Softpanorama

May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Atomization and oppression of workforce

News Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Recommended Links The neoliberal myth of human capital Audacioues Oligarchy and Loss of Trust Neoliberal rationality Neoliberalism war on organized labor
Scapegoating and victimization of poor and unemployed Destruction of the New Deal Glass-Steagall repeal Think Tanks as Enabler of Neoliberal Coup d'ιtat  Identity politics as diversion of attention from social inequality Identity politics as divide and conquer Class Struggle In The USA
Attack of Think Tanks Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite The Deep State Predator state Lewis Powell Memo The Essential Rules for Dominating Population
New American Militarism Neoconservatism Neo-fashism National Security State Propaganda  Inverted Totalitarism  Totalitarian Decisionism
Neoliberalism and Christianity Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism The Iron Law of Oligarchy Anglican Church on danger of neoliberalism Animal Farm   Neoconservatism as an attack dog of neoliberalism
The Great Betrayal: "Soft" neoliberals as Vichy Left Crowd manipulation Agenda-setting theory Manufacturing Consent Jingoism of the US neoliberal elite Media-Military-Industrial Complex War is Racket
Small government smoke screen "Starving the beast" bait and switcht Bill Clinton, the man who sold Democratic Party to Wall Street and helped FIRE sector to convert the country into casino Over-consumption of Luxury Goods as Market Failure Two Party System American Imperialism, Transnational Capitalist Class and Globalization of Capitalism The Grand Chessboard
Ethno-linguistic and "Cultural" Nationalism as a reaction to Neoliberalism induced decline of standards of living American Exceptionalism Anatol Leiven on American Messianism Machiavellism Skeptic Quotations Humor Etc

Atomization of workforce and establishment of national security state after 9/11 so far prevented large organized collective actions (recent riots were not organized, and with the current technical capabilities of the three letter agencies any organization is difficult or impossible). I think that conversion of the state into national security state was the key factor that saved a couple of the most notorious neoliberals from being hanged on the electrical posts in 2008 although I remember slogan "Jump suckers" on the corner of Wall Street.

But neoliberal attacks on labor and especially organized labor started much earlier with Ronald Reagan and then continued under all subsequent presidents with Bill Clinton doing the bulk of this dirty job. Clinton's creation of the "New labor" (read neoliberal stooges of Wall Street masked as Democratic Party) was based on explicit betrayal or workers (" they have nowhere to go") .  And for several election cycles that was true.

But eventually that changes. Vichy left, represented by "Clintonized" Democratic Party got a crushing defeat in 2016 Presidential elections. Does not mean that Trump is better or less neoliberal, but it does suggest that working class does not trust Democratic Party any longer. 

2008 was the time of the crisis of neoliberal ideology, much like Prague spring signified the crisis of Communist ideology. While there was some level of harassment, individual beatings of banksters in 2008 were non-existent.


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[Feb 21, 2018] The Corporation and Radicalism A Bad Partnership by Carl Horowitz

Notable quotes:
"... The two factions differ by motive. Businessmen act out of material self-interest. They want to hire people from abroad at much lower wages and benefits than most people here would accept. And they want to sell in untapped markets. Radicals, by contrast, act out of emotional self-interest. They crave total multiculturalism in one nation. ..."
"... Where these camps converge is the belief that national identity is outdated and must be replaced by an elaborate system of global coordination. A nation ought to have no right to define itself in terms of race, language or collective memory. In the world of information technology, in fact, business and radicalism now mean almost the same thing. America, in this view, has an obligation to accommodate the crush of people from abroad wanting in. We cannot discriminate. We shouldn't even ask about their motives . America is a global sanctuary, a coast-to-coast UN General Assembly. ..."
"... Mass immigration is a global way of saying "diversity." And that refers not to a diversity of opinion , but to a diversity of demography holding identical opinions. Some have likened this to a cultural equivalent of Marxism, hence the common term "cultural Marxism." Whatever one's preferred term, it is now the coin of the realm in the world of big business. ..."
Nov 23, 2017 | www.unz.com

(The following is based on a speech presented by Carl Horowitz at the most recent annual meeting of the H.L. Mencken Club, Baltimore, Maryland, November 3-4, 2017. It was orginally posted at NLPC.org )

Why are corporations, especially those that provide information technology, promoting radical politics? It's a question one increasingly hears these days. And it's a necessary question. For it is a fact: The corporation as an institution, partly out of self-interest and partly out of conviction, is allying itself with the hard Left. And the consequences could be devastating for our nation.

Now when I speak of "radicalism," I'm not referring to the tradition of businessmen using the State to achieve and maintain market advantage. Monopoly in this country is a more than a century-old tradition, and it is anything but radical. Nor am I referring to the more recent tradition of corporations paying radical accusers a "diversity tax" in hopes of shooing them away. That's capitulation, not commitment. No, what I'm referring to is the arms-length alliance between corporations and far-Left activists to subvert deeply ingrained human loyalties, especially those related to national identity. Most corporate executives today see America's future as post -national, not national.

The two factions differ by motive. Businessmen act out of material self-interest. They want to hire people from abroad at much lower wages and benefits than most people here would accept. And they want to sell in untapped markets. Radicals, by contrast, act out of emotional self-interest. They crave total multiculturalism in one nation.

Where these camps converge is the belief that national identity is outdated and must be replaced by an elaborate system of global coordination. A nation ought to have no right to define itself in terms of race, language or collective memory. In the world of information technology, in fact, business and radicalism now mean almost the same thing. America, in this view, has an obligation to accommodate the crush of people from abroad wanting in. We cannot discriminate. We shouldn't even ask about their motives . America is a global sanctuary, a coast-to-coast UN General Assembly.

Mass immigration is a global way of saying "diversity." And that refers not to a diversity of opinion , but to a diversity of demography holding identical opinions. Some have likened this to a cultural equivalent of Marxism, hence the common term "cultural Marxism." Whatever one's preferred term, it is now the coin of the realm in the world of big business.

Examples:

The Alarmist , November 23, 2017 at 5:56 am GMT

AirBnB, like Uber et al, is a company that built its fortunes by operating outside the laws that constrained its more conventional competition why should we be surprised that immigration law doesn't matter one whit to them?
utu , November 23, 2017 at 6:12 am GMT
Mind you, they haven't given up on class struggle.

Really? Have you seen any class struggle recently that would be detrimental to the top class? Marxists are the tools of neoliberal capitalist world order. They are perfectly happy with the system as long as it gives them a chance to join the top class.

Heros , November 23, 2017 at 9:39 am GMT

"While the influence of the Frankfurt School of Marxism can't be ignored here, I find it vastly overstated. The crucial game-changers have been black authors, for the most part home-grown Americans. "

Reading Horowitz is like reading gatestone institute articles. They can be very convincing, but the always miss the target because Jews are seeped in willful blindness. It starts with the dual passports and allegiances. How in any sane world should dual citizen neocons be allowed to steer foreign policy? But then it continues with the never ending kvetching about "anti-semitism" which is used to stifle any discussion that becomes uncomfortable for them, like how the October Revolution was little more than a jewish coup d'etat and a succeeding genocide of millions of Christians. Why should the US be forced to pay $3b on Oct. 1 of every fiscal year to Israel? What about the murder of the Czar by a gang of Ashkenazi? Or the Liberty or the King David Hotel? What about 70 years of Palestinian genocide? What about their bullying and extortion of governments and individuals to prevent BDS?

I could go on and on, but the point I am making is that Jews know this, but outwardly they are ignorant, at least when writing for the benefit of stupid goyim. Among themselves the truth is often alluded to in public, and that is why reading the Jewish press is so important. Eventually they will try to prevent goyim from accessing it, probably by claiming its all a lie just as with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

This jewish facade of plausible deniability has to be maintained at all costs, and this is why we always hear how jews are so persecuted, why every city is forced to have a holocaust museum and why every few years another holocaust or nazi-genocide movie comes out. It is all about jews maintaining this Potemkin lie and pretending its true.

Which brings me to one of their biggest lies: That Jews are semitic, that they are white and that they are not white, all simultaneously. If every component of US culture was forced to track the number jews receiving benefit alongside the number of "whites" and other races, then the country would really learn what true racism and patriarchy is. That is why this is just another part of the massive jew lie that they all pretend not to see.

Grandpa Charlie , November 23, 2017 at 11:48 am GMT
Ay, PF, awesome, rad! I like it, here in the wee hours, for some reason I couldn't sleep, but you know, I'm a old f*rt and I don't do skype, just like I don't FB, but maybe tomorrow I'll see a granddaughter or two, and they do all that stuff. Don't worry about a slow start, opening nights can be like that and then Boom!

Well done! Strong!

– grandpa

Malla , November 23, 2017 at 11:51 am GMT
I have always considered Capitalism and Communism as false oppositions to each other. People in power use whichever of the two is useful for a particular situation, place and time to attain certain long term aims. The future of the world is moving towards Corporate Communism where the worst of capitalism and communism are blended to rule over and exploit the masses. This explains why many Western crony companies had invested in the the Soviet Union in it's earlier days of , they could never had got a more slave labour population. The same with China recently. Crony Capitalism and Communism seem to go well together just like how big corporations and big governments go well together. This also explains why big corporations still hire their workforce from Western Universities which are hot beds of leftist propaganda. On one level, it never makes any sense. But when you see the bigger picture, it makes sense.
Besides, the false left vs right paradigm keeps the common man on the streets busy infighting and wasting their time without realizing the big schemes being played over them.

Cultural Marxism (probably) emerged much later then economic Marxism of Karl Marx. It was a solution to a pressing problem of why Western populations were resistant to Communism. The problem was narrowed down to traditional Western civilization, the White race and to some extent traditional Christianity. Cultural Marxism is a 'slow boil the frog' method unlike the shock method unleashed on Russia and China. It also uses the tactic of communists and communism infusing in every part of a country's institutions like blood capillaries around muscles.

m___ , November 23, 2017 at 11:54 am GMT
A "Chomsky" amass of evidencies, a drunk display of conclusions. This is what should be called the bend of intellectuals, what an agenda, it hangs out on all sides. Sully, irrelevant, cheatacious in it's intend. And yet, "let's fall for it"?
jacques sheete , November 23, 2017 at 11:59 am GMT

I now briefly will sum up.

Would that that have occurred about 3000 words prior.

wayfarer , November 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm GMT
"The mind of one free thinker can possess a million ideas. A million fanatics can have their minds, possessed by a single idea ." – unknown
Malla , November 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm GMT
@wayfarer

Excellent post.

fnn , November 23, 2017 at 1:56 pm GMT

While the influence of the Frankfurt School of Marxism can't be ignored here, I find it vastly overstated. The crucial game-changers have been black authors, for the most part home-grown Americans. Urtexts include Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Malcolm X's Autobiography and Richard Hamilton & Stokely Carmichael's Black Power. Over the next several years, as the Black Panthers turned up the heat, Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice, Bobby Seale's Seize the Time and Huey Newton's Revolutionary Suicide became must-reads. Recent additions to the canon have been Derrick Bell's Faces at the Bottom of the Well, Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, and Cornel West' s Race Matters.,

Arguably, none of the above books by black authors would have become influential had it not been for the intellectual framework created in the postwar period by the Frankfurt School "study," The Authoritarian Personality :

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/007815.html

Paul Gottfried writes:
You should read my last three books, all of which stress that The Authoritarian Personality profoundly affected American political thinking. It was essential to the postwar reconstruction of German "civic culture' and the work was deeply admired by SM Lipset, the sponsors of Commentary, and scads of Cold War liberals. It was not necessarily viewed as the post-Marxist leftist source of moral corruption that I suggest it was in The Strange Death of Marxism. What made The Authoritarian Personality particularly insidious is that it was widely seen as a blueprint for non-totalitarian democracy both here and in Europe; and leaders in government and in universities read the book in that way. The fact that Adorno and Horkheimer (who later backed away from the implications of the work he had co-edited) were at the time Soviet sympathizers did not dampen the enthusiasm of the anti-Stalinist secularist intellectuals who tried to defend the study. Although the Jewish identity of the Frankfurt School may not have been the only factor leading to their anti-Christian, anti-fascist pseudo-science, denying its influence on the formation of Frankfort School ideas is simply silly.

Christopher Lash's True and Only Heaven includes a long section detailing the mainstream liberal support for The Authoritarian Personality in the 1950s and 1960s. Lipset, Hook, Daniel Bell, Arthur Schlesinger, Richard Hofstadter and the members of American Jewish Committe, who sponsored Adorno and Commentary magazine, were among the anti-Communist liberals who admired TAP and who thought that it had relevance for our country. Although you and I may be to the right of these celebrants, it would be hard to argue that no anti-Communist had any use for Adorno's ideas.

Hank Rearden , November 23, 2017 at 1:59 pm GMT
America, that shining city upon a hill (Matthew 5:14), has forsaken its own blood and soil (Luke 14.26, Matthew 19:27-30), and fully implemented the International Jew's globalist vision (Matthew 28:19) of Communist Freaqualism (Acts 4:32, Galatians 3:28), including acceptance of rapefugees (Matthew 25:35-36), placing blacks in leadership (Acts 13:1), condemning normal male behavior (Mark 9:47), and promoting male castration (Matthew 19.11-12) in favor of a androgynous utopia (Matthew 22:30).

John Gray once noted that liberal humanist values are a "hollowed-out version of a theistic myth," but as I've shown from the Christian Holy Book , they're actually Judeo-Christianity on sterioids.

"The liberal belief in the free and sacred nature of each individual is a direct legacy of the traditional Christian belief in the free and eternal souls. Without recourse to eternal souls and a Creator God, it becomes embarrassingly difficult for liberals to explain what is so special about individual Sapiens The idea that all humans are equal is a revamped version of the monotheist conviction that all souls are equal before God." p. 231

Yuval Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Harper Collins, 2015)

Again, I'll point out that liberal humanist Freakqualism is not a "direct legacy" of Christianity, but an intensification.

Michael Kenny , November 23, 2017 at 2:03 pm GMT
I was born in Europe. Except for a few years in the 1960s, I have lived all my life in Europe. I have never come across anybody in Europe "rejecting their identity". Quite the contrary indeed! European national identities are alive and well, and thriving in the European Union. The article itself is the usual VDare anti-EU propaganda and the article linked to (by Pat Buchanan) doesn't support the author's argument. I don't really see why Americans are getting so steamed up about Marxism. Nobody has taken Marxism seriously since the collapse of the communist dictatorships 25 years ago. And, of course, I'm always amused at the way the people who shout "America First" keep telling us Europeans how to run our countries!
JackOH , November 23, 2017 at 2:23 pm GMT
Mr. Horowitz makes good points, but many of us here have made similar observations along the same path to understanding the world around us. Corporations have a whatever-it-takes ethos, and if they can make money by hanging on to eternal verities, they'll hang on to them, and if they can calculate that dumping eternal verities will serve them, they'll do that. Happy Thanksgiving Day all, and thanks to Ron for hosting this site, and many good commenters for illuminating our America a bit..
SimplePseudonymicHandle , November 23, 2017 at 3:26 pm GMT
OMG this article is all over the map.

Companies do what is politically expedient because the people who govern them make a rational choice to decide to the bottom line – or any short-term definition thereof – as opposed to standing up to the mob.

Period. End of story.

Imagine you are a minimum wage employee in the neighborhood laundromat and you're 16 and naive and you notice the kindly owner/manager pays protection money to the mob. In all other facets he is a kindly man, a good person, a good manager, a good businessperson. You wonder why he doesn't call the police, make a report to the FBI, call on politicians, or stand up to the mob himself.

Of course he can do any of those things. He chooses not to.

Why does he choose not to?

Well, duh.

Priss Factor , Website November 23, 2017 at 3:36 pm GMT
Boomer-Rang

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-revenge-of-shiksas.html

Priss Factor

[Feb 18, 2018] In Raging Tweetstorm, Trump Says Russians Laughing Their Asses Off, Mocks Leakin' Monster Schiff Zero Hedge

Feb 18, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com

Zhaupka Sun, 02/18/2018 - 14:08 Permalink

PSYOPS are interesting.

GENERAL PSYOPS:
PSYOPS control U.S. Citizens who have nothing to lose; yet, U.S. Citizens deeply believe they have everything to lose when the only "objects" they truly own in this world is debt.

Look Around - Which Class were you birthed?

Which Class shall you and your family of relatives die?

Labor - Lower Class - Working Class - Get Paycheck / Job Class
Lower Lower Class - Retail / wholesale workers / laborers
Lower Middle Class - engineers, computer workers, doctors
Lower Upper Class - C-Level Managerial workers, sports celebrities, High-Net-Worth workers, etc.

Trading - Middle Class - Business Class - Get a Deal Class
Lower Middle Class - Owns business in an industry
Middle Middle Class - Operates 1 or more business in an industry
Upper Middle Class - Operates 1 or more businesses in 1 or more industries

Leisure - Upper Class - Investor Class - Let's Go Have Fun! Class
Lower Upper Class - New Billionaires.
Middle Upper Class - Multi-Billionaires invested in or own vast businesses in 1 or more vast industries
Upper Upper Class - Kings / Queens, Owners of Vast Tracts of Land on The Planet, Wealthy Post-Empire Families,

Goals of Working Class: Job, House and Car - loans, credit, debt for basics: food, shelter, clothing, transportation.

Goals of Trading Class expansion of business.

Goals of Leisure Class Enjoy Human Life. "Let's take the personal jets out for a spin today. Meet you at [Insert place on planet]."

Middle Classes (Business) and Upper Classes (Leisure) give "Vacations" and Time Off to Lower Labor Classes.

Working Classes do not have the money to associate, travel, and dine with the Trading Class (Middle).

Trading Classes do not have the money to Empire Trot with the Leisure Classes.

Income has co-relation neither to wealth, power, nor prestige. The vast majority of wealthy have little or zero income.

Common in debt U.S. Citizens stand back gawking at the great great-great-great-great-grand children of the Middle Class and Upper Class Families who have re-bequeathed and re-inherited family wealth through the centuries enjoying a life of leisure that for each generation the Common U.S. Citizens have never moved up in family wealth. General PSYOPS.

SIMPLE PSYOPS:
2005, prior to O elections all U.S. governments were directed by federal law to disclose their health insurance payments, fees, etc. to the U.S. Federal Government. U.S. governments Employees were also given a copy stating exactly how much the State, County, Town, City is paying for the employee. O is elected. Look at the amount spent. Nationalized Health Insurance. Simple PSYOPS.

