t just mean how much one person’s life is worth but how much each minute in a person’s life is worth. Is a minute in one person’s life worth more or less than a minute in another person’s life? If you had to spend five years working in the conditions you’ve created for the pay you allow, would you consider those five years fully lived? If your children had to work in the conditions you’ve created for the pay you allow would you feel like they fully lived their lives? If the answer to either of those questions is “no” then why would you demean and rob other people’s lives that way? Is there really any excuse big enough to justify wasting an equal human being’s potential for money?
Why is it that if you cut a person’s life short it’s called murder but when you cut the best years of their life out in the middle it’s a justified business expense? You might think these questions are overdramatic, but if you play back the video of your workers and you see the dead-eyed, stressed out expressions they wear on their faces all day when your back is turned you’ll realize I’m not exaggerating when I say that the reality is, you’re killing us little by little every day.
I’m positive this isn’t what you envisioned when you started your business, and I’m positive that you’re either completely ignorant of what you’ve become or you’ve made enough short-sighted excuses to justify your actions to yourself, and I’m positive you’ll never realize the true cost your success has come at to the people who run your company. I regret that I’ll never be able to send this letter to you because you’ll fire me, and I need this job because slavery is better than starvation. So I’ll work for you as long as I have to until I’ve saved enough of the crumbs you’ve let fall from your plate and I can start my own business that treats the people I work with as equal human beings fully deserving of equal respect and profits. I, and everyone who has ever worked for you, will always remember you with sadness and regret.
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.
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.
It’s not uncommon in any country to hear people blame the miserable state of their economy on welfare recipients freeloading off the hard work of the middle and upper classes. While it’s true that welfare queens do exist, they’re not the fundamental problem with the economy. The fundamental problem with the economy is that business owners underpay their workers and overcharge their customers.
That one-two punch is enough to force middle-class workers to have to count their pennies to survive, and it bleeds blue-collar workers straight into nearly inescapable poverty. Surviving, much less saving, is made even more difficult by the fact that landlords have to overcharge for rent because banks (and government taxes) extort everyone who takes out a 30-year mortgage. The only way to get a job that pays enough to afford all the meaningless fees you have to pay to buy a house is to buy a degree from a university, but the cost of a degree is inflated so high that poor people can’t afford it. So they’re stuck working degrading, underpaying jobs for the rest of their lives. Those who can afford a degree are crippled with debt for half a lifetime.
These two factors are enough to force middle-class workers have to count their pennies to survive, and it bleeds the lowest class into nearly inescapable poverty. Surviving, much less saving, is made even more difficult by the fact that landlords have to overcharge for rent because banks and government taxes extort everyone who takes out a 30-year mortgage. The only way to get a job that pays enough to afford all the meaningless fees you have to pay to buy a house, is to buy a degree from a university, but the cost of a degree is inflated so high that poor people can’t afford it. So they’re stuck working degrading, underpaying jobs for the rest of their lives. Those who can afford a degree are crippled with debt for half a lifetime.
The only reason wages are so low and the cost of goods, loans, and education are so high is because the rich get rich by taking as much of everyone else’s money as they can while giving as little back as possible. This hurts everyone, but it hurts the poor the worst. The reason poverty exists in the first place isn’t because poor people are lazy. They’re poor because business owners took all their money.
It is true that a small minority of poor people scam the taxpayers and don’t want to work, but look at the alternative. Their only option in life is to work themselves to death in degrading jobs that don’t pay a living wage to begin with. Why wouldn’t they scam the system? Because it’s irresponsible? They can’t get ahead in life because the rich are scamming them out of all their money. They’re just doing to the system what the system did to them. I’m not saying that’s right, just that it’s inevitable.
Slashing welfare isn’t going to make the middle class richer or help the economy. It’s just going to create more misery and poverty. Increasing welfare isn’t going to help anyone either because business owners are just going to take the poor’s money anyway, and the poor still won’t be able to afford an education. Business owners and investors are going to continue getting richer, and everyone else is going to continue getting poorer (or at least working themselves to death treading water) as long as business owners and investors refuse to share their profits with their employees or charge reasonable prices for their goods and services. Raging against poor people for being lazy, greedy scum bags adds insult their injury and makes undeserving scapegoats out of them while the real robbers continue business as usual.
