This documentary travels through a world of joblessness, debt, and economic uncertainty to the sovereign nation of the plutocrats, where each crisis seems to offer a new business opportunity. In America, where the 2008 financial meltdown cost $4 trillion in economic output, fortunes were made by the very people who precipitated the disaster while millions lost their homes and their savings. Austerity in Europe, economic stagnation in Asia, a lost generation of the young and unemployed - signs we are living through a fundamental global reorganization, the result of which no-one can predict. The world of the 1% has arrived, and the wealth gap is now greater in many countries than during the Gilded Age, the era of the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Vanderbilts. Can our stressed democracies deal with the fallout? Or have governments simply become instruments of the new elite?
In the first of this three-part series investigating consumer spending, Jacques reveals how the concept of 'product lifespan' holds the key to our ever-churning consumerism. Exploring the historical origin of planned obsolescence, when some of the world biggest electrical manufacturers formed a light bulb cartel in the 1920s, Jacques reveals how products that are essential to our modern lifestyles are still made to break. During his investigation, Jacques uncovers the process by which a crucial transformation happened and attitudes towards spending were transformed. Instead of needing new goods because our old ones were broken, we learned to want them for reasons of fashion and aspiration - awaking a consumer appetite that could never be satisfied. In the US, he visits a recycling centre where brand-new high-tech goods are destroyed before they have even come out of the box. Jacques also meets some of the companies that encourage consumers to be dissatisfied with what they have and encourage purchases as part of an ever-faster cycle of 'upgrades'. He asks a senior IKEA executive why, despite the company's commitment to sustainability, it still encourages repeated discarding and purchasing. Jacques also talks to a former senior Apple employee who reveals how the company's new focus on fashion, with its colourful iPhones, keeps us buying even when technological innovation slows.
How has Capitalism affected the world? Raj Sisodia, economic analyst, takes us back to pre-Industrial Revolution to show how our standard of living has improved. But now , he feels, it is time for another kind of capitalism - conscious capitalism - based on a value system deeper than profits.
In September 2008, the collapse of Lehman Brothers tipped the world into recession. A cast of contributors including national leaders, finance ministers and CEOs describe the tense negotiations in New York and London as the investment institution headed towards bankruptcy. Gordon Brown, Tim Geithner and Alistair Darling reveal the dilemmas they faced and the decisions they took.