What is the most closely guarded secret in any business?
You might think it would be some ideological or organizational thing, but the boring fucking truth of the matter is: actual costs. Think about this for a minute. A business’ actual costs are their only real secret. Modern businesses don’t really make anything; they buy things from a source that either gives them a bulk discount or from a source that is cheap but doesn’t have the distribution channels that they have. Sure, ‘where they got it’ is not information businesses want public (not that your average purchaser would have the capacity to go out and make the connections necessary to export Chinese-made shoes or find the skilled coders to write boner-inducing programs in India), but the bigger thing is business dorks don’t want the consumer to know what they (the business dorks) paid for the goods and what their total costs of acquisition were.
Asking how much a thing costs is a twisted root of a question. Many people ask what a thing costs, but what they really mean to ask is what worth the purchaser ascribed to the object. Saying “This hunk of shit I purchased at Wal-Mart cost $3,” is different from Wal-Mart saying, “That hunk of shit that you paid us $3 for costs .29¢, all expenses of acquisition included”. The former is referring to worth (what a person is willing to pay for an item), while the latter is referring to cost (that is, the actual dollar amount spent to obtain an item, keep it and/or sell it). The above transaction- a constant occurrence in Capitalism- is one where the distribution of information is such that one side is- in effect- omniscient while the other is deaf, dumb and moderately retarded. This happens constantly and no one says a god’am thing because it’s simply what gentlemen do.
This is strange because, if you watched me pay $10 for something and, you needing it desperately, I turned around and charged you $1000, you wouldn’t gleefully clap your hands and rejoice, “Oh, you wonderful Capitalist! You have me over a barrel, you do!”. No. Regardless of you purchasing it from me or not, you would label me something that expressed the type of deplorable cunt I am.
This is, of course a central tenet of Capitalism. Being a cunt, I mean. At its heart, it’s a group or a collection of individuals taking advantage of an imbalance in access to information or resources. If this weren’t the case, there would be absolutely no problem with empowering consumers with information about costs. There’d be absolutely no issue with large, professional, well-run businesses listing costs and showing where the money they want you to spend goes. If I know that a store spends more on paying its workers or buying higher quality ingredients/components or on reimbursing foreign laborers at a higher rate, I would not only be willing to pay a little more, but I wouldn’t feel like I was getting fucked in the dark and expected to appreciate it.
Yet this strikes Americans as a completely foreign and unreasonable expectation. We keep our money hidden. We hide costs so that people don’t know what we’re spending and where. We don’t tell our co-workers what we’re getting paid because it’s gauche (this social norm most benefits the wealthy masters who run businesses who are able to pay less due to workers not sharing income information). We don’t tell people what we paid for our toys or our vehicles or furniture or whatever because it’s an impolite question to ask and braggadocious to share the information unbidden (this social norm most benefits the people who sell things as it keeps consumers in the dark in terms of establishing actual worth). Yet, a truly Free Market would require free access to information like this. Worth would be a simple equation of Cost + Value, instead of Cost + Whatever I Can Stick In Your Ass Without You Balking. How can anyone who isn’t already rich and in a position of power argue that the latter equation is preferable? Why would we all willingly and quietly submit to this rigged fucking game? The basis of success in our current set-up should be enough to demonstrate how broken things are.
How does luck of the draw and arbitrary advantage (particularly inherited wealth) constitute the foundation of an economic system? How are people okay with this? What about a system based on ability, skill or intelligence? What about a system based on creativity or ingenuity? What about a system based on the amount one contributes to society? Why are people happy toiling under a system whose central premise is fucking people over as hard as you can?
The short answer is: because they’re sure that- one day- they’re going to be doing the fucking. But again, is this a basis for an economic system?
Who most benefits from the pathetic hope that one day your disadvantaged ass will join the ranks of the elites? The elites, you chum bucket! Rich people are smart and they’ve deluded us this long- they know how to appeal to our baser natures. They know which buttons to push- fuck, they know how to craft buttons within us without our awareness. Imagine how much harder their job would be if there were informational parity; if everyone divulged costs because it demonstrated honesty and integrity; if a business were judged by how fair and transparent they were rather than by whatever conclusion their PR people and their advertising campaigns had led us to by our collective noses. What a terrible world that would be for the cruel, entitled, pitiless pieces of shit that run the oligarchy we’re all slaves to.