There sure seem to be a lot of people trying to get rich quick these days, with many of them employing methods that are unethical, immoral, or downright criminal. Injustices abound, but those that involve making and keeping people poor are everywhere, and have become so blatant that some of them have even been written into the laws. So why are so many people trying to take advantage of others, and of a legal system increasingly rigged to increase the profits of billionaires and billionaire corporations, with an expectation that they can become rich?
Copying success is normal, but conservative media pushes an unrealistic world view. Obviously, if you see someone achieving something that looks good to you, you will think about emulating them, and economic security (let alone real wealth) is foreign enough to most of us these days that it looks very attractive. That is simple human nature, but then you add to it the pervasive conservative propaganda of the last few decades, which emphasizes in subtle but persistent ways that we can all be billionaires, or at least very wealthy. The realities reveal the lie in that, however. If you look around the United States today there are more and more people living in poverty. Once one loses the ability to pay for internet access, for instance, one has a much tougher time finding a job or self-educating. Sleazy people prey upon the gullible and vulnerable in such a system, and the poor are taken advantage of at every step of the way by not just predatory companies, but even by their own local governments. Conservative propaganda both vilifies those in poverty, calling them lazy and “leeches on the system”, even as the system itself keeps them poor.
“One in a million” means a lot more when the population is in the billions. With such a huge population, even if sociopaths are 1% of the population, it means there are about 75 million of them worldwide and 3.3 million of them in the United States. They get educated and seek to climb the economic ladder like every else, except that they have a critical advantage: they are incapable of empathizing or sensing the feelings of others, even when they are directly, visibly harming them. This gives them a critical advantage in the competitive world of capitalism, and many rise to positions of power and influence, where they use their means to change laws and economic systems in ways that benefit them, without regard for the welfare of others. Combine this with the errant business school teachings that began in the 1970’s, saying that the shareholder is the intended beneficiary of corporate profits and ignoring the welfare of the other stakeholders in the situation: customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and others not directly sharing in the profits, and you have a self-perpetuating, systemic problem.
Short-sighted entities think they can get away with cheating when markets are large. Back in the 1970’s I lived in a college town and rode my bicycle everywhere. I frequented several bicycle shops, and one in particular, located next to central campus, taught me a lesson about the attitudes of people in the era of population explosion. I had bought a new bike at that shop, and had to take it back for some adjustments and minor repairs. When I got it back it appeared to have been repaired with a pair of slip-joint pliers instead of proper tools – every nut and even the spokes had been chewed round by the jagged plier jaws, ruining them. I was given the bike back in that state and I was quite angry. I went to the front of the store and complained to the owner, and he offered to fix the problem if I paid him to do it – an insult. I got nowhere with him – he was a real jerk – and when I left I realized he was used to dealing with students who would be living in the town for between one and five years, that there would be a new crop of them every Fall, and that he didn’t care if he cheated them as he expected they would be gone from the area soon anyway. THIS is the feeling I get from a lot of businesses nowadays who deal with mass markets – they aren’t worried about cheating their customers because they feel there will always be more. It isn’t that “there’s a sucker born every minute”, it’s that there are a hundred thousand potential “suckers” born every minute and businesses no longer care much if they anger them – there will be more new and unsuspecting customers coming in just a minute.
The United States is still leading the way … downwards. It’s clear that the United States economic system (and probably the world’s by extension) has been increasingly rigged to benefit corporations and the very, very rich since at least the Industrial Revolution that began after the American Civil War. Since the 1950’s the expanding mass media of the electronic age has been employed to slant the playing field more and more against the poor and middle class, convincing many to vote against their own best interest, manipulated by fear into supporting the very party organization oppressing them, which is itself largely a puppet of big business. As the population explodes and conservatives slowly degrade public education by cost cutting and competition from corporate charter schools, among other means, the population becomes not just larger but also poorer, less well-educated, and more defenseless. Then sociopaths and sociopathic corporate entities can take advantage of them, increasingly sub-optimizing the system and profiting at everyone else’s expense.
The phenomenon is global, however. Even some countries have been caught in the downward economic spiral (think Greece, for one). Rich, sociopathic, and powerful people and corporations are taking advantage of the masses of poor people provided by the population explosion and increasing economic inequality in every way possible. They use complex laws and banking regulations, which were created or enhanced by bank industry lawyers, to compound their advantage over individuals. They would have a lot more trouble doing this if the global population was, perhaps, well below a billion and stable, instead of above 7.5 billion and, more importantly, accelerating at the highest rate in human history.
The final question remains in spite of the global turmoil and increasing economic decline: are we smart enough, as a species, to bring our population numbers under control before we poison and starve ourselves into a global economic collapse? Or will we be undermined at every turn by self-interested corporations and billionaires looking to increase their profits at the expense of everyone else, and be unable to stop our species from turning our planet into a stinking hot hell of starvation, disease, poverty, and endless war?
Thanks for reading – your comments are welcome. — Tim