The Race to the Bottom Accelerates

When competence, transparency and accountability are all punished, the Race to the Bottom accelerates.

Race to the Bottom describes the process of competitive devaluation, where value is gutted to remain competitive with those who are grabbing market share by stripping out quality, value, durability, transparency, accountability and competence.

We see the global Race to the Bottom in everyday products: the quality of goods has plummeted as manufacturers compete to reduce costs to maintain high profit margins by stripping out the quality and durability of components. We see it in shrinkflation, where the cereal box contains less cereal while the price ratchets higher.

We see it when cereals that once contained no sugar are now sickly-sweet because the manufacturer is losing market share to less healthy sugar-bomb cereals.

We see it in healthcare where costs have been so ruthlessly stripped out to boost profits that it takes months to get an appointment and overworked caregivers no longer have the “luxury” of providing the care they were trained to provide. Routine procedures and hospital stays now carry pricetags equal to four years college tuition or a modest house.

The Race to the Bottom isn’t limited to goods and services. Consider the bedrock of the social order, civility. Civility in discourse is now rarer than sightings of UFOs / UAPs.

In politics, scoring cheap points while ignoring the nation’s social decay and unsustainable bubble economy is another example of the Race to the Bottom. Is getting to the bottom of the Taylor Swift ticketing “fiasco” really the most pressing issue that politicians need to address? It would seem so.

In macro-economics, the Race to the Bottom is often used to describe currency devaluation: nations seek to devalue their currency to boost exports, ignoring the downside of devaluation, i.e. their citizenry’s wealth is also devalued as the purchasing power of their currency is reduced to aid a relatively small cohort of exporters.

The decay of transparency, accountability and competence that manifests across a vast spectrum of public and private life is a profoundly systemic Race to the Bottom. Local governments and corporations alike seek to hide their malfeasance, greed and incompetence and evade accountability by any means available.

It’s as if hiding incompetence and insider profiteering is now the most valuable form of competence. Real-world competence has decayed to the point that nobody even knows what competence is, as they’ve never experienced it. The same can be said of transparency and accountability: nobody’s actually experienced actual transparency and consequences falling to those in positions of responsibility.

The “solution” of the incompetent is always the same: throw more money at the problem. But doubling or tripling the budget for housing the homeless or improving public transit never results in doubling or tripling the efficacy or efficiency of the failing systems. Instead, the money is squandered on insider profiteering: studies no one ever looks at, PR displays of “caring,” spectacles of some new showcased ‘solution” that doesn’t actually work and was never intended to be anything more than a PR stunt, and so on.

In this Race to the Bottom, power flows from saying “no”, not “yes.” The list of “stakeholders” is endless, and every one can stall or cancel a project. Nobody’s in charge except to make sure nothing gets done of any consequence.

In this Race to the Bottom, it’s a major victory if each unit of homeless housing only costs $300,000 each rather than $600,000 each and a grand total of 42 units will be built–eventually, unless of course a NIMBY group or other “stakeholder” nixes the project via endless judicial filings.

No matter how much money is thrown at the system, the bus service continues its downhill slide.

When competence, transparency and accountability are all punished, the Race to the Bottom accelerates. The worst are advanced, and the race to strip value, quality and quantity out of products and services becomes a free-for-all stripmining that favors the ruthlessly greedy.

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