Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life is a new book by Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under Clinton. If you listen to NPR’s Morning Edition or American Public Media’s Marketplace, you’ve probably heard one of his commentaries.
The book delves into the development of US economy during the last century, mostly since the 1950s. His central argument is that the power and influence of capitalism has risen while the power of democracy has declined. We’ve now reached a point where most laws and regulations are passed due to corporate lobbying. Our power as citizens now lies mostly in our ability to make decisions as consumers. He also argues that our never-ending search for a better deal or a lower price forces producers to cut costs, which usually means cutting wages. We’ve created an endless circuit where our search for deals results in the decline of our own wages.
He offers two solutions to the problem:
Become aware of your choices as a consumer and consider paying more to support a company that supports your values. For example, saying you want corporations to help the planet, and then buying an SUV rather than a hybrid undermines your statement of your values and encourages corporations to continue supporting the SUV lifestyle.
Realize that corporations are not people, and therefore should not have the same rights or responsibilities as people. They should also not be expected to act in ways that are “socially responsible.” Corporations are solely charged with producing profits for shareholders. They will only act in the public good when it benefits the bottom line. Pretending anything else is foolhardy. He argues that corporations should not pay tax, but they also shouldn’t have the right to sue to block legislation or be able to donate money to political parties or candidates.
With these concepts in mind, we turn to the articles in the Festival of Frugality. True, we’re all still interested in the deal, but most frugal people understand that being frugal sometimes means spending more to get a better value for a better product or to achieve the kind of world you want to live in.