Profits, markets and a thoughtful vacation

Greed twists eternal in the human breast
But the market has no brain
It doesn’t love it’s not God
All it knows is the price of lunch
-Bruce Cockburn, You’ve Never Seen Everything (2003)

Somewhat unintentionally, my visit to Brazil this time has been a very thoughtful event.  I have had very enlightening conversations about the seasonal ‘EI’ workers in Rio de Janeiro (sounds a lot like New Brunswick, I’ll tell you the story sometime), corruption, self-sufficiency, profits, markets and culture.

All content for future blogs, I guess.  But after a marathon session of Bruce Cockburn on my Ipod I remain convinced that artists play a critical role in ensuring we think about life beyond the purely economic.  In Maslowian terms, self-actualization is not an economic construct.

It would be a bland world without open criticism and ultimately one where power would be abused.

I don’t like it one bit when people distort facts, drag reputations through the dirt and do just about anything else to manipulate public opinion but it remains a fundamental part of the society I want to live in.

Ultimately good ideas will win in the end.  If they don’t, that is the price we must pay in a democratic and open society.

I believe in the critical role of markets to facilitate economic transactions.  I believe in the role of profits to incentivize hard work, innovation and risk-taking.  But I do not believe these two in and of themselves are enough to have the kind of society I want to live in. 

I want to live in a society where there is no grinding poverty – even if it requires straight income transfers.  I want to live in a society with little crime even if we have to carve off more of our income to make it happen.  I want to live in a place where entrepreneurs can thrive and willingly turn back some of their wealth into the community.




1 thought on “Profits, markets and a thoughtful vacation

  1. Interesting thoughts, I’m a big fan of your idealism. However, having grown up in New Brunswick and living now in Canada I do have to question the assumptions that ‘good ideas win in the end’ OR that we live in an open and democratic country. Both of those ideas are pretty much up for grabs right now.

    On the other points, I see people work hard all the time, and not for ‘profits’. Actually, the HARDEST I ever work is on volunteer projects. VERY few people in our society do that, and its often a bizarre notion of ‘hard work’ that people have. It’s also typically not THOSE people who are doing the innovating, as your post on Scotland shows-offering publicly created ideas up for private auction dirt cheap is hardly ‘innovation’. The ‘risk taking’ is an interesting concept, but a look at recent bailouts shows that there is little ‘risk’ in some of the biggest corporations.

    It’s a whole different world than the one we grew up in, it isn’t even any longer a definite fact that its ‘we’ who have to give up more in order to pay to eliminate poverty and crime. Actually, MOST of the crime in Canada would be eliminated outright if drugs were simply decriminalized. As for poverty, here in Kitchener-Waterloo we recently got our own CBC affiliate. Yesterday had two feature stories. The first was the fact that although the tech industry has surged, the population which has had to use homeless shelters has TRIPLED in the past five years. On the other hand, it was also announced that ‘Ion’ was selected as the new name for the upcoming ‘light rail urban transit’ system. This is a multi billion dollar public expense that the regional government has had on the front burner for about a decade-a rail transit system that travels north – south, when most of the urban traffic in the city travels east-west, and virtually NOBODY amongst the public supports it or plans on using it (according to numerous surveys). And that despite the fact that there already is a train track running through the city.

    In Fredericton it was a similar story with the ‘convention center’, in Saint JOhn it was the police station, no doubt you can find an example in Moncton (or will soon). Homelessness ranks pretty far down the list, so its not even a question of whether WE have to give up something.

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