Financialized nesting dolls

Hit and Miss #248

I’ve just spent who knows how long perusing biking maps of Ottawa, planning for countless little tours. The past week or so has seen me doing plenty of research on cat-related things—well worth it, since T and I brought home Arthur on Thursday night, and he’s already stolen our hearts. I reckon these three—biking, T, and Arthur—will be big parts of the summer ahead, and I’m so glad for it.

Otherwise, it’s been a pretty lazy Sunday—for which I’m glad. Work was busy this week (lots of hurry up and wait), and socializing a bit fuller than it has been for a while. Which aren’t bad things! But they lead to a very tuckered out Lucas. Anyhow, we’re all lazing in the sun now—no complaints.

The main theme of my notable reading this week seemed to be financialization. It was not happy reading.

  • Though paywalled (ha!), the Globe and Mail ran a front page feature on the rapidly increasing presence of private equity in health care, buying up medical, dental, and veterinary practices and squeezing them for profit (disrupting the industry’s private practitioner model in the process). And much of the money for these investments come from pension funds!

  • Cory Doctorow wrote about housing speculation, and who loses when we treat housing not as a right, but as a financial asset:

    Housing is a uniquely dangerous form of speculation, because shelter is a primary human right, and being unsheltered is catastrophic. When a nation replaces labor rights and a social safety net with speculation on housing, it pits the living conditions of everyone who doesn’t have a home against everyone who does. A country whose residents’ dignified retirement depends on house prices going up is a country whose government is committing to making shelter more expensive.

  • This reminded me of a recent observation that my apartment building, officially owned by a pair of numbered companies, is an income source for Great-West Lifeco, which built the property and manages it through its subsidiary, GWL Realty Advisors. GWL Realty Advisors also has a commercial arm, which, hey now, property manages the two main office buildings for the department I work for (indeed, it owns one of the two buildings). And get this—my dental plan at work, the Public Service Dental Care Plan? It’s administered by the Canada Life Assurance Company, itself a subsidiary of Great-West Lifeco.\ \ There’s something particularly… interesting… that the people negotiating the public service dental care plan at TBS work in a building property managed by a subsidiary of the same company that currently administers the plan. And some of those very employees might even live in a building managed by the same company! All of which is there to provide income to the insurance company, which itself provides income to the Desmarais family’s Power Corp. \ \ To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything intentionally nefarious about this arrangement. Rather, I think it’s an indication of how our current form of capitalism integrates and financializes everything around us. You can’t really escape it.

These are all examples of financialization—treating everything as an asset or other economic unit—which, these days in particular, is intimately linked with competition (or a lack thereof). Vass Bednar recently wrote a round-up of her and others’ excellent thinking-in-public on competition.

May we find ourselves a way out of this mess that doesn’t result in widespread ruin. Sigh.

I’m off to play with a cat. All the best for the week ahead!