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Nothing Succeeds Like Rules in Your Favor: Comments on D. Rushoff's "Life Inc."

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I've been feeling powerless lately. How about you? Here's what's got me down:

Health care "reform" that is quickly becoming another Big Greed money grab at the expense of taxpayers, small businesses and workers. Holy crap, the worst of both worlds! Yet another insurance product we are forced to purchase with meager industry regulation and no marketplace competition.

A government that continues to bailout, subsidize and legislate in favor of "legal" corporate criminal enterprises that profess their undying loyalty to the free market when, in fact, they are nothing more than welfare kings and social despots.

And, of course, the new economy. The one where Big Greed industries of all types make money by sending jobs overseas and across borders. The economy where corporations get H-1b visas for jobs there are plenty of trained, ready-to-go, qualified candidates for right here at home. The economy that offers us off-season hothouse tomatoes from Israel, the Netherlands and Canada, but not from the United States, as if growing produce in the trade parlance "under glass," is illegal here.

Examine each of these situations and the lowest common denominator becomes clear. The source of this illogical, inefficient, energy wasting, money motivated insanity: the Rules.

Because nothing succeeds like when success buys you the privilege of writing the rules of the game.


I thought throwing out the rascals would at least help. It seems to have done little. As many others have observed, our democracy is not working.
So I was eager to read, "Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back," Random House (June 2, 2009), by Douglas Rushoff. Here's the break-down, eight must read chapters of "how we became" that I loved, and one final chapter of "how to take it back," which was disappointing.

I applaud Mr. Rushoff's efforts and sincerely urge you to read his analysis. His solution, which I agree with, is the "reinstatement of the social fabric." He postulates that Big Greed has separated us from one another and that we are capable of rebuilding community from the bottom up. He suggests barter, community-supported-agriculture groups (CSAs), and the creation of local monetary instruments as means toward the ends of recreating community and person-to-person contact.

Wonderful. Good luck with that. Here's my take on just these suggestions, not the overall laudable goal of over-throwing Big Greed with grassroots actions, they're not enough and sometimes worse than what we are looking to replace.

Person to person barter, in all its forms, from sharing power tools to baby sitting circles are great. But barter brokers are a complete rip-off. See: I know the Bogus Barter Bucks Secret. Here in New Jersey CSAs can provide some fresh produce for two months out of the year, but are not even a mosquito on the back of Big Agra. And, local money suffers the same transferability and profit erosion problems inherent in barter brokering.

To be fair, to Mr. Rushoff doesn't promise a silver bullet answer, he does make cogent arguments as to the ineffectiveness other forms of retaliation against Big Greed, and his bottom up approach makes sense.

I've been beating my head against the wall trying to find a way to wage battle against our "capitalist system" that is far from a free market. My own tactics, as stated in 9 Things You Can Do to Stop Big Greed are similarly, woefully inadequate, but they are a start on the individual level, no community organizing necessary.

So, for the meanwhile, until another approach is created, I will work to continuing to practice my own version of sticking it to the man. I encourage you to do the same and to encourage others to do the same.

Feeling powerless sucks. Take action.

 

Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration (more...)
 
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