SOPHISTICATED PSYOPS:

Key: Any criticism moving this Political Operative Donna Brazille around is considered racist.

PBS and NBC, ABC, SeeBS (CBS), etc. studios featured Donna Brazille doing the political-talk show circuit.

Donna Brazille, Editor of Atlanta newspaper was shown, based on after show retakes, cameo's, script tweeking, etc., to be clear minded, fair, and articulate.

Donna Brazille had a Social Debt and Final Payment Due.

The Clintons collected Final Payment during the Presidential Elections from Donna Brazille who made payment by smuggling U.S. Presidential Debate Questions to The Clintons.

PSYOPS is interesting and work especially well with a small group of wealthy who can hire and pay for PSYOPS either in the immediate term or longer term as with Donna Brazille.

Marketing is PSYOPS all day.

United States President Trump is Not:
an ex-bureaucrat
an ex-lawyer
An ex-government employee
Not Poor <- Very Important as Big Cash is involved.

United States President Trump has a marked distain for both Factions of the State Political Party – republicans and democrats – and wonder if any other U.S. Citizens have the same feelings and thoughts.

Trump came forward as an American United States Citizen.

Democrats gave all the Benefits the Labor Unions fought for during the 1930's and 1940's to Illegal Aliens.

Republicans gave all the industry and jobs to foreign countries and imported pre-trained foreigners into American Jobs.

When Trump threatened to watch every polling station in the United States, if he had to, to make sure no voter fraud, at least during the one and only election he participated, State Political Party faction's democrats and republicans laughed.

The State Political Party Factions colluded to Stop Trump while running the usual rigged fake fraudulent election.

The usual United States Media Channels using the United States National Emergency Broadcast System entrusted to individual caretaker / quasi-owners to manage and maintain premises, power level, and towers, began the usual selling broadcast time to the highest bidder. The usual war over the airwaves time and again. The Hearts and Minds Meme is the warring struggle between republicans and democrats to control United States Media Channels broadcasts before, during, and after a United States Election. The usual.

24/7 PSYOPS using the owners of ABC, BBC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Reuters, U.K. Guardian, Associated Press, etc. broadcast State Party PSYOPS obfuscating Trump is winning, announced No Path to 270, and broadcast Common Citizens Protesting.

The Clintons had the White Females and the new meme: People of Color.

United States Media Channels using the United States National Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) showed White males violently protesting TRUMP one day and Black Males shown violently protesting TRUMP another day to PSYOPS Cobble Black and White Males as kin, long shot, similar voters. Don't say it, show it, persuasively.

Republicans all signed Pledges declaring in Media Channels they shall not vote for Trump and encouraged everyone to do the same. Democrats against Trump is a given. PSYOPS. Political PSYOPS.

After the election, United States President Trump asked to examine the voting rolls. The State Political Party (r&d) denied the request threatening using courts to tie up the matter and cause great usd expense through the Corrupt U.S. Judicial. SOPHISTICATED PSYOPS.

The Entire United States is Corrupt.

1. The Lawyer Amended Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence - the originals of which are all now in the dustbin of history - have successfully created these Criminal Enterprises according to the Founders:
the Corrupt House of Representatives,
the Corrupt U.S. Senate,
the Corrupt U.S. Judicial,
the Corrupt U.S. Military and its Corrupt 17 Intelligence Agencies,
the Corrupt U.S. Media (except for the 5 Independent newspapers that did support U.S. President Trump),
the Corrupt For Sale Ivy League "there is a tailored study FOR SALE PROVING [insert desire outcome here]. . . " Universities,
the Corrupt States, the Corrupt Counties, and the Corrupt Cities,
the Corrupt Republican Political Party, and
the Corrupt Democrat Political Party.

U.S. Political Government "Investigations" show the Perp Walk: Perjury after Perjured Testimony in U.S. Supreme Courts, U.S. House of Representatives, Senate Testimony. Fraud all. Only the most frightened horrified have cognitive dissonance belief remaining in U.S. Federal Government(s).

Overthrowing Governments is not done by those who work, commoners posting on internet websites, walking the streets with Pitchforks, Fire and Ropes, Protesting, carrying Placards, placing Posters, and Marching with Banners; those people in Life Long Debt Servitude (hovel&cart/house&car) usually come to gawk at the result.

Overthrowing Governments is done by extremely wealthy for differing reasons as in the Overthrowing the Government of Britain/ England / U.K. in the New World - the Free World - during the late 1700's Early 1800's with Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson knew Representative Government eventually becomes corrupt; a New Lawyered Governed Tyranny is formed.

Lawyered Representative Government Corrupts; Absolute Lawyered Representative Governments Corrupts Absolutely.

When Citizens are indebted to, fearful of, dependent on, lied to, [INSERT YOURS HERE], with government guns pointed at U.S. Citizens and Surveillance by their "elected" Representatives for each AOR using U.S. Militarized Collusive State, County, and City First Responders Type Government Patrolling Enforcement, a New Type of Governed Tyranny is formed (see 1 afore)

All U.S. Citizens are given a Legal Right and a Legal Duty.

When Lawyered Representative Governments do not do the will of the people (hint: U.S.).

". . . it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government."
- Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 2nd paragraph

The world is very different than ZH Heavy and MSM disclose.

Recent and periodic school shootings are the work of the two U.S. Political Factions democrats and republicans PSYOPS in the U.S. Political Party System.

Disclosing the real story could be considered Top Secret National Intelligence information especially with the fake social media account: Zhaupka.

- Viva De Zhaup!

[Feb 14, 2018] Making America Great Through Exploitation, Servitude and Abuse by James Petras

Notable quotes:
"... Capitalist exploitation is based on a rigid hierarchy with its private prerogatives, which enables the oligarchs to demand their feudal privileges, their seigniorial sexual predations. ..."
"... Today, 93% of US private sector workers have no organized representation. Moreover, many of the 7% who are in unions are controlled and exploited by their corrupt union officials – in league with the bosses. ..."
"... The more egregious immorality exposes itself one time too often and is condemned, while the victims are temporality lionized for their courage to protest. The worst predators apologize, resign to their yachts and mansions and are replaced by new avatars with the same power and structures in place which had facilitated the abuse. Politicians rush to embrace the victims in a kind of political and media 'Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy' when one considers their own role as enablers of this dehumanization. ..."
"... The problem is not merely corrupt and perverted individual miscreants: It is the hierarchy of inequality which produces and reproduces an endless supply of vulnerable workers to exploit and abuse. ..."
"... Sexual abuse of an individual in the workplace is just part of a chain that begins with exploitation of workers in general and can only be stopped through collective worker organization. ..."
"... Can anyone say with a straight face that the US remains a nation of free and autonomous citizens? Servitude and moral degradation are the outcome of an atomized, impotent laboring class who may change one boss for another or one vulgar president for a moralizing hypocrite. We hope that the exposés will start something but without class conscious organizations we don't know what will arise. ..."
Feb 08, 2018 | www.unz.com

The public denunciation by thousands of women and a few men that they had been victims of sexual abuse by their economic bosses raises fundamental issues about the social relations of American capitalism.

The moral offenses are in essence economic and social crimes. Sexual abuse is only one aspect of the social dynamics facilitating the increase in inequality and concentration of wealth, which define the practices and values of the American political and economic system.

Billionaires and mega-millionaires are themselves the products of intense exploitation of tens of millions of isolated and unorganized wage and salaried workers. Capitalist exploitation is based on a rigid hierarchy with its private prerogatives, which enables the oligarchs to demand their feudal privileges, their seigniorial sexual predations.

US capitalism thrives on and requires unlimited power and the capacity to have the public treasury pay for its untrammeled pillage of land, labor, transport systems and technological development. Capitalist power, in the United States, has no counterpart; there are few if any countervailing forces to provide any balance.

Today, 93% of US private sector workers have no organized representation. Moreover, many of the 7% who are in unions are controlled and exploited by their corrupt union officials – in league with the bosses.

This concentration of power produces the ever deepening inequalities between the world of the billionaires and the millions of low-wage workers.

The much-celebrated technological innovations have been subsidized by the state and its educational and research institutions. Although these are financed by the taxpayers, the citizen-workers are marginalized by the technological changes, like robotics, that they originally funded. High tech innovations flourish because they concentrate power, profits and private privilege.

The hierarchical matrix of power and exploitation has led to the polarization of mortality rates and moral codes. For the working poor, the absence of competent health care has led to the massive use and abuse of prescription opioids and other addictive drugs. For the upper class, it has led to the flagrant physical and psychological abuse of vulnerable employees, especially, but not exclusively young working women. The prestigious bourgeois media blur the class polarization by constant reference to what they term 'our shared traditional democratic values.'

The pervasive and growing vulnerability of workers of both sexes coincides with the incorporation of the latest technological innovations in production, distribution and promotion. This includes electronic and digital advances, artificial intelligence, robotics and extensive surveillance on workers, which incorporate high profits for the investors and long hours of demeaning monotonous work for those who manufacture and transport the 'products'.

The proliferation of new technology has grown in direct relation with the abject debasement of labor and the marginalization and trivialization of workers. Amazon and Walmart approach trillions of dollars in revenue from mass consumption, even as the Chaplinesque speed-up of robotized humans race to fill the overnight delivery orders. The entertainment industry amuses the population across class lines with increasingly vulgar and violent offerings, while the moguls of film entertain themselves with their young workers – who are depersonalized and even raped.

