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Pondering the universe

Politics

Saving capitalism

Get rid of the psychopaths!

Money allows organic social mobility, but when too much focus is placed on it, people suffer and the monetary systems become dysfunctional.

Capitalism has a proven long-term effect of lifting those it favours out of poverty and providing some measure of prosperity. However, its excesses have created worldwide poverty and are destroying the planet. The only way to keep capitalism is to root out those influences that turn it into a wave of destruction for the majority of people in the world. The excesses are a direct result of unfettered influence by a few manipulating the instruments of power to serve themselves. This cannot continue.

The areas needing attention are fairly clear, as is what is really required to deal with them. However, we also need to bolster those aspects of capitalism that do create the widespread benefits and foster individual creativity, and find ways to protect them from being overtaken, abused and monopolised by the selfish.

Moneyβ–³

Money holds the promise of promise of social mobility, but has been used to thwart it.

Under feudal and slave systems, most people did not have the resources or freedom to choose what they did with their lives. This did not allow much variation in their lives nor much opportunity to travel. Their needs were basic and they could barter with their fellow villagers or townsfolk for whatever they didn't produce. That was because a few controlled the societal levers which most people had to comply with.

With exploration came opportunities to trade, but that required a means of tokenising worth. With widespread usage of such tokens, goods and services could be traded for the tokens, and those tokens could be traded for other goods and services. That allowed a much greater range of possibilities for people to interact. It allowed a lot more people to choose where and when they offered their goods and services. That promised more opportunities for people to choose their lifestyles. It enabled social mobility on a wider scale.

When the industrial revolution hit, many chose to move to cities to take advantage of the new opportunities, but while they did largely improve their economic opportunities, they were not really getting much of the large profits that their employers were making. Those workers were pushed to work long hours in conditions that made their health suffer, making many of them have even less opportunity to improve their lives.

Exploitationβ–³

Marx called workers earning less than an equal share of the value of what they produced exploitation. It was a rather technical explanation, and not what we today know as exploitation.

Some profits are to be expected to flow to business owners because they provide the capital to set up the business and take on the risk. But the results were much much worse than the rather tame Marxian definition of exploitation. Business owners extracted huge profits while providing hardly any opportunity for their workers to break out of their stressful work-based lifestyles.

This continues to this day, but rather than just focus on making goods, a huge part of modern societies is geared towards servicing the tokens – money! Hoarding of tokens is the culmination of centuries of business activity, but at the expense of social mobility of the masses, stymying the dream of social mobility. While many of the super rich claim to be self-made, most were given their initial funding by their parents. That is part of the propagandised myth to make out that they are worthy of taking the grand profits of exploitation.

While having lots of money in itself confers a lot of power, if only because those without are seeking opportunities to perhaps have some of it thrown their way, it is the egregious manipulation of the levers of societies that embedded the wealth inequality. Money influences the policy makers, so by throwing minor amounts of money at the politicians to feed their egos and keep their delusions of power, the wealthy can reap huge monetary advantages while making policies that would prevent usurping of their privileged status by any collective effort by their workers to shift the power balance.

Progressive demonisation of unions, let alone any discussion of alternatives to capitalism, has hobbled efforts to bring about social change, especially in the US. This is known as neo-liberalism, but it is really grand exploitation of people and societies to cement privilege in place forever. This has nothing to do with liberalism – which promises opportunity – and everything to do with authoritarianism.

Socialismβ–³

Some alternative societal systems have emerged over the last two centuries that have promised to restore balance, usually by centralising more power in the government.

Centralised government power was the hallmark of warlords and monarchies for millennia, but the supposedly more equitable modern versions are known as socialism and communism. These latter centralise the decision-making about what economic activities are allowed and how they are governed. They rely upon the premise that those that govern that power wield it wisely for the betterment of all.

While many of such governments came to power by popular choice, either through voting or revolution, the exercise of that power proved difficult for most leaders to handle. Most leaders are not superheroes but human beings that usually get caught up in power tripping and cronyism, leading to embedding of wealth in them and those around them. When many of those countries' economics systems collapsed, a few kept the bulk of the common wealth of the country. These are the oligarchs that then pull all the levers to maintain their wealth.

It is these failed examples of so-called collective governments that is used to demonise socialism and persuade people that capitalism is thus the only viable system for people to live under. Of course, they brush over the obvious cycles of failure that threaten to topple countries, or even the world, every few years. The propaganda is that an oligarchy-led capitalist system is the best, because the oligarchs have the know-how to manage it all.

