How to cheat the capitalist system (legally) – Part 1 – Theory

How to cheat the capitalist system (legally) – Part 1 – Theory

Capitalism – a definition

Ah, capitalism. If you live in most countries, it’s almost something you take for granted. It’s everywhere.

First, a quick refresher. Capitalism is a political and economic system where goods and services are produced and provided by private actors for a profit. Private actors means companies and businesses, rather than by the government or the state. It’s how many modern societies run their trade and industry.

So what does that actually mean in practice? It means that corporations, businesses and companies are responsible for providing and running many of the goods and services we have. For profit. Almost every product you can think of, and almost every service that can be provided, is provided by companies. This includes your furniture, clothes and car, the house you live in, and the painter you hired to patch up that gnawed hole in the wall your pet puppy created when he was bored. It may include the food you buy at the supermarket, the train you catch to work, the smart phone, computer, hey maybe even pen and paper (if you’re old school) you do your work on.

Even organisations that are not run for profit depend on capitalism to function. For example, hospitals that provide life saving treatment source their pharmaceutical drugs and medical equipment from for-profit companies, while government-run schools obtain books, computers and desks from companies as well.

The lure of profit

The key ingredient for many companies, and the key idea underpinning capitalism itself, is profit. Have a think about this from a company or business perspective for a moment. Profit can be an effective positive motivator, or a negative one. Companies could choose to treat their employees and customers well, in order to continue growing their business, gain a good reputation, be part of the local community, and make a profit. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Some companies unnecessarily cut jobs, provide terrible customer service, do the bare minimum legally required for complaints and consumer and employees protections, gain a bad reputation, and still make a profit (as long as there is still a customer for the good or service they provide).

Now everyone’s view on this is different. To a die hard capitalist, capitalism is the solution to all world problems, and the catalyst for the increased standard of living experienced in many countries today. To a die hard Marxist, who wants to give power back to the people and property back to the public purse, capitalism is the ultimate evil.

I’m not getting into that debate. The point of this post is not to provide an opinion on either of these views at each end of the spectrum, but to note that capitalism, like all political and economic creatures, has both its good points and its bad. Most political systems are a little grey, rather than black and white. Capitalism is no exception.

Your advantage

As a person living in a capitalist society, we can all be on the receiving end of not-so-sweet parts of capitalism. Losing your job in a unnecessary restructure, or to cheaper labour offshore. Making a call to a customer ‘service’ centre that offers anything but. Finding a refund or exchange process so onerous you give up. Countless other everyday interactions with poor business practice that make you grumble and swear and mumble that you can’t do anything about it.

But I’m here to tell you that you can.

How?

Look, I’m pragmatic about this stuff. There are good bits and bad bits about capitalism. But living in this type of society, you can turn the odds to your advantage in three main ways:
1. Become a shareholder
2. Be the controller, not the customer
3. Maximise your value as an employee, or create your own business.

We’ll cover each of these in more detail – but you’ll have to wait until Part 2.

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