|Re-Evolution 13 : Makeshift 2013|
Just Wondering About The Re-Evolution
Thinking about the idea of 'capitalism', it is difficult to imagine that it won't always be around? It is like the telephone, how many would have predicted, other than the most visionary sci-fi writer, that one day we would walk around making calls on cordless cell phones from absolutely anywhere in the world?
I don't know why, but it came as a surprise to me that capitalism has been around for a really long time. The label 'capitalism' emerges around the 1860's, though the word, apparently, was used around 1848 - 1849 but only became currency in the 1860's.
Some believe capitalism per se, as a system, emerged as long as 500 years ago.
Of course, as a system of market exchange and profit making it has evolved, so when we speak about 'capitalism' we are actually referring to a group of 'capitalisms' as it has changed over time.
But that is the important point, it is only a people manufactured system so it can be sculpted, changed and altered as it unravels - yes we are a long way from the stream engine and, interestingly, within touching distance of the cashless society. Mobile phones, for example, are already taking trade from games consoles ( a relatively new technology). Amazing to think, that in some locations, and with technology adjusted mobile phones, you can even buy a cup of coffee without cash or credit card.
This had me thinking that what we are experiencing in the USA and the UK and, in fact, across the globe, is the beginnings of a readjustment and not, the much trumpeted, recovery smug politicians are always telling us about.
Two things immediately strike me.
One : Huge companies once employed giant workforces, now gigantuan businesses by market capitalisation don't always employ giant workforces. Google, for example, is worth $373.64 billion but only employs some 46,000 souls while General Motors (market capitalisation $56.8 billion) who have had such a traumatic times since the recession of 2008, still employs over 170,000 people. Apple, another example, with a market capitalisation $503.93b only employs 80,000, while the Ford motor company still employs some 213,000 but only has a market capitalisation of $60.38 billion. Blackberry had a market capitalisation of around $80 billion back in 2008, as of September 2013 it is now worth $4.3 billion. In September 2013 they laid off 4,500 from 12,700 and once employed 20,000.
Two : The configuration of the labour market in advanced western economies is also changing (re-adjusting). More and more people are working on temporary, freelance, sub-contract, part-time or zero hours agreements and less are now plugged into traditional contracts which covered holidays, sickness and pensions. There is an increasing mantra in these developed societies that continually explain that welfare, healthcare and pensions are no longer affordable. Cutting across this, the traditional job is disappearing and with it the former certainties of millions of middle class workers. New technological advances ( as always), demographics and leverage are all regurgitated by lacklustre governments as the reason for these automatic and very necessary re-alignments.
Both the above, need, of course, to be examined closer to discover if we are really entering a re-evolution, which I think we are. But time is against me as I sit with a primo Americano in Costa Coffee at Central 12, Southport.
The young girl who served me earlier approaches.
"Excuse me sir" she says in a high pitched voice. "Just to let you know because of re-adjustment, from next week a Primo Americano will now cost two hubcaps, but if you paint the front of my house you can have two Lattes and one Ristretto."
"I need me bedroom wallpapered," an old lady to my rights states. "It's worth an Americano Grande and a raspberry and almond slice for you to do it."
"I can fix your car for a couple of Expressos!" A middle-aged man shouts his offer as he jumps to his feet.
"I have three Batman comics from the 1970's, for anyone who will buy me a Cortado!" a young lady with a child in her arms calls out as she clmabers to her feet.
The room falls momentarily silent before people are leaping to their feet and shouting at each other across the room.
Later the Financial Times made interesting reading. Batman comics of the 1970's had moved up to two Cortados and a Cappuccino, while wallpapering a front room was now worth two Grande Americanos and a raspberry and almond slice...mmmmmm. Hub caps, unfortunately, had passed their peak and fell by two Lattes....
(Written in Costa Coffee, Central 12 ,Southport, December 30, 2013. Wishing you all the very best for 2014)