However, all the cycles of near failure come back to excessive greed upon the part of those oligarchs, while between the economic crises, most people are struggling. Rampant trust in the egregious greed and hyper-egocentricity of those oligarchs is thoroughly misplaced, and needs to be severely curtailed if we are to have a chance at having reasonably stress-free lives.

So if the limits of human capacity to handle power over others don't really let us centralise power solely in government, and capitalism has allowed many to have a better share of some of the profits of the system, is there a balance that can work for us?

Decentralisation of powerβ–³

We don't have to completely replace capitalism with another system, but if it is to work for us, something has to be done about preventing damaging wealth inequality.

Workplace democratisationβ–³

The first step is to democratise workplaces, so that more collective decision-making occurs at more levels in organisations.

This includes deciding who the managers, executives and board members are to be. This will automatically limit a lot of excessive accumulation of power by the selfish and aggrandising because those who are directly affected will dispense with them, or at least curtail their excesses. Such companies are a lot less likely to sack large portions of their workforce to use cheaper overseas labour.

While a company may be democratically run, that does not stop it aggressively serving its own interests instead of the society at large. Current anti-trust laws still allow companies to grow large enough to be business bullies, aggressively stifling competition or bribinglobbying politicians and government officials for favours.

Reduce influenceβ–³

The democratic process must be separated from influence by wealthy individuals and corporations.

The obvious way is to keep the entire process in the hands of an independent bureaucracy with consistent political advocacy of candidates provided by it. The emphasis should be on candidates and not parties. Parties have been obvious examples of how narrow self-interests have influenced government policies without any integrity process. Focussing on individual candidates keeps lines of influence clear and shifts to focussing on all successful candidates as being the government. Compulsory voting also minimises the efforts and expense to get people to vote, or stop from doing so.

Patents and copyrightsβ–³

Individuals and corporations are awarded patents and copyrights so they have a chance of earning an income from their efforts.

Over time, various lobbying by vested interests have resulted in means of extending the lengths of time coved by these to far more than is necessary for recoupment and reasonable profit. Instead of benefitting society, this robs citizens of the benefits of their grace in awarding those benefits. Patents and copyrights should end within a decade and not be extended in any way by minor tweaking of the original applications, so that all of humanity can benefit.

However, moral rights should remain, so that the skills of the original creators cannot be hidden by false attribution. Creators should be able to continue to have the opportunity to use their original works as a demonstration of their skills. This means that even though a copyright has expired, they must still be attributed with the creation, or use in another creation, of their work.

Break apart large corporationsβ–³

Large companies tend to try to cover more of the supply chain involving them. This reduces competition and leads to exploitation.

Large corporations are responsible for some of the most damaging environmental and financial disasters. Just being so large allows theirs and other countries to be put at risk of destabilisation, either by their own actions or what they allow others to do. The obvious way to minimise the risk from them is to spread that risk more widely.

While we have seen that so-called tech companies have disrupted the accommodation, ride and delivery industries, their influence is not due to any technical innovation, but that they allowed more people to partake in what had previously had steep barriers to entry. The websites of these companies are very much like those of the traditional companies they are competing with.

The real difference is that while those other industries had a multiplicity of competition in them with businesses of a variety of sizes, these new players have tried to monopolise their position so they have almost complete control of their market area to the detriment of all other players. Their monopolies also mean that they have an excessive influence over those who work for them, casting them as contractors to avoid responsibility for their well-being.

Given that these businesses are not really providing any unique value-added, other than due to their monopoly, nor a unique business model, they should be broken apart to provide a lot more competition at the business level. Then they will have to compete for workers, giving them a chance to bargain for better pay and working conditions. Of course, better legal protections for their conditions and safety should be enacted, including transferability between operators. People should be supported by their governments to have dignity in their work.

Even older businesses should be broken up where they dominate their industry. The break may be by numbers so that there is more competition, or divestiture of one or more levels of their business. For example, Google is known as a search business, but it gets its revenue from the advertising to its users, and of its users on YouTube, all while failing to list most of the worldwide web. Its search business is a sham, yet it uses peoples' trust in that business to extract maximum data value across all areas of its business.

