Sun, Jun

Make Love Not Net Profits


ACCORDING TO LIZ - Yes, this title is derivative of the Sixties’ catchphrase “Make Love, Not War” but it is even more relevant regarding the economy and our lives today. 

It’s still a war – a war to the death. Especially when those without can’t afford shelter let alone healthcare. 

It’s a war bought and paid for by corporate executives who think that they exist in an echelon superior to most Americans and are due massive amounts of power and money while the rest of us, the rest of the world, don’t count. 

Goods are too often produced at the expense of their customers’ livelihoods, and made to be replaced due to shoddy workmanship, cheap construction, a design making it difficult or impossible to repair, or regularly require new hardware as new software upgrades are deliberately made incompatible to render earlier iterations obsolete. 

Business practices for which there is no accountability – mm-hm. Processes that embody wastes of time and resources to justify higher prices and accelerate promotion to the C-suite – yup. 

Companies’ bottom lines and the price of their stock on Wall Street are the golden apples, the Academy Awards that sets them above everyone else, unassailable. In their minds, beyond the rules of our country and Constitution. 

But can corporate behavior be justified only by profit? 

Should the money these companies save by replacing workers with automation or off-shoring go to the corporations and executives… or to the people who lost their livelihoods? 

White collar or blue, most people are still working stiffs, the plebeians to the elite’s patricians. 

What would work look like if our government made companies focus on a different bottom line – of caring for their workers, for the world, and for others? 

What incentives could be developed to make work more satisfying and fulfilling? 

How best could people’s fears that they won't have enough money be addressed? 

How can we upend current corporate mindsets to ensure that appreciation is worth more than the bottom line in the long run than driving stock prices up and down for the benefit of a very few? And the losses of whole economies. 

B-corp advocates and other forward-thinking pundits are calling for a better way, for companies to develop a new bottom line based on progressive ideals that embrace social and environmental responsibility as well as economic viability. 

Some are referred to as benefit corporations, thus B-corps, while others such as Mondragon in Spain are set up as collectives with a holistic approach to their entire community. 

To expand this concept further, institutions need to refrain from focusing on how to maximize power, profit or ego and, instead, develop policies to maximize ethical and environmentally sustainable behavior, and social and economic justice. Within their own operations and in how they interface with their customers, suppliers, and the communities in which they operate. 

What would happen if all prices were adjusted to reflect actual total cost including production, assembly, transportation, labor, health, and damage to the planet? 

Think about it. How much do you want? How many things do you need? And is that driven by real necessity or have you been sold a bill of goods by marketers and the media? 

Too many products are developed to fulfill the desire of people with too much available money seeking to acquire things to fill their unhappiness holes, not what the majority of humans need or even want.

What would happen if we stopped commodifying the financial sector? If we made banking a social good, a concept that people put into through work and volunteering and take out what they need to thrive. 

What if we add in the value of ethical behavior, trust, compassion, generosity, love, and peace among all nations? 

What if we refused to buy overpriced products manufactured in an unsustainable manner, and were adamant that companies had to answer to the people – employees and consumers – to continue operating? 

The original framers of the Constitution called for such an approach but little by little the wealthy and the powerful ate away at these protections in order to enhance personal profits for a few ending with Citizens United granting personhood to corporations and the Trump tax reforms taking money from the poor to give to the rich. 

When America really was great in the post-World War Two years, there was rising and broad prosperity and hope, returning soldiers benefited from college education on the GI Bill, unions were strong, and minimum wage was enough for one salary to support a family. 

There was a social compact under which companies cared for their employees, something that still exists today in many small businesses. Back then in mega-corporations, societal taboos existed against excessive increases in executive pay and bonuses especially when laying off workers and gutting once-thriving companies. No more. 

Because this was before the rise of the consumer mentality driven by Wall Street corporate profiteers hand-in-hand with those wealthy enough to run for government and win or pay for surrogates to do their dirty work. 

Today the global ruling class refuses to depart from the capitalist status quo even as their quest to maximize profits intensifies the climate crisis and the prospects of nuclear war.                                                                                                                               

When a corporate honcho or a wealthy person defines themselves as worthy of their importance and wealth, it very often predetermines them to not hear people say “no.” 

If you ask people what it will take to make them feel better once they’ve risen above the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what they want is not more things but more meaning in their lives. 

People want to feel good about themselves, that they have intrinsic value, and the backing of their communities. 

Yes, we need Maslow’s basic needs of food, shelter and security to be met, but it’s really not economic growth that drives people; it’s a hunger for love, respect and higher meaning. 

Once beyond those basics, decoupling work from survival will allow people to find more meaningful jobs and assuage such hungers.

We need more love to be added to the bottom lines today. 

So… ask not how much you can make for your company, but how much your company can benefit the world.

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions.)

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