The more egregious immorality exposes itself one time too often and is condemned, while the victims are temporality lionized for their courage to protest. The worst predators apologize, resign to their yachts and mansions and are replaced by new avatars with the same power and structures in place which had facilitated the abuse. Politicians rush to embrace the victims in a kind of political and media 'Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy' when one considers their own role as enablers of this dehumanization.

The problem is not merely corrupt and perverted individual miscreants: It is the hierarchy of inequality which produces and reproduces an endless supply of vulnerable workers to exploit and abuse.

The most advanced forms of entertainment thrive in an environment of absolute impunity in which the occasional exposé of abuse or corruption is hidden behind a monetary settlement. The courage of an individual victim able to secure public attention is a step forward, but will have greater significance if it is organized and linked to a massive challenging of the power of the bourgeois entertainment industry and the system of high tech exploitation. Sexual abuse of an individual in the workplace is just part of a chain that begins with exploitation of workers in general and can only be stopped through collective worker organization.

Can anyone say with a straight face that the US remains a nation of free and autonomous citizens? Servitude and moral degradation are the outcome of an atomized, impotent laboring class who may change one boss for another or one vulgar president for a moralizing hypocrite. We hope that the exposés will start something but without class conscious organizations we don't know what will arise.

[Feb 11, 2018] The opioid epidemic, alcohol abuse and suicides are leading causes of death in the US. The rate of fatal drug overdoses rose by 137 percent from 2000 to 2014

Notable quotes:
"... The opioid epidemic, alcohol abuse and suicides are leading causes of death in the US. The rate of fatal drug overdoses rose by 137 percent from 2000 to 2014. In 2015 alone, more than 64,000 people died from drug overdoses, exceeding the number of US fatal casualties in the Vietnam War. The suicide rate rose by a staggering 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. ..."
"... These "deaths of despair" have disproportionately affected white Americans, including adults aged 25-59, those with limited education, and women. The sharpest increases have been in rural areas. ..."
"... As to why the rise in mortality has been greatest among white, middle-aged adults and some rural communities, the editorial points to possible factors, which all relate to class issues. They include "the collapse of industries and the local economies they supported, the erosion of social cohesion and greater social isolation, economic hardship, and distress among white workers over losing the security their parents once enjoyed." ..."
Feb 11, 2018 | consortiumnews.com

weilunion , February 9, 2018 at 5:44 pm

As the people protest, they might wish to read about how the SF police department worked with fascists to ID antifascists.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/09/california-police-white-supremacists-counter-protest

The cognitive dissonance is deafening. The FBI is a criminal organization. Trump and his cohorts are here to stay. If you think you can change the direction of failing America, best to organize a socialist party.

What is Mueller going to do about this?"

The opioid epidemic, alcohol abuse and suicides are leading causes of death in the US. The rate of fatal drug overdoses rose by 137 percent from 2000 to 2014. In 2015 alone, more than 64,000 people died from drug overdoses, exceeding the number of US fatal casualties in the Vietnam War. The suicide rate rose by a staggering 24 percent between 1999 and 2014.

These "deaths of despair" have disproportionately affected white Americans, including adults aged 25-59, those with limited education, and women. The sharpest increases have been in rural areas.

As to why the rise in mortality has been greatest among white, middle-aged adults and some rural communities, the editorial points to possible factors, which all relate to class issues. They include "the collapse of industries and the local economies they supported, the erosion of social cohesion and greater social isolation, economic hardship, and distress among white workers over losing the security their parents once enjoyed."

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/09/pers-f09.html

Nothing. The problem is capitalism. Wake up from a sorry nightmare.

This is the cost of the ruling elite's doing business.

[Feb 07, 2018] When the rest of the world's wages go up to six dollar per hour and the USA come down to six dollar per hour, globalization will end

Notable quotes:
"... Things "should" be made locally. There's no reason, especially with declining energy resources, that a toaster should be shipped from thousands of miles away by boat, plane, truck, rail. That's simply ridiculous, never mind causing a ton of extra pollution. We end up working at McDonald's or Target, but, yay, we just saved $5.00 on our toaster. ..."
"... I don't know how you know about the so-called safety net. I know because I had to use it while undergoing treatment for 2 types of stage 4 breast cancer the past 4 years. It is NOT what people think. It beats the already vulnerable into the ground -- -- this is not placating -- -- it is psychological breaking of human minds until they submit. The paperwork is like undergoing a tax audit -- - every 6 months. "Technicians" decide one's "benefits" which vary between "technicians". ..."
"... Food stamps can be $195 during one period and then $35 the next. The technicians/system takes no responsibility for the chaos and stress they bring into their victims' lives. It is literally crazy making. BTW: I am white, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, have a masters' degree, formerly owned my own business and while married lived within the top 10%. ..."
"... In addition, most of those on so-called social programs are children, the elderly, chronically ill, veterans. You are correct that the middle class is falling into poverty but you are not understanding what poverty actually looks like when the gov holds out its beneficial hand. It is nothing short of cruelty. ..."
Feb 07, 2018 | consortiumnews.com
Cold N. Holefield , February 5, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Yes, but increasingly there is no "working class" in America due to outsourcing and automation.

I hear that Trump wants to reverse all of that and put children to work in forward-to-the-past factories (versus back-to-the-future) and mines working 12 hours a day 7 days a week as part of his Make America Great Again initiative.

With all the deregulation, I can't wait to start smoking on airplanes again. Those were great times. Flying bombs with fifty or more lit fuses in the form of a cigarette you can smoke. The good old days.

backwardsevolution , February 5, 2018 at 5:50 pm

Cold N. Holefield -- it's like Ross Perot said re NAFTA and globalization: "When the rest of the world's wages go up to $6.00/hour and our's come down to $6.00/hour, globalization will end." That's what's happening, isn't it? Our wages are being held down, due in large part to low-skilled labor and H-1B's flooding into the country, and wages in Asia are rising. I remember Ross Perot standing right beside Bill Clinton when he said this, and I also remember the sly smile on Bill Clinton's face. He knew.

Our technology was handed to China on a silver platter by the greedy U.S. multinationals, technology that was developed by Western universities and taxpayer dollars, technology that would have taken decades for China to develop on their own.

Trump is trying desperately to bring some of these jobs back. That's why he handed them huge corporate tax breaks and cut some regulations.

Things "should" be made locally. There's no reason, especially with declining energy resources, that a toaster should be shipped from thousands of miles away by boat, plane, truck, rail. That's simply ridiculous, never mind causing a ton of extra pollution. We end up working at McDonald's or Target, but, yay, we just saved $5.00 on our toaster.

Trump is trying to cut back on immigration so that wages can increase, but the Left want to save the whole world, doing themselves in in the process. He wants to bring people in with skills the country can benefit from, but for that he's tarred and feathered.

P.S. I remember sitting behind a drunk on a long flight, and I saw him drop his cigarette. It rolled past me like it knew where it was going, and I couldn't find it. I called the stewardess, and she and I searched for a few anxious seconds until we found it. Yes, the good old days.

Diana Lee , February 6, 2018 at 3:16 pm

I don't know how you know about the so-called safety net. I know because I had to use it while undergoing treatment for 2 types of stage 4 breast cancer the past 4 years. It is NOT what people think. It beats the already vulnerable into the ground -- -- this is not placating -- -- it is psychological breaking of human minds until they submit. The paperwork is like undergoing a tax audit -- - every 6 months. "Technicians" decide one's "benefits" which vary between "technicians".

Food stamps can be $195 during one period and then $35 the next. The technicians/system takes no responsibility for the chaos and stress they bring into their victims' lives. It is literally crazy making. BTW: I am white, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, have a masters' degree, formerly owned my own business and while married lived within the top 10%.

In addition, most of those on so-called social programs are children, the elderly, chronically ill, veterans. You are correct that the middle class is falling into poverty but you are not understanding what poverty actually looks like when the gov holds out its beneficial hand. It is nothing short of cruelty.

backwardsevolution , February 6, 2018 at 4:48 pm

Diana Lee -- I hope you are well now. It breaks my heart what you went through. No, I cannot imagine.

I didn't mean the lower class were living "well" on food stamps and welfare. All I meant was that it helped, and without it all hell would break loose. If you lived in the top 10% at one point, then you would surely notice a difference, but for many who have been raised in this environment, they don't notice at all. It becomes a way of life. And, yes, you are right, it is cruelty. A loss of life.

[Feb 07, 2018] Whole Foods Employees Miserable Seeing Someone Cry At Work Is Becoming Normal Zero Hedge

Feb 07, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com

Whole Foods' new inventory management system aimed at improving efficiency and cutting down on waste is taking a toll on employees, who say the system's stringent procedures and graded "scorecards" have crushed morale and led to widespread food shortages, reports Business Insider .

The new system, called order-to-shelf, or OTS, "has a strict set of procedures for purchasing, displaying, and storing products on store shelves and in back rooms. To make sure stores comply, Whole Foods relies on "scorecards" that evaluate everything from the accuracy of signage to the proper recording of theft, or "shrink."

