terms to ease the conscience…

Just been reading a blog entry by the lovely gareth, in which he refers to ‘winning’ an ebay auction. Ebay themselves use the term on the page after the auction – ‘you’ve won!’ it proudly displays.

So, would someone tell me in what sense being willing to pay more than anyone else for a certain item is winning? Surely it’s just shopping? Does anyone do a victory lap round Sainsbury’s after laying out £100 on a week’s groceries? ‘yay, I won some fantastic organic food!!!’

Ebay is chance-inflected-shopping in the same way that the stock market is Ladbrooks for people in suits. ‘Investing’ in the stock market is just like having a flutter on the horses, only you have to buy the FT to follow the form instead of the Racing Post. Either way you’re throwing money at anything based on its ability to make you more money, not out of any kind of support for the enterprise involved, or any sort of sporting allegiance to the jockey or horse…

I was listening to a radio phone in on stock trading on BBC London yesterday, and at no point did anyone raise any kind of moral or ethical questions about the idea of investing in financial success without any concern for what the company actually does. When Chris Martin declared that ‘share holders are the great evil’ last week in the debate about how The new Coldplay album’s delay had dented the EMI share price, it was the first time I’d heard any kind of critique of the system on the news for years. Anyone questioning the rationale of the free market ideologues (FMIs) is painted as a mad commie (rather a commie than a FMI any day), and their critique dismissed as anti-progress or out of step with the times. Does anyone really think that a situation where any PLC is required by law to maximise the investment of it’s shareholders is a good thing?? This means that if a company wants to switch to using all recycled stationary in their offices, which would cost a bit more, they’d have to ballot their share-holders to be able to make the switch, and could be blocked, rather than being able to make ethical decisions in the work place. If they offer out to tender the production of a particular product and a ‘legal’ factory in the far east offers to make the stuff for less with worse workers rights and no unionisation, they are legally bound to go with the lower offer, again unless they ballot the shareholders.

So what can we do? I know various people who have with varying degrees of effectiveness bought stock in order to have a voice at AGMs. Turned up, highlighted particular human rights or environmental abuses and been able to change company policy (Tony Campolo, professor of Sociology at a Uni in Philadelphia, has written about this, but I’m not sure which book it was in…) That’s one way.

Or we can just support co-operatives, small businesses, family run shops, cottage industries, solo bassists… how did that last one creep in there????

If you haven’t done so yet, PLEASE read No Logo by Naomi Klein – a fantastic look at how all this stuff relates to branding in big companies. Beautifully written and very compelling.

How did I end up here, after starting a post to take the piss out of Gareth and his ‘winning’ on Ebay??

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