Capitalism seeks profit, that is without a doubt.
If I said that capitalism was a man-eater, would you believe me? In Chinese culture, seeking gain for its own sake is highly frowned upon. We have many popular proverbs such as “The path to riches must be pursued ethically”, or the motto for Tsinghua University, “Great Virtue Bears Great Responsibility”. But, in reality, capitalism holds many unpalatable principles.
Take the aviation giant, Boeing, for example. In the modern-day, Boeing has enjoyed a prestigious reputation, being the forerunner of its industry. It evokes modernity and reliability with its cutting-edge technology, rigorous production standards, objective attitude, and a fair value direction. However, in the past few years, several truths have come out that question this reputation. Behind the auspicious facade hides another side of the Boeing Company.
On October 29, 2018, an Indonesia Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crashed 13 minutes after takeoff, killing 189 passengers. Not long after, on March 10, 2019, an Ethiopia Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane also crashed soon after takeoff, killing all 149 passengers and 8 crew.
At first, blame was laid on inexperienced pilots and operational mistakes, but the truth quickly came out. China was the first to notice that the problem lay in the planes themselves and suspended their flights, soon followed by other countries.
On September 16, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives released an investigative report on the Boeing 737 MAX series of planes, confirming that the two deadly accidents were a combined result of “a series of serious mistakes committed by” the Boeing Company and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. There was an urgent need for a complete overhaul.
The report states that the October 2018 Indonesia Lion Air accident “was not simply a result of a mechanical failure, technical mistake, or insufficient management”, but rather caused by “incorrect technical hypotheses formed by Boeing technicians, a lack of transparency in the Boeing Company management, and a severe lack of oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration”.
Essentially, the problem was that Boeing didn’t want to spend money on researching and developing newer models of airplane. Instead, it attempted to use software operation as a means to integrate newer and more powerful engines with older aircraft. The integration carried on even though engineers found and reported the hidden safety risks, hoping to squeak past disasters with good luck.
In the case of the Boeing 737 MAX, not only was profit prioritized over safety, but the company made individuals into its scapegoat as a part of the cover-up. This is not the only example. As long as you are willing to search, you will find many more similar incidents. Capitalism ruling decisions is even more commonplace in the medical field, where it manifests as a force that overrules the health and interests of patients with unchecked predatory tactics.
As I have discussed in previous chapters, there are many chronic illnesses in the world that may have a much better treatment. But this absolutely immoral force will use any means necessary to intentionally mislead patients so that they never stop taking medications and injections for the rest of their lives, all for the sake of the bottom line.
What’s even more tragic is that so many of those involved in the system, from the authors of medical textbooks to the various medical institutions and the media, and even sections of the general public are aware of this daylight robbery. But the patients are kept in the dark.
It makes me think of theft on an overnight train – when the thief is committing the crime, they do not care about being seen by other passengers, as long as the victim is sound asleep, then they have succeeded.
Our economics textbooks tell us that capital is assets that are used to invest and gain a profit. But did you know about the concept of profit-gain? If an asset isn’t used to make a profit then, technically, it is not capital. If an asset is used to help an individual or society as a whole, then it isn’t capital.
So, from the perspective of capital, society doesn't matter; ethics don’t matter. Monetary gain is the most important rule. There is no concern for the conscience of ethics, as long as it’s legal.
All the governments of the world realize this, and each has its own way of keeping the recklessness of capitalism under control.
Unfortunately, in modern society, capitalism is the shadow behind the governments or has even become a part of them. As we often say in China, if one is a referee and a sportsman at the same time, how can he truly arbitrate his own actions?
If you were to imagine capitalism as a person, he would be a pathological liar who will do whatever is necessary to look after his own interests. He would be an anti-humanitarian who maximizes profit, sets monetary gain as his only goal, calculates every method, and disregards social welfare and taboos, including racism, poverty, war, and illness. Nothing will be too much for him, even creating disasters to profit from them.
Once I figured out this hidden layer, the curtain pulled back on stories that I had heard over the previous decades.
For example, Ford once found a serious flaw in its braking systems, but it chose to flat-out deny it instead of recalling its vehicles, resulting in many accidents. Why was that? Because Ford had calculated that the costs incurred by recalling and repairing the vehicles would be higher than settling lawsuits after accidents. As long as profit gain is maximized, human lives are only a secondary consideration.
This type of situation is not limited to Ford, Boeing, or even the United States, but it can be found in all capitalist societies, including China. It is commonplace to see incidents where capitalism takes precedence over lives and ethics. Once we realise this point, answers to previously sticky questions start to emerge.
Two hundred years ago, Karl Marx argued that, as the possibility for profit increases, capitalism gains courage. With a 10% profit margin, it is guaranteed to be used everywhere; with a 20% profit, it becomes proactive; a 50% profit margin incentivizes risks; with a 100% profit, it dares to trample over societal laws; and with a 300% profit margin, it is brave enough to commit crimes and even risks courting death.
Similar to how military profiteers use democracy and freedom as a guise to incite wars, medical profiteers use health as a front to turn chronic patients into cash cows to milk them dry. Hypertension medication sales earn $45 billion USD worldwide each year, hyperlipidemia drugs earn $22 billion USD worldwide per year, and diabetes medications earn $50 billion USD worldwide per year. This much opportunity for profit makes it impossible that any better treatment option would be allowed to thrive.
Never underestimate the determination nor the force of capitalism.
Do you still remember Jay Wortman’s My Big Fat Diet documentary? This promotional documentary for the high-fat, low-carb diet was ultimately taken down, and you can’t watch it on any public media platform. The power of capitalism is why.
And if the silencing of Jay Wortman isn’t impressive enough, what about the former U.S. President Donald Trump? While he was still in office, capitalism had the power to silence him on the Internet. Who knows which part of the capitalist machine he had offended.
Let’s return to another example in the medical industry.
The current best-selling brand of opioid painkillers is OxyContin. Apparently, just taking a tiny tablet can relieve a patient’s pain for 12 hours. However, behind this tiny tablet is the story of one of the richest families in the U.S. Each tiny tablet is stained with the blood of the people.
Opioid abuse has become the largest public health crisis in the U.S. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40,000 people die from drug abuse each year, surpassing the number of deaths from lung cancer.
The present-day U.S. is being slowly consumed by these painkillers. OxyContin is not a medical blessing, but rather a lethal poison that is poised to destroy American society. All of it comes from one of the richest families in the U.S. – the Sackler family.
Those who have an interest in art would have heard of this name. Every art museum that you can think of, this family has had their hand in it. But where did all that money for the investments come from? The answer is simple – selling drugs!
The majority of the Sackler family’s wealth comes from the Purdue Pharma, founded in 1892.
In the 1960s, Purdue started an advertising campaign introducing the concept of anxiety. Naturally, there was no medication on the market that could treat their newly made-up illness except their own. This drug became the first to break through billions in sales in U.S. history. But in reality, it is a medication that contains an addictive ingredient.
In 1972, the Sackler family released another morphine-type medication with a promise that it could help relieve pain for late-stage cancer patients, and it became another miracle drug for cancer treatment.
Later, the Sackler family thought that their focus on one type of illness was too narrow, so they extended their hands toward the broad field of general pain relief, making addicts out of all patients who had symptoms of pain. Back pain? Use our painkillers! Nerve pain? Use our painkillers!
That was not the end of it. From that point forward, Purdue increased the addictive ingredient in its manufactured pharmaceuticals in the name of researching and developing new drugs, giving patients the impression of a more effective painkiller. What is ironic is that in the advertisements for these new drugs, they are lauded as officially approved for reducing drug abuse.
Goldman Sachs reports that, for a pharmaceutical company, a medication that can definitively cure an illness doesn’t fit the economic principle of commercialism. Once you are cured, you are no longer a consumer who can provide a continuous cash flow. This may sound cruel and heartless, but in reality, that is how it is done.
For chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, malicious capitalism leads patients on to a path of lifelong drug dependence. It is not the best treatment option, but it is the best commercial model.
Regrettably, such honesty from institutions is rare. What usually happens is that these immoral actions are romanticized as creating wealth for society and relieving pain for patients.
There are steps to this process:
Firstly, the capitalists disguise themselves as philanthropists with a passion for education or art. They signal their virtuous acts in the spotlight over and over again, painting a blinding halo for themselves so that it covers up their dark deeds.
After striking it rich from painkillers, the Sackler family made a point to always appear at high-end art scenes and invest in a wide variety of artworks, using their blood-stained money to host charity events and build a “philanthropist” image for themselves. Even after the conspiracy was brought to light, there were people who still defended the Sackler family, pointing to how much good they had done.
The capitalists control all the media and educational institutions. Regardless of what happens, the media will always sing the capitalists’ song, painting black as white and evil as good. Some even go as far as putting the capitalists on a divine pedestal.
The media that rally behind the Sackler family claim pain relief to be a divine human right, so anyone opposing them is simply cruel. With that kind of a rallying cry, Purdue even received support in the form of a federal medical subsidy.
There are other for-profit corporations like the Sackler family who spend astronomical amounts of money to control the education system. From early on in their training, doctors are taught to accept that diabetes is incurable, then this belief is passed on to patients. All their treatments are based on maximizing profits for the pharmaceutical companies. Billions of patients became crops to them, to be reaped of their money and their life’s happiness year after year.
Capitalists sponsor and bribe a great number of medical organizations.
The Sackler family uses sponsorships as a means to buy off many medical organizations. Some of which are the so-called teams of experts. Others become medical “experts” through self-packaging and branding, and they use their influence to make pain an important factor in determining if and how much medication a doctor should prescribe.
Moreover, distributors, physicians, and medical experts all receive kickbacks! These are the medical staff who are supposed to help save patients, but as long as they mention the pros of painkillers at their so-called seminars, they will receive a generous “appreciation reimbursement”.
But what about China? Can it be spared from the feeding frenzy that is capitalism?
Just taking a look at the real estate market, the conclusion is far from optimistic. Even though I am across the ocean in Canada, I can still clearly see the horrifying inflation of housing prices in China. Regardless of how the government admonishes, regulates, and controls, the prices are still steeply climbing. Why is that? Well, everyone is listening to the “experts”.
If we take a look at the research summit held by the so-called expert professors from real estate research centers at prestigious universities, they keep speaking in a professional tone, discussing various scientific research, and certain past historical events and all come to the same conclusion that housing prices will simply continue to increase.
At the time of writing this, it is April 19, 2021, and a doctor in Beijing had just uncovered the inside story of tumor treatments in China. A doctor from the department of medical oncology at Peking University Third Hospital, using the Internet alias “Dr Zhang Yu” disclosed that under most circumstances, tumor treatments should not be draining a patient’s bank account without saving their lives. On the contrary, treatments should be much more effective than they currently are, and also more affordable.
Then why are there still so many cases of patients losing all their savings and their life? Dr Zhang Yu admitted that they were caused by the physician who was responsible for the tumor treatment plan. He had witnessed physicians who knew the best treatment, yet they deliberately chose the incorrect one, just so they could make more money. This is not limited to his hospital, to Beijing, and certainly not to the field of tumor treatments.
If we return to the topic of the high-fat, low-carb diet, Professor Fredrick Stare from the Harvard school of nutrition, among others, has received bribes to falsify data and theories that misled the U.S. and even the whole world. This led consumers to believe that the villain of health problems was fat and that everyone should eat sugar and carbohydrates instead, the effects of which can still be felt 50 years later. Professor Stare is not alone in this either.
Once you realize that the ice you can see is only the tip of the giant berg, it is hard to comprehend. As I learn more and more, the more I learnt, the more tempting it was to shout a once-common Chinese phrase, “Down with the reactionary authority!”