Some employees, who walk through stores with managers to ensure compliance, describe the system as onerous and stress-inducing . Conversations with 27 current and recently departed Whole Foods workers, including cashiers and corporate employees -- some of whom have been with the company for nearly two decades -- say the system is seen by many as punitive. - BI

Terrified employees report constant fear over losing their jobs over the OTS "scorecards," which anything below 89.9% can qualify as a failing score - resulting in possible firings. Whole Foods employees around the country thought that was hilarious. One such disaffected West Coast supervisor said "On my most recent time card, I clocked over 10 hours of overtime, sitting at a desk doing OTS work," adding "Rather than focusing on guest service, I've had team members cleaning facial-care testers and facing the shelves, so that everything looks perfect and untouched at all times."

Many Whole Foods employees at the corporate and store levels still don't understand how OTS works, employees said.

"OTS has confused so many smart, logical, and experienced individuals, the befuddlement is now a thing, a life all its own," an employee of a Chicago-area store said. "It's a collective confusion -- constantly changing, no clear answers to the questions that never were, until now."

An employee of a North Carolina Whole Foods said: " No one really knows this business model, and those who are doing the scorecards -- even regional leadership -- are not clear on practices and consequently are constantly providing the department leaders with inaccurate directions. All this comes at a time when labor has been reduced to an unachievable level given the requirements of the OTS model. "


peddling-fiction -> SloMoe Feb 6, 2018 9:52 PM Permalink

Have they been Amazoned?

Robots will soon pick up the slack...

BabaLooey -> peddling-fiction Feb 6, 2018 9:58 PM Permalink

Dr. EvilBezos strikes again!

The shit fuck......

IH8OBAMA -> Cognitive Dissonance Feb 6, 2018 10:32 PM Permalink

From Amazon workers, delivery drivers and now Whole Foods workers, it sounds like the Beezer is a real tyrant to work for. I'm surprised unions haven't been able to penetrate that organization. It is certainly big enough.

erkme73 -> JimmyJones Feb 6, 2018 11:11 PM Permalink

Wife is an ER MD. The physician leasing firm that employs her, which has the contract at the local hospital, recently got bought out by a new group. Suddenly she has a new director who assigns quotas to everything, and grades every aspect of her performance. It is quite stressful, and takes much of what little joy there was in her profession, and flushes it away. She is actively entertaining head hunters' calls again.

A Nanny Moose -> erkme73 Feb 6, 2018 11:57 PM Permalink

Just finished a two-year project building a hospital's Information Security Program....everything heading toward performance metrics measured against some horseshit ticketing system. Such systems only encourage throwing of horseshit over the fence, by incapable amateurs, to the people who actually know how to think. This program was put in place by a CIO who was former Air Farce.

It now takes 5 fucking hours of bureaucratic horseshit to perform 1/2 hour of actual engineering/technical work. The next step is to automate technical work from within the change control and IT automation systems.

Mark my words....just wait until the vulnerabilities in these change control, and Information Security Automation systems are exploited. Wait for the flaws in the code used to automate creation of entire networks, sever farms, security policies, etc.

I don't want to be within 100 miles of anything modern when this all goes to shit.

[Feb 03, 2018] Whole Foods Becomes Amazon Hell Foods as Employees, Managers Quit, Cry on the Job....and These People Want to Run Your Healthca

Notable quotes:
"... Cooks at restaurants routinely work in similar heat with similar levels of exertion. I know, because I was a cook at multiple restaurants. ..."
"... The reason OSHA doesn't care is because working people in extreme heat is SOP for scores of industries that you may not even realize. ..."
"... In an earlier generation, that would be an excellent question. But since then, we've seen the distribution and adoption of the neoliberal memo that such things are always and everywhere bad. Nor would they be high on the current administration's to do list. ..."
"... Amazon doesn't employ the workers. It employs temp agencies who supply the workers. This is a standard procedure these days for high-turnover workplaces, because in the end no one is responsible for what happens to the workers. ..."
"... A service business that gives crappy service will not prosper. ..."
"... I spent 25 years in the grocery business with 20 of them in management. The expectations stated above were industry standards (except the minutiae of sales goals). Only in Whole Foods was this model ignored. When the industry wide profit margin of grocers is less the 3cents on the dollar you have to be a TIGHT operator to turn a profit or you are doomed. As a department manager my entire job depended on how I managed my P&L report on a quarterly basis .. if I was over on payroll hours I DAMN well better be cutting back on other areas such as shrink, supplies or payroll mix (high paid FT vs low paid PT) ..."
"... Thanks for bringing up the industry baseline! Bezos' intense exploitation of labor merits a spotlight, but what's happening off in the shadows in other corporations? I recall seeing Costco held up as a + example, but what about others? ..."
"... It seems to me that Amazon are a one trick company (albeit, a very good trick), and they are likely to get burned very badly if they extend their predatory model to high value brands.. ..."
"... "When the industry wide profit margin of grocers is less the 3cents on the dollar" This figure is complete nonsense. It means nothing. It's the "profit margin" after paying themselves rent, which is where the profits in grocery stores end up.. No one is in business for a 3% return. It does make good for PR though. ..."
"... Its not clear to me that OTS originated with Amazon. Amazon only completed the Whole Foods purchase around Labor Day in 2017. It usually takes more than a month or two to come up with an entire computer-based software system and roll it out company-wide. ..."
"... Corporate America is capable of coming up with bone-headed implementations of what could be good ideas without the need to get Amazon, Google, Facebook, or Apple to push them to it. Wells Fargo was able to come up with "Eight is Great" for new account generation even with the guidance of Warren Buffet instead of Jeff Bezos. ..."
"... At any rate, I won't be frequenting Whole Foods any longer as I find worker abuse nauseating. ..."
"... So much paperwork that there's no time to deliver the food, hence empty shelves. A situation instantly recognizable to anyone who ever lived in the USSR. ..."
"... You didn't hear it from me, but from a friend who was a cashier at a grocery store, a small way to fight back against self checkout is to be creative in naming your produce to get a 95% discount ..."
"... Wal-Mart can man-up with a new ad campaign – Our Employees Don't Cry, they get food stamps. ..."
"... "I'm amazed at how many people choose to simply ignore the fate of Amazon's employees in order to receive free shipping." ..."
"... (Suggesting that AMZ is a sh*t business.) ..."
"... fast forward 1-2 years ..."
"... fast forward 1-2 more years . ..."
"... Rinse. Repeat. Ad nauseum, ad infinitum . ..."
"... the first time in my life ..."
Feb 03, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on February 2, 2018 by Yves Smith As we've said, Jeff Bezos clearly hates people, except as appendages to bank accounts. All you need to do is observe how he treats his workers.

In a scoop, Business Insider reports on how Amazon is creating massive turnover and pointless misery at Whole Food by imposing a reign of terror impossible and misguided productivity targets.

Anyone who has paid the slightest attention to Amazon will see its abuse of out of Whole Foods workers as confirmation of an established pattern. And even more tellingly, despite Whole Foods supposedly being a retail business that Bezos would understand, the unrealistic Whole Foods metrics aren't making the shopping experience better.

As we'll discuss below, we'd already expressed doubts about how relevant Bezos' hyped Amazon model would be to Whole Foods. Proof is surfacing even faster than we expected.

But first to Bezos' general pattern of employee mistreatment.

It's bad enough that Bezos engages in the worst sort of class warfare and treats warehouse workers worse than the ASPCA would allow livery drivers to use horses. Not only do horses at least get fed an adequate ration, while Amazon warehouse workers regularly earn less than a local living wage, but even after pressure to end literal sweatshop conditions (no air conditioning so inside temperatures could hit 100 degrees; Amazon preferred to have ambulances at ready for the inevitable heatstroke victims rather than pay to cool air ), Amazon warehouse workers are, thanks to intensive monitoring, pressed to work at such a brutal pace that most can't handle it physically and quit by the six month mark. For instance, from a 2017 Gizmodo story, Reminder: Amazon Treats Its Employees Like Shit :

Amazon, like most tech companies, is skilled at getting stories about whatever bullshit it decides to feed the press. Amazon would very much prefer to have reporters writing some drivel about a discount code than reminding people that its tens of thousands of engineers and warehouse workers are fucking miserable. How do I know they're miserable? Because (as the testimony below demonstrates) they've told every writer who's bothered to ask for years.

Gawker, May 2014 – "I Do Not Know One Person Who Is Happy at Amazon"

.

The New York Times, August 2015- " Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace "

..

The Huffington Post, October 2015 – " The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp "

For a good overview of the how Amazon goes about making its warehouse workers' lives hell, see Salon's Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon's sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers .

Mind you, Amazon's institutionalized sadism isn't limited to its sweatshops. Amazon is also cruel to its office workers. The New York Times story that Gizmodo selected, based on over 100 employee interviews, included:

Bo Olson lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. "You walk out of a conference room and you'll see a grown man covering his face," he said. "Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk."

While that paragraph was the most widely quoted from that story, some reporters reacted strongly to other bits. For instance, from The Verge :

Perhaps worst of all is Amazon's apparent approach when its employees need help. The Times has uncovered several cases where workers who were sick, grieving, or otherwise encumbered by the realities of life were pushed out of the company. A woman who had a miscarriage was told to travel on a business trip the day after both her twins were stillborn. Another woman recovering from breast cancer was given poor performance rankings and was warned that she was in danger of losing her job.

The Business Insider story on Amazon, 'Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal': Employees say Whole Foods is using 'scorecards' to punish them , is another window on how Bezos thinks whipping his workers is the best way to get results from them:


voteforno6 , February 2, 2018 at 6:21 am

I have yet to hear of anyone who has actually enjoyed working for Amazon. I know several people who have worked on building out their data centers, and it's the same type of experience – demanding, long hours, must be responsive to calls and emails 24×7. Even people who are otherwise highly skilled, highly competent workers are treated as disposable items. It's no surprise that they treat grocery workers the same.

