When I was graduating from college, and indeed when Liz was Graduating, there was something that I noticed that was highly disappointing. Roughly half one time, and about two thirds the other of these graduating classes were business majors.
I thought to myself at the time “If everyone going to college is a business major why are we having economic troubles in the US?” I thought, naively, that maybe this was a good sign that we would see a bunch of bright new faces in the business field. That the future of business would be one of the new world, young people acting human.
But then the truth becomes revealed over the years. People aren’t entering the business field because they want to make the world better, this field is so popular because of the ridiculous amount of money it makes them. Bain Capital is a fantastic example, but you can look just about anywhere. Corporations, Wall Street, The Private Sector, these are all things that live a creepy double life.
It’s like following a set of guidelines that says “Kill anyone who thinks your juice is not the greatest juice.” and saying that these guidelines are petitions for peace and love and harmony with all juices. The reality us much bleaker, business does not harmonize with humanity. To maximize profits you must minimalize humanity. Apple knows this, as do many other companies. Sweat shops, terrible work conditions, borderline slave trades. Environmental Pollution and Tax Evasion. All these things are at the center of creating the biggest return.
In business the only concern is the return.
It is that singular view that causes me to feel my stomach curl when I look back on those graduating classes. Where were the scientists? The teachers? The engineers. These groups were tiny. A few rows. The art majors? Even fewer. These are the things that make us human, that actually better our world, and they are all in the stark minority.
The capitalist system is not unlike a video game. It is designed by people who think it is fool proof. But anyone who has ever gamed can tell you that everything has its bugs. Where a gamer might have gone to the gameshark people in the past to get infinite lives in Goldeneye, we in the business world see people going to firms.
They are gaming the system because it is so amazingly easy to game. The trick is just having the resources to game it. Unfortunately this usually means money. Any equation that isn’t linear tends to have a tipping point. Sort of an asymptote for loss, you get to the point where it is not quite 0 but close enough to be negligible.
The tax code is similar, tax rates go up and up until they cap out at a point. After that its all profits, your loss in taxes is not relative to your total earnings anymore. Then you start throwing in the cheat codes, off shore bank accounts, donations to your own businesses, or other questionably legal tactics and you lower it further. Before you know it you have people who make 100,000 times more than you paying as much or less in taxes by %.
For the passive observer it seems fair. “Wow he paid out 250,000 dollars in taxes.” But you take a minute and realize that this person, or company, makes that much over the course of 5 days or less. Imagine if you were only taxed for 5 days worth of income across the entire year?
I noted earlier that part of the lost humanity is tax evasion. It sounds silly and misplaced but one must realize where these taxes (are supposed) to go. Better roads, better housing, better infrastructure in general, paying for parks, for environmental protections, for education, for healthcare. Taxes are the means by which the entirety helps support itself. Each person becomes connected by way of taxes to every other person.
We all donate to the same pool with the end goal being that we all benefit. I would be truly shocked if the failures in our tax system, the misappropriation of the taxes, and our own disgust at taxes was not caused in majority by business majors or businesses.
I am not saying that you must be a terrible person to be a business major. But it does seem like you can’t maximize profits in the ultimate sense without losing what it means to be human. When you can destroy the life of another person and happily drink wine that same night over a fantastic meal, that takes a truly glorious kind of evil.
I was never really scared by the over the top villains in my youth. It was the ones that believed what they did was the right thing, those ones worried me the most. The Ozymandiases of the world. People that do truly terrible things under the psychotic belief that they are bettering the world.
Killing tens or hundreds of thousands of people to avenge a thousand. Herding and executing a group of people. Forcing people to leave their home and travel for thousands of miles in terrible conditions only to live on a terrible piece of land. Fire bombing a quarter of a million civilians. Crushing people financially and saying “It’s just business.” Or selling food or medicine that you know is dangerous. Rushing your animals to the slaughter house because their living conditions are so poor that they’d bleed out if you waited any longer (and yes all of these things have or do still happen).
These people by and large are smiling, they felt or feel noble, they sleep well and many (if not all) took home nice paychecks to make this all happen.
It’s all about the bottom line. So truly disappointing.