The world’s problems are your problems. Even if you live in a safe, middle-class suburb, there are still forces creeping into your house that are slowly killing you and threatening the survival of your descendants. If you’re not teaching yourself about the world’s problems and trying to figure out your own solutions, then you’re just waiting to die.
This is serious. There’s a herd of metaphorical bears running straight towards you and your village. Making excuses for why it’s not your responsibility to give your impending demise your full attention is justifying suicide. If you’re not qualified to deal with bears, you need to become qualified, network with someone who is or find a workaround within your abilities.
The world’s problems are so big and complex, it’s dizzying to figure out where to even begin listing them. So I’ll give you some advice that will get you started and save some steps putting everything in perspective. The world’s problems have many seeds, but most of them wouldn’t have grown into towering banyan trees without being thoroughly watered with poverty. If you can fix poverty, then the other evils it creates and exacerbates will wither away.
The root cause of poverty is predatory capitalism. I say “predatory capitalism,” because “capitalism” is just private ownership of a business, which isn’t the issue. The problem is that America’s standard business model takes this concept to its most ruthless extreme. The economy is based on the premise that the purpose of businesses is to make as much profit as possible for the owner/s, which is accomplished primarily by paying workers as little, and charging customers as much, as supply and demand will allow.
This isn’t just a formula for poverty. It’s the formula for poverty. On paper, it looks deceptively innocuous, but it’s tearing the world apart. Below is a list of 14 apocalyptic problems that can be reduced from mountains to molehills by using an economic system that isn’t based on creating, sustaining and increasing economic inequality.
In a predatory economy, farms can’t give food away for free because they’d go bankrupt. Most farmers can’t even afford to sell their products at reasonable prices, because everything they have to buy to run their company and take care of their family, costs as much as possible. The largest corporations could lower their prices, but they beat their competition and established themselves as market leaders by caring more about profit than human life or happiness to begin with. If they ever stopped exploiting their customers and workers, they’d lose their market share to a competitor who will.
Corporations improve their competitiveness by growing food in third world countries using slave labor and then shipping their harvests back to first world markets where they can charge the highest price. This causes a false food shortage in third world countries, which raises the price higher than the local slaves can afford.
However, obesity isn’t an epidemic in first world countries like America because their citizens are living as extravagantly as French aristocracy, but because food companies further lower their operating costs and maximize profits by mixing their products with preservatives, flavoring, coloring, and filler. So instead of first world consumers getting the best nutrition from around the world at the cheapest price, they get the most unhealthy, processed junk food at the highest price.
Americans who make minimum wage can’t afford healthy, unmolested food. So they grow up eating boxes, bags, and cans of chemical mulch saturated in sugar, growth hormones and carcinogens, which sets them up for health problems later in life. There’s no conspiracy to commit chemical warfare on the civilian population. Businesses are just designed to make the most profit, and you make the most profit by selling the cheapest product at the highest price, regardless of the cost to human life.
2: High health care costs
The law of supply and demand says the more people need something, the more they’re willing to pay for it, and predatory capitalism says to match your prices to your customer’s desperation level. So going to the hospital to fix the inevitable health problems caused by stress and poison is as expensive as possible because medical schools and medical supply companies charge doctors and hospitals extortionate prices. Doctors then pass the exploitative costs onto their customers while also increasing the final price even higher to further take advantage of their customers’ vulnerability.
At the same time, the rich are buying up more land than they need, creating false scarcity that further drives up prices and fuels a never-ending cycle of housing bubbles/bursts that teeter back and forth between excluding the poor from being able to afford homes and then decimating the equity of those who could.
Since landlords and businesses have to pay the same extortionate mortgages, they pass on the cost of extortion to their renters and customers. That’s why rent is so damn high. This isn’t just “how life is.” This is a predatory business model invented to take money from the poor and give it to the rich in exchange for nothing.
