Sunday, 13 June 2010

BP is not British and its not profitable

Lets just shatter a few illusions here. Firstly, BP is not British. It is a global corporation and like any global corporation it has no loyalty whatsoever to the UK. The only loyalty BP has is to it's shareholders - around a third of which are American anyway. So when Christopher Meyer starts banging on about how BP is a 'vital British interest' he is talking bollocks. Of course, BP can play at being British if it is advantageous to do so. Equally, if BP doesn't get what it wants here it will, like every other global corporation, threaten to leave - in other words subject the UK government to economic blackmail. BP, therefore, gets to have its cake and eat it - so much for being British!

Secondly, the oil catastrophe in the gulf is not just down to BP. Lets not forget that it was inadequate regulation of oil companies in the gulf which contributed to this disaster. Where have we heard that before? Does it sound familiar? The American government and regulators must share some of the blame - just as they were partly responsible for the collapse of the banks, and hence the economic crisis we are now suffering from.

Finally and most importantly its crucial to understand just how BP and other corporations do make profits. Most people think that corporations make profits by selling stuff - like oil. Well they do, but in making or extracting and selling stuff they incur costs. The maths are simple. If they bring in more money than they have spent (in costs) they make a profit, and they are entitled to pass on that profit to shareholders - right? Wrong! Its wrong because most if not all capitalist 'enterprises' never pay all the costs that they incur. What they do is dump those costs onto society and the environment. In the case of BP the costs avoided by BP were brilliantly summed up by George Monbiot in this article - I recommend you read it. Economists have a word for these costs - they call them externalities.

The avoided costs are usually in the form of inadequate wages and environmental pollution. Corporations are able to pay staff wages on which they cannot afford to live because of subsidies in the form of welfare payed for by the taxpayer. In this country Tax Credits are just one example of this kind of subsidy. Inadequate environmental regulation here, and around the world, means that corporations are literally able to dump their toxic waste into the environment. The taxpayer picks up the tab for clean up and the local population pays in ill health and disease. One of the worst examples of this is in Nigeria where oil companies have devastated the landscape whilst making huge 'profits' - see this link.

The 'profits' of capitalism are the poverty of individuals, the devastation of communities and the degradation of the environment. Capitalism is little more than a racket which governments turn a blind eye to. The people who suffer are us, and the people who pay for it are us. Just as we are being made to pay for their economic crisis.

No comments: