Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Conspiracies

Yesterday we talked about money. A couple commenters, who also happen to be a couple, suggested investing as a means of 'making your money work for you' so that you can have more to help people without buying stuff. I agree with them to a certain extent. Investing in companies is a way to get a good return on investment. But is it better than buying stuff? You have to remember that when we 'invest' we are really buying a small part of a company (it looks like when I say 'invest' I am talking stocks, I realize there are other forms of investment). We own that part of a company because we have hopes of it growing, getting bigger and therefore the value of that piece of the company that we own increases. So how do companies grow and get bigger? In large part by making more stuff, that you may not be buying, but someone is buying. I do still think that investing is good, but I think it's important to know what you are investing in and promoting with the dollars you are spending.

Lets give some examples. Have you ever heard of national city lines? It was a cute little cooperative between Firestone, Standard oil of California, Philips petroleum and General Motors. They took interest in trolleys and other electric powered street cars in the 1930s-1950s. I am pretty sure they were trying to build public transportation infrastructure. Oh wait, they may have been a little upset over the transportation system that carried lots of people without using petroleum, or tires and it was efficient enough to make it so people didn't need cars. Right, so this cute little coop (remember that these were all publicly owned companies, making this a little on the illegal side) bought up transit systems and converted the environmentally friendly light rail systems to oil burning, tire using GM buses, maybe that is why they call it the GM streetcar conspiracy. Unfortunately they had STELLAR success. They essentially dismanteled the public transportation so that people had to use their products.

Lets look at Salt Lake City as an example. A few years back the Federal Government put a whole lot of money into upgrading public transportation and highways in the area in preparation for the olympics. There is currently a pretty good system in SLC that is growing and expanding as fast as it can, but is struggling with all of the development in the area that makes it difficult to lay down rails in downtown. 50 years ago SLC had a streetcar system that had rail lines every block or two and the entire thing was powered by hydroelectric power from the mountain streams. Now people can only dream of having TRAX every couple of blocks. So what happened? GM purchased it and essentially shut it down. Also, for the locals, there used to be a railed transit line running from Utah Valley up to SLC. We can expect that service to return in another 5-10 years. Along with more than 100 other cities, GM came in and purchased the streetcar systems and the cities are trying to rebuild and get back to what could have been.

I don't know that I would call it a conspiracy, but I see the same thing happening in nutrition. The government is sending huge subsidies to farmers to grow corn to make high fructose corn syrup. The corn syrup is used to make junk food that make people fat and are highly profitable for companies. The companies then make HUGE contributions to political candidates campaign funds so that the subsidies will continue. It's really a cute cycle that works well for all involved. Well, all except for the 66% of Americans that are overweight or obese. And I suppose it doesn't work so well for anyone who pays insurance for the people who are getting sicker. And it doesn't work well for the next generation who have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. But remember it works well for big business and politicians, so what else really matters? Oh, it also works well for pharmaceutical companies that make big money treating the new diseases caused by the increasing obesity rates.

So how do we get out of this? I think the first thing that needs to be done is to get rid of the advertising for these things that are so devastating to our society. So get rid of car, junk food and pharmaceutical advertisement from the radio, television and magazines. Well, that wouldn't work because there wouldn't be any advertisements left. Actually, in my opinion, that would work quite well for EVERYONE, but it will never happen and I know that. Do you see the problem? It's all about money, it's not about the wellfare of the people. So be careful where you invest.

Sorry, I got a little off task there. here's a good youtube video that you should watch on food industry and obesity.

P.S. Heather and Earl, that was not so much a bash on investments, although I do think you have to be thoughtful with them, as it was a transition to a topic I had been thinking of for some time.

2 comments:

Emily Allan Wood said...

very thought provoking

Heather said...

Of course we should be careful about the companies in which we invest. I know there a lot of bad companies out there, but there are also a lot of good ones. We've found a few. We see investing as a vehicle to help change the world and make our dreams come true. Here are a few things that we would like to achieve during our life time that a career salary would not be able to help with:
1. Be prepared to take care of our parents, if they need it, after they retire.
2. Create scholarship funds
3. Create micro-loans for new business builders in developing countries
4. Earl wants to create an entrepreneurial program in Mexico to help their economy. (I won't go into details of how it will help, but he has it all worked out.)
5. I would like to start a school for children that promotes creativity and curiosity, unlike the schools we have now. It would also pay teachers a professional salary.
Those are just a few of our dreams....I have no doubt that some, if not all, will come true. :)