Saturday, April 22, 2006

If these are the capitalists, we're all in trouble

"Anyone who thinks we're all Reagan/Thatcherites now should read what our business leaders have to say.

William Watson, We don't work for 'team' Canada:

Most of us go to work in the morning because we like to get out of the house, because we have mortgages, because there are orthodontist's bills and school and summer camp fees to pay, because we'd like to go on a nice vacation now and then, because we're thinking of maybe buying a cottage, because we don't want to be poor in retirement and also, many of us, because we enjoy the work we do and the company of our colleagues.

To read the speeches and articles of leading business executives published in Canadian Business Leaders Speak, the quarterly compendium sent out by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, you'd think it was all about Canada.

One leader says that in order to "race successfully in the global marketplace" we need to be like Lance Armstrong. No, not take drugs, but rather have "goals and a plan to achieve them." We need a "national vision" and "bold decisions." We need to "break out of the pack and win the global economic race." Another says we need to "aggressively [stake] out global positions in value-adding industries" and believes "our manufacturing base is our best platform for Canada's sustained global competitiveness." (No surprise here. His company is a major manufacturer.)

Our CEOs are very impressed with China. Sure, it's authoritarian and denies basic civil liberties, but it has "coherent government technology policies and strong investments in science and engineering education, basic research and other pieces of infrastructure." Another says "China, Brazil and India are engineering strategies today to get [our manufacturing] industries on their own soil." Still another says we ignore "the incredible potential of China, India and other markets at [our] peril." ("China" and "peril" in the same phrase has unfortunate historical precedents.)

And they're very, very communitarian. "We all need to work collaboratively within our areas of expertise to help focus the business community and governments on the issues that can positively affect our productivity." We need "to pull together and do our part to ensure prosperity.... By working as a team ... we can truly build a better world."

Teamwork. Competing against other countries. Improving Canada's international ranking. Taking on Italy, Spain, Germany, China, Brazil, India. These people don't really want to be CEOs. They want to coach our Olympic team.

In a paper that's making a big splash in Canadian history departments these days, a neo-Marxist at Queen's (there's a contradiction in terms!) argues historians have totally missed the main theme of the past century of Canadian history, namely, the emerging hegemony of liberal individualism. Oh, really? Anyone who thinks we're all Reagan/Thatcherites now should read what our business leaders have to say. It's all about national economic performance, teamwork, moving ahead together. One says we shouldn't worry so about Alberta's oil wealth because, in the end, we all share it via equalization. Another does actually spend two paragraphs talking about the importance of profits, but then follows them up with six about how good corporate behaviour trumps profits.

Doesn't anybody here believe in capitalism?


Pietr said...

There is an entire layer of bullshitters obscuring the corporate heights.
They're just a bunch of Jim Taggarts.
Poncing off us, whom they carefully keep just short of financial independence so we won't stop working.

Fortunately Canada is big and the reins must be looser.

Lisa said...


"Fortunately Canada is big and the reins must be looser."

Not necessarily. Remember, Russia is the largest country in the world.

Pietr said...

Yes.But it took a three-year civil war to install Bolshevik terror.
Good point though.

Graham said...

Small point of fact:
Alberta's oil revenues aren't equalized across the conutry. Equalization payments are set to a five province standard (excluding Alberta and the maritime provinces) and are paid out of federal coffers. Alberta's resource revenues aren't part of the federal tax base.

bonnie abzug said...

Rather more than a small fact, I'd say.

Let me add my own small fact. Very few, if any, of the (mostly) men represented by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives are capitalists. Most, if not all, are merely employees - stock options notwithstanding.

Pietr said...

I'm bored with this 'capitalist' non-definition bullshit.
"You aren't a capitalist because you/aren't rich/don't wear a top hat/ don't tie maidens to railway tracks/don't twirl your moustaches."
etc etc.
I find it rather a stretch to believe that people honestly don't know that a capitalist is a believer in a certain kind of politics.
I find it very easy top believe that there are people trying to re-instate the 1920s lies put out by 'the movement' all those years ago.

bonnie abzug said...

And I find it rather a stretch to believe that people honestly don't understand that a capitalist is a participant in a certain kind of economic arrangement. Whether it bores you or not, nostrums delivered by a group of persons who are not the owners of the means of production, but merely employees, bore me nearly to death. Personally, I have no interest in re-flogging the foundation myths of this economic arrangement. For good or ill - and I think mostly for good - capitalism is clearly ascendant. But, to my way of thinking, that doesn't absolve us of the need to critically examine both the arrangement and the outcomes flowing from this arrangement. We have to look to models that work, even if they don't work perfectly. Of course, this is the other side of politics - the difficult part; at some point, abstraction must come face to face with reality.

Just don't get me going on globalisation....

Pietr said...

Bonnie, Capitalism is not particularly bothered who owns the means of production when an economic rather than political system.
Capital is an aggregation of money; money is a store of human action.
Capital, therefore, is an amount of human action.
Talking as though capitalism were merely an economic system, anybody who commands the Human effort afforded by Capital, is a Capitalist-including Stalin,although his 'shortcut' abolished money and substituted dictat.The political part is where who gets to command is concerned.
Power with ownership is limited by competition and ability; Power without ownership is just naked power.

bonnie abzug said...

Hardly, not on this planet, really?, perhaps, and exactly.