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What happens when capitalism lacks a soul?

Gerry Chidiac

BY GERRY CHIDIAC

Lessons in Learning

In recent decades across the globe, the super rich have been getting richer while the middle class shrinks. This is a danger not only to our economy but to democracy itself.

Unfortunately, while millions of people have lost their livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic, the richest of the super rich have seen their assets balloon.

While it would be easy to categorize the rich as bloodsucking parasites void of ethics, this is simply not true. There’s a group in the United States, for example, called the Patriotic Millionaires. Their mission “is to build a more stable, prosperous, and inclusive nation by promoting public policies based on the ‘first principles’ of equal political representation, a guaranteed living wage for all working citizens, and a fair tax system.”

It simply makes sense to have a strong and well-educated middle class and a society that cares for its most vulnerable members. In doing so, we maintain an effective workforce and a stable consumer market. Everyone benefits in the long-term.

The problem is that many of the wealthiest people in our world look only for short-term benefits. They use the political system to legalize structures that allow more and more money to flow into the hands of fewer and fewer people. They don’t seem to realize that this is unsustainable.

Corporations also use the court system to avoid being held responsible for their mistakes. They don’t seem to be concerned with the long-term consequences of these actions. I experienced this first-hand when I bought a vehicle not knowing it had a flaw. While the automaker improved later versions of the vehicle, it didn’t take full responsibility for the fault in earlier vehicles.

I was rather surprised when the automaker refused to cover the repairs on a van maintained at its facilities according to company recommendations and that had been driven under 120,000 km. I was further surprised when they sent a legal expert to my community to argue against me in small-claims court. With no legal experience, I had no chance against a corporate employee who knew how to use the court system to his advantage.

It struck me as very strange that a carmaker wouldn’t realize that as a result of this experience, I would never again feel confident buying one of its vehicles. Judging from the drop in its share of the North American automobile market over the decades, many other consumers seem to have drawn the same conclusion.

Yet misuse of the court system is nothing new to corporations. How many millions of dollars do they spend defending environmental disasters using the best lawyers money can buy?

In essence, we have a legal system that favours the rich and powerful, not a justice system with a sense of ethics.

The wealthy class will also make large tax-deductible donations to organizations that deal with the fallout of the policies caused by their greed. It would be far better for all of us if they simply supported the policies espoused by the Patriotic Millionaires.

Real life isn’t much different than the world portrayed in the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Corporatists are the Mr. Potters of this world, but hopefully there are still enough Bailey Brothers Building and Loans we can do business with.

Mr. Potter’s rent collector points out to him, “One of these days this bright young man is going to be asking George Bailey for a job.”

Corporations have created a structure that’s unsustainable on political, economic, environmental and even spiritual levels.

We still live in a democracy and it’s up to us to support the policies of the Patriotic Millionaires. Capitalism works very well but it can’t be devoid of ethics.

Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac


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