Twice a month, Le Devoir challenge enthusiasts of philosophy, history and history of ideas to decrypt a topical issue from the theses of a significant thinker.
Means frequently, since what few years, that capitalism is in crisis. A crisis complicating with the severe recession of 2008 who did not do its own, not only in the Europe of the euro, but also to the United States, where she began, a country that has one of the largest debts per capita in the world.
The stampede of many banks, of which several were saved in extremis, or even many malpractice that was discovered in several of them, are just the tip of the iceberg which many signs had appeared at the beginning of the century with the scandals of Elf, France, Enron, Worldcom and Tyco to the United States, Hassan and Nortel to the Canada.
This crisis of capitalism is especially from the enor me concentration of economic power in the hands of the few, concentration predicted by Marx more than a century ago. This power packed on the policy and giving the impression that the bankers and their valets can all afford. With the belief that their company, become too large, could be placed in bankruptcy despite their shenanigans and their indecent bonus.
In the last century, the great capitalists had the least understood than if they did not want to be swept away by the rise of socialism – if communism – not, he had to meet a portion of the population in somewhat sharing their revenues with it, creating at the same time consumers to buy their production. Explaining that a majority of citizens, especially those from the middle class, accepted in return that the income of the richest are 20 or 30 times higher that they receive annually.
However, recent data show that the average wage of the leaders of the 25 largest American companies is around 20 million dollars a year, or $100,000 per business day. To the Canada, these wages, which were 24 times higher than the average salary in 1996, soared to 259 times in recent years.
For example, the salary of the CEO of Bell Canada reached 9.62 million, or $40,100 per business day, either in a single day almost the average annual salary of workers. In Quebec, the salary of the CEO of SNC-Lavalin, prior to his resignation, was 2.7 million in 2011, or $13,500 per day, not counting the five million allocated in arrangement of departure.
Short, within 30 years, the richest saw their income increase by an average of 275% compared to 18% for the poorest.
This widening gap between the unacceptable revenue of 1% of the population and the rest of the workers explains the growing discontent of the unworthy in the world and, in Quebec, of those who are entered into the market of the red squares. It partly explains what some call “immobilism” and attempt to assimilate to a refusal of any progress in a large number of Quebecers, as the exploitation of shale gas in the southern Valley of the St. Lawrence. Then these refusals are simply the belief more stronger negative impact of too many of these projects, which serve only to enrich a handful of individuals. Think for example of Northern Plan, that the Charest government has both tried to sell us, while has been shown on television some of thousands of dumps that mining companies have left after pulling in big bucks, and that the company will have to pay.
This growing criticism of the capitalist system does not, however, guarantee that citizens will eventually require that it be replaced by a more acceptable system. The reason for this reluctance can be explained through a distinction between two capitalism proposed by the father of modern history, Fernand Braudel (1902-1985).
The latter, especially in his major work of more than 2000 pages on material civilization, economy and capitalism, 15th-18th century (that has summarized in 1985 in a small book, the dynamics of capitalism), distinguished merchant capitalism, or that the market, of capitalism by merchants, or that of the concentration and manipulation.
In the new story, Braudel explains that the arrival of the major players (the princes and great capitalists) is possible because behind them there are thousands, if not millions of small actors (farmers, workers, contractors, vendors, resellers, buyers, lenders and same usurers) that Act on the market to run the economy. Similarly, behind major events such as technological transformations, crises and economic shocks, are found thousands of small events such as the first innovation in an SME or the bankruptcy of a major company in a city.
There is also, in what he calls the daily and the local, the rigidities and inertia, breakages, shortages and surpluses, but also of technical discoveries that extend more or less quickly or which will disappear because outdated. And behind all this, there are still the evolution of knowledge and science, which is often wrong but also the currency, which promotes or blocks the Exchange. There are also cities, transforming the habitat and the comfort of men. Braudel rewritten so the real story from millions of actions and decisions inherited, cumulative and renewed more or less, that explain the evolution of hardware and therefore economical.
