Tag Archives: Capitalism

Politics – do we really care?

I’ve always had a problem with ‘-isms’ – communism, socialism, facism, capitalism, republicanism, you name it – because they all seem to miss the point about people. Homo Sapiens doesn’t give a flying fruit bat about politics until things go wrong.

I was a kid in the late Menzies era of Australia [1949-1966], and I remember hearing some adults moan about elections while others moaned about the general apathy of the Australian voter. You see, in Australia, we have compulsory voting…and the times were good.

In fact, by the early 60’s, the populations of the Western world were better off, generally, than they had ever been before. Not quite the age of surplus envisioned by Marx, but close, and some of us really were able to live ‘…from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’ That’s what the Age of Aquarius, Flower Power and Free Love were really all about.

Yet, on an individual level, despite the lack of scarcity, we still suffered from greed and envy and other ‘first world’ problems as we see-sawed between co-operation and competition. Because that is how the human animal is made – neither saint nor sinner but a combination of both.

And in a roundabout way, our dual nature is exactly why compulsory voting should be mandatory in all representational democracies. Voters are human and apathetic…and the silent majority doesn’t give a shit. That is why we have to be forced into protecting democracy, because democracy only works if the apathetic majority moderates the extremes on both the Right and the Left.

If I had my way, I would do away with all career politicians entirely. Instead, I would replace them with ordinary people, plucked off the street as for jury duty. These reluctant amateurs would bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the table, but their very reluctance might result in some genuine ‘…government of the people, for the people, by the people’.

Human beings won’t change, ever. That’s why we have to devise better systems to make it possible for this disparate tribe to live together in mutual protection and safety.

Only by understanding and working around our own weaknesses can we avoid going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.

May 2018 be a better year than 2017.


The problem with capitalism…in a ball

Unless you’re a golfer, you probably don’t think about golf balls. But a new US lawsuit about these little dimpled spheres has an economics lesson for all shoppers, showing why consumers have cause for concern when companies use court for sport. Costco, the wholesale membership club, rocked the golf world in 2016 when it started…

via A lawsuit over Costco golf balls shows why we can’t have nice things cheap — Quartz

The practice of Capitalism is more people-friendly than say, Totalitarianism, because it requires people to be consumers, and that is something people are happy to be. But to work properly, Capitalism requires the checks and balances of a healthy, competitive marketplace.

Using the law as a way to get rid of the competition may be ‘legal’ and ‘clever’, but it’s also a bully’s scam. The law is meant to be an equalizer, not a weapon. Frivolous legal action should have punitive consequences. While it does not, the law becomes complicit in the scam.

Perhaps I’m naive. Okay, I know I’m naive, but I did not expect the companies being bullied to accepted the inequity of their situation without protest. Excuse me? You’ve just lost your company for no good reason, and you grudgingly admire the tactic that made you lose?

Is this really the way we want our world to run?

In Australia, we have something called the ‘pub test’. If the common man in the pub thinks something stinks, then the authorities need to take action, even if it isn’t strictly illegal, because there’s the letter of the law, and then there’s the spirit of the law, and we all know the difference.


Capitalism vs Competition

In theory,  the thing that makes capitalism work is competition. When competition is alive and well, it balances the normal drive of capitalist companies to maximize profit. In short, you get a healthy economic system, one that works well with human nature.

But what happens when those companies can avoid competition? Or become so powerful they can stifle competition altogether?

The answer can be found in the link below:


In the US, small to medium sized cities that are NOT serviced by the big communications companies [because they are too small to show a profit] can offer their residents a non-commercial broadband network. This network is often faster than that offered by the big telcos.

In the Venturebeat article, we see what happens when the big telcos get worried by competition from these non-commercial networks. Not pretty.

Things are different here in Australia, but only because we are behind the times. I truly wish our municipal councils offered high speed broad to the homes in their areas. That would be a fantastic innovation. We can but hope.




Diversity and supermarket shelves

big supermarket 2

courtesy of wikimedia.org

Has anyone else noticed how little true diversity there is in our supermarkets?

We have a staggering amount of food for sale, but most of it comes from the same, few manufacturers. And the bigger the supermarket chain, the fewer the actual brands they carry.

Now I understand that supermarkets are businesses, and to succeed they have to give customers the products they want, but why do we have to have half a mile of breakfast cereal all starting with a ‘K’? Or soups all starting with… nevermind.

Now contrast that first photo with this one :

Courtesy of teachandtravelblogspot.com

Courtesy of teachandtravelblogspot.com

This is a supermarket in Iringa, Africa. The thing that struck me was the lack of blinding patterns on the shelves. Yes, it is a very, very small supermarket, and you or I would probably not find what we wanted on those shelves, but you must admit the produce has variety!

I personally do most of my shopping at the smaller supermarkets, like IGA, [Independent Grocers Association] because :

a. The fresh produce, including meat, is fresher, and so I waste less food [and money],

b. The smaller supermarkets actually have far more choice in terms of grocery products. For example I can buy Jalna sour cream at IGA. I can’t buy it ‘S…way’.

c. If I ask my local IGA to bring in a product for me, 9/10 they will.

The times when I do go to the Big Two supermarkets it’s usually to stock up on cheap items like toilet paper, or a particular brand of cat food.

So what’s going on? Are the Big Two supermarkets doing what bookstores do, and selling premium shelf space to the highest bidder? [You did know bookstores did that, right? That’s why bestsellers are shown with the cover out, or on tables, or in the front window. Or maybe that’s how they become bestsellers – by being so visible].

Anyway, my point is that those miles and miles of one brand items do more than just restrict the choices available to consumers, they restrict competition as well. And competition is the cornerstone of Capitalism.  The instant you allow a few players to monopolize supply and demand, you are undermining the whole capitalist system.

We can see the effects all over the world as capitalism mutates into corporatism. However, nowhere is it more in your face than with food. Food, like air, is a basic commodity that no one can do without, yet if you look at the supply chain you will see that a few ginormous multinational companies control most of the seeds used in agriculture. That translates into food production.

That raw food is then taken, and manufactured by a few more multinationals, who then sell it to other corporations who control food distribution – i.e. supermarkets. And the end result is lots of ‘stuff’ that is all basically the same.

If you walk down the aisles of your local supermarket you will see a Who’s Who of the biggest companies on earth. And we put them there.

We could change this status quo by not buying certain brands, but how realistic is that when we have so little real choice about what to buy?

In many ways, this lack of choice is the direct result of killing off the small deli’s, the small greengrocers, and the small butcher shops of yesteryear. Those small businesses epitomized what Capitalism was meant to be. But of course, whenever you have competition there is the expectation that someone will ‘win’, and the corporates have won.

R.I.P. consumer choice. 😦


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