Market, Market on the Wall, Will You Take Care of Us All?
..…market processes versus American principles
By Michael Krajovic. From UPLIFTING AMERICA series
(Note: This article is from an American perspective using Wall Street examples, but it is applicable to world markets and economies.)
It seems with every passing year, the primary focal point of our society becomes more about the financial Market. It influences almost everything we do and impacts everyone and everything. If the Wall Street Market is doing well, our country is doing well, or at least we believe it to be true. We can’t imagine modern life without it, but for most of human existence, life did go on without it. Somehow slowly over time it has crept into society to become the gatekeeper, the key to the success of our people, our businesses, our economy, our country and the entire world. And so the question of the day is – “Will the Market take care of us all?” Will pulling our collective resources to do everything we can to make sure the Market does well , solve our problems and ensure the social advancement we all want to lead to greater individual freedom and personal happiness? Will the Market satisfy our physical, mental and spiritual needs as human beings? All three are important to creating lasting human happiness which is the core American intention. The answer to this question will determine the future of our world.
By our actions we believe it will. We believe it is Wall Street – the banks, the stocks and the investments – and all of the money which drives our economy, drives our well being. The dominating thought of today is the more money we have, the greater our freedom and well being. And so it drives individual, business and governmental action. We want unlimited, continuous economic growth. The goal of publicly traded corporations, many international in scope, is to do well in the Market as determined by their stock price performance. They put millions and billions into political elections and lobbying efforts to influence government so their companies do well in the Market. These corporations control most of the small businesses that are now dependent upon them as sub-contractors; and combined they make up most of the businesses and employees in our country. So nearly all businesses, big and small, are either directly or indirectly controlled or impacted by their desire to do well in the Market.
Now add in the millions of shareholders who hope and pray that the Market does well and millions more with pensions that are dependent upon it for their retirement, and the result is that most of population is somehow connected with or dependent upon the Market. We can’t forget the millions of people employed in the financial industry who make a living off this entire process. Finally add the trillions of dollars of government spending which is trillions of dollars of revenue for many of these large corporations in the defense, construction, medical and agriculture industries and there is a direct link between government and the Market. Willing or not, every tax payer becomes another stakeholder of the Market. No wonder why we make it our major focal point in society.
The funny thing is, that even though we as society seem to be driven to supporting the Market, we can’t decide how best to do it. It is as if it was like some ancient deity that demanded to be worshiped with the personal sacrifices of our hard work so companies can make greater profits, so we can make our loan debt payments and pay our taxes, but even after all this collective effort by hundreds of millions of people, we still cannot agree how best to support it. Our best leaders, our best economists, our best CEO’s and our best professors cannot come to a consensus as what to do. It seems to have an unpredictable personality. Sometimes it is up, and sometimes it is down. In fact, economist and financial analysts study human emotions and how they impact the market. We are more anxious, fearful, and suspicious of the Market than ever before. We want to feed it, nurture it, but we argue and fight for political control to determine who will get to try to influence what they feel is the right way to care for the Market.
Meanwhile more people are losing wealth than are gaining it. They are falling further behind economically. Our country seems more divided, angrier and more depressed than ever before. Those that have gained wealth in the United States, the country with the biggest Market, in the last 10 years represent only a very small percent of the population. The remaining 95+% are more pessimistic about their future than in many generations. More people are losing their jobs than those that are able to find equivalent jobs. More people are working harder and yet are still financially further behind.
In summary, the Market does not seem to be working so well anymore, but no one seems to know how to fix it, or at least been able to develop a consensus to at least try something with everyone pulling together in same direction, to give our best to make it work. How has something that really did not even exist in the human race until just a few generations ago, grow into such complexity and dependency that all the king’s men and all the king’s horses can’t seem to put it back together again to work for everyone?
So with something that is so pervasive in our lives, we, us common folk, not the Wall Street power brokers, should take a closer look at what it is. We know that a market use to be a place where buying and selling occurred. In current times however it has become a place of investment and speculation where investors compete against each other trying to guess what will happen next to see who can make the most money. This money is not earned the same way the average person or our forefathers worked, but created simply through betting or speculation.
Even flakier is that even if someone should guess right and the stock price increases, the increase itself might be simply based on the perception that the stock price should be going up in the future, without any real or current financial justification for it to do so. The massive computerized buying and resulting “flash crashes” try to capitalize on guessing how investors might financially react based on their perceptions of current and future events. Or maybe the rise in stock prices simply represents a shift of more investment dollars into the stock Market because other investment options like traditional savings rates in banks are too low.
Sometimes the increase in stock price is actually determined by actual corporate profits. These profits are generated by either increased revenues or decreased costs. Either way, there is usually someone, a competitor, who loses on the other end which translates into benefit or revenue for the winning company. For example, the company might add new technology to become more efficient at the expense of some employees losing their job. Sometimes new technology could help a company add more market share and employees at the expense of some other company’s profits and employees.
We call all of this advancement. Some of it is good; some of it is bad. But would it not be a higher standard of human society if we were able to make product and technological advancements without the negative impacts on others? Today we accept this form of advancement as the unavoidable norm, without any consideration that it could possibly be different. Perhaps in the future, the level of advancement in society will be measured by both how it advances and what it considers advancement.
This is not to acknowledge that many of our technological advancements have improved the human condition. Two hundred workers being able to produce the same amount of steel in a factory that eighty years ago would have employed 20,000 is not a bad thing. Rather than having men work in dangerous exhausting environments doing exhausting and dangerous, manual labor, would it not be better if they were freed to pursue other methods of contributing to society? Of course it would, but was society able to accommodate them? Some yes, but many no. Even eighty years later, the best our most accomplished business and economic advisors can do is urge people to get higher degrees, learn an advanced technical skill, another language, or “just do something to give yourself a competitive advantage” over other job seekers in order to be able make it in today’s Market economy. While this is all very true and good advice for the way we operate the world, what do the other 90% of the people do who were not fortunate enough to have access to more education or be in the right place at the right time to be hired? What are they to do when there is only one job opening for every 100 applicants? Is this really the best our society can do? Yes it is based on the way we let our current Market process run our society. We are all experiencing this either as participants or witnesses of events that are unfolding right now.
As mention when using this Market process, it is very difficult to realize gain without someone somewhere losing. For example, a stock price could go up in the Market because the company moves to a new location or overseas to lower labor costs at the expense of the original employees losing their jobs. It would be unfair to say it always happens, but it is becoming much more pervasive in the modern world. We can look at some developing countries as an exception, but they are developing simply because they have natural resources that someone else wants to develop to make a profit, otherwise there is little interest by international corporations and the financial Markets to invest in their economies. Because they are either too desperate for economic activity or just unsophisticated to the potential harm of specific industrial processes, this often comes at the expense of their environment and their quality of life.
It is time for us to question whether our Market driven society is really working for or against society. Market, Market on the Wall (Street), Will You Take Care of US All? Obviously some believe yes. These are almost always the people who are the financial winners in the competitive Market. They have unbending faith in the Market to take care of society, and like any good fundamentalist, they consider it blasphemous to think otherwise. In fact, it is even sinful, un-American, anti-capitalism, un-patriotic to even question the Market. People who do are demonized as evil fascists, communists, Marxists or socialists meant as some ugly cultural slur.
They are as, if not more, fervent in their beliefs and faith in the Market than the God of their religions. They live and fight for the right of the Market to remain free and unregulated to do whatever it wants. Most religion as it is taught is after all a poor attempt to regulate human behaviors. Whether it is government regulation or moral regulation, it is viewed as an impingement of their freedom to do whatever the y want, when they want, regardless of the consequences to anyone or anything. They don’t want to hear that their behaviors might be morally wrong and so they run to their best defense – their belief in the free Market. But when the Market worshipers say they want freedom which sounds great, they are really saying – continue to allow people like themselves, the CEOs’s and corporations to generate as much wealth for themselves as possible. If someone has to win, it might as well be them. If they do well, some truly believe the rest of the people will do well too, by making a living off of their investments and expenditures. But just how much stuff can a wealthy person buy and consume? The economic data shows that this “trickle down” theory has actually turned into an upward flood of wealth for just a few.
As a result, many of the rich are more convinced than ever, reinforced by their personal experiences, in their beliefs that the Market itself is the key to a free society because they have enough money to buy and do whatever they want. If they could do it, so should everyone else. Due to their financial success, they feel they have achieved a higher level of freedom. Somehow they can’t see that even the amount that trickles down is a form of dependency with the poor dependent upon the expenditures of the rich. And it is even a more repugnant form of dependency in that it is all based on individuals who have enough, to want more, to buy more, to spend more, to have more. But it is never viewed as dependency if the less fortunate are dependent upon their purchases and investments. It is only dependency when it is government expenditures that the poor rely upon.
As a positive sign, some of the super wealthy have begun to realize that their wealth really can’t buy them anything more that they can use. As a result, they are giving sizeable portions of their wealth away. While it is a positive trend, it is still a form of dependency. People really don’t want to be dependent upon the charity of the wealthy to survive. They should have the freedom to participate in society and earn their living without the need for either government or private charity. Let the charity be used for special projects for the common good of all people, but it should not be the mainstay of the economic system. Similarly, dependency upon the expenditures of a tiny percent of the world’s population should not be the key economic component of society because of the fundamental failures of the Market to provide opportunity to tens of millions of people nationally and billions of people worldwide. Yet this is exactly the type of world we have created where the Market has become the primary guiding principle of society, especially in the United States of America where millions of people are dependent upon either government spending, charity or what is left of trickle down spending. Most people don’t realize it even though their lives revolve around it. Still others swear by it.
Most of these Market worshipers confuse the Market with the notion of free enterprise, believing they are the same. Some are not confused, but say it to confuse others to get them to buy into supporting their own plan to increase their personal wealth. They do not want any social, moral, ethical or governmental interference to prevent them from gaining power and influence over their competition in the Market. Unfortunately, their competition just happens to be someone else’s free enterprise.
What they don’t realize is that they have become confused between the concepts and principles of free enterprise and the Market. The Market is a manmade process and free enterprise is a principle to believe in and live by. The Market process, or any societal process, should be guided by high principles such as the belief that people should be free to choose their enterprise. Today this idea of freedom in the Market has degraded into the idea that everyone is allowed to do anything to anyone in the pursuit of profits, even if it limits someone else’s opportunities to pursue an enterprise to earn money which is needed today to increase their personal freedom. In other words, the winners of the economic game just don’t make more money; they take freedom away from others, something they say they believe in. This lack of principles has led to the establishment of massive financial industries that thrive off the work of others, making money off of money, or monopolies that have grown in size and influence that they are now almost dictating government policies and programs for their benefit at the expense of common people who are losing wealth and freedom at the same time.
In fact, it is this draining of the average consumer’s wealth over time through lower wages, higher prices and greater debt that is the core problem behind the current economic recession. They cannot maintain the same level of consumption to keep the economy going as they have in the past. This can only happen in a system that has become cannibalistic of its own people, communities and countries. Since the search for more profits cannot keep coming from a world that has fewer resources to develop with each passing year, the profits have to be extracted from someone else’s wealth. The odd thing about our Market system, even if consumption could be maintained at high levels to keep the economy going, it ultimately is only temporary. It is not sustainable indefinitely because of the physical and natural limits of the planet. As a finite biosphere travelling through space, it can only handle so much consumption before its systems start to fail. If not enough consumption is bad and too much if fatal, what is the right balance? The Market process that feeds off of consumption does not have answer this question.
So then what are the guiding principles of the Market? If there were any, we all would know them. We would be taught them in school in business and economic classes. We would refer to them to guide us in generating consensus into taking action to fix the Market, because after all, it is the dominating focal point of our modern society.
Obviously there aren’t any guiding principles of the Market, but we act like the Market itself is the guiding principle. “It is the Free Market that we stand for!” cry its proponents. But principles are basic truths, rules of conduct, ethical standards to guide all of humanity to attain higher aspirations and ideals. They are all inclusive, transparent and self evident that stand the test of time. They do not discriminate based on race, socio-economic status, religion, sex or nationality.
The Market however does discriminate. By its very nature it is exclusionary. This is done in levels. The first and largest level are for those who are not wealthy enough to own stock to invest in the Market – more than four fifths of the world’s population. There is only a percentage of the population in each nation, wealthy enough to be investors in the Market. In some countries, almost no one is involved in the Market. These are the people whose lives are impacted the most by the Market, many who are facing hunger as the Market drives up food and energy prices.
