Perceptions by Gerry Warner
Ain’t capitalism wonderful! When it comes to making money, there’s no system like it.
Good ol’ free enterprise. Look at what it has done. Huge fortunes. Huge buildings. Huge profits. Hell, it even produces huge people like Donald Trump! Look at the huge fortune he accumulated and all the huge buildings he’s built. One is going up in Vancouver right now and maybe he’ll build one in Cranbrook someday. And Trump may even become president.
Wouldn’t that be huge!
And Trump isn’t the only huge capitalist. Why there’s Martin Shkreli, a 32-year-old hedge fund manager on Wall Street who was hugely in the news last week after his New York-based company Turing Pharmaceuticals jacked up the price of its anti-infection drug Daraprim from $13 to $750-a-pill after acquiring the company that originally made it. Then he boosted the price of an HIV pill by 4,000 per cent, an increase far beyond the mere word “huge.” Asked by a reporter about the gargantuan increases, he replied they were “a great business decision” for the share-holders and then called the reporter a “moron” for asking.
Arrogance like this knows no bounds.
Then there’s Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn who resigned this week after it was revealed that special software surreptitiously installed by Volkswagen enabled das diesel bugs to emit up to 40 times the legal emissions limit. Need I say that’s a huge increase and one that’s going to cost Volkswagen billions in fines, legal suits and engine fixes and possibly the company itself.
Free enterprise may be free, but it doesn’t come cheap.
And in case you think the Volkswagen debacle is no big deal consider the ignition switch scandal that engulfed General Motors for almost a decade and cost that company $900 million to fend off criminal prosecution and $575 million in civil suits. Now you may say that’s a huge amount of money and the company got its just desserts. But did you know that by cooperating with the prosecutors GM avoided billions more in criminal fines and suits for an engine defect that is linked to the loss of at least 169 lives?
Consumer advocate Clarence Ditlow, head of the non-profit Center for Auto Safety, said GM officials “walked off scot-free while its customers are 6 feet under." According to court papers GM engineers knew of the ignition problem as far back as 2005, but company officials higher up decided to stay silent and “manage” the bad publicity that arose from public complaints. And this is the company that taxpayers in Canada and the U.S. spent billions on to bail out after it went bankrupt in the Great Recession of 2008-09.
Doesn’t that give you a huge amount of satisfaction?
I could go on, but I think you get my drift. The free market, demand-driven, capitalist system that we live in today has produced the richest society the world has ever known. Even the poorest among us living on welfare and food banks are “rich” compared to the billions in the world living on a dollar-a-day. And our top two per centers are rich beyond what what the rest of us can imagine. Yet there’s something wrong with this picture.
The West is rich, but the bodies of children are washing up on the beaches of Europe while we attend to our investment portfolios and indulge in consumerism that fill up our houses and yards with “toys” that we don’t really need. This is a global disparity that can’t go on forever. The poor and wretched of the world are moving towards us in the thousands and soon in the millions.
And that’s going to be a “huge” problem in the near future unless we start tempering capitalism with compassion and empathy because capitalism alone doesn’t care. It only cares about making money.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and free thinker.