Are parasites sucking the life out of the economy?

Could the answer to our economic woes be to simply apply a model from nature to our economic system?

Take this example.

I’m building my new writing business from the ground up, one aspect of which is offering the service of resume writing. I came up with several ideas for how I can promote this business online, and went to GoDaddy to secure some unique URLs, usually available for $12.99 a year or less. One had been bought by a URL broker, which they wanted to sell for $5000. Way outside my start-up budget, I took a different, less-usefully-spelled, name.  Then I had an idea for marketing my business and came up with the perfect URL for that. It turns out no one else is using this URL, either, but it has been absconded with by yet another URL broker.  This time it didn’t say how much the URL would cost.  I had to fill out a form inquiry.

Here is the response I received:

Hello Laurel,
My name is Jeffrey G…, and I am a Domain Broker with [brokerage firm].
Currently, I am representing the owner of [the URL.] I spoke to my client and based on many criteria his expectations are $11,000.00. Highly premium domain names can provide the competitive edge your company is looking for.
Please let me know if you would like to setup a time to talk.What works best for you?
Jeffrey G….
Vice President of Sales

What works best for me? Excuse me. This firm buys up the URL for $12.99 so they can re-sell it to me for $11,000. Are you kidding me?  This is right up there with the non-profit which paid a drug company millions in donations, so they could develop a life-saving drug which they then turn around and charge taxpayers millions of dollars for years to come.

Here is my response:

Dear Jeffrey,

Thank you for your response. Please don’t take the following personally, but rather, directed to your field of business.

Frankly, I find your business to be morally deplorable, right up there with extortion, kidnapping, gambling, ticket scalping, futures trading, the drug trade, and the white collar mafia that is the insurance industry. Your “business” supplies no constructive work, value, or benefit to me or to the economy, but acts instead as a parasite on others, driving up the cost of conducting business for those who do actually DO the work, and driving up costs for clients, benefactors, and society.

I am an experienced entrepreneur and small business owner of 20+ years with a family to support. My goals are not to get rich, but to build a new business from the ground up, after losing my prior family business of 12 years which employed up to 25 workers in two states. I simply seek to support my family, pay off our now-bloated mortgage, restore my retirement fund, accumulate savings to be able to put my daughter through college, and cover our health insurance cost. When we had to cut our losses, lay off our staff, and liquidate our assets to pay down as much debt as possible, my husband and I were denied unemployment compensation, despite having paid in thousands of dollars on our own behalf. As the owners, we were deemed the “responsible” parties to our own lay-off.

The true “responsible” parties to the economic “crisis” our country and the world has gone through are businesses like yours, that operate on a model of parasitism, which supply no true value, no real service, to people and the economic system, but simply operate as opportunistic leaches, stealing ideas and sucking the wealth from those who actually DO the work.

Again, please do not take this personally. It is a criticism of the system in which we all operate, a system built and maintained by people who choose to participate in it.

Please extend to your employer my thanks for his “offer” of $11,000 to use my good idea for a URL for MY fledgling business, which he is holding ransom.

Also please extend my counter-offer of $100 — which according to “many criteria” I have, should cover his “costs” incurred for kidnapping the good idea I had for MY business, which, by the grace of God, will grow to take care of my family.

I look forward to your response to my counter-offer.

Maybe a bit harsh, but perhaps you can tell, this really annoyed me.  And it really got me to thinking.

Parasites. That business is truly acting like a parasite. Everything I wrote is true.

I have long been a proponent of the collaborative Deming system of  business management. As you may know, W. Edwards Deming was an American sent to Japan by our government in the 1950s, where he taught the same system he’d used to help our American industries rapidly re-tool to wartime production with a new, untrained workforce at the start of the war. In a nutshell, here’s how it works.

First, assume the best about people. People are inherently smart, good, and want to do well in their jobs. Problems are caused by systems, not by people. Problems are solved by people, making very small changes to the system.  Give people their freedom, communicate, and entrust them to change the system they use in their jobs in ways that improves their ability to do those jobs, and they will. Efficiency results naturally. This collaborative management system was foreign to Japan. But because they were down and out and had nothing to lose, they tried it.  It worked incredibly well and within a generation, Japan’s economy and reputation was restored. This system works because it is filled with the spirit of Truth.

Often Truth is found by looking at things with a new perspective, changing perception, changing the paradigm.

Many of us today — growing numbers, in fact — are down and out. Perhaps what economists, politicians, pundits, and all of us who care, need to do — if we genuinely seek to solve the economic problems which are leading to all kinds of other problems in the world, rather than play the shame, blame, guilt game — is to give a fresh look at our economic system.

I propose we look afresh at our economy through the lens of nature.

Consider the premise that our economic system is an interdependent, complex organic system: our economy is an organism.  If we want to heal our anemic economy, we should start by eliminating the parasites which drain it of its resources, drain it of its energy flow–which is money. Money is the oxygen of the economy.  It energizes everything. When oxygen is blocked, things die. When the flow of money is blocked, businesses choke, flow of money to consumers stops, and conditions worsen.

I could have found some really gross images of parasites, but decided the definition is gross enough.

I could have found some really gross images of parasites, but decided the definition is gross enough.

Let’s digress a moment to talk about consumers. Truly it is a ridiculous notion that corporations are “job creators.” I challenge anyone to show me a single corporation that operates a department of “job creation.”  Instead, corporations are ALWAYS looking to get as much work out of as few people as possible.  I’ve been writing professional resumes for almost two decades, and one of the best things you can boast of is an achievement showing how you did something that “improved productivity:” a euphemism for “job elimination.” Whether it’s bringing in new equipment or software or reinventing processes – the corporate goal is profit – frequently and without regret, at the expense of jobs.  Jobs will only be created in so far as the job produces profit. Companies won’t hire until they absolutely have to.

