Thursday, 19 January 2012

Profits at Any Cost?

I wonder why, watching this evening's news, the modern world always insists on a constantly growing economy. We seem to be told at every turn that a modern economy must have growth, and that low growth (say 1%) is all but failure.

Why? Is it because of inflation? Because growth lower than inflation means stagnation? Or is it because Capitalism relies on growing economies to service the debts so much of the economy relies on?

If someone out there intelligent enough to follow all this, and explain it in layman's terms, would be kind enough to explain it I'd be grateful.

As a businessman, if I ran a business that made 100K profit one year and then made another 90K profit the following year, why should that be deemed a failure? I don't understand why we have the constant need for growth, for greater profits, year on year.

As a Catholic I have to wonder if it's better to crave for growth every year, to seek bigger and bigger profits at any cost, when we as a society should surely place prime importance on economic and spiritual well being, safe streets, the stability of families, the condition of the poor.

I know it can sound a bit woolly and I don't go in for hugging trees, but aren't all the above more important than the constant chase after bigger and better profits?

Would we be happier with less profits, but being able to leave our doors unlocked? I've seen in parts of London, homes worth £1 million plus, all shuttered up, with bars on the windows. Is that progress?

Rich prisoners?
It always makes me think of Britain in the industrial revolution. To a few historians and many politicians, those days are painted as wonderful times, the 'good old days' of British Greatness, with the Imperial might of Britain spreading, and engineering feats to take one's breath away. Yet where were the people back then? Forced off the land? Living in slums?

I wonder sometimes if the love of money, aka the relentless charge after more profits, brings about more societal evils? Our Lord said it was the root of all evil -- are we to call Him a liar? Yet the love of money (bigger and bigger profits) seems to be the driving force of Capitalism.

After all, if an energy company can make greater profits by putting up its prices as the elderly face the choice to "eat or heat" through the Winter, how can they condemn a poor kid who chooses the relative wealth and peer group adulation of getting involved in selling drugs over hard slog in school ending in a McJob? OK, I am using an extreme example as one is 'lawful' whereas the other causes untold misery and crime, but you get the point. Immorality breeds immorality. Greed breeds greed.

If we rush to make money, more profits, then greater profits than before -- at every twist and turn -- what time is left for morality, for the moral choices that may mean making less money, to take a slump in profits for the betterment of the Common Good?

It reminds me of a 'joke' an Irish Catholic friend of mine told me. A geezer in his late 20s works part time, but makes ends meet. Nothing fancy. Pays the bills. Spends time with his kids, takes them swimming, fishing, playing football etc. Then his mate comes along and says 'come work for me.' He tells him it's 12 hours a day, six days a week. But if he works real hard with this better wage he can retire when he's 50. His main selling point was that when he was 50 he could then "go fishing, swimming, playing football..." 

Discuss.

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