Ulrich Beck, a German sociologist, is credited with the term “organized irresponsibility.”I find it a compellingly descriptive term that reveals something important about capitalism in the 21st century. It is the natural child of a mature capitalist system where the last remaining value, shareholder value, is to be maximized at any cost; any cost, not only to the planet, but to humankind and the web of life that supports us.
And because its main purpose is to maximize shareholder value, organized irresponsibility is backed by well-organized funding.
Like an alien species, it has invaded most all domains of human action; government, business, labor, education, religion, and the main stream media. And it’s consequences are devastating. Consider the following sampling to illustrate:
Our taxes are used to subsidize the production of unhealthy foods. We have a national obesity epidemic that in no small part is driving our healthcare costs up. This is a well-funded, organized irresponsibility. From the Huffington Post Food edition, “It’s a well-known fact that most farm subsidies go to crops, like feed corn, that aren’t exactly healthy. They’re crops that are easy to grow en masse and in the heartland. But a new study from the US Public Interest Research Group, called “Apples To Twinkies,” shows just how unhealthy most subsidized food is. According to the report, the vast majority of produce subsidized by the USDA ends up in junk food.”
The oil, gas and coal industries are government subsidized with tax money while they continue to pollute the land, our water and the air we breathe. It’s a well-funded, organized irresponsibility. From Oil Change International, “the total, global amount of fossil fuel subsidies provided in 2012 is likely to be at least ¾ of a trillion dollars annually – $775 Billion.” And this doesn’t take into consideration the multi-millions donated to campaigns and paid to lobbyists to grease the skids toward fewer and fewer regulations.
Although on the surface it seems as though our war in drugs is the peak of responsibility, in fact it is one of the best examples of organized irresponsibility. We are funding a broad and deep criminal industry by making a simple declaration: “the disease of addiction is a criminal act.” The forty-year war on drugs has failed by the admission of world authorities on drugs yet we continue our well-funded, well-organized irresponsibility of arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating sick people while allowing the drug cartels to make billions.
Where can we find a more relevant example of organized irresponsibility than Washington, D.C.? Politicians create crises like the budget / debt ceiling imbroglio. They use these messes to pander to special interest groups and garner sponsorship and votes for their party. They irresponsibly ignore the impact of the stalemates that they create. And they do it in a well-organized fashion with a good deal of help from very wealthy funding sources.
The current sequester is a prime example of organized irresponsibility in the form of across the board budget cuts without proper consideration of the effects of those cuts. Not only are their actions irresponsible but are dereliction of a duty of the job they were elected to perform.
Beck’s discussions on “risk societies” and how some risks are enlarged because they cross national boundaries with no central controlling authority show the global effects of organized irresponsibility. Think acid rain, ozone holes and air pollution, all global results of organized irresponsibility that affect us all.
There is only one final scenario if this trend continues and it’s very well depicted in a New Yorker cartoon my Tom Toro. There are four raggedly dressed children sitting around a campfire. In the background are the remains of a city. The oldest child is saying, “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.”
Well-funded, well-organized irresponsibility will get us there if we just have persistence.
Robert De Filippis