The right to make a profit is a cornerstone of our civilisation. Most of us, directly or indirectly, rely on a profit being made by someone somewhere to survive.
Despite that profit-and-let-live circle the debate about what is or is not acceptable in pursuit of profit is, even at this late stage in the development of capitalism, increasingly contested.
Neo-conservatives, those grim reapers driving a coach-and-four through the liberalism, social responsibility and ethical capitalism that made our post-WWII world what it was, suggest there should be no constraints on profit making, or at least very few.
This is a heartbeat idea driving Brextremism as it might allow a resovereigned UK do away with the red tape denying it its imagined rightful place in the world. It is one of the many Brexit mysteries that so many of those protected by consumer, worker or environmental rights, EU red tape, are such ardent advocates of isolation.
Over recent weeks the Government engaged in the dispute between beef producers and processors because farmers, rightly, feel they are exploited partners in an unequal relationship. Those talks resulted in a very modest rebalancing than can hardly be a final settlement showing that meat processors’ ambitions and profits are more influential than the prospect of a living wage for farmers. Sad but true.
The suggestion that developer Johnny Ronan has offered Google an option on all 1,000 apartments he plans to build in Dublin’s north docklands is another winner-takes-all idea.
This feudal social engineering is made possible by Google’s huge profits and the reality that citizens are excluded from the property market as it is so tightly controlled to protect investors’, banks’ and developers’ profits. Should this idea come to fruition it would give Google an unprecedented and dangerous leverage. Sad and frightening but true again.
When, just five years ago, in This Changes Everything in which she described capitalism as “war on nature”Naomi Klein could not have imagined the barbarisms of the Brazilian president Bolsonaro and his peers.
Nor could she have imagined the plague of plastic killing our oceans or accelerating climate collapse, each a consequence of someone’s pursuit of profit and our relentless consumption.
It is not all gloom, however. We are lucky we don’t live in America, the richest superpower in history.
There, a broken healthcare system and price-gouging is putting many of its 23m diabetes patients at risk of death or bankruptcy.
Those who cannot afford the hundreds of dollars to buy insulin each month are sacrificed to the gods of the market.If this seems incomprehensible it is because it is. It is also immoral. Our report today that standards in school food may have been compromised to bolster caterers’ profits is another example of doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.
It is of course all too easy to criticise capitalism’s uglier consequences but it is far more difficult to offer solutions even if the idea of relentless growth is increasingly seen as an impossibility.
Despite that, capitalism’s inability to remake itself, and our role in that vicious circle does not augur well. SOURCE