What’s Been Normalized? Nothing Good or Positive

What’s Been Normalized? Nothing Good or Positive by Charles Hugh Smith for Of Two Minds

What’s been normalized are policies and cultural norms that seek to enrich and protect the few at the expense of the many.

When the initially extraordinary fades into the unremarkable background of everyday life, we say it’s been normalized. Put another way, we quickly habituateto new conditions, and rationalize our ready acceptance of what was previously unacceptable.

Technology offers many examples of extraordinary advances quickly becoming normalized as we habituate to new devices and behaviors, but my focus today is on policies and cultural norms that were radical departures from accepted norms at their introduction but which are now accepted as “normal.”

This normalization of extreme policies conceals the often equally extreme unintended consequences of the new policies and norms.

Let’s start with two examples which have unleashed unintended consequences that have completely distorted markets: allowing pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to “consumers” and allowing corporations to buy back their own shares. Each of these activities had been banned for self-evident reasons, yet were allowed in the neoliberal rush to deregulate industries without regard for the long-term consequences.

Now Big Pharma dominates advertising in late-night TV and various print publications, directing “consumers” to “ask their doctor about”…. The ads all feature a comical parody of disclosure, with a fast-talking voice talent listing all the horrific side-effects as quickly as possible in the hopes “consumers” won’t hear the real-world consequences of the oh-so-pricey med being promoted.

I’ve long mocked this Big Pharma profiteering via my parody ads for imaginary meds such as Delusionol:

Meanwhile, enabling corporations to buy their own stocks has incentivized borrowing billions to buy back shares, boosting the earnings per share even as sales and profits stagnated. This trick pushed shares prices higher, enriching managers and major owners.

Rather than invest in risky new products, corporate managers have enriched themselves by blowing billions on stock buybacks, distorting valuations while creating fabulous wealth for themselves and major shareholders while crippling the company with debt. (For an example, consider GE.)

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