Modern Man

THERE are many who have made the case that capitalism has failed. Certainly the Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job, about the origins of the Global Financial Crisis, makes a pretty compelling case. Something is fundamentally wrong in a system when speculators, who produce no goods or services of any value to the society, are able to make obscene profits. Yet the very activities they undertake lead to the collapse of financial institutions that then have to be bailed out by taxpayer-funded governments.

Economics was not one of my strong subjects at school, but this doesn't sound like a sustainable model to me.

Neither was Religious Studies, but I seem to remember Jesus threw out the money lenders out, didn't he?

Maybe this is a parable for our times…

The 'Occupy' movement was perhaps the loudest and most visible uprising of people saying we need to find a more equitable way of organising the distribution of capital and labour. But that revolution has run out of blog posts and flash mobs and the 99% seem to be having a cup of herbal tea and a lie down after all that activist activity last year.

I'm no apologist for the capitalist running dogs, but I think Gordon Gekko's famous "greed is good" speech from the movie Wall Street still holds a grain of truth, in that people are motivated by their own self interest.

I know this to be true because I have introduced the concept of pocket money to my eldest daughter in the last couple of years.

In my house - and I'm hoping this can be applied to the wider world - it's just a matter of tweaking the system to get the best outcome for everybody.

The desired outcome at our place is a more even distribution of labour across the family unit for a remuneration that is agreeable to all parties.

I've tried the carrot approach (starting from a zero base and offering 50 cents or a dollar for every job done) and the stick approach (starting at $7 and deducting for every job not done). Both have their merits, but for now we have settled on a system of regular jobs that attract a weekly payment of $5, with incentives to earn more and penalties in place if things aren't done.

(Economists will tell you it's important to have this flexibility in the market place, for those times you have to bribe your children to put a load of washing away when you just couldn't be arsed doing it yourself. I think they call it 'market value'.)

The little one hasn't quite worked out the value of the different coins yet, but she knows the gold ones are worth having.

We're still fine-tuning things, but when I've got a system worked out I'll let the International Monetary Fund know and we can start re-building those banana republics in Europe and America.


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