The Parasitic Logic of Profit-Making
The Parasitic Logic of Profit-Making
What does this little creature have in common with extractive capitalism?
By Joe Brewer / medium.com
Sep 14, 2016

What does it mean to earn a profit in an extractive economy? Simply put, it means to behave like a parasite. All you need do is attach yourself to a nutrient-rich host and suck the value out of it. When the host dies, move on to the next “market opportunity” and never look back.

This logic — the endless hunger to consume and grow — is what drives the global marketplace today. It is a mindset of consumption that chews up communities, steals from the commonwealth of nations, and does not hesitate to destroy the environment. These are considered acceptable byproducts of profit-making in this mindset of insanity.

The sooner we recognize that for-profit entities are designed to behave like cancer in the capitalist economy, the faster we’ll see which rules need to be changed in order to get to the next paradigm. For example, it is helpful to know that modern capitalism began with the Enclosure Movement in Britain as peasant farmers were kicked off their land and forced into wage slavery in nearby factories.

This was accompanied by the first wave of mass poverty in the modern era. It is one part of the Story of Poverty Creation that needs to be told again and again until we dispel the myths of consumerist propaganda that claim all the wealth in the world was created by the industrial capitalist system. Only after these myths are dealt with can we get on with the real work of evolving to whatever comes next for humanity.

Want to tackle the climate crisis? Recognize that we will not be able to fund an energy transition so long as wealth hoarders keep trillions of dollars hidden away in a system of tax havens.

Want to end poverty and inequality? Realize that systems of wealth hoarding hide in our own minds and begin the delicate process of deprogramming your mental habits.

Want to repair broken political systems? Recognize that the artificial “construction” of choice in major elections is done to distract us from our collective power to rise up and create meaningful, systemic change.

All of these problems are connected — along with many more we could name like police brutality, structural racism, money laundering for war, land grabs, and so much more. Yet at their core is the same essential logic of the parasite.

Take what you can, the rest be damned.

That is the overriding ethic of “business-as-usual” taught in MBA programs around the world. This is why students leaving these programs are more selfish and greedy than when they entered. The norms being programmed into them are keeping social change from spreading through the marketplace, keeping us from the future we really want and need.

Until we recognize this cultural blight for what it is, it will not be possible to replace the outdated models for governance and economics that hold us in a death spiral today. We are literally in “overshoot-and-collapse” mode right now and the future looks pretty grim. But if we can recognize the profoundly social nature of humanity — we are NOT the greedy creatures that economists claim us to be — then there is much hope for a brighter alternative.

The logic of extractive capitalism goes like this:

Those with the capital get to choose what is created by society, directing their monetary resources to the places with the largest “return on investment.” Profit is then extracted by these owners as they parasitize the social infrastructure built up with taxpayer dollars.

This is a medical problem for societies. And it has a medical solution: Bolster the cultural immune systems that keep selfish behavior in check.

We can learn from the anthropologists on this one. In the work of Christopher Boehm, for example, it is now clear that hunter-gatherer societies were egalitarian because they kept the cheaters in check. This was done through gossip (to manage social relationships) using storytelling that would shame anti-social individuals. When these tactics didn’t work, the community would move to more severe practices like ostracism and, in rare cases, execution.

The important thing is that our ancestors survived for more than a hundred thousand years by keeping the bullies and cheaters in check. Yet today the parasites among us are revered as “captains of industry” as they pillage and plunder every commons imaginable for the sake of power and profit.

An example can be seen in the extractive practices of for-profit scientific publishing. Research funded by taxpayer dollars (mostly done at public universities) is published in peer-review journals that extract up to 39% of the money that changes hands as profit. In other words, the investors have set up a syphoning hose to the academic institutions we collectively paid for to create artificial barriers — both for the researchers to publish (which they have to pay for with research funds) and for the public to access (in subscription fees).

This is paralleled in the for-profit health insurance industry that created middle man businesses to extract money from the exchanges between patients and doctors in the United States. Billions of dollars that could be used for prevention and universal health care are instead transferred into the coffers of wealthy investors — many of whom have self-serving relationships with policymakers by greasing their pockets at election time.

Note how the profit-making does nothing of value. It was the investments from taxpayers to universities that created the scientific knowledge and medical findings. Yet systems were put in place to extract and parasitize this public infrastructure in the name of “free market” ideology. The truth is that market systems — which are excellent for allocating resources efficiently — are distorted and corrupted by the influence of pooled capital.

The sickness is a moral one. And its healing elixir is too.

We can put a stop to greedy behavior by learning from our ancestors. Recognize the parasites for what they are, spread the word to our friends, and establish policies that sanction against the extraction of wealth from the benefits created through cooperation and partnership.

We can do better by working together. This includes creating purposeful businesses and using market principles in service of larger goals. Confusion of the pursuit of profit with the creation of value is rampant today. Let us correct this misconception and reconfigure our societies around shared goals — like making governments responsive and participatory; restoring balance with the environments we depend upon for our survival; and sharing the wealth in an inclusive economy that is designed to promote social well-being and planetary thriving.

The harms of parasitic extraction have gone on too long. Let’s fix this.

Onward, fellow humans.

4.0 ·
1
Trending Today
Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power
Colin Jenkins · 7,954 views today · Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 7,389 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 5,652 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
Baraka (1992)
97 min · 5,485 views today · Featuring no conventional narrative, this film presents footage of people, places and things from around the world. From chaotic cities to barren wilderness, the movie takes...
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Bracing for Trump's Anti-Worker, Corporate Agenda
Colin Jenkins · 3,291 views today · Rich people don’t have to have a life-and-death relationship with the truth and its questions; they can ignore the truth and still thrive materially. I am not surprised many...
The Myth of Romantic Love May Be Ruining Your Health
Susanne Vosmer · 2,776 views today · Romantic love in Western societies is often portrayed in a stereotypical way: two yearning halves, who search for each other to find their complete, original state. Few find...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,559 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Prophecy Delivered! Martin Luther King Jr. and the Death of Democracy
Reverend Osagyefo Sekou · 2,355 views today · “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Democracy is dead. It...
Trump: The Illusion of Change
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 2,305 views today · “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.” — Wendell Berry
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 2,204 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
Why I Think This World Should End
4 min · 2,006 views today · Sorry if this offends you. - Prince Ea
Thoughts on the Eve of the Trump Regime
Mark Corske · 1,839 views today · A blend of dread, disgust, rage, and despair for the future, all in a state of shocked disbelief—if you feel something like this facing the Trump regime’s ascent to power...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 1,606 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 1,189 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 711 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 668 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 606 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Living Through an Age of Unraveling: Reflections as We Enter 2017
Martin Winiecki · 509 views today · “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller
Looking Forward to the Day That Nationalism Is as Reviled as Racism
Tim Hjersted · 478 views today · Nationalism is a form of geographical racism that makes some lives matter more than others, and explicitly justifies that logic without apology. While today, not even lying...
Positive Thinking in a Dark Age: A Guide to Gracefully Losing Faith in a Collapsing Dominant Culture
Jim Tull · 440 views today · I recall a Buddhist parable involving a stick that appears from a distance to be a snake, causing fear to rise in the perceiver. As the perception shifts upon closer...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
The Parasitic Logic of Profit-Making