Then there is the second level which is made up of the employees with pensions who are not active in the market but are dependent upon it for their retirement. Their pensions are managed by others. The third level is small and medium size investors, who have enough money to actively invest in market as individuals, but are not large enough to influence the Market. They are the pawns, at the mercy of the kings of the Market.
The forth level are the financial Wall Street power brokers – the banks, money managers, CEO’s, large investors, the analysts, hedge fund speculators – who control the Market. They control or manipulate it by their buying or selling, through the control of information or by their deal making. The top one or two thousand people worldwide representing the largest mutual funds, hedge funds, pension funds, boards of directors of banks and corporations – control the majority of stocks in the Market. They make decisions that impact all stock prices. This is not an inclusive club, but a very exclusive club of the rich and powerful.
For something that is the focal point of society, why are the vast majority of people at such a disadvantage when it comes to having information and access to the Market and its financial opportunities? The dealings of the Market are not transparent or of equal opportunity. Even the results are hidden never really knowing at any given time who is doing what, why and how much money they are making or losing. The statistical numbers are available for individual stocks and overall market indicators, but the actions of what is influencing the numbers are not really understood. It is not clear of who is doing what, how they are doing it, when they are doing it and why they are doing it. It is all very secret and private. In fact making transactions before others follow is a way to make money in the Market. All of this does not add any intrinsic value to society. It is just a computer transaction. For something so important to the well being of the world, why is this process operated this way? What is its guiding or operating principle?
If people believed that there was a “guiding principle” for the power brokers and the Market to follow, it would be – the maximum pursuit of profits – and nothing more than this. Is this not what we encourage them to do by incentivizing them through stock options and other forms of bonuses? But this is not a guiding principle, it is an objective. It includes no analysis of cause and effect other than the behaviors it seeks to invoke within its own process, no consideration of repercussions on the general welfare of society or the environment and no concern for others especially the competition. In fact maximizing profits is an objective or aspiration for only those that invest in the Market. And as explained earlier, those profits often come at someone else’s expense.
People should not be fooled that the Market is a guiding principle. As a people we are not use to thinking this way. We don’t consciously look to our values and principles to guide our actions. We have lost our focus and are not use to understanding the differences between principles and processes, or between ideals and objectives. The maximum pursuit of profits is nothing more than a description of the purpose of the current Market process. The modern Market is simply a complex, manmade process to maximize profits for investors. In our culture, we do not like to think of it this way and would prefer to think that if it was not for banks and investors willing to put their capital at risk, there would be no opportunity for anyone. And with the current Market process that we use, this is absolutely true. Profits create monetary wealth which in our society determines who gets to do what, when they get to do it and what they get to use when they are doing it. If you are wealthy, you get to use a bigger more expensive house in a more exclusive neighborhood during a certain period of your life. You get to take vacations in exotic locations and do unique things. You get to buy the best seats at performances, and you get to use a private jet instead of a crowded commercial airline.
While maximizing profits may not sound too threatening, after all some people work harder and contribute more t society and therefore deserve more than others, it is still deadly if it becomes society’s guiding principle. Just look at the number of conflicts worldwide at the individual and national levels that are related to money. It is a sign of the immaturity of the human species to allow a process to take control of its destiny. It is childish, unconscious and uncontrolled creation, creating a world of environmental and economic devastation based on the rapid consumption of the world’s resources and the cheapening of the value of human labor contributions, while increasing the value of financial computer transactions, all in the search for more profits.
Even if generating more profits and wealth was the primary goal of our species, don’t we think that we should at least give consideration as to how the profits are generated to determine if the specific method of profit generation is in the best interest of society? We have some laws that are suppose to control the worst abuses, but they are very limited. The forces behind the Market continue to fight any new regulation and laws considering it an infringement on their freedoms.
