I often hear the argument, usually from those on the political left, that Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Food, Big Oil or Big Industry of choice is to blame for our health, financial or other predicament. In this scenario, the individual is powerless against a monstrous global giant out to make profit for themselves at the public’s collective expense. They cheat, bend the rules, curry favor with politicians, lie, and steal to secure their market share.
Big Business is enabled by Employees & Consumers
Sadly, in some cases, I think there’s a lot of truth to that. You almost have to be blind not to see that. But the part I disagree with is the notion that the individual is powerless against Big Business. No, we enable big business both as consumers and as employees.
Here’s the deal. At the top of any individual Big Business there may be (though thankfully not always) a group of greedy, lying, cheating, despicable executives running the show but below them are tens of thousands of employees who actually make the business function. It turns out these so called powerful executives are powerless without willingly engaged employees.
Big Business is Powered by Employees
Most Employees are Working for Money
These employees work hard to put food on the table for themselves and their families. They are not looking to cheat anyone but need to do what they do to make their living. They are no different from you and I. They are honest, hard working Americans looking to do the best they can for themselves and their families.
Do they know that they are harming the public with their products? Probably. Not much different in their eyes than someone selling ice cream is harming the public. No one is forcing anyone to buy cigarettes. It’s the beauty of America that we have the freedom to do what we want and purchase what we like. That said, most of them probably do not work because they are passionate about the cigarettes they are selling. They work simply to earn a living.
Now, imagine a hypothetical scenario by which a large portion of the workforce at Phillip Morris is financially independent of their employer. That means that even if they stopped working for the company, they will have the money they need to meet their daily expenses. Suddenly, what you would see is that employees would quit their jobs at Phillip Morris in droves. Why so? Once again because they are not passionate about the product they are selling. Many find their work to be meaningless. Some would even wonder about the ethics of their life’s work.
The Financially Independent Work for Passion
This gets to a larger point that people who are financially independent of their employers largely work differently from those who are financially dependent on their employers to meet their day to day expenses. Those few among us, like the uber wealthy, who would never run out of money to meet their day to day expenses even if they stopped working, work largely because they are passionate about the product or service they are selling. For them, money is more like a pleasant side effect. In contrast, the vast majority of us, who are dependent on our employers for our day to day expenses, work for money. The product or service is instead the side effect. This state of affairs has huge implications across our economic system. It has serious consequences our planet, for biodiversity, and for our own wellbeing.
Mindless Consumerism is to Blame
So who or what is to blame then? Mindless consumerism. As it turns out we do not need to be uber wealthy to achieve financial independence. As I’ve written extensively in previous posts, we have just come to normalize all sorts of standards of living that we assume are essentials today (larger houses, garages, air-conditioning, chairs, utensils, dressers, etc) that are actually unnecessary and often harmful for ourselves. Ask any hunter-gatherer what it is they lacked in order to live life to the fullest and their list of wants would be very short: food & water, security, and some basic healthcare. The fact is that the majority of us can, should, and are able to save the large majority of our income to become financially independent of our employers for our day to day expenses.
Societal Change is in our own Interest
BOTTOM LINE: THERE IS A BETTER WAY!
- As John Maynard Keynes said a century ago, people of our time ought to be largely independent of our employers for our income – unfortunately, due to “mindless consumerism”, we are not.
- Mindless consumerism is the underlying reason leading to the rise of chronic disease for 3 major reasons:
- It ties us to dependence on our employers and modern day employment is a health hazard for most (in part due to the sedentary nature of most jobs).
- It has led to environmental changes toxic to our wellbeing:
- (a). We evolved in and are best suited to natural environments and instead we live in increasingly artificial environments.
- (b). Overconsumption has lead us to engineer out the need for meaningful use of our legs for ambulation.
- Finally, it transforms workers to work with blinders on – instead of working for the product or service and receiving money as a side effect, workers focus on making money and the product or service is instead the side effect. The results (with respect to health) is that “food” is no longer food but changed to maximize pleasure and extract profit in spite of the toxicity to our health.
- Based on the science of wellbeing one can derive the philosophy that once basic needs are met, “The best things in life are free” therefore —>
- Most people can live far below their means without sacrificing happiness AND by investing the rest, they can become financially independent of their employers enabling them to be —>
- Happier. Healthier. Wealthier. More engaged. Simply better.