4: Lack of basic utilities
If everyone who works was guaranteed food, water, shelter, electricity, telecommunications, and transportation, then most of the fear and pain in the world would be eliminated. Then everyone could get on with their lives and only have to worry about the most important issues.
The reason utilities are scarce isn’t that we lack the resources. It’s because the people who own the world’s resources make them as prohibitively expensive as possible. Even when governments build and operate their own utilities, they have to buy the materials at inflated prices, limiting the services they can provide.
Public utilities are becoming a thing of the past anyway since private (and often foreign) companies have been bribing politicians into privatizing those services for decades. The companies taking over utilities claim they can provide a better product at a cheaper price, but the ultimate goal of business is to make profits, which is why you can always expect the cost of utilities to go up, and you’ll keep finding more meaningless fees on your bills.
The definition of stress is, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”
Nothing is more stressful than fearing for your life, and everything you need to survive costs money. So your safety is directly dependent on how much money you have, but almost every business overcharges as much as possible. You’ll even be charged for things you didn’t ask for, don’t want and disagree with. Your entire life will be spent fighting for survival against everyone you have to pay. This is a formula for perpetual stress. The solution isn’t to read more motivational books. Life isn’t stressful because you’re weak. It’s because the economy is designed to keep you trapped in perpetual danger.
6: Mental health issues
The human brain can only take so much stress before it cracks. Anyone living in permanent anxiety will experience mental health issues eventually. The more traumatic your childhood is, the quicker you’ll succumb to all the internal and external consequences of poverty, and the poorer you are, the more damaging your childhood will be.
Seeing a cheap mental health expert for one hour costs more than a minimum wage employee makes in an entire day, and that money is already earmarked for food, rent, utilities, transportation, repairs and government fees. So the people most at risk for mental health problems are least able to afford it.
If you become too mentally broken to work, then you’ll have to live on the streets and beg for food. The size of America’s mentally ill homeless population isn’t a regrettable byproduct of an otherwise great system. The system is designed to create that problem by keeping help as far out of reach as possible and then funneling anyone who can’t function without it onto the streets to beg, steal and die.
7: Drug abuse
It’s also not an accidental byproduct of an otherwise great system, that at least 87% of Americans have drunk alcohol, 10% have smoked marijuana, 16% have smoked cigarettes, and 13% are on antidepressants. The system is designed to make earning more money, and being able to afford a better life, as hard as possible. For the least academically inclined, it’s virtually impossible.
Paying high prices to consume poison so you can feel better in the moment is irresponsible because it limits your immediate potential and kills you prematurely. But if you know you’re going to earn slave wages for the rest of your life, and you’ll never be able to afford your dreams anyway, the cost/benefit analysis of ending your miserable existence in a blaze of euphoria starts to add up. America doesn’t have a drug abuse epidemic because so many people are weak. It’s a proportional response to how stressful and hopeless life is in a predatory capitalist economy.
8: Domestic violence
Financial problems are one of the most common causes of divorce, but worrying and fighting about money is a long, painful process. Normal people are anxious and angry because the economy turns life into a grueling, unrewarding rat race. It’s only a matter of time before that frustration comes out somewhere, and the people you’re most likely to take it out on are the ones you see most, which are the people you live with.
You’d think the divorce rate would be higher when everyone is constantly worrying about bankruptcy, compromising on spending, working beyond their physical and mental endurance, suffering from suburban sensory deprivation, and wrestling with the constant source of unfulfillment that comes from not being able to afford your dreams. Actually, the divorce rate would be higher, but poverty often traps dysfunctional couples together because they can’t afford to live on their own.
9: Violent crime
America’s violent crime stats are directly proportional to the stress and desperation created by the false scarcity of food, housing, and wages. African-American ghettos don’t have third-world-level violent crime rates and are prone to riots because African-Americans are genetically predisposed to act like wild, desperate animals. Their problem is they live in a third world economy surrounded by first world neighborhoods they can’t afford to escape to.
Predatory capitalism traps them in an environment in which there are more people competing for resources than there are to go around. When everyone has to fight to survive, it becomes responsible to learn how to fight, and your best chance of succeeding is to join a group of fighters. That’s life for anyone who lives in a ghetto, regardless of their skin color.
