How Running a Transcription Company Led Me to Blame Capitalism

There was a big, high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said “Private Property”
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing
That side was made for you and me

—Woody Guthrie

20 years ago, I was a partner in a company that did transcription. In those days, people sent us cassette tapes and we transcribed the information onto our computers and returned the documents to clients by email. For some reason, a company that recorded phone conversations with CEOs of major companies trusted our little hippy operation with the job of transcribing their phone calls.

We transcribed dozens of monthly calls between CEOs and CFOs of major food chains and other national companies with their major stockholders. The surprising thing about these calls was that the reports from the executives only addressed the last and future 3 months. Literally, 3 months of profits and losses were all they were interested in reporting. Occasionally, very occasionally, someone would mention something they expected to happen in 6 months, such as when profits were not as high as they expected, or if they had experienced losses.

No one spoke about the impact of their companies on health, climate change, war, or any of the major issues of our time. This was all about profit, and only profit and only in the next 3 months.

To my mind, it is this very centered focus on profit that is driving many of the disasters of our times. For example, we transcribed calls from executives of several of the national fast food companies. They were only interested in 3 months of profit, not in the health of the consumers they fed and not the well-being of their employees. In the news there was mention of using green packaging; that was never mentioned in the phone calls. In the news there was mention of ingredients that were recalled; that was never mentioned in these phone calls.

I came to realize, over years of transcribing these calls, that profit is the only motivator of national companies. I blame capitalism for the failure of US society to address the needs of our people.