A common proverb states that the business of America is business. Indeed, America has long been the place where fortunes were made. But now that the West has degenerated into Clown World, business works in a different way. Fortunes are still made – but at a cost.
Clown World commerce is not what we’re used to. The story we’re all told at school is that productivity is a function of capital and labour, which work happily together to create needed goods and services. The supply of needed goods and services ameliorates human suffering and therefore earns profits and is a moral good.
The reality is much more complicated.
Although most of this book blames varieties of Marxism, atheism and materialism for Clown World’s woes, a large amount of the blame must be placed on capitalism. The political demands made by Marxists may be obvious, but the demands made by capitalists are no less pressing. These demands have had the effect of making Western society more of a twisted circus.
Capitalism is to blame for the fact that the growth of low and middle-income wages has decoupled from productivity. Although productivity has increased several times over recent decades, wage growth has lagged a long way behind. This has occurred because capital has exploited its strengthening negotiating position to offer workers worse deals. This change is shown graphically on the website WTF Happened in 1971.
The major consequence of this decoupling is that most of the increase in wealth accrues to an ever-smaller section of the population. Some studies suggest that the top 1% of the American population has looted as much as 85% of the growth in wealth since the Global Financial Crisis. In Clown World business, the system does not work for the good of the population, but only for the people at the top.
Capitalism is also to blame for the mass importation of cheap labour, as well as the sentiment that bringing in cheap labour is necessary because the locals are unwilling to do those jobs. Major industrial interests lobby government representatives to open borders and to lift restrictions on the movement of cheap labour. They also instruct their propaganda organs to manufacture public approval for such measures.
The Clown World workplace operates on a model closer to that of West Indian sugar plantations: if you won’t work for nothing, we’ll find someone who will. Any demand for a fair wage is portrayed as a refusal to work. The Clown World media plays a crucial role, supporting the capitalists by running stories about how fruit and vegetables will rot in the fields if immigration restrictions are not relaxed.
Things are so badly tilted towards capital now that it has become extremely difficult to buy a home without using inherited money. In New Zealand, house prices have increased 7 times since 1992, but wages have only increased 2.25 times. It’s a similar grim story in other Western countries. In the United States things are so bad that it was possible for the Wall Street Journal to headline an article with “Millions of Young People Shut Out of the Housing Market.”
Clown World business is about maximising short-term profit at the expense of all other considerations.
Because labour is usually one of the largest costs of any business, Clown World has seen extreme measures taken to cut labour costs. The most popular of those has been to ship manufacturing and services overseas to cheap labour zones that don’t have expensive regulation relating to worker protection.
The result of this drive for cheap labour is a lower quality of goods and services. We might have more of everything, but that everything is worse. By today, it’s all but impossible to speak to a customer service representative who has English as a native language. The result is confusion and frustration.
The drive to cut costs doesn’t stop at being cheap. It can extend to living entirely off someone else’s credit.
In Clown World business, it’s possible to live off investor money as it keeps rolling in, rather than make a profit. It’s not actually necessary to turn a profit and live off that, as a traditional business would. Investor money will keep coming into a business as long as that business retains a positive reputation. This means public relations.
As recently as 2015, media giant YouTube had never turned a profit, and it’s not clear that they turn one now. Twitter still doesn’t turn a profit. It’s not necessary to ever turn a profit as long as investor money keeps coming in to finance operations. And this money will keep rolling in as long as the company has good public relations. In Clown World business, success is mostly a matter of politics.
That politics trumps profit in Clown World can be seen from the bizarre alliances that corporate titans make with various political movements. Before the body of George Floyd had cooled to room temperature, major corporations had hit the media with campaigns showing their support for Black Lives Matter. Even McDonald’s ran an advertisement hailing the memory of Floyd.
These alliances help secure government funding, which is often even better than investor funding because it can come in the form of grants. The Government is a major source of funding for Clown World business, whether in the form of business development grants or tax breaks. Elon Musk got $4,900,000,000 of it! If you can convince an important person that your business is likely to provide jobs in the future, chances are good that person will cut you some public cash.
A business model where people are paid low wages, and hence can’t buy the goods and services of other businesses, isn’t sustainable for long. Sooner or later the impoverished masses start counting every last dollar, and when they do the consumerist economy shudders to a halt. Clown World business is when all long-term considerations are abandoned in favour of the next quarterly report.
There are many questions around Clown World business in the post-coronavirus future. If consumption falls sharply, how will people stay employed? If they can’t stay employed, must we introduce a universal basic income? And if 50% of women under 30 supplement their income with OnlyFans payments, where does that leave young men?
This article is an excerpt from Clown World Chronicles, a book about the insanity of life in the post-Industrial West. This is being compiled by Vince McLeod for an expected release in the middle of 2020.
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.