I think, in some senses, I’ve mentioned this before – but today, in the light of all the recent news about how criminal in some quarters big banking would appear to have become, I feel for some reason it’s time to mention it again.
We’ve had a lot of grief from both New Labour and our present cohort of Coalition politicians on the dependency culture which supposedly makes us weak and spineless. I did point out a while ago that (the bold is mine today):
[...] Let it first be understood I am entirely on the side of those who would remove through democratic means all vestiges of this Coalition government. It would, however, be remiss of me not to argue – as I have already mentioned above – that some potential good is being lost to the blunt battlecries of our current crop of politicians.
They demonise benefit fraud; they look to remove disability and incapacity allowances; they blame the unemployed for not finding jobs when jobs are not to be found. And yet, if given a different slant, all these ideas could be grounded in positivity. For example: benefits are good as amelioration strategies for short-term distress but should not create a social environment of dependence as has often happened. Supportive alternatives (and the word here is “supportive”) should kick in as soon as they can with the objective of ensuring people remain as proactive and independent as possible.
And what about blaming the unemployed for not being able to find those non-existent jobs? It’s the wrong tactic all round. We should be encouraging – not rhetorically but practically – as many people as possible to want to strike out into an economy of the proactive.
Business should not be a fearful beast but something people find absolutely fascinating.
Of course, in a very great sense, big business encourages its participants, customers and employees to be as dependent on its services as possible. They’re not looking in the least to create independent – that is to say, disloyal – subjects who pick and choose as the fancy takes them in an unpredictable and dangerously freedom-loving way; or who might either switch brands or even set up their own competing ones. The very dependency culture which people like Iain Duncan Smith criticise in the public sector and Welfare State mindsets is – quite paradoxically – promoted aggressively and actively in that private one I describe above.
Working as an employee for a large corporation is to be cocooned in an environment where every few months little rewards come along to make you give up on the idea of spreading your wings; of leaving your safe and secure little role; of moving out of that comfort zone. Buying as an end-user from a large corporation is to be cocooned in an environment where spreading similar wings to other providers is either dangerous or uncool; either risky or unwise; a choice the advertising messages pumped out daily encourage you to believe can’t exist.
Big business is as (perhaps corruptingly) effective at deliberately creating a dependency culture as the public sector and the Welfare State could ever be accused of.
With the single proviso that the Welfare State doesn’t seem to do it intentionally, whilst big business most definitely does.
And so to my main question – and the reason behind this post: big business – or at least banking big business (which is where my experience of such organisations lies) – is a web of dependent relationships. Now I’m not saying this is necessarily bad – for myself, as an employee, and at a particular moment in my life, it actually proved very positive. But if we can see in the private sector positives to be taken from such a set of relationships, why do we argue that in the public sector and the Welfare State the same cannot apply?
Why is it good to be dependent in the private sector but not in the public?
Why is dependency only to be contemplated as permissible by those who run transnational organisations?
And what does this mean for the morality of those who create such empires; their behaviours and attitudes; and, indeed, the wider ability of society to generate the entrepreneurial spirit that creates new economies?