No matter what country you live in, you’re surrounded by idiots. You know this. They stress you out every day at work, and at night you see them on the news fighting tooth and nail to destroy everything good in your country. If you’re not grabbing your head and screaming, “Why is everyone so stupid!?” then you’re not paying attention.
Why do you have to be surrounded by idiots? Poverty. That’s why. We could have already built the ultimate, free, global online school that could provide unrestricted access to all the world’s knowledge and skills. The internet is slowly providing free online education, but since everything is as expensive as possible, and there’s no profit in charity, humanity can’t afford to create the ultimate educational tool.
Even in affluent America, students can’t afford to attend universities because predatory capitalism dictates the more your customer needs your product, the more you should charge. Universities are copying the housing and healthcare industries and taking this philosophy farther than the market can bear. They’re charging students beyond their means, which is creating an education bubble, which is making college so expensive the cost/benefit analysis of enrolling doesn’t necessarily add up anymore. Predatory capitalism has created a system where it doesn’t pay to get a college education. This is putting a glass ceiling on the intelligence level of the entire world.
Going to school isn’t the only way to learn about the world though. There are media companies in every city producing information for mass consumption, but they can’t give content away for free without selling advertisements, which is a form of misinformation.
The price media outlets can charge advertisers is directly proportional to the size of their audience. In order to attract the widest audience possible, businesses have to deliver the most popular content. Thanks to the oppressive nature of the economy, most people are uneducated, scared, stressed-out slaves with cabin fever, who are longing for escape. This sets them up to want to consume media that satisfies their base instinctual desires for excitement, hope, love, popularity, wealth, and power.
Even news agencies, which supposedly follow a code of integrity, drown out useful information with content that’s more entertaining than educational. The six most successful media companies have bought out most of the world’s independent news agencies and syndicated the same distracting brain candy to every city.
The reason you’re surrounded by idiots is because 90% of the world population are victims of economic oppression. I doubt there’s secret conspiracy to dumb down the population to make them easier to control. It was just a convenient and inevitable byproduct of every business’s single-minded pursuit of money.
11: Religious extremism
There’s a well-established correlation between poverty and religious belief. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to be uneducated and feel stressed, hopeless, alone, unfulfilled and meaningless. Religion offers a solution to all the problems created by poverty. It promises if you believe a story and follow some rules, you’ll be rewarded after death.
Religion is the perfect consumer product. It costs nothing to produce, and your customers will pay you for years without getting anything in return. They’ll do your advertising for you and defend your brand to the death even in the face of overwhelming proof your product is a sham. If your religion teaches hard work and sacrifice are virtuous, and idleness and self-interest are evil, then your followers will make the perfect employees for you or any business lucky enough to hire them.
Not everyone who believes in religion becomes a terrorist, but there’s a well-documented correlation between poverty and religious extremism. If you want to start a death cult that will kill people and steal their resources for you, believing they’re serving the greater good, then all you need to do is promise them that joining your organization will solve all the problems in their lives created by predatory capitalism. Then, indoctrinate them with time-tested brainwashing techniques to base their identity and self-worth on their status in your pyramid-shaped organization. Finally, criminalize dissent and make it as hard as possible to leave. This is what ISIS and the U.S. military do, and if you copy their model, you can achieve the same success.
12: Corruption and systemic political failure
Corruption was inevitable the moment money was created. Since money is power, those with the most money have the most power regardless of who sits on the throne of government. Business owners don’t need to sit on the throne themselves or rely on the judgment of others to pass laws that allow them to exploit their workers and customers to death. Modern democracy has created a streamlined path to corruption. Since politicians have to accept donations to fund their election campaigns, they’re beholden to their investors. When the majority of politician’s careers are funded by the same businesses, lone-wolf politicians can’t stand up to all the corporate representatives. That’s why you can’t expect to see hope and change from young, charismatic politicians: because the investors they represent value profits more than human life.