Such businesses must not be allowed to deceptively promote themselves in this way just to exploit us. They must be forced to promote themselves as what they primarily are, and forced to divest of themselves of societally useful arms of their business that they are sabotaging. Two tech companies dominate the advertising industry, creating an existential threat to other advertising mediums, but they use that monopoly power to distort the information flows of the world, either directly, like Google with its search coverage failure, or allowing their platforms to be abused by dubious organisations.

Governments must ensure that businesses treat society and its people with respect and refrain from creating harms through their actions. When they get too large, the influence they have over what is seen by citizens can result in a distortion of what is understood as reality, and so lead to unfounded beliefs, which will destabilise societies and undermine governments. We are seeing this already with mass belief in crazy conspiracies because what they have access to is being deliberately designed to manipulate them, creating distrust in the rule of law and governments.

Promote micro-businessβ–³

The idea of business seems to focus upon finding and exploiting a niche to ensure their survival.

Even large businesses want to make themselves indispensable to their clients. Just have to look at social media companies and how they lure in users to on-sell their data. But does having a platform that others can use have to result in an over-emphasis on market domination? No, but we have seen how a lot of people make their living out of helping others to use these platforms.

That suggests that even small makers of platform systems can be the centre of thriving cottage help industries. Even though we use a lot of very sophisticated technology on a daily or even hourly basis, most have no idea of how it works or often how to set it up for their best use. While there are often plenty of online instructions and videos for a lot of these activities, many still find them hard to get their heads around.

This is where an opportunity exists for some with some technical smarts, but not enough to make something of their own, to do contract setting up. Now this is not a new idea, but small-time makers have a hard time breaking through the internet noise without some help.

Governments can help provide a platform for the makers and set-up personnel to market their goods and services, even to providing online international sales and marketing platforms so that more of the distribution revenue stays in the country, rather than being paid to the large-scale platforms that are usually in the US or Europe. The proliferation of varying sales taxes puts small players at the mercy of giant platforms that don't have their interests at heart.

The psychopathsβ–³

Psychopaths are those who have no empathy or interest in alleviating suffering.

While psychopathy is a significant negative character trait of powerful people, what also makes them successful at accumulating their wealth is narcissism (self-absorption and self-aggrandisement) and Machiavellianism (selfish manipulation of others). The combination of these three traits is known as the dark triad and makes for some very potently destructive people.

We just have to see the number of billionaires that, despite knowing that they could use their billions to immediately lift millions out of suffering and starvation, decide that they will keep their billions because it makes them feel good or gives them control over lots of other people. These are not people we should leave the management of our societies to.

They have promoted industries that are making our planet uninhabitable, create think tanks to promote self-promoting ideologies and hire lobbyists to make governments enact policies that entrench their privilege. These are the most destructive people on the planet, and no amount of acquiescence to their agenda will dissuade them from further destruction. They are truly the enemies of humanity.

While many billionaires have promised to largely divest themselves of their fortunes by the time they die, for people who claim to be the most capable of humanity, they are seemingly remarkably incompetent at actually doing what they have promised. Of course, it is all lies to placate us into thinking they are here to help us, but their actions show that despite so-called charity efforts, they are still trying to kill us!

They have gained their influence through their wealth, and so the principal way to reduce their influence is to substantially reduce their wealth. In the 20th century, the top tax rate in the US was 92%, and there was no mass exodus of billionaires or multi-millionaires. They still made money hand over foot, so while they may have persuaded politicians and us to progressively decrease their taxes, we can reverse that and bump it way up again.

We must take steps to weed out those people without empathy from ever having such influence over our societies. Perhaps we need red-flag type legislation where people in businesses or other corridors of power are flagged as risks and prevented from further advancement. There are behaviour patterns associated with psychopathy and they could be incorporated into the laws that govern running of businesses and access to the more powerful levels of society to provide a means of identifying unwanted behaviours and reducing their influence or removing them.

Part of the problem is the continuing myth of the superhero. We have had avatars whose philosophies have so influenced humanity that they are seen as somehow above us and we should obey their words in every details. Of course, they have not necessarily been the ones promoting themselves as that, but their earlier followers gave them that status and promoted it. Nonetheless, they formed a template for the continued idea that some human can save us and the world, and there have been no shortage of wannabees that want to be placed on that pedestal.

The fact is that people are still people, and those avatars still were not masters of the world in their time but had to work every day to be worthy of their influence. For those who see themselves in that mould, most seem to forget the humility and demand recognition of their supposed superiority, and so promote themselves as some sort of superheroes who will save us. They do not acknowledge how much help they have received from others, yet they want the huge bulk of the spoils of that help.

