Don’t be Afraid


I was thinking of a basic theory of business today while taking my early morning walk this Sunday morning. (I have some extra time to think and write today, since the clocks went back one hour last night, and I woke up at what I thought was a ‘reasonable’ hour of 4:30 A.M., after tucking myself in at 7:40 P.M. with a bit of a bronchial cold, only to realize, as the ‘O Canada’ played on CBC Radio at what I thought was 7 A.M., that it was indeed 6 A.M.! Thank God for the good old CBC! Take THAT, Stephen Harper!)

The theory goes as follows: ‘Pass on any extra cost of doing business to the customer, and integrate it all into your overall business plan’. Pretty basic stuff, but something which not everybody is aware of. For example, I still hear many people, even some younger types, who say that they refuse to shop or bank on the internet, because they’re afraid of being defrauded or having their bank account tapped into and losing all their money.

Relax! To the best of my knowledge, Canada’s big banks work very hard to ensure the security of internet transactions, and when, inevitably, fraud occurs, guess what? They’re insured up to their eyeballs with contingency funds in the millions of dollars to cover any losses that customers may suffer from having their money stolen. If they didn’t, they’d be just plain stupid as businesses, and would actually be exposing themselves to millions, and potentially billions of dollars of civil liability class action lawsuits on the part of citizens who would have lost their money in fraudulent bank transactions on the web.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. My best guess is, in the true spirit of capitalism, as described in the above-mentioned business axiom, I would have to say that Canadian banks especially, probably pass on that cost of covering their losses in the field of bank fraud, to the customer, in the form of our now legendarily high service fees, which have been used in the past by our big banks to help pay for such things as the amortization of the cost of their computerization efforts in the early to mid nineteen eighties, and onwards.

This business model is also used by other large companies such as Bell, the cable companies, the electrical utilities, insurance companies, and so on. Essentially, any service which is billed to consumers, and where there is a certain endemic rate of delinquent accounts, with a certain guaranteed number of them that the company knows from experience, depending on the state of the economy, that they will never be able to collect, is a good candidate for the application of this business model.

So basically, your Bell bill remains pretty high, not to mention your cable bill, electrical bill, gas, insurance, etc, because, you’re essentially paying for all the deadbeats who don’t pay their bills, either because they lose their jobs, don’t manage their finances properly, are on welfare, have a drug and alcohol addiction problem, are mentally ill, or are just plain predisposed to screw the system by making fraudulent insurance claims and collecting on them, or being a recent immigrant to our country who racks up hundreds of dollars of long distance calls to their native homeland while living in a cheap rooming house in a big city, with the phone bill listed in their roommate’s name, then skipping town without paying the bill, and stiffing the other guy with the bill, and him not wanting to pay.

All of these things are taken into account by the big private and public corporations of our country, and are calculated accordingly into their business plan. As John Cougar Mellencamp said in his song ‘Pink Houses’, when describing the essence of the middle class ‘American Dream’ as he saw it, he summed it up quite well in the bridge part of the song when he contrasted the perspective of the elites who control the society we live in, with the average people who actually have to live with the consequences of the decisions that they make: ‘Well there’s people, and more people, what do they know. Go to work in some high rise and vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico… yeah yeah. And there’s winners and there’s losers, but they ain’t no big deal, because the simple man baby pays for the thrills,the bills the pills that kill….’ Then he goes back into the refrain of ‘ain’t that America, for you and me, ain’t that America, somethin’ to see baby, ain’t that America, home of the free… little pink houses for you and me….’

So basically, the ‘pink houses’, that are depicted in Mellencamp’s song and video of the same name, which are emblematic of all that is wholesome and idealistic about the American dream of modest, middle class respectability, which can just as easily apply to Canada, is essentially purchased at a very high price: We have to pay for all of the ‘bills’, of those who are less fortunate than we, the ‘thrills’ of those who are richer than us, and who garner their wealth from the sweat of our labour, and the ‘pills that kill’, in the form of all of the ‘pills’ or ‘solutions’, or ‘prescriptions’ which our elites present to us on a regular basis to advance or preserve the interest of our civilization, which, in the final analysis, are solutions which are first and foremost destined to protect and promote the preservation and self-perpetuation of the economic elite so that ‘wealth creation’ can continue to be ‘created’. These ‘pills that kill’, usually take the form of the wars in which we are asked to sacrifice a portion of our young men, and now, increasingly, our young women also.

Black Sabbath, the British heavy metal group, wrote a similar song, which spoke of a similar phenomenon, which was called ‘Spiral Architects’. In the song, Ozzy Osborne, the singer, talks about the elites of our society as being ‘sorcerers of madness’, and ‘spiral architects’, who, like the term describes, not only build ‘spiralling’ high rise buildings which physically and metaphorically reach for the heavens, but also are ‘mad’ with power in their desire to build grandiose temporal civilizations whose aspirations are often well-intentioned, but which often ‘spiral’ off in all directions, not always good ones. He goes on to say that these ‘spiral architects’ always end up adopting the attitude of ‘we build you pay’, which actually has quite a few parallels right here in Canada.

One only has to think of the 1976 Montréal Summer Olympics, which were supposed to cost initially 100 million$, but ended up costing 1,1 billion$, because of so many cost over runs and corruption. The people, ironically who ended up paying for most of it, were the cigarette smokers of Québec, who had a special tax levied on their preferred vice, so as to pay for Mayor Jean Drapeau’s,(the ‘spiral architect’ in question) grandiose scheme. It is quite fittingly ironic that a venture such as the Olympics, which are supposed to embody all of the ideals of Baron de Coubertin’s notions of world peace, health, physical fitness, and sublimation of violence and aggression through sport, should’ve ultimately been paid for by essentially ‘waging war on the poor’, by levying a tax on cigarettes, which are mostly consumed by the least economically favoured segment of the population, who are also known to have a tendency to be the least physically fit, and who would be most in need of being encouraged to become more so.

So there you go folks, another fine instalment of ‘how the world really works’ by yours truly, Peter Stuart, citizen at large. (Hopefully not a ‘large citizen’. Must lose some weight.) So the next time you hear somebody griping about not wanting to do business on the internet, just tell them: ‘Relax! We’ve paid all those thrills, bills, and pills to all those spiral architects ten times over, so don’t worry, be happy!’

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