13: Perpetual war
Once you have enough representatives to control how a nation’s wealth is used, you can use its tax revenue to bribe foreign politicians into letting you pillage their resources. If they won’t play ball, you can depose them with military force, guaranteeing you won’t have to compete for global market share with worker-friendly politicians or foreign businesses.
Predatory capitalism also guarantees perpetual war simply because war is profitable. The military-industrial complex needs taxpayers to buy its weapons in order to remain profitable. So it behooves them to invest in campaign financing so they can lobby politicians to stay in perpetual war.
Even without a secret conspiracy by corporations to manipulate militaries into fighting for them, our economic system is still a recipe for conflict. As a general truth, survival requires resources, and when resources are scarce in a local community, they become as valuable as life itself, and people will kill their neighbors to keep what they’ve got and take from the weak. When a country’s resources become scarce, it will act the same way, and the goal of predatory capitalism is to consume resources as fast as possible.
Since the world’s wealth is being funneled to a few families instead of being distributed to everyone, the nations with the least infrastructure are left in abject poverty and thus chaos, which creates a power vacuum to be filled by the strongest local warlord, which is convenient for big corporations, because warlords prevent small businesses from growing into global competitors, and warlords are happy to sell their nation’s resources to foreign companies for pennies on the dollar.
14: Environmental apocalypse
As apocalyptic as all these problems are, the worst consequence of predatory capitalism is the destruction of the very eco-system keeping the entire human species alive. In order for companies to make profits, they need to make as many products as quickly as possible, which means they need to consume raw resources as quickly, and spend as little money on health and safety, as possible. It would be an understatement to call this a recipe for environmental destruction. Predatory capitalism makes pollution a moral imperative, which is why big businesses are so desperate to convince the population global warming is a hoax. Saving the planet would negatively affect their profit margin.
The solution to this problem isn’t to guilt-trip consumers into buying eco-friendly products. That’s like forcing people to become cannibals and then convincing them to fight cannibalism by only eating each other’s legs. The problem isn’t the victim. The problem is predatory capitalism’s addiction to economic growth. That’s the herd of bears coming to eat you and your tribe. Solve that problem or you’re effectively committing suicide while being complicit in genocide.
I’m less interested in convincing you to accept my theories than I am in inspiring you to do your own research and come up with your own. If you want to know my theory, the simplest solution is to require governments to spend tax revenue on feeding and sheltering all of its citizens before they’re allowed to spend taxes on anything else. This will solve people’s immediate problems, give them the freedom not to have to work/consume, and eliminate the leverage businesses use to exploit everyone at every corner. If governments won’t do that, citizens need to organize to create private sustainable communities to shelter themselves from poverty.
The odds of winning the lottery are so low that buying a lottery ticket is arguably pointless. Therefore, many people believe that buying a lottery ticket is tantamount to paying an “idiot tax.” There’s a lot of truth to that point of view, but the cynicism of that point of view overlooks a very profound and very real truth about life in predatory capitalist economies such as the United States of America.
This truth stems from the fact that, in America, if you can’t afford a $30,00+ university degree or you’re not smart enough to pass all the exams or write all the essays required to earn a university degree then the glass ceiling of higher education prevents you from making a living wage…ever. Granted, there are still some options available to people who aren’t wealthy or smart enough to go to college. You can still join the military or go to trade schools, but the reality of the world we live in is that there are still some people who aren’t cut out for even that. Even if they were able to jump through the hoops it takes to get a decent paying job, our economy stills pays workers as little as possible while charging customers as much as possible while marketers do everything they can to convince everyone to buy as much as possible whether they need those advertised goods/services or not or whether they can afford those goods/services or not. Between the oppression of low wages and high prices, the reality of our economy is that millions of people will never be able to make a living wage.
Here’s the thing about that. If you’re a middle-class citizen who was able to buy your way up through the glass ceiling of higher education, then buying lottery tickets is objectively a dumb idea. You make enough money to be able to save for a comfortable retirement or to be able to start your own business despite America’s restrictive small business laws. This means the cost/benefit analysis of spending money on the lottery doesn’t add up for you.
