Capitalism is Opposed to Human Happiness Debate
Date: 07-18-2010, 01:50 PM
I know this is a short response but I'm a capitalist and it makes me very happy.
Date: 07-18-2010, 01:57 PM
The Mondragon Corporation makes up roughly 25,000 workers, and even during the worst recession, they were able to keep unemployment at or below 1%. The businesses of this worker cooperative have nearly a 99% survival rate, compared with American businesses, which 50% are shut down within 5 years of start. ("Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker Cooperative Complex," by William Whyte.) There are similar rates of success with workers' cooperatives in Italy, Britain, India, Mexico, and even Brazil (where millions of workers were allowed to claim unused used land to support themselves).
You seem to forget that for almost the entirety of humanity's history, every worker was their own boss: from small, subsistence farmers to artisans and craftspeople. It is within our nature to manage our own affairs well, and if it is not, we could not be here today.
This is accepted. But it doesn't mean that economic decisions will be completely restricted to this. If people can only live by gratifying their instincts instantly, then why do Capitalists have capital? And if they don't, then why would you assert that workers cannot manage capital? It is a paradox. In the words of Adam Smith, "Nothing can be more absurd, however, than to imagine that men in general should work less when they work for themselves, than when they work for other people. A poor independent workman will generally be more industrious than even a journeyman who works by the piece. The one enjoys the whole produce of his own industry; the other shares it with his master." (Book 1, Chapter VIII of "Wealth of Nations.") As you can see, the effect is almost the exact opposite: workers, aware that their labor produces their immediate gratification, will work upon their terms of production with even greater zeal, and without having to be taxed by some middleman, will value their tools even greater.
Actually, extensively. Particularly since the union, in certain countries, has the right to see all financial records of a company that denies a raise on the grounds that it will cause the company to go under. ("Labor Economics: Third Edition," by Chester A. Morgan, page 435: "...the employer who bases his refusal of requested wage increases on the grounds that he cannot afford them must furnish data which will support his claim of inability to pay the increases if asked to do so by the union.") In practice, too, as we see in these cases and those of cooperatives, people will take a cut to save their jobs. This isn't entirely unusual for the typical Capitalist enterprise that is facing layoffs, either.
Nor do they mind dumping radioactive chemicals on the beach, sending miners to work in known unsafe conditions, propping up dictators in Panama and Iran to genocide minorities and dissidents, forced labor in Indonesia and Burma, etc., etc.. Yes, the CEO is more capable of using all of these tactics to increase their wealth. But, the interests of the two are not identical, since the worker actually may have a sense of community.
Is there any one capitalist who would think that they're better off by not implementing machinery for the benefit of production? No. Naturally, I don't see why workers would prefer to work more and earn less, when competitors are using the machine. Furthermore, it is quite clear that the introduction of machinery leads to lower quality of life, but not necessarily cheaper goods. (See "Political Economy," by Simonde de Sismondi, where hand-stitching businesses were successfully beating the machinery-based textile industries.)
Again, many of these wage-slaves are far more intelligent than their employers. They realize, as George Carlin said, "You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly ****ier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it." ("Dumb Americans.")
Consider, for instance, the job of someone who's doing phone surveys, who's spraying perfume on random people at the mall, wearing a dumb monkey costume, or asking you for your order of flesh and lard. Can you really take any of these people, and say to them, with complete honesty, "If you didn't do this, the whole world would starve -- everything depends on you!" We would probably say, "You're right, it does -- but even though we do everything, it doesn't do anything to improve our standards of live or to remove the alienating aspects of work." Such workers must clearly know, more than any economist, that their job is a joke. Thoreau, with his amazing perception, explained it clearly, "Most men would feel insulted if it were proposed to employ them in throwing stones over a wall, and then in throwing them back, merely that they might earn their wages. But many are no more worthily employed now." ("Life Without Principle.")
Date: 07-18-2010, 02:59 PM
Your post is well-intentioned and intelligent, but for one point.
The point you miss is an important one.
Capitalism is not necessarily concomitant with greed.
Without greed, capitalism works fine. Greed is so rampant however, that even someone who is rightly motivated like you are, can hardly conceive that Capitalism without greed is possible, or could be called Capitalism.
Wisely-fettered Capitalism is a possibility.
Date: 07-18-2010, 03:14 PM
That's not capitalism. That's corporatism. Do some research before making ignorant claims.
Date: 07-18-2010, 9:11 PM
True, and some worker's cooperatives have done very well. There is a bit of difference between a small self-run business and a large corporation, but still it can go well.
But even in the historical small businesses there were two types of people, the capitalist who owned and ran the business, and in most cases laborers who worked for pay. Most businesses hired on some form of labor to assist with anything above what the family was able to produce. So throughout history there has always been a labor class and a capitalist class.
The opening statement and core idea here is that all people are the same. Not all people are the same. That is why, in a country where anyone smart enough and driven enough can start a business and prosper at it, only a few people are capitalists. Those that are disciplined enough to put off reward for future gains, hard working enough to prepare for years to build a business and industrious enough to learn all the aspects necessary to run a successful business can and do succeed. - My brother started a business at 17 with a pickup, a couple of tools and a credit card. He netted over $50k his first year. My father built a six-figure business from the ground up. I know it can be done. I know how to do it. I've started a few businesses of my own, even sold a couple off, but I have a different calling, and my service doesn't allow for me to get a business to grow to big. After I retire I'll probably kick off another and see how far I can and am willing to take it.
I state the above examples to show that anyone can start a business if they are willing to do the work necessary. The fact that only a few do so reflects that the people willing to do the hard work and make the difficult decisions are the exception, not the rule.
You seem to believe that the business owner is hard working because he knows the results affect him directly. This is true. It seems that it is also likely that the same person is a business owner because he is industrious and hard working.
In fact, the conclusion you made above, "As you can see, the effect is almost the exact opposite: workers, aware that their labor produces their immediate gratification, will work upon their terms of production with even greater zeal, and without having to be taxed by some middleman, will value their tools even greater." Seems to reinforce the point that people are focused on immediate gratification. Add in the fact that in large manufacturing, such as at an automobile manufacturing plant, the production of one car, after all costs would only make an employee-owner a couple of extra dollars, it is unlikely that such a worker would gain much motivation to produce any extra vehicles on a given day.
Perhaps this is true. I've only seen situations where divisions or even whole plants have closed down because the labor costs exceeded the value of local production. In the situations I've seen unions refuse to waiver on their positions. Perhaps those were the exceptions, but I can't remember seeing any recent example of the opposite.
True, and this risk is always greatest in the largest companies. Smaller companies usually do have a stronger sense of community. Locals always have a stronger sense of community, so I would agree that local governance of any company reduces the chances of such behavior.
There are a lot of dynamics involved in such situations, and I was trying to create a simple one to smooth things over. Currently in the auto industry, if the company puts in the machine, the laborers who are out of a job are entitled to partial pay (I believe 75%) pay for doing nothing, since the company took away their job. This creates a huge dead labor overhead. Perhaps a labor-owned company would/could have a better solution and would be able to make the change.
But not everyone can have a life or death job. We need people to clean, to pick fruit, to mow lawns, to do all of the small labor jobs that aren't life or death for anyone. Many jobs, necessary to the flow of society, are a joke. If one fry cook at McDonalds left, would the company have any trouble? But if there were no fry cooks, McDonalds would go bankrupt.
It is rare for an entry-level prerequisite-free job to be important. People just don't place that much responsibility on someone who hasn't proven himself. Would you trust a random guy off the street to house-sit for you for a month? People who prove themselves get responsibility.
The problem is that people expect to be granted great responsibility, great pay and benefits, great reward - all without proving themselves to begin with. If they work hard up front - get a useful degree, save and invest, develop useful trades and skills, then they will get the rewards. Not making the up-front investment in their future makes them worthy of exactly what they get, a menial wage-slave existence.