Collapsar , February 2, 2018 at 7:45 am

According to this Business Insider article the OTS inventory management system was something brought in by whole foods management; not amazon. Employees are actually hoping amazon fixes the issues created by OTS.

Things are definitely bad when workers are hoping things will get better with Bezos in charge.

I can't remember where I read an article in which an amazon employee said people at the company joked that amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.

David Carl Grimes , February 2, 2018 at 7:54 am

If working conditions are so bad at the warehouses (heatstrokes from lack of air conditioning), then why hasn't the Department of Labor gone after them? Surely the DoL or some local labor bureau most have gotten hundreds if not thousands of complaints?

Left in Wisconsin , February 2, 2018 at 10:37 am

Where are the unions? The Teamsters or UFCW should be all over this. Their complete absence from the story is telling. When the first three conclusions to be drawn from this story are:
1. That boss (and company culture) are awful
2. Why doesn't the government do something?
3. Maybe the workers can do a class action
then it's really not surprising that things are this bad.

Ransom Headweight , February 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Where are the unions? They've been systematic eradicated or are being led by "pro-business" stooges. About the only union worth a damn and bucking the system is the Nurses Union led by Rose Ann DeMoro. If you have the inclunation, take a look at labor during the first Gilded Age (late 1800s early 1900s) to see what it took to get the modest reforms of the New Deal enacted -- the very policies that are almost extinct now.

jrs , February 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Well even trying to unionize fast food failed badly is my impression. So often the laws make it hard but the workers also have to *WANT* to unionize.

Anon , February 2, 2018 at 1:53 pm

An article in The Atlantic provides an explanation for the absence of unions:

Efforts to get Amazon to change its labor practices have been unsuccessful thus far. Randy Korgan, the business representative and director of the Teamsters Local 63, which represents the Stater Brothers employees, told me that his office frequently gets calls from Amazon employees wanting to organize. But organizing is difficult because there's so much turnover at Amazon facilities and because people fear losing their jobs if they speak up. Burgett, the Indiana Amazon worker, repeatedly tried to organize his facility, he told me. The turnover was so high that it was difficult to get people to commit to a union campaign. The temps at Amazon are too focused on getting a full-time job to join a union, he said, and the full-time employees don't stick around long enough to join. He worked with both the local SEIU and then the Teamsters to start an organizing drive, but could never get any traction. He told me that whenever Amazon hears rumors of a union drive, the company calls a special "all hands" meeting to explain why a union wouldn't be good for the facility. (Lindsey said that Amazon has an open-door policy that encourages associates to bring concerns directly to the management team. "We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce," she wrote, in an email.)

This is a common anti-union trick among low-wage jobs these days -- intentionally abuse your workers as much as possible to ensure the highest possible turnover (and even better, turnover in the form of voluntary quits, which do not qualify for unemployment benefits or impact the employer's UI tax). Workers who have zero investment in their jobs and who intend to quit at the earliest possible opportunity are less likely to go through the trouble and risk of supporting a union effort.

As a bonus, the high turnover results in many of the workers not ever becoming eligible for benefits. Most common tax-advantaged benefit plans, like health insurance and 401(k), are required to be offered to all employees with only a few limited exceptions. The permitted exceptions differ depending on the benefit type, but usually include criteria like length of service (often no more than 12 months or so) and in some cases, minimum work hours. The plan will lose its tax-advantaged status if it excludes more employees than the law permits, which can cost the employer back taxes and penalties. Firing employees for the purpose of interfering with their ERISA-regulated benefits is illegal , but treating them so poorly from day 1 that they are unlikely to last long enough to qualify for benefits is not.

From a policy perspective, we need to realize the instability created by high-turnover and fissured work environments and penalize it accordingly. A beneficial side effect of this is that it would likely incentivize employers to train and promote low-level workers upwards; low-level jobs like warehouse workers probably inherently have higher turnover than average, just because most workers don't want to do that for the rest of their lives (and some are successful in finding a way out), but when there's a path for the janitor to become CTO you can reduce that turnover.

flora , February 2, 2018 at 11:21 am

When you own the politicians' trade newspaper – WaPo – why would the politicians attack you?

Fraibert , February 2, 2018 at 9:09 am

Pretty sure, at least at the federal level, it would be OSHA jurisdiction issues. With that said, OSHA has received complaints, and done investigations: e.g., https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/region3/01122016 ; https://www.recode.net/2017/11/9/16629412/amazon-warehouse-worker-killed-deaths-osha-fines-penalties

I found these just by Googling "OSHA amazon". Keep in mind, the low amounts of the fines doesn't necessarily reflect the severity of the underlying issues–my understanding is that OSHA has relatively weak abilities to fine violators in the first place.

Pespi , February 2, 2018 at 4:02 pm

OSHA has been neutered. If you're lucky enough to get someone to come without also being fired, they'll fine the business an ant's eyelid and be gone.

maria gostrey , February 2, 2018 at 9:38 am

the salon article referenced above perhaps is indicative of regulators' attitude toward those we expect them to regulate:

june 2, june 10 & july 25 – the days OSHA received complaints about the 100+ weather in the Allentown warehouse.

nothing about any sort of OSHA response.

Adam , February 2, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Cooks at restaurants routinely work in similar heat with similar levels of exertion. I know, because I was a cook at multiple restaurants.

Now I am a machinist, and temps like this are routine during the summer in most shops I worked.

The reason OSHA doesn't care is because working people in extreme heat is SOP for scores of industries that you may not even realize.

Big River Bandido , February 2, 2018 at 10:00 am

The regulatory agencies were captured decades ago by the industries they purport to regulate.

EoH , February 2, 2018 at 11:27 am

Government regulation and enforcement? In an earlier generation, that would be an excellent question. But since then, we've seen the distribution and adoption of the neoliberal memo that such things are always and everywhere bad. Nor would they be high on the current administration's to do list.

Elizabeth Burton , February 2, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Amazon doesn't employ the workers. It employs temp agencies who supply the workers. This is a standard procedure these days for high-turnover workplaces, because in the end no one is responsible for what happens to the workers.

Mikerw , February 2, 2018 at 8:18 am

To quote: "the beatings will continue until morale improves"

A service business that gives crappy service will not prosper. There is a high touch rate between customers and employees in this industry. Also, this is an industry with many options and competition; unlike airlines for example. We shop at WF from time to time, partly due to the experience being more pleasant. We have no issue moving (and no love of Amazon).

visitor , February 2, 2018 at 8:34 am

A service business that gives crappy service will not prosper.

if and only if there are preferable alternatives. If that business is cheaper, a monopoly, or if all other businesses deliver crappy service too, then it may well prosper. Case in point: the telecommunications market in the USA.

Fraibert , February 2, 2018 at 9:24 am

This is an important reason why the notion that market competition will increase social welfare isn't inherently true. It's long been understood that in concentrated markets (oligopolies) the market actors might implicitly coordinate their prices without a price increase. For example, Companies A, B, and C sell widgets; Company A announces a price increase via press release; B and C follow with similar increases a week later.

But companies can also implicitly coordinate on the quality of goods. If Company A pursues crapification, that can cover B and C for doing the same.

It's akin the the Greesham's Dyamic that Professor Black has written about extensively on this blog and in other places in connection with finance creating a criminogenic environment. Under the right circumstances, cheap bad quality can drive out good quality, leaving only bad.

EoH , February 2, 2018 at 11:41 am

Indeed. A "market" focusing solely on profitability would consider human values an inefficiency. It would remove them, along with what produced them, from the system, using routine failure modes and effects analysis. (An interesting point for promoters of AI.)

California witnessed considerable consolidation in its grocery business ten years or so ago. Similar, if somewhat less draconian conditions, resulted. I don't believe the "market" will generate a different result this time.

In addition, there's the question of Jeff Bezos's purposes in buying WF. It would not be to learn from another industry; I don't imagine Bezos values that concept. It would more likely be to expand his own methodologies and priorities to another industry, one that gives him access to a human activity outside the already extensive reach of his current business.

WF may be an experiment, whose survival might not be dictated by immediate notional profitability. Besides, the utility and profitability of the data flow from this experiment might never be visible.

Wisdom Seeker , February 2, 2018 at 2:03 pm

This is an important reason why the notion that market competition will increase social welfare isn't inherently true. It's long been understood that in concentrated markets (oligopolies) the market actors might implicitly coordinate their prices without a price increase.

I agree, except that the situations you describe are not "market competition". Any marketplace with fewer than about 7 truly independent competitors is not a competitive market.

But as you say, when there are few participants there is a lot of implicit signaling and coordination, which work to benefit the few participants at the expense of the general welfare.

We have a lot of faux markets, and a lot of faux competition. This is not helped by the prevalence of multiple "brands" owned by the same small number of large conglomerates. You could shut down just 2 or 3 companies in each product line and the supermarket shelves would lose 90% of their items. That ain't a competitive marketplace, even though the proliferation of brands provides the illusion of freedom of choice.