However, the cost/benefit analysis of buying lottery tickets is not the same for an upward mobile middle-class citizen as it is for a lower class wage slave. People who have to work their entire lives for barely enough money to survive and/or don’t have the intellectual intelligence to navigate the oppressive bureaucratic obstacles to starting their own business have little to no chance of ever fighting their way out of poverty. For these people, there is no hope of saving their money and making a better life for themselves. Even if they do save all of their money and deny themselves any of the frivolous joys that the rich enjoy every day, they still won’t be able to save enough money to enjoy the good life of the rich and famous. The best they can hope for is to save enough money to cover a tenth of the medical bills they’ll inevitably rack up in old age. Even after a lifetime of back-breaking hard work they won’t be able to save enough money to cover the cost of a decent retirement home. In other words, they have no hope in life… period.
The lowest class workers may not be smart enough to earn a college degree, but they’re smart enough to see that no matter how hard they work and no matter how much of their minimum wage paycheck they save they’ll never be able to live a life of full human dignity. So, given the hopelessness of their prospects in life, the cost/benefit analysis of buying lottery tickets actually does truly add up.
The poorest of the poor never had any chance of having a good life no matter how much they saved because they were never going to make a living wage to begin with, and all the money they do make is inevitably going to be stolen by insurance companies, banks, utilities, taxes, cell phone bills, rent and all the other expenses that come from living in a predatory capitalist economy. So, given that the poorest of the poor never had a chance of saving enough money to make a good life for themselves, the 1-in-a-billion chance of having a good life from winning the lottery is higher than the 1-in-0 chance of having a good life from working hard and saving their money.
That’s why poor people spend their money on the lottery. it’s less because they’re stupid and more because the predatory economy that they live and toil under is stupid.
“an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.”
In and of itself, there’s nothing sinister about individuals or groups being able to own means of production. It becomes deathly sinister for workers and customers though when business owners underpay their workers and overcharge their customers… because that’s how poverty is created.
When a Capitalist economy goes full predatory, it hurts people in ways that can be measured by empirical quality of life statistics, but it also hurts people in more subtle, psychological ways, such as warping their perception of maturity.
Dictionary.com defines “maturity” as:
complete in natural growth or development, as plant and animal forms: a mature rose bush.
ripe, as fruit, or fully aged, as cheese or wine.
fully developed in body or mind, as a person: a mature woman.
pertaining to or characteristic of full development: a mature appearance; fruit with a mature softness.
completed, perfected, or elaborated in full by the mind: mature plans.
We know when a piece of fruit is mature, and we know when a human body is mature, but when is a human mind mature? That’s a philosophical question that humans have been arguing about since the dawn of civilization, and every culture has institutionalized their own opinions about what knowledge and ideas a mature person should have in their head. But there’s one prerequisite to maturity that all cultures hold: the ability to survive and thrive in the local environment.
The skills it takes to survive change depending on the challenges of your local environment. For example, it would take different skills to survive and thrive in Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, Vietnam or New York City. If a “responsible” person moved from one environment to a place where their skills are inapplicable, the locals would watch that person struggle with the smallest responsibilities, and would likely view that person as immature. The locals would certainly look down on members of their own community who couldn’t master the environment they were raised in.
This concept is easy to observe when looking at primitive hunter/gatherer societies living in harsh natural environments. It becomes murkier when the environment is a modern, service-based economy that you grew up in and have taken for granted your entire life.
In the modern world, the average worker doesn’t need to know how to build their own shelter or live off the land. Most people work at jobs in buildings where they make and sell goods or services. They get paid for their work with money, which can be used to buy anything, and in fact, is the only medium of exchange most businesses accept. In order to put a roof over your head, clothes on your back or food in your belly, you need money. Money is survival, comfort, security, freedom, and power. Since one’s ability to survive and thrive in a capitalist economy depends on having money, that means for people living in that environment, responsibility is inextricably tied to making and keeping money. The more predatory the economy is, the truer this is.
Growing up in an economy where surviving and thriving depends on making money, it’s natural for children to view people who have money as responsible and people who don’t as irresponsible. Children who never learn the causes of economic inequality tend to grow up into adults who worship the rich and despise the poor.