And so as it exists today, the bulk of the responsibility to manage and control the Market is the role of the financial, economic and monetary systems. As branches of the same tree, they fight to limit the influence of government in their industries. They are a monopoly. With the change in campaign finance laws, Americas’ 2010 election saw more money from the financial sector than ever before to help elect people who would be in favor of getting government to stay out of their interests. These are Americans who have lost their way, those that espouse untruths based on their ignorance and confusion between concepts and principles of free enterprise and the processes of the Market. Some and a growing number are not even Americans, but managers of global corporations that have no loyalty to any country or people. As their global reach has grown, their loyalties have become more individualized on their own self interests. We play this game, pretending that everyone pursuing their own self interests is the best way for society to function, while refusing to admit that we do.
The Market and its controlling systems create behaviors that represent the worst in humanity – like greed, jealousy, hoarding, theft, corruption, stress, depression and now greater dependency on others from charity and the government for the losers in the competitions. Government dependency is something the Market believers say that they are against, while they don’t realize or acknowledge that they are creating it. Some actually believe and teach that greed is what is needed to keep the Market going. While as absurd as this might sound, it is actually very true and accurate as to what the driving motivation is behind the Market. It is what makes it work. If those with money stop wanting to make more money, investment would stop and the world’s economies would crumble. Isn’t it scary to think that this is the mentality which is the driving force behind our world?
It is the act of a primitive species feeding off of itself and the planet’s life support systems at an unsustainable rate that is leading to global destruction of all species, humans included. While we must acknowledge that our Market processes have led to great advancements over the last 50+ years, we must begin to understand that they were achieved with a much smaller world population and a planet full of abundant resources ready where an economic and monetary system based on consumption could thrive. It appears that it was a good ride, but it was predestined to eventually end due to a faulty assumption of unlimited growth and consumption.
The Market process that we all created is based on an operating model that no longer can work for humanity. We have all contributed to problem, becoming willing investors lured into a Market hoping that we all could make a fortune without having to work for it. The 1996 movie – “Independence Day” – does a good job at capturing the idea of aliens from outer space taking over the planet to consume its resources. But the real joke of the movie is that we don’t need alien invaders to do it, we are already doing it to ourselves. As the old saying goes – “We have met the enemy, and them is us.”
It is time for humanity to evolve, to take a giant step to the next level, to begin moving in a new direction with a new goal. Is really tracking which country is generating the highest concentrations of wealth in terms of the number of billionaires really the highest achievement of the human race, the best we can do? But this is how we act. This is who we admire. This is who most people in society want to become. We all want more money to have the freedom to do the things we want to do.
Imagine in a new science fiction movie about the historic meeting between humans and an advanced alien race and the first thing we say is “We have 2000 billionaires on our planet. How many do you have?” While this is comical and sounds absurd based on a epic moment for humanity, it actually frames the insignificance of money and wealth in relation to what we would truly hold as sacred and how we would describe ourselves as a race of beings. But this is what the aliens would expect us to say based on what is observably so in our world as to how we organize, operate and govern in our world. Would it not be a better greeting to say – “Greetings and peace be with you. We value all life including your race. We care for our planet and all plant and animal life forms. We have no disease, poverty or violence. All of our children and elderly are cared for. We are a loving, compassionate race of many different people living together peacefully, passionate about creating new and wonderful experiences on our planet, which we keep in pristine condition because it is our home. Our technology is complex, but simple to use and benefits all humankind and all life on our planet. All our people are able to successfully and freely participate in our societies. Welcome. We are eager to learn about you.”
To achieve this much higher state of existence, we must reverse our present course and establish principles by which to guide our societal processes. We must advance as a species to set higher intentions and goals for ourselves supported by higher values and principles to guide our societal processes, especially our economic and market process. While our leaders can only think about controlling a process like our modern Market through regulations and bigger government and enforcement agencies, ultimately it would best if the Market was operated according to guiding principles that eliminated the need for regulation and big government. A guiding principle such as – “Everyone is free to do what they wish, to freely pursue their enterprise and idea of individual happiness, so long as they do not harm anyone or cause damage to our planet’s life sustaining environment and ecological systems. Everyone is expected to act responsibly, and will be held accountable to do so.” It sounds very simple, but it could take 1000 years to achieve its highest level of implementation.
From this principle, we could start today by evaluating our processes, including the economic, monetary and financial processes of our Market, and make the appropriate adjustments wherever and whenever necessary to lift human civilization to a higher level of existence. This will take a shift in consciousness.
We must first become more aware of who we really are in relation to each other, have a desire to help our neighbor, to see others as part of our own family, the human family, even if they are on the other side of the world. From here we will become aware of what we are doing to each other and our planet, so we can stop doing what we are doing. But even then when we ask the question – “ Market, Market on the Wall, Will You Take Care of Us All?” the answer will still be no, because we will have learned that is only through the principles and values by which we freely choose to live by that ensure we can take care of each other and our planet, not the processes that we use to implement them.
This may sound like a new idea, but it is actually a reminder of what we already know, but sadly have forgotten. America was founded on these principles. Principles that set the intention and purpose of what the rest of the world called – “the American Experiment.” These ideals included establishing a just society that insured the general welfare of all people in a way that fostered freedom for everyone and for future generations. To the contrary, the modern Market is not about justice, it is about every person for themselves. The Market is not about the general welfare of all people, but about people profiting off the labors of others. The Market is not about freedom for everyone, but enslavement of the people to pay off debt and generate profits for the Market. The Market is not about preserving the world for the many including future generations, but liquidating it as quickly as possible for the short lived, physical pleasures of the few. The Market is not about freedom, it is about competition, destruction and consumption for gluttonous gorging on the world’s resources. It is about financial tyranny and enslavement to the captains of finance and mega-corporations.
To revisit America’s founding guiding principles, we just have to look at the opening paragraph of “The Constitution of the United States.” Here is what it says – “WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America.”
It is all right there. It could not be clearer that the purpose of America was to form a new unified group of people into a new country. It was about developing unity, not division. This is what attracted millions to come to America. It was a land of fairness that created opportunity regardless of race, class, religion or ethnicity. It was these ideals, not the pursuit of maximum wealth. This was the guiding intention, and intention directs action. So we should review the guiding principles that they intended us to follow with serious intention and take them to heart as Americans once did. First to realize this high intention to form a more perfect union of people, the country would embrace and establish justice, not just as an afterthought of enforcing laws so that criminals could be brought to justice, but form a society that was just to begin with that would by its own accord, reduce or eliminate the causes of criminal activity. The purpose included developing a unified sense of individual responsibility to the common good to insure domestic tranquility for everyone, not just a few.
Another purpose was to provide for the common defense from all enemies, both domestic and foreign. Today our main enemy is domestic in the form of an out of controlled Market process that we have allowed to be controlled by a few who use their power to influence the very government that allowed it to be created in the first place, simply because we have forgotten our principles. The higher intention of the United States used to be to encourage and promote the general welfare and well being of all people, not just a few. This would be allowed, protected and insured to occur through the establishment of additional guiding principles such as individual freedoms and rights including free enterprise. Finally the Constitution recognizes the importance of sustainability in terms of both the individual and collective responsibility to ensure the same rights, freedoms and opportunities for future generations, our posterity.
Nowhere does it say to allow each person or corporation the freedom to maximize the pursuit of wealth at the expense of others, to disrupt unity, created division, establish classes of citizens – the haves and have nots, disrupt domestic tranquility and dismantle the general welfare of all people and future generations. But this is what the Market is doing. The Market is not taking care of us all. It is destroying us and our world. More accurately stated, this is what we have been collectively creating together as a society. This is also what we can collectively change, starting by going back to the guiding principles that America was founded on. With these guiding principles we can create a renewed sense of intention and establish a grander vision for our societies to achieve.
It will take effort. It will require change. It will take time to live up to what our country originally set out to accomplish. When we get back on track, we can then help bring the same change to the rest of the world, and spread these ideals and principles to all people. From there as a more unified world, we can then begin to take steps to build upon what was started over 200 years ago on our part of the planet called the United States of America, and together uplift all of humanity to exceed the expectations of our forefathers. This is America’s true destiny if it decides to follow it. This is the upheld light of the Statue of Liberty, the “shining city in the clouds” and all the images of America being a light of enlightenment to the rest of the world. This is the true American purpose, a purpose which will overwhelm the simplistic thought that maximizing profits and economic growth is the purpose of the human race. One day in the future we will look back and wonder what on earth were we thinking about back then in the early 21st century when for a period in our history, we let the Market process take over our society.