We need a populist wave to take back our democracy.

jrs , February 2, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Yes it's not textbook competition, but while textbook competition with many small players may be good for the consumer, there is no evidence that it is good for the worker. In fact I suspect it's bad for the worker as super competitive industries will nearly kill their employees just to stay in business. I'd rather work for an oligopoly (but it all depends on which one) as the freedom from relentless competition enables better working conditions in theory (again does not always materialize).

Dave , February 2, 2018 at 8:22 am

I spent 25 years in the grocery business with 20 of them in management. The expectations stated above were industry standards (except the minutiae of sales goals). Only in Whole Foods was this model ignored. When the industry wide profit margin of grocers is less the 3cents on the dollar you have to be a TIGHT operator to turn a profit or you are doomed. As a department manager my entire job depended on how I managed my P&L report on a quarterly basis .. if I was over on payroll hours I DAMN well better be cutting back on other areas such as shrink, supplies or payroll mix (high paid FT vs low paid PT)

I guess the Whole Foods employees are learning this now.

hemeantwell , February 2, 2018 at 8:42 am

Thanks for bringing up the industry baseline! Bezos' intense exploitation of labor merits a spotlight, but what's happening off in the shadows in other corporations? I recall seeing Costco held up as a + example, but what about others?

pretzelattack , February 2, 2018 at 8:48 am

if the industry standards decimate the work force and make customers unhappy, maybe it's the standards that are at fault.

Fraibert , February 2, 2018 at 9:15 am

To me, it doesn't make sense to penny pinch if you're a quasi-monopolistic supplier due to a special brand position. Whole Foods was associated with high quality goods, and was clearly able to charge a substantial price premium. Changing its operations as described above appears to reduce the justification for the price premium and destroy the company's unique market position.

It is almost like McDonald's deciding that beef patties cost too much, and that it would only serve chicken going forward.

PlutoniumKun , February 2, 2018 at 9:36 am

It seems to me that in the grocery business (like many), you either make money by being more efficient and cheaper than your competitors, or by having a unique selling point that allows you charge a premium (high quality, great service, etc).

If you look at the car industry, when mass market brands have bought high value brands (for example, Ford buying Jaguar), the sensible companies have been very cautious about ensuring that the brand aura (and hence high profit margin per car) is not tarnished by crudely cutting costs. Mercedes made that mistake in the 1980's with excessive cost cutting and it took them more than a decade, and billions of DM in investment, to win back their brand value when it became apparent that their cars were often less reliable than cheap Asian compacts.

It seems to me that Amazon are a one trick company (albeit, a very good trick), and they are likely to get burned very badly if they extend their predatory model to high value brands..

EoH , February 2, 2018 at 11:45 am

In scale, WF is a hobby business for Bezos, little more than a personal tax deduction. If it does not go as Bezos intends, it is not likely to have an effect on his primary business.

bob , February 2, 2018 at 9:19 am

"When the industry wide profit margin of grocers is less the 3cents on the dollar" This figure is complete nonsense. It means nothing. It's the "profit margin" after paying themselves rent, which is where the profits in grocery stores end up.. No one is in business for a 3% return. It does make good for PR though.

Chuck W , February 2, 2018 at 11:12 am

A 3% margin isn't the same thing as a 3% return. Maybe think about it this way, 26 turns on a 3% margin (once every 2 weeks). Without compounding that's a 78% return on average inventory level, before fixed and variable costs, interest expense and equity returns. You're right nobody is in the business for a 3% return!

bob , February 2, 2018 at 11:44 am

"A 3% margin isn't the same thing as a 3% return." I know this. But the way that figure is trotted out, relentlessly, is to leave the masses, and employees, with the idea that they only 'make' 3%, which is nonsense. Whatever they "make" is carefully chosen in accounting fairytale land.

The point about rents still stands. Most grocery stores/chains are REITs with captive retailers. No one ever sees the REIT side of things. Rite Aid is well know for being the captive retailer in this practice. Rite Aid doesn't 'make' any money (118M 'income' over 25 billion in sales = .004 Less that half a percent).. They 'make' the landlord LOTS of money. Tax dodge or money laundering, which does it better fit the definition of?

Chuck W , February 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Agreed. I think they trot out the 3% meme so nobody pushes them too hard on their "providing a public good" nature.

And on rent and landlord's, I absolutely agree. Regrettably it seems most of us are making our commercial landlords a lot of money (before we ever get to equity returns). So many small business owner's would loose their minds if they thought about that thoroughly. And to answer your last question, "I'll take Tax Dodge for $500, Alex"

Mel , February 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm

The way I read it way back when was that that 3% markup is on fresh produce and what not. So the turnover is necessarily high. So their return on invested capital might get as high as 3%/day, if they're lucky.

Jean , February 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm

Chuck W, please explain the "26 turns comment", don't assume people understand business jargon.

cnchal , February 3, 2018 at 12:26 am

Assumes stock turns over every two weeks, so 26 times per year.

Dave , February 2, 2018 at 10:41 pm

bob, can you direct me to an article and/or site which backs your claims. I would be most interested to read it. Perhaps my information is incorrect, but multiple Google searches have articles in which independent grocery business analysts confirm my number.

rd , February 2, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Its not clear to me that OTS originated with Amazon. Amazon only completed the Whole Foods purchase around Labor Day in 2017. It usually takes more than a month or two to come up with an entire computer-based software system and roll it out company-wide.

My guess is that Whole Foods was able to conceive of this all by themselves and since it fits into the Amazon way of doing things, they didn't stop them.

Corporate America is capable of coming up with bone-headed implementations of what could be good ideas without the need to get Amazon, Google, Facebook, or Apple to push them to it. Wells Fargo was able to come up with "Eight is Great" for new account generation even with the guidance of Warren Buffet instead of Jeff Bezos.

Kurtismayfield , February 2, 2018 at 3:44 pm

Does this 3% margin count the rent that is extracted from manufacturers for prime real estate in the stores? ( End caps for example). Slotting fees are rent extraction. Customers pay for this with higher prices for the items.

Whiteylockmandoubled , February 2, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Oh please. I shop at two of the major branded grocery chains, and while the staff is generally good and competent, they exhibit none of the hyper-awareness expected under OTS.

If you run into an employee and ask them where certain items can be found, they'll usually know and usually direct you to an aisle that has the item. But they will generally not know the exact location in the aisle, shelf, blah blah.

And the stupidity of corporate management is beyond belief. Due to niche marketing, items can be found in 3, 4 or even 5 different places. (My favorite is canned beans – organic and other high-end brands in the specialty fancy food aisle, a bunch in the Mexican/international/Spanish aisle, run of the mill murican brands and the same Goya brands that are in the international aisle in the general canned vegetable aisle, sale displays at the end of any random aisle. And dont even get me started on gluten-freeness).

At stop and shop they replaced the end of the checkout counters with a carousel for bagging, meaning a) that checkers had to bag each item as they went, b) no more baggers c) customers couldn't help bag stuff, and, my favorite, d) making it nearly impossible to use reusable bags. Talking to workers about it is simultaneously hilarious and enraging. "They said it was supposed to make it easier for us, but *shrug*". Everyone understands that it's designed to fail, slow things to a crawl, and piss customers off so they'll use the self-check line.

So spare us the tight-ship, low margin Whole-Foods-and-Amazon-are-just-just-learning-how-intense-the-business-really-is-and-too-bad-for-those-whiney-workers old school macho bullshit. Yes, it's not the most profitable industry in the world. But amazon is a whole other level of abusive monitoring of workers everywhere it goes.

Tony Wikrent , February 2, 2018 at 8:29 am

Makes me wonder what's happening at Washington Post. Quick search results are that Post has been "revived." Note that Bezos stays out of editorial process, but is heavily involved in tech ops.

Huey Long , February 2, 2018 at 8:29 am

I happened to stop by the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle, NYC yesterday for some produce and something is definitely different there.

It was around 4 pm, the store was packed, and apparently management had people out there with brooms and dustpans sweeping up what appeared to be clean floors. Between the crowds, the sweeping employees, and the boxes of stock on the floor it was much harder to move in there.

After navigating the aisles, I grabbed a bottle of cold beer for my subway ride home, and then proceeded to the in-house ramen/draft beer spot. The employees there seemed absolutely miserable and kept wandering away to talk in hushed voices about what was clearly some sort of work problem in the store from what I could gather. To the employees' credit however, they treated me with courtesy and respect even though their body language and demeanor screamed misery.

Following my mediocre Ramen and yummy draft beers, I wandered back over to the beer aisle to exchange my now warm subway subs for a cold bottle. I was shocked to find that the entire cold reach-in beer shelves had been re-stocked while I was in the ramen bar. After several moments of digging through freshly stocked warm beer I found a cold one, paid, and departed Whole Foods.

Thanks for this article, as it ties together all the oddities I observed today. It is really sad what happened to Whole Foods, particularly that location. I used to work on the Time Warner Center maintenance staff and frequently interacted with employees in that particular store and they used to be a jolly bunch.

At any rate, I won't be frequenting Whole Foods any longer as I find worker abuse nauseating.

SufferinSuccotash , February 2, 2018 at 8:37 am

So much paperwork that there's no time to deliver the food, hence empty shelves. A situation instantly recognizable to anyone who ever lived in the USSR.

The Rev Kev , February 2, 2018 at 8:56 am

Funny that. It was only a coupla months ago that a big story making the rounds was that Walmart shelves ( http://theweek.com/articles/466144/why-walmarts-shelves-are-empty ) were constantly empty. I suppose you have to be a mega-corporation to make blunders like this but still get away with it for a few months running.

