The Curse of Vested Interest

October by

In this complex and contrary world of ours vested interest must surely rate high on the chart of self-sabotaging economic phenomena. And it is everywhere on shaky ground these days with innovation proceeding apace and evermore publicly thanks to the internet.

Over the years we have read of the rights to one invention or another being purchased and stashed and hoarded away by those whose technology it would trump. General Motors EV-One electric car is seen as a recent example of a company putting a stop to its own innovation because it was so committed otherwise to existing technology. Intertwined as automobiles and oil are it would be naive to believe that the oil industry had no influence on that decision.

Having thoroughly infiltrated our governments, corporations in general can now extend the life of their enterprises by pressuring them-blackmailing them if you like-into funding new infrastructure in support of outdated, soon-to-be outdated or ought to be outdated technology. They, and by default we, then share their self-interested bias against innovation. We become complicit in use of public funds to undermine public interest.

The massive fossil fuel sector is, of course, hugely vulnerable to alternate energy innovation these days. A virtual flash-flood of innovation in alternative energy generation, battery technology and storage capacity is poised to attack…and in some places and ways is already eroding oil and gas predominance.

Didn’t Germany recently say they were now producing more than half their energy from renewable sources?

The miners and refiners smoggy contribution to our way of life is now being clearly seen as the detriment to long-term human well-being that it always was, but with the health of the planet itself now at risk.

Ironically it may well be heavily-polluted China that fast-forwards us most aggressively away from fossil-fuel dependency. It’s breakneck economic revolution is quickly revealing its downside in smog-shrouded, densely-populated cities. And China does not give a damn about the well-being of the world’s corporations any more than it cares about job loss in our lands due to its takeover of global manufacturing.

By themselves diversifying into sustainable power, openly or surreptitiously, big oil can and undoubtedly will impede progress. Its most powerful weapon is obviously pricing. Profits, most graphically in the arab countries, are obscene and can be easily pared down to reduce the appeal of alternatives.

But they can do absolutely nothing against the ubiquity of information technology that reduces the need to travel.

Here in lovely prairie and forest-clad Canada we have a Federal Government, perversely entitled ‘Conservative,’ that is completely in thrall to the oil and gas giants, having utterly betrayed us and abandoned the proper role of government as a referee of private enterprise, pimping for it instead.

And what is it going to happen to the value of all that steel and all those deep-sea oil wells and gas stations, and office towers and fat salaries? Yep big oil has a problem. And they are not going to be able to buy their way out of it on the sly, because their displacement is taking place and being watched on a global scale.

A Canadian Government that could think beyond its next perverted and ubiquitous public relations campaign would see what is coming and start preparing for it. And at this particular point I don’t see any of our major parties having an eye to this inevitable future or how to deal with it advantageously.

And do Canadians, addicted to instant gratification and triviality as we are, even have the capacity to hear and support politicians capable of articulating policy that is forward-looking on these matters.

We live in something of a delusion in this country, second most dependent on natural resources of those deemed to be among the world’s forty-or-so major economies.

Oil is not going away of course. It is used ubiquitously in many of the products we depend upon. It can, if not completely plundered, be an ongoing benefit to future generations.

Future generations….remember them? (Well, I know you can’t remember them, they haven’t been here yet. I mean the concept of future generations).

But that’s just one of those pesky little moral and ethical things….messing things up with matters of the spirit, of what we humans are capable of: you know……..inclusion, compassion, common cause, all that impractical (though certainly marketable) stuff.

That is not the concern of your rabid corporate free enterpriser. “Government can worry about that…but not so it gets directly in our way. We do fund ’em after all, pay for their campaigns and the like. When push comes to shove, they are ours,” one of them might say.

The thing is, they tend to be that way with one another too when push comes to shove, as in any jungle it always, eventually, does. So the phenomenon of internal corporate sabotage, of advancement, of recognition, of credit…..is common enough to be the subject of study. For example: http://managewell.net/?p=842

One can easily speculate as to the cumulative waste implicit in the ratio of start-ups to survivors in the world of business. Much of the energy and resources that go into competing has to some extent been wasted by those who lose out or whose product does.

I’m not saying that government cannot be and is not inefficient. We’re all inefficient, at times, particularly those of us who like taking on new situations. We who consider ourselves innovative. That’s how you learn to be efficient, unless part of your working culture involves camouflaging mistakes rather than declaring them freely so you can get to the remedying. Career advancement at any cost and ass-covering generate toxic operational waste.

But surely no more so in government than than in the business sector. It is unmeasurable in either instance. It’s a cultural thing……like beheading or slavery, all pretty much accepted for substantial periods of human existence. Not the same, you know…but akin: Not mutually supportive, less than our best. Primitive is the term I’m looking for.

Look….we’re an innovative species and that’s cool. But in many ways and on many levels we deny ourselves the real and broad benefit of it. We need to broadly extend innovation to our behaviors and to our medievalized politics and economics and find a way of dealing with the vested interests that interfere with our doing so.

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