So what truly creates jobs?  Demand is the ONLY thing that creates jobs. What is demand? Consumers with disposable income are the true job creators – consumers with extra cash, over and above what they need to live on, and which they are able and willing to spend, to put into circulation.

Just like trees give us oxygen and allow us to live, consumers with money to spend create jobs. Consumers are an integral part of the organism. Without consumers with extra cash, the economy dies. In the natural organism analogy, consumers are the different cells throughout the body.  Public sector, private sector, small business and large — diversity and interdependence creates a healthy organism.   Consumers are brain cells. Bone cells. Blood cells. Muscle cells. Skin cells. Even fat cells. The body needs them all. And all of them need oxygen–money–to do their jobs. Smart economic policies support the movement of oxygen — money – through the body – to all consumers. Smart economic policies support anything that enables consumers to engage in spending:  family-supporting wages,  good health, security, peace, freedom to use their God-given gifts and talents. A stable environment. In this way, the whole organism — the economy — thrives.

Parasites Must Go

The truth is, policies and  business can be analyzed for how much they help circulate oxygen (money), or choke the flow.  Smart leaders who truly care to fix the economy will identify the worst offending policies, businesses, and business models that serve to choke the flow, that suck the life and wealth out of the system, and don’t give back. These policies, businesses and business models are parasites, pure and simple. A healthy economy should do everything in its power to eliminate parasites.  Either change the laws and alter the practice in ways that share and encourage flow. Or eliminate them entirely.

On the positive side, identify and support policies and businesses that demonstrate an increase in energy flow to the greatest numbers of consumers and other businesses–as well as to the environment. Protecting the environment is good policy because without a healthy, stable environment in which to operate–costs go WAY up.  Just ask business owners located along the Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast, Oklahoma, anywhere there’s been ecological disaster — why a stable, healthy environment  is a good thing for the bottom line.  Anything that causes mass destruction — whether war or environmental — costs the health of the economy.

Economy as a living organism. Any thoughts on this idea?

2 thoughts on “Are parasites sucking the life out of the economy?

  1. Hi Laurel! This is a topic I’m highly interested in. I’ve spent a lot of time reading various economic and political theories, and I’ve reached many of the same conclusions as you: our current economic climate allows parasites to thrive and crushes real innovation and even competition.

    While I don’t wholly subscribe to Austrian economics, I’ve found the works of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises extremely interesting, especially as they describe the field of economics as an art rather than a science. They argue that economics as a study is simply a focused study of human interactions, that there is no “policy” that will work, because that’s not (properly speaking) what economics is.

    They said that economics is organic, it has to be, because human beings are organic – when we protect special interests for the supposed good of society, we’re treating the economy like a machine rather than an organism. But it’s not a machine, because people aren’t machines, and whatever we say about “economics” has to be able to be said about people. “Economic policy” is a dangerous phrase, because one might as well be saying “Human policy.”

    Since I currently work in an investment banking firm, I see this every day. The traders and bankers are concerned with nothing but money and how to make more. I see companies post billions in profits, but nothing filters down to their employees who made that happen – instead, it all goes straight to the investors. Investors demand more money more quickly, and if they don’t get it, then they either withdraw their money or even take companies to court. I’ve listened to actual millionaires argue that companies should cut workers’ wages – wages that are already at $10/hour on average, or less. They consider the company’s responsibility to be first to the investor, second to the buyer, third to the workers.

    We currently have a system in place that allows companies to copyright material indefinitely, squat on patents and make millions by charging others for ridiculous patents that never should have been allowed, squat on URLs, throw a little bit of money at a company but then hold them responsible for making that person a fortune, etc. It’s all broken, every bit of it.

    My solution to most of these problems would be:

    – Don’t allow squatters. You shouldn’t be able to patent something and sit on it, making money off of your own laziness. You shouldn’t be allowed to buy domain names and sit on them, never doing anything with them. You shouldn’t be allowed to indefinitely extend copyrights. The only reason this stuff happens is because we have a system that legally protects these people – stop protecting them, and things will change pretty quickly.

    – Get people to recognize that voluntary socialism is the only sane solution to our corporate world (in which we’re entering a new age of feudalism). There shouldn’t be a few investors and CEO’s at the top, sitting on a wad of cash that their workers earned. Every person should have a stake in the company that they run – no one should work for a business that they don’t have some ownership in and don’t receive some direct return for the profits they work for.

    – End corporate personhood. Corporations aren’t people, and nobody should be able to hide behind this.

    Sorry- I went way outside the range of your article! But these are topics I’m interested in and passionate about. And you got me thinking. 🙂

    Generally, I think more freedom is a better thing, so long as we can act decently toward one another. All our laws that protect people who engage in lazy practices (like squatting on domains and charging an arm and a leg for them, or never ending copyrights and patents), the way our society is increasingly structuring itself around a failed feudal business model… it all needs to end. It’s maddening what we allow a corrupt few to do to an entire society! 😦

  2. Thanks for the great comments, Nathan! Our thoughts are very much in league. We should talk more about this. Yes! magazine has had several articles in recent issues about a very similar concept, called ‘biomimicry.’ Their focus was more on manufacturing and technology rather than on human systems. It seems the human ego, always attempting to inflate itself to be better than God, gets in the way of so many things. Here’s a link to one of the recent articles on the Yes! website (its a GREAT magazine) http://www.yesmagazine.org/for-teachers/curriculum/yes-recommends-biomimicry-3-8-institute

Thoughtful Edifying Comments Please

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s