Posts Tagged ‘Market Forces’

Capitalism versus Biosphereism

The -ism of Capitalism is best described in the following definition of the meaning of the suffix -ism.

A : doctrine: theory: religion <Buddhism>

B: adherence to a system or a class of principles <stoicism>

Hence, Capitalism is best understood as a doctrine/theory/religion or adherence to the same with regard to financial “capital”. We could summarize this by understanding capitalism as a value system, one that places ultimate value on capital. By confusing this value system with the necessity of markets in which goods and services are exchanged, the value of a sustainable biosphere in which all living systems are nurtured is lost.

The remedy to the story that Capitalism has embraced and has been sold and bought by society writ large is a new story, a new name. We need a clear and compelling story about Biosphereism, a doctrine/theory/religion that expresses the values of a sustainable world for all living systems. We need a new class of principles and a new assumption that we will adhere to.

Many people are unaware of the impact of credit card fees on merchants and therefore on us.  When ever you use a credit card, the merchant gets paid, but is also charged a fee for accepting your credit card.  It is not even a fixed fee.  It can vary depending on the size of the perks your card offers you like miles or money back.  The credit card companies promote these benefits, but they don’t have to pay for them;  the merchant does and you do.  Cards are so popular that a merchant has no reasonable alternative.  The rules they must agree to include not offering you a discount for paying with cash.  If they break that rule, their privilege of using credit cards can be withdrawn.  When I learned about some of the details, I was angry.  What could I do?  I had an idea which I currently practice.  If we all followed this practice, we could give some advantage to the small merchants in our community, one of the few they may have competing with multi-national corporations.

It is simple.  When I am ready to pay a merchant, I ask whether or not the merchant is local or part of a national chain.  If they are local, I pay with cash.  If they are part of a national chain, I use my credit card.  I also tell the cashier what I am doing, and I have always been thanked.  On some occasions, I am able to discuss credit card excesses and am usually amazed to learn the local merchant is paying thousands of dollars a month in credit card fees.  In one case, I learned that a local merchant was now being charged to make deposits in her bank which she had to do on a daily basis.

It is a bit of a nuisance to have cash on hand all the time, but it does give me a better feeling for what I am paying for things.  The credit card is just too easy.  But, taking action, however small, like paying cash to local merchants not only gives me satisfaction, but helps the merchant too.  As I have shared this practice with others, I have had feedback that a number of other people too have adopted this practice.  What would happen if we all did?

Cecil Denney

I was fortunate the other day to join a discussion by several workers in the home energy renovation business — the workers, not their bosses or business owners.  It had not occurred to me that because of their level of pay, they were renters.  I have been a home owner for many years, so I guess I never thought deeply about who is not going to be able to own their own home and has to rent.

The house my wife and I bought in Oregon was built in the late 90’s. It has insulation in the floors, walls, and water pipes.  It has several large windows, but they are all double pane and insulate pretty well.  My energy cost, even in cold weather is reasonable.  I think about energy cost when I get my bills for gas and electricity, but not that much between bills.

Landlords who own property to rent generally are expecting to make money on their investment.  They have to keep the property up enough to sustain the level of rent they want to earn.  But one of the hidden costs not included in the rent is the cost to hear and cool an apartment.  If you plan to rent an apartment, you definitely know ahead of time the price of the rent.  However, you don’t know the energy cost.

The energy workers were frustrated.  They were retrofitting peoples homes, but since they had to rent, there was not that much they could do to their own living arrangements.  And, they claimed they were living in high energy cost dwellings.  That’s frustrating.  But, they had an idea.  What if to be listed in the multiple listing service, a rental property had to report not just the rent, but an energy rating so apartments could be compared not only on rent, but the cost of heating and cooling.

I realized that when I have bought and sold homes as I moved, I had asked for that information in the form of the last year’s energy bills.  But it would be better if the multiple listing contained an energy rating.  You know, if that were true, market forces would suddenly come to play in favor of retrofits to save energy.  Instead of ignoring the damage that inefficient use of energy was doing to our environment, people would suddenly see the economic advantage of conservation.

So, how about it.  Do you agree?  Lets start an effort to get energy ratings on rental property and home sales, just like you get Energy Star ratings on appliances!

I read a recent report on Finland’s education success.  It reinforced my own beliefs about how to improve public education.  Finland’s emphasis is not on excellence, but equity.  Yet  this emphasis on equity has rendered them one of the most outstanding educational systems in the world today.  You see, Finland has NO PRIVATE SCHOOLS.

If we outlawed private schools, there would be a sudden national interest in making our public schools excellent.  It is just a simple application of what some call “Market Forces” that all the people who show interest in education, sending their kids to private schools to get a superior education would suddenly be interested in making our public schools excellent and that would include spending a lot more money on education — just like those who are willing to pay big bucks for private schools know needs to be done.

In the public school settings, funds frequently run short.  When that happens, decision makers THINK they are making wise use of funds by cutting programs like chorus, band, and physical education.  What they accomplish is cutting the programs that emphasize cooperative behavior.  That is not learned in the classroom where each student is graded as an individual in competition with other students.  Then, when people enter the working world, they can become individual greedy people, not caring about society as a whole,  because they have not learned the importance of cooperation and fairness.

I was once a manager of a computer center in a small college.  I had a lot of student aides that helped other students in the computer lab.  I also had some students who were working on computer programming problems.  Once, I had a student come to me that had scored a perfect score on the SAT test, said he was good at math and computer programming.  I asked him if he had ever been assigned a task that he could not accomplish.  He said no.  So I assigned him one.  He had to develop a computer program as team leader of a group of other students and he was not allowed to write or suggest a single line of code to address the assigned problem.  He failed.  He had never learned the skill of cooperative behavior, working with a team, being a supportive person.  It may have been the only failure he ever experiences, but demonstrated to him that he could not be successful unless he learned more about cooperation.  Our proponents of private schools also need to learn more about cooperative behavior and societal responsibility.

So, I say, do away with PRIVATE SCHOOLS and let the “market forces” of all those who are using them help us make ALL schools become examples of excellence for all children and youth and help us emphasize the importance of equity in making our society a better place to live.