I’ve written a lot that at first might seem critical of capitalism. At least one reviewer of my book even commented that I must be a hidden socialist. Far from it. As I’ve made clear in the book, I am a fan of capitalism. I’m a fan for a few reasons but especially because there is no other system of economics that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty as capitalism has. Capitalism is one of the fundamental reasons for this success story. Additionally, along with good governance and to an extent charitable giving, capitalism is also a fundamental reason for some major global health improvements.
Capitalism’s Problem: Too Strong of a Profit Motive
That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see big societal level changes in the way we live our lives. At the heart of the dilemma driving our health crisis is the strong profit motive that drives the economic engine. When nearly everyone’s subsistence depends on profit, a lot starts to go wrong. Why so? Because effectively profit becomes the only aim. When you depend on your income to put food on the table and provide a secure shelter for your family, you’re inclined to do whatever it takes. As Upton Sinclair once said, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it”. I would add, especially so if he has to depend on his salary to meet his day to day living expenses.
Softening the Profit Motive
The Majority of the World’s Employees are “Quiet Quitting”
Think about it this way. If you did not have to work to meet your daily living obligations, would you settle in for work at a job you find monotonous and boring? What if that job is also devoid of meaning? What if on top of that you suddenly see much more clearly that the product you’re making is causing harm – making children obese and creating record cases of diabetes among the population?
Re-engaging our Workforce
When one is financially free of their employers, one is able to see things from a different vantage point: they effectively are able to take their blinders off. Then the reverse of Upton Sinclair’s saying becomes true: it’s much more easy to convince a man to understand something when he does not depend on his salary to meet his daily expenses. Suddenly you are not so ready to compromise your integrity for the sake of profit. Moreover, the work you do choose to do is work that you are passionate about. That translates to better performing companies.
Today the ruling elite of the capitalist society are those who are financially independent of their employers. I just want what they have for everybody. I suggest that most of us can do that by purchasing assets that appreciate in value over time. That’s not socialism. That’s capitalism.
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.