But their actions show their contempt for those that help them, as if that those underlings are helping them shows how stupid and undeserving those helpers really are. Of course, these self-described elites are only out for themselves and what they want to do, regardless of how much harm and misery they create. Their pet projects are diverting billions from being more usefully used, all for delusional dreams and self-aggrandisement. These traits were apparent years ago, and if some means were around then to sideline them, we might have been spared their malign influence.

Many see what they have done as ground-breaking and perhaps essential parts of our daily lives, but that ignores the other less publicised changes that that enabled these people to ride to popularity. Technology always has years where only a few know of it, but take it on and this helps it become mature enough to be able to reach the mass market. We only have to look into the decade before the expansions to see what influences led to them.

The gains we have made are not the result of one superhero, but the concerted efforts and frustrations of millions of people who tolerated the drawbacks because they could see the potential. These are the people who we should be grateful for the technology we now use, not glorified hucksters who want to own our future but are too self-absorbed to be able to understand how they are destroying it. We have the two richest people on earth battling to see who can sell the most tickets to space to pay for their ticket off the planet, leaving us to wallow in their dystopian mess.

We don't need any more evidence that the hyper-rich are complicit in bringing about humanity's demise, so we must remove their ability to decide what life will be like on this planet by removing their opportunities to engage the levers of our destruction. That does not means that they cannot contribute to a better world, just that we must not keep handing them keys to spending away our future, if not outright trying to kill us.

How to spot a psychopathβ–³

Many psychopaths can be very charming and seem quite reasonable, but the suffering left in their wake tells the real story.

While there are psychopaths at every level of society, the focus here will be on those that have much more effect upon society than the rest. Because they have a bigger effect, the results of their choices tend to be well known, though they do tend to cover up or obfuscate their connection to their more nefarious deeds.

The types of results that give away psychopaths are:

  1. aMore people die or suffer as a result of their choices.
  2. bThey choose money over people almost every time.
  3. cThey use genuine issues that people may have to get what they want, but do nothing about alleviating the conditions that give rise to those issues.
  4. dThey increase their wealth substantially when most of the population loses theirs.
  5. eThey back organisations that actively work to undo social reforms.
  6. fThey lobby governments to undo environmental and health protection laws, usually to their monetary advantage.
  7. gTheir donations to charities are conspicuous, and though not trivial in absolute terms, are relatively so compared to their fortunes, while they still continue their damaging business activities.

While many are just plain selfish and self-aggrandising, so that they rope a lot of people and governments into their grandiose schemes that often don't achieve their goals, or just plain fail, many are actively creating fractures in society to undo democracy and the power of people to change their lives for the better. They are creating systemic difficulties for the many to ensure that they maintain their privilege without challenge.

Covid-19 showed up many psychopaths for what they are, revealing that many actively contributed to the millions who died and were hospitalised. They took government support for their businesses even when they didn't need them, but opposed measures to support the general population suffering from loss of incomes and afflicted with the virus. They operated as they did before the virus by sucking money out of the government that would otherwise have gone to helping people in need. As Martin Luther King said socialism for the rich and rugged free enterprise capitalism for the poor.

The 2008 financial crisis is an example of how a few created the crisis by creating problematic investments that triggered the collapse and consequential widespread suffering, then ensured they received generous handouts to those same companies and suffered no consequences for their actions. If we are to stop the cyclic damage created by such selfishness, we must make sure the selfish are not able to have such influence. Their rise to power is always littered with evidence of their characters so it should not be difficult to find ways of curtailing their rise.

The real problem is that many are very narcissistic and so have made their successes tied to their personalities, so making out that such success is not possible without them. This self-aggrandising has helped them to gain a lot of popularity, making it difficult to get popular support for curtailing their negative influence. Popular heroes, even if severely flawed, are difficult statues to pull down because many don't want to see their bad sides as it would undermine some aspects of their own beliefs about what it takes to be successful.

It took centuries to finally get public recognition that many past heroes were really terrible and dangerous people, and yet many don't want to acknowledge that because their present life rests largely on the widespread suffering created by those so-called heroes. Ruthless successful people are still idolised by many, and until that idolatry can be undone in real time, their nefarious actions will continue.

It will take concerted efforts to continually point out what the real results of letting these psychopaths run rampant in our societies are, and how those personality traits are unworthy of idolisation, let alone our trust.

Beware

Don't trust anyone who values money more than your life!

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