Wyoming , February 2, 2018 at 9:56 am

Interesting you mention Wallmart. I live in central AZ and our local Wallmarts (3 ea) for several years had empty shelves, few workers – and they did not know where anything was, the greeters were gone, literally 1-2 actual cashiers – they were trying to force you to the self-checkout. Recently the stores are almost like they used to be with more workers, greeters back, still not enough cashiers though, and better stocking.

Has anyone else noticed this. It does seem to coincide with the Amazon purchase of WF. Correlation is not causation and all that but it might be a reaction to some extent.

Carolinian , February 2, 2018 at 1:23 pm

I'm probably one of the few people around here that shops at Walmart and yes they have cleaned up their act although it depends on the store. I'd say the thing people don't get about Walmart is that they are responsive to public opinion and customer gripes even if they supposedly treat their employees like disposable parts, easily replaced (but then they have lots of company in that department). For example a few years ago they took the clutter out of the aisles and did away with the craft/sewing section–trying to be more like Target -- and then reversed all those changes because their customers hated it.

Seems to me Bezos is taking on a much bigger challenge trying to reinvent brick and mortar than he did by innovating mail order. Here's betting he's not up to it. Perhaps his top honchos–meditating in their new waterfall equipped Seattle biosphere–will prove me wrong.

Pespi , February 2, 2018 at 4:07 pm

You didn't hear it from me, but from a friend who was a cashier at a grocery store, a small way to fight back against self checkout is to be creative in naming your produce to get a 95% discount

diptherio , February 2, 2018 at 10:01 am

Just FYI, that article is 5 years old. I remember discussing it here on NC. Unfortunately, it didn't portend the end of Wally World.

The Rev Kev , February 2, 2018 at 7:52 pm

Yeah, that one was 5 year old but I chose it because it gave a bit more info in it. There are plenty more from last year. Just go to Google and punch in the search term Wal-Mart shelves empty and see what come back, especially Google images. This means that this problem is not a one-off but has been a running theme for at least a four year period. Amazing.

Eureka Springs , February 2, 2018 at 8:47 am

People who shop at Whole Foods want to look at employees with that NPR vegan faux-hippy gaze. Not a lot of difference from the evangelical gaze, imo. Some sort of self hypnosis involved? Now that gaze will be replaced with the look of a desperate near homeless employee all Wal-Mart shoppers have grown accustomed to ignoring, Wal-Mart can man-up with a new ad campaign – Our Employees Don't Cry, they get food stamps.

If I were a rich man I would give everyone of these people a T-shirt which says – I am not a robot.

Fraibert , February 2, 2018 at 9:18 am

I wonder if Wal-Mart will discover increasing in-store staff, as well as an upgraded store experience, will actually improve its competitive position versus online retailers. That's pretty much what Best Buy has to do.

SufferinSuccotash , February 2, 2018 at 10:06 am

Or maybe pay the help more. falls out of chair laughing

Marco , February 2, 2018 at 10:32 am

Is this just an Amazon/WF issue or something larger for grocer chains? I find myself shopping at a Meijers (big Midwest chain) superstore whilst visiting my mother and noticed the same kind of strangeness with not just employee morale (they are clearly miserable) but stocking issues. Items that were ALWAYS available are no longer there. I needed pasta shells the other day. They had none. How can a super grocer NOT have pasta shells. Larger than normal sections of shelves are bare. Pallets haphazardly placed. Meijors used to be a somewhat pleasant and orderly experience with happy workers now approaching a WalMart experience.

oh , February 2, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Vegan faux-hippy-Hillary Obamba-gaze?

Adar , February 2, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Re the NPR vegan faux-hippy gaze, The WF near me in suburban Philadelphia, has a very upscale clientele. Once, in the produce section, they had set up a booth where a Hispanic woman would mix guacamole using just the ingredients the customers wished, without any extraneous chatter on her part. Wow! Your guac would be mixed by an ACTUAL MEXICAN PERSON! Just gotta be good, eh? Conservatives might say she was happy to have such a nice job. I thought it was downright creepy, like those catalogues where people beam as they demonstrate expensive vacuum cleaners. Yuk.

lakecabs , February 2, 2018 at 9:16 am

Our Soviet style master planners hard at work. At least the Soviets had 5 year plans that they would abandon after 5 years. How many years of failure can we tolerate? What ever happened to profit?

McWoot , February 2, 2018 at 9:47 am

Not a fan of Bezos, Amazon, or their practices, but strict planogram scorecarding is not uncommon in grocery, auto parts and similar retail orgs. The only part of that section of the article that strikes me as out of the ordinary is the employee's reaction to it.

diptherio , February 2, 2018 at 10:04 am

Translation: "Employee abuse is the norm, so I don't see what everyone is complaining about. Back to work, peasants!"

McWoot , February 2, 2018 at 10:16 am

The framing of the article suggests this is Amazon-ian behavior. Just pointing out that I don't believe that's accurate because the practice is commonplace in the industry.

diptherio , February 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm

I've got more than a few friends who have worked in grocery stores recently, and while they had many complaints, having to know last week's best selling item or this week's sales goals weren't among them. Just sayin' .

Harry , February 2, 2018 at 10:00 am

DE shaw culture spread by its alumni

Chuck , February 2, 2018 at 10:05 am

Thank you for highlighting Amazon's continued abuse of its employees. I'm amazed at how many people choose to simply ignore the fate of Amazon's employees in order to receive free shipping. My favorite people are the type that by books on late stage capitalism and plutocracy through their Amazon prime accounts.

Bukko Boomeranger , February 2, 2018 at 6:12 pm

"I'm amazed at how many people choose to simply ignore the fate of Amazon's employees in order to receive free shipping."

Sad but true, Chuck. My daughter, who's a total Social Justice Warrior type (speaking as a progessive, I'm proud of her for that) and her long-time boyfriend are proud Amazon customers. They have Amazon technobuttons on the walls of the house they bought so that all they have to do to re-order toilet paper and kitty litter is touch the device. (Suggesting that AMZ is a sh*t business.) A day or two later, it's delivered, for free, because they are Primes! Daughter's BF, who luuuuuvs him some tech, revels in this because it's so futuristic. When I suggest going to the store to buy some -- it's quicker -- or simply thinking ahead and purchasing stuff before they run out, I get the eye-roll given to Olds who old-splain oldways. They're Jellbylically concerned about the plight of abused North Koreans and the like. When I mentioned why I was buying their Christmas book gifts via Barnes & Noble rather than Amazon due to its mistreatment of workers, their ears glazed over. I'll forward this post to her, but I doubt it will get read, since it wasn't on her Fakebook feed.

J-Mann , February 2, 2018 at 7:41 pm

heh

I like the cut of your jib: " to Olds who old-splain oldways."

Grampa Simpson classic – One trick is to tell 'em stories that don't go anywhere – like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Give me five bees for a quarter," you'd say.

Now where were we? Oh yeah: the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones

Simple Life , February 2, 2018 at 10:35 am

Find a local co-op market. if you can't find one, start one!

Louis Fyne , February 2, 2018 at 12:13 pm

Local co-ops are a great idea but (sorry for the but) in much of the country wholesale food distribution has been decimated or wiped out over the years due to competition from Wal-Mart, Target, Whole Foods, the legacy grocers or Sysco (on the restaurant side).

Geographically, few areas in the US are fortunate enough to have an independent and thriving food/produce wholesale market which helps bring down price and bring up quality to be competitive with the vertically integrated big boys.

Arizona Slim , February 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm

Well, here's Slim from drought-stricken AZ. And I'm about to rain on that co-op parade. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I worked at a food co-op that was the lone survivor after its main competitor went under. And we got REAL busy. We also had a bit of a management problem. Ours was a drunk who often came to work hungover. All the better way to abuse the rest of us. After a staff revolt (yes, I took part in it), he left and took a job as manager of the regional co-op warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. Where he treated the warehouse gals as his harem and got one of them pregnant.

To our utter and total amazement back in Pittsburgh, he took responsibility for his son and tried to be the best father he could. I have no idea what happened with the drinking problem.

The manager who succeeded him was even worse. He even called himself a martinet, and he was. After less than a year of his BS, I bailed out of the co-op and got a sit-down job in an office. Yeah, there was another lousy boss there, and I've talked about her on other threads.

But there was further fun and merriment back at the co-op. I was still friendly with the people who worked there, and guess what? Another staff revolt! They ran Mr. Martinet outta there too! Go staff! Mr. Martinet went to a yuppie grocery store in North Carolina. From there, he went on to become one of the original senior executives in Whole Foods.

diptherio , February 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Bummer about the food co-op, Slim. Some of us "in the movement" are trying to work out how to provide accountability for guys like the drunk manager you mention, so that they don't end up doing like he did, and just sliding around from one co-op to another. Open to suggestions

Unfortunately, the co-op name doesn't necessarily imply that everything is groovy for the workers. Hence, REI workers in Seattle trying to unionize, and why UFCW has had such success in organizing every single food co-op in Minneapolis-St. Paul (and there are quite a few). The history of consumer co-ops seems pretty clear – workers in them need union representation just as much as workers in regular businesses.

Pespi , February 2, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Hahaha, an excellent story, well told. I have fond memories of the little local co-op from when I was a kid.

jrs , February 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm

it failed.

rd , February 2, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