Tyrannosaurus Rex was perhaps the most feared dinosaur that ever
existed, even with the stubby little forepaws. And if we learned nothing
else from Jurassic Park, it was that the Velociraptor was a fearsome
creature as well.
They were predators. But these creatures only did what they did to
survive in a harsh and hostile environment.
Today we have human predators who are far more insidious. Sexual
predators, who prey on the weaker in order to please their own carnal
desires. Predatory lending with interest and fees in the territory of
usury. Corporate predation, based on greed.
What is it about us as humans that make us this way?
Okay, it's not entirely human. The behavior of the pets comes to mind:
if there is not some pretty heavy-duty caging in the way, Sadie (the
dog) will eat the cat's food. And she will go to some pretty drastic
lengths to do it.
Some of that could be boredom. She really doesn't get enough stimulation
during the day, and I do feel bad about that. And I suppose that she is
stressed, and food is comfort, so she's essentially trying to
There was an experiment done many years ago where the pleasure center of
rat's brains was wired up to a bar so that when they pushed it, they
received electrical stimulation. The rats ended up completely ignoring
food and water and just kept pressing the bar over and over. Kind of the
condensed version of addiction.
Sexual predation is certainly partly based on that same kind of thing.
Some people are wired so that they get pleasure from sexually
victimizing their prey. Some people are wired to the point that even
though they know it's illegal, or even when they loathe themselves doing
it, they still do it. Some just don't care (sociopathic), and some can't
help themselves (compulsion). Some are just weak-willed. All of them
know it's wrong on an intellectual level.
On the other hand, corporate greed does not know that it is wrong. Many
of the predators believe that they are doing a good thing, that personal
gain at the expense of others is a positive. Many believe that their
personal gain does not come at the expense of others, even when
confronted with evidence that supports it.
(Please note that I do not confuse greed and capitalism.
Despite what many of my friends seem to think, they are not the same.)
But our economic system seems to be oriented around money, making as
much as you can. I already rail against publicly traded stock because
companies with public stock tend to become completely absorbed in
raising the shareholder value. It becomes their primary product, and the
company's product or service becomes secondary. Stock options are the
primary and overwhelming source of Corporate Officer wealth, often
netting the officer with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.
The way stock options work is this: the stock price sits at some value,
say $10 a share. The CEO (or CFO, or what have you) is granted the
option to buy some number of shares of stock at that $10 price
for some period of time; say five years. The total number of shares is
basically unlimited, because there is no actual money that gets
exchanged, so let's say that the CEO is granted 100,000 shares in
options over a five year period.
Now let's say that the company stock zooms to huge levels, say $110 per
share at the end of five years. The CEO now exercises his stock
options, but he does not need to actually purchase the original
100,000 shares, he merely pockets the difference... In this case
100,000 shares at $100 a pop, or a cool $10 million.
The idea is that if a CEO leads the company into profitability, he
should be rewarded. The problem is that it puts the entire focus on
raising the shareholder value, which can be done at the expense of
everything else. Just look at Enron.
And there are a million completely legal ways for a corporation
to raise it's SVA that aren't tied to the company's actual
profitability. This is how we end up with an average of something like
12% increase in CEO income while companies are laying off huge amounts
Look, I have no problem with someone making a lot of money if they are
actually doing something productive. What I have a problem with is
somebody making money at the expense of others.
The economy is not a zero-sum game. It is possible to enhance
everybody's lives, but our system is not designed that way; it favors