This is a warped perception of reality, because the way most millionaires and all billionaires get rich, is by paying their workers the lowest wage that supply and demand and the law will allow while selling the cheapest goods and services at the highest price supply and demand and the law will allow. Then they pocket the difference. The poorest of the poor may have made bad decisions in their lives, but when the cost of living is higher than (or even slightly below) your income, you’re stuck struggling to keep your head above water most of your life or until the inevitable hospital bill finally robs you of everything you’ve saved.
There are those who would argue that there are ample options available to the poor to help them lift themselves out of poverty, and therefore anyone who doesn’t take those opportunities, are just irresponsible. While it’s true some poor people pass up on opportunities, the fact of the matter is most high paying jobs require a college degree. More often than not, employers care more about their applicants’ degrees and certificates than their actual job skills or work experience. Since a college degree costs as much as possible, the only way to get a college degree is to be born to rich parents or go into half a lifetime of debt. Since the poorest, unskilled workers can’t afford to live a decent life, let alone a college degree, they’re shut out of most of the jobs that pay a living wage. To add insult to injury, uncredentialed employees who work 60 hours a week to provide for their family have to live with the stigma of not being mature or responsible enough to graduate college, while the children of rich parents can party their way through four years of college, barely pass and still be viewed as more responsible and have more doors open to them.
The glass ceiling of the college degree cleanly separates society into two castes of people, and the easier it is to divide society into deserving and undeserving classes, the easier it is to justify and accept exploiting the underclass. When a caste system becomes so ingrained in a culture, the under-class will even celebrate and defend it themselves. You can see this happening in almost any office building in America every day, and it’s not entirely illogical, just short-sighted.
Since survival depends on making money and making money depends on getting a job, the people who are the best at keeping jobs have an evolutionary advantage over people who can’t hold down a job. Therefore, the ability to keep a job is a hallmark of responsibility and maturity. And the best way to keep a job is to do your tasks correctly, go above and beyond the call of duty, follow all of your employer’s rules flawlessly and treat your employers with gracious respect. Since these are the skills employees need in order to survive, they’re responsible and mature behaviors.
These rules would be completely reasonable, but in a predatory capitalist economy, employees are already worked as hard, as fast and as long as possible with as few breaks and as little mercy as the law allows. That’s how hard poor people have to work to prove to their peers and bosses that they’re responsible, and they’re held to that level of accountability every single day. When that becomes the norm, and workers start holding their peers accountable to slave standards, they effectively police their own slavery. If those are the values they live by all day at work, those are the values they pass down to children.
Predatory businesses don’t just ask employees for their time and energy. They often take their employees dignity. Employees are often expected to wear humiliating uniforms, endure offensive treatment by customers and bosses, perform degrading tasks and address higher paid employees with higher titles and signs of respect. They’re expected to erase their personality while at work and act like soulless robots who love their job. Since these are the behaviors necessary to keeping a job and thus keeping an income, these behaviors are responsible and mature.
This means that being yourself and standing up for yourself is irresponsible. Quitting your job and pursuing your passion is seen as childish and naïve, and choosing not to have a full-time job is looked down on as absolutely crazy. Many young people have a hard time adapting to this dignity-less environment when they enter the workforce, but if they live in it long enough, they often come to accept and even embrace it.
Cultures always reflect their environment, and oppressive economic environments tend to create oppressive cultures with oppressive values. That’s exactly what’s happening in most of the world right now. While it may technically be responsible to beg, bow, scrape, fight and play the game to survive, that’s only because the economic environment was shaped by people who profit from exploitation. If our environment wasn’t designed to make life so hard and hopeless, responsibility would be defined by higher standards. We all have a responsibility to survive, but we also have a responsibility to our children and humanity in general. We’re not fulfilling our responsibility to our children by passing down instructions on how to be the ideal slave. We owe them a more humane economic environment, and until we deliver that, none of us are mature.
The problem with the economy is simple. Workers are paid minimum wage to work as long and as hard as possible. At the same time, goods and services are priced as high, and are made as cheaply, as possible. This simple formula creates two outcomes that are very easy to calculate.