In this evolution, he explains that capitalism first, that of the merchants, is the only obeys the market or following the rules of the economic theories. It rests on the shoulders of millions of small manufacturers and merchants offering, generally honest way, products from their own production or trade, in order to satisfy consumers, knowing full well that the latter will go elsewhere if they do not find their account. Today, we would say that this capitalism is represented by most of the small businesses that meet our daily needs: the garage the osteopath, the small building contractor in the district, and even the SMEs who works abroad by offering products specific and continuously updated to compete with standard large business products, too often ill adapted to specific needs.
The primary purpose of these companies is to satisfy the consumer to build their goodwill and restrain him later, seeking to know his needs to respond as well as possible, and even anticipate their evolution. These companies know very well that if they release their attention, consumers go with their competitors eventually put out them of business. They are the only ones to accept fully the rules of the market and its commercial and technological developments as well.
The other capitalism, is that of the dealer, producing, buying or selling with as only concern to take all the money possible transactions, even if it means forcing the sale by advertising more or less misleading and, above all, by developing as soon as possible a monopoly to better control its market, becoming in the long run, for many, these huge corporations who cannot go bankrupt”and we must support with public money when things go wrong. This obviously includes all sorts of bankers and speculators on the stock exchange and finance, who have no desire to know what will be the products and if clients are satisfied.
This is what give us these refrigerators manufacturers that make the soul the sixth year, these computer manufacturers that become obsolete after two years because the organization where you work is passed to another level, these versatile phone manufacturers with a battery good for 18 to 24 months and irreplaceable. It is also beauty products that not only are presented on television by girls of 20-25 years or beardless boys, but whose images are poked to show skin in 15 years. Etc.
Is what was say to Adam Smith, 1776, just two or three dealers of this species come together to make the conversation inevitably turns ‘on the best ways to deceive the public.
This leads to all kinds of manipulation and monopolies, what Braudel called risers (or counterfeits of the latter) generated by the profiteers and manipulators, creating unequal trade and deceit, la rouërie and fraud, too often protected from the surveillance state, if not in collusion with it.
This also leads to the multiplication of firms led by financiers not interested in the product offered, looking for short-term profit, even if it means selling the firm once its increased value. Proof is that the only major North American firms who managed to pass through fluctuations in the past few years without the help of the State are family firms, who are familiar with the product and who are educated from generation to generation in the goal of satisfying the public: Ford in the field of automobile, or Kruger and Cascade in the pulp industry and paper. Admit that, sometimes, some SMEs act unfortunately also in the ima ge of these dealers.
Fernand Braudel ends its analysis by explaining that traders capitalism «is a creation of inequality in the world, the mother of the exploitation of men and resources [...]» stubbornly, relying on monopolies of rights and facts, despite the violence unleashed against him about it [...], and with the connivance of the richest or who want to become. Its strength is to spend one trick to the other. »
While capitalism by merchants, ‘he of the small innovative industry, that of the true market economy and which focused on his back the industrial revolution [...]‘, is ‘ force, the life of the economy at the base and finally that of the overall operation of the production and trade. But he goes on to explain that this capitalism of traders is unthinkable without the active complicity of society.” Because it is necessary that, somehow, the latter accepts more or less values. “Unless it reacts.
This distinction between two capitalism should be present in the spirit of the unworthy and the red squares. Every citizen has a large number of small manufacturers or small businesses, with their history and that of their family, including the sons and daughters attend the same schools as their children, will skate in the same arena or participate in the same summer festival, etc. Regardless of Braudel, the criticism of capitalism will be incomprehensible in the eyes of merchants.
Therefore, clearly denounce capitalism predatory and manipulative. And target large companies behaving in this way so that they don’t get gold bridges to settle with us. A gift that they often benefit before moving elsewhere, where offers are even more enticing. Above all, to make clear to Governments that when is bent to these large companies of traders while they create often some jobs, these same Governments going to how they distort the market, which is still very expensive.
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