How Do You Stop a Doomsday Machine? Research Time, 01/04/2018

There are a lot of popular misconceptions about progressive politics and generally left-wing people. Most of those misconceptions spread through a feedback loop of edgelord culture with mainstream alt-right and white nationalist press.

This stock image used to represent work in the stock market looks
benevolent on its own, but the practices of the global financial
industry can be terribly dangerous.
One of those stereotypes is that progressive people are anti-market, that we want an entirely centrally-planned economy. Now, that’s ridiculous, but one of the main purposes of far-right messaging is to make everyone who thinks there should be state-provided health insurance out to be a full-on Stalinist out to send us all to labour camps and collective farms.

Look at the contemporary left with a little more focus and forethought, and you’ll see a lot of complexity. For instance, anti-capitalism – broadly speaking – today is a critique of the culture of profiteering. Not any act of commerce for profit – starting a business and using its profit to reinvest in its activities or save for your own retirement is one of the best ways to run a business.

When I say profiteering, I mean outright financial piracy. Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Ian Buchanan spoke in different works about the financial mechanics of profiteering capitalism – in particular, the short sell. An investment fund ploughs a ton of money into share purchases of a company, which inflates its stock price.

Remember, that higher stock price isn't a function of the company's own activity – it’s the effect of a large share purchase. Investing a lot of money in a company’s stock makes the company appear to be worth more than it is. When the fund sells the company’s shares at that higher price, the overall value plummets. The fund’s clients make a huge profits, and the folks still holding the rest of those shares have lost a ton.

Don't blame the retail apocalypse on online sales platforms, which
still only accounted for less than ten percent of all purchases of
goods in the United States for the last couple of years. The
doomsday machine is large-scale financial capitalism.
There are even more insidious methods of profiteering that lays waste to the lives of thousands, even millions of people. The best illustration is the destruction of Sears, but pretty much any of the financial explosions of the retail apocalypse will do.

So Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund buys Sears. He orders the company to accept millions of dollars in loans it doesn’t need. But now Sears has to pay it back, as well as all kinds of interest and service fees that go to Lampert.

He also forces Sears to split its real estate holdings – the physical store locations – with his own real estate company. So now Sears also has massive rent bills of US$200-million to pay to Lampert’s company, which it’s also paying back the loans Lampert forced it to take. Once the company’s debt service overcame its operating costs, bankruptcy and restructuring was the only way to go, and Lampert collected a ton of money from those asset sales.

This is the capitalism folks on the progressive side are talking about when we say we’re anti-capitalism. You want to start an actual business that sells people things they need and want – like everything you could find in department stores like Sears – that’s awesome.

We want you to make profits from your sales. Reinvest them in your company – pay your workers well, open more locations or warehouses, import products from around the world. Take some of that corporate income to save for your retirement. Start another business. Give a starting entrepreneur some seed money to start her own company. Build a charity.

Do something productive with it, that will enrich the communities from which your wealth grows. This is the model of investment banking that a progressive person believes in. The basic philosophy has only been around for a few thousand years.

Stopping the doomsday machine of investment fund piracy – the
machine that powers the life of Eddie Lampert – will take more than
just blowing up a damaged starship inside it. We need a complete
ethical transformation of humanity – a revaluation of values.
What about that destructive profiteering? Frankly, it’s wrong. Each investment firm holds millions and billions of dollars in assets. The entire industry holds trillions in all the stocks, bonds, derivatives, and futures throughout the Earth.

A few people leading all those firms control all those funds. Chance and circumstance alone prevents those investment industry leaders from shorting or bleeding every company on Earth.

The most unscrupulous will destroy whatever they can get their hands on to squirrel away more wealth. Working people from minimum wage earners to upper management will have their careers upended or ended altogether.

Laws can be written to prevent or impede this kind of predatory investment. But ultimately, it’s a matter of ethics.

Do you want to be a pirate leaving economic destruction and the personal misery of thousands as your legacy? Then there are extremely high-paying jobs for you, that will leave you so obscenely wealthy that you’ll have more power over others than ancient emperors could barely imagine.

Do you want to build businesses that uplift thousands of people through their material success? Indirectly and systematically, those successful ventures will contribute to community and global economies that uplift millions and bring them happiness. You probably won’t end up as insanely wealthy as that other guy, but you’ll still do pretty alright.

What kind of person do you want to be?

No comments:

Post a Comment