Look at this lovely old drawing. Fernlike leaves, flower heads like old fashioned crochet embroidery. This is Daucus carota ssp sativa, originally native to temperate regions of Europe and southwest Asia. Now print this picture out and go to the supermarket and try to find it in the produce section.
If you are lucky, you might spot some by their leaves. But mostly you will find only the bare, leafless root, or even stubby vegetable batons identifiable only by their colour.
Carrots themselves don’t want to be stubby batons of pure edibility. In fact, that kind of carrot can’t exist as a living thing – it’s just what’s left when most of the living parts of the carrot are shaved and chopped away.
Now, no grocery shopper would choose the whole carrot (leaves, stems, flowers, taproot, feeder roots and a bit of dirt) over the bagged orange cudgels when planning to make a stew. But would a sane grocery shopper deny that all those bits need to exist? Would they demand to pay “only for the carrot” and not pay for the other bits?
And how long would carrots last if they were “paid” only by root-weight, not on a whole-life basis? As a wholly domesticated species, they wouldn’t. They’d be gone in a generation, if they even came to exist in the first place. Only the wild ones would still live, of a low quality from the shopper’s viewpoint, but surviving.
This is why business, worldwide, needs to pay fairly, and provide benefits and pensions.
Woah! Where did THAT unsignaled left turn come from?
I’m a carrot too. So are you. We need our lacy finery, our crocheted flowers. We need to set seed and droop into a shabby graceful old age. We need our feeder roots. And our taproot is not there for some shopper to chomp – it’s there to nourish the plant while it engenders seed, and dower those seeds with enough stored food to get their own proper start.
Business only exists because we exist, yet like other critters it tries its best to get all the candy and none of the wrappers. It isn’t intelligent enough, overall, to realize that if it slices out the taproot and starves the rest of the plant, carrots will disappear, immediately followed by the businesses who depend on them.
At present, business has managed to interpose itself between many of us carrots and our sustenance, collecting a toll each time something of value crosses through the toll gate. This can work very well for us and for them, provided the toll is low enough and enough of the profit is returned to nourish the carrots. But over the past couple decades less and less has been returned to the carrots. The taproots have been tapped out.
Luckily for business, people aren’t like carrots, are not fully domesticated. In the poorest nations you see this in a pure form. We’re still a wild species, we continue to raise our kids, save and build and flower and set seed even in the bleakest situations. People don’t stop living, and the reason for living is living.
Business flourishes when people flourish, but many businesses don’t know this, or are content to get most of a shrunken root rather than part of a plump one. Will they ever grasp this? The incentives seem to go the other way, with the short-term spoils going to the greediest..
That’s why someone besides business needs to regulate business, and why great profitability in business should be viewed with suspicion, not placid satisfaction.