One: It costs more to live than most employees can earn working forty hours per week.
Two: Most of society’s money flows up to business owners’ bank accounts.
The upward flowing money doesn’t trickle back down to the poor because the rich hoard it and/or spend it on expensive possessions. What little money does trickle down to low-wage employees, gets spent immediately on extortion-priced food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, education, and repairs.
The more money the rich exploit from the poor, the less money the majority of consumers have to spend. The less shoppers spend, the fewer jobs are needed to fill the customers’ demands. The higher the unemployment rate, the greater demand for jobs there is. The higher the competition for jobs is, the less pay, fewer benefits and longer hours applicants will agree to, in exchange for a job. The more businesses exploit their employees’ desperation, the more profit the owner can keep, and thus, the better the economy looks on paper.
When CEOs are getting rich, it looks like the economy is doing great, but ultimately, it means life sucks as much as possible for as many people as possible. That’s the fundamental problem with the economy.
The benefits of economic oppression are obvious, and they can be summed up in three words: comfort, freedom, and legacy. The wealthiest people in the world can enjoy whatever comforts they can imagine. At the snap of a finger, they can have things poorer people would have to work their entire lives for.
The rich are the only people who are truly free. Nobody has the leverage to tell them what to do for nine hours per day. So they’re free to work however, whenever, and wherever they want. They’re free to travel wherever, whenever and however they want. Barring going on a shooting spree in a shopping mall, they’re free to break most laws. Even if they get arrested, they can hire a team of attorneys to bend the law so they’ll either be found innocent or charged a fee that represents such a tiny percentage of their wealth, the legal consequences are inconsequential to them.
The 1% have more money than they could spend in their lives, and most of that money is sitting in investment vehicles that will continue to make money after they’re dead. So as long as their descendants aren’t completely irresponsible, they can live comfortable, free lives indefinitely. If all you have to do to have that kind of life and legacy is sign a piece of paper approving the exploitation of workers you’ll never meet, I doubt many people would pass up the opportunity. Getting rich through extortion looks temptingly consequence-free, but it has hidden costs.
Consider the kings and serfs from the Middle Ages. Royalty squandered their wealth and lived more comfortably than their serfs could ever imagine, and yet the serfs of today live more comfortably than the kings of antiquity could have imagined. The reason we live so much more comfortably is because of technological progress, which is the result of billions of people all over the world applying their time and education to scientific study. The more people who collaborate on research, the faster it generates results.
If instead of forcing everyone to devote the bulk of their lives to menial work for just enough money to survive, we devoted our resources to give as many people as much education and free time as possible, we could speed up humanity’s technological development exponentially. If we didn’t have our priorities so backward, we could easily be living on the moon before Generation X dies of old age. If we had never oppressed anyone in the history of mankind, we would have been building android factories on Mars a hundred years ago.
Even though the rich may be freer than their employees and customers, their freedom comes at an unnecessary cost. A wealthy person can walk through an inner city ghetto safely, but they’d need to hire paramilitary escorts. Their family is free to sleep soundly without fear of burglars, but that’s only because they have million dollar security systems and security guards. The rich can bypass all the cumbersome and demeaning security measures at airports by flying in their own planes, but they never stop to really ask themselves, “Why do we need security measures in airports at all? Why do we need locks on our doors? Why do we need bodyguards?”
We need security because there are billions of stupid and/or desperate people in the world. The reason the world isn’t filled with billions of intelligent, content, philosophers is because the leaders of the world have designed the system to exploit the majority of the world’s population. If we dedicated our resources to helping people instead of oppressing them, we wouldn’t need to lock our doors or carry guns or have metal detectors at airports and schools. We probably wouldn’t even need armies because everybody would have enough resources to survive and thus wouldn’t need to fight each other.
Until that day comes, freedom will always be so expensive that only the wealthy will be able to afford it, and it will always be an unnecessary expense for the rich because they created it by exploiting those with less financial leverage than them. It would be so easy for rich people to leave their children a Utopian world. All they need to do is treat everyone as equal human beings. The only cost to them would be not being able to hoard more money than they could ever possibly spend.