The Canoe Race-a Satire on Capitalistic Economies

“The Canoe Race – a satire”


As you can see by the date embedded in the link, the following “parable” is now 6 years old.  What should be obvious to all somehow remains a mystery.  Corporate mismanagment and theft of wages and benefits of employees, bailouts, lay-offs and use of off-shore tax havens to avoid paying taxes in US-based enterprises is on the rise.  Could it be because of unchecked greed?  Oh no, surely not.  That is such a harsh and politically incorrect word to use.

In his “Dune” books Frank Herbert often mentioned “the law of the minimum” when talking about resource use and allocation.  An intelligent person understands that resource (or energy) re-allocation has to be based always on the minimum.  Always use the lowest number when guaging resource availability.  Competitive capitalism uses the opposite law, if it uses any law at all and it would be better said that capitalism is a lawless appropriation of any and all sources of energy with no thought ever given to the possibility that a resource will end – at least not until another, even more profitable resource has been discovered and brought into use.  

The one English word that perfectly defines capitalism is “MORE!” with the exclamation mark.  Do note, all you poets, that “More!” rhymes quite comfortably with “Whore!” – and with good reason.  Capitalism cannot function within a finite condition of resource availability, at least not without powerful governments dictating a steady-state economy (see Wikipedia, ) because we live in a finite environment and yet capitalism is the “economic model of choice” used to exploit, rule and control this world.  That being the case, the logical conclusion is that man’s entire civilization based as it is on such a perverted economic system can but collapse, the main beneficiaries of capitalism’s “largesse” being the very last ones to recognize their own demise.  By the time Americans, Canadians, Europeans and Australians realize their quasi-divine concept of capitalism has eaten through the last victuals in the global pantry, there will be nothing left to come back on.  They will die.  That, of course, has always been the price paid for worship of idols.  Now for the parable:


A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (General Motors) decided
to have a canoe race on the Missouri River.  Both teams practiced long and
hard to reach their peak  performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile .

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the
reason for the crushing defeat.  A management team made up of senior
management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people paddling and 1 person
steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting
company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while
not enough people were paddling.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another
loss to the Japanese, the paddling team’s management structure was totally
reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1
assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people
paddling the boat greater incentive to work harder.  It was called the
‘Rowing Team Quality First Program,’ with meetings, dinners and free pens
for the paddlers.  There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and
other equipment, extra vacation days for practices, and bonuses.  The
pension program was trimmed to ‘equal the competition’ and some of the
resultant savings were channelled into morale boosting programs and teamwork

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Humiliated, the American management laid off one paddler, halted development
of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and cancelled all capital investments
for new equipment.  The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives
as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated paddler was unable to
even finish the race (having no paddles), so he was laid off for
unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year’s
racing team was out-sourced to India.

Here’s something else to think about: GM has spent the last thirty years
moving all its factories out of the US, claiming they can’t make money
paying American wages.

TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants
inside the US.  The last quarter’s results:

TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while GM racks up 9 billion in losses.

GM managers are still scratching their heads… and collecting ever larger bonuses…



13 thoughts on “The Canoe Race-a Satire on Capitalistic Economies

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      At least a camel “functions” which in the world of Coca Cola would have been grounds for firing the entire R&D team. The incompetence of mid and upper level management in that company was simply abysmal and of course they were, and likely remain, petrified that wage-earning employees would demonstrate a superior knowledge of the business than they ever could. Three words describe the feelings everybody I know who still works for them has: pure unadulterated hate. What a nice way to go, corporates!


      1. We come from dreams ~

        Well, yeah, no-one in corporate anywhere in the West would EVER think of consulting with the grunts. My daughter works for a US retail chain that rewards ass-kissing and toadying over performance. She saves her creativity for outside of the job. I think what I meant by the camel / horse thing is that a stopped clock is accurate twice a day! 😛


      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Good point. A stopped clock is useless, yet tells time accurately twice a day. In the Corporate world, that would be, fire staff for all the times the clock is wrong, and give yourself bonuses every time the clock is right. Fix the clock… or replace it? Are you fucking nuts? The system works!


  1. franklparker

    I’m not sure how the parable confirms your theory about capitalism. Toyota is just another capitalist corporation that does capitalism better than US corporations in the same line of business. Whilst I agree that we appear to be locked into a paradigm of infinite growth with finite resources, I have yet to see an alternative economic system that is better at delivering the long lives and good health my generation and yours enjoys as compared to previous generations in the developed world, or to present generations in states that have tried alternatives.


    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      The “good life” won’t come from a system but a changed humanity. As for Toyota being a capitalist corporation, no argument except to say that the corruption within Toyota isn’t as quasi-total as yet as exists at General Motors (to follow with the parable). Presumably some semblance of old “Japanese” ethics remains in the T company. Eventually the same thing would happen to Toyota because the corruption is in the system being used. So it’s capitalism by degrees, as you also see in China. Who could argue that China is not a capitalist empire? Yet it also maintains a degree of communism, thus its capitalism is somewhat “hybridized” though the effects upon the majority are just as nefarious, if not actually worse, than under blunt, direct, unchecked capitalism. Ultimately the evil lies in the “systems” and it’s those that must be dis-empowered. The question before every Earthian today is, can I engage others without resorting to systems? Do I have the personal power to engage life as an individual rather than as a member of a power group?


    2. We come from dreams ~

      I suppose that historical hindsight is the worst kind of hindsight. There were any number of social ideas and experiments which were flattened by the status quo of “the best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire). Prudhomme’s education program for small children; the various Utopian communities and phalanxes popular in the US, Canada and the UK in the 19th century; and despite the brutality which created the Soviet Union, Trotsky and Lenin were within sight of creating a new world – until US and German profiteers bribed Stalin to poison Lenin and eventually, to kill Trotsky in 1943. What remains is the cancer of our plutocracy aka the Matrix.


  2. Woebegone but Hopeful

    Reads as very familiar…
    Very junior manager in the UK Civil Service to discouraged staff
    “And always remember you achieve not because of Senior Management but in spite of it,”


    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Yes, I can certainly agree with that statement as it was a common thread of conversation at Coca Cola get-togethers. But having made money the mainstay of their “economics” they can maintain a facade of know-how a la Donald Trump and pay to keep up the bill board – with stolen resources, wages and benefits from the real workers. As long as there’s been a civilization, it’s always been that way. It was the Church and its opulent “lord” bishops, priests, etc., then the State with its pomp and ceremony and now it’s the Kleptocrats. What’s next, I wonder? We go back to the beginning again?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Woebegone but Hopeful

        Well, maybe we bumble through.
        Although from the ecological viewpoint maybe there’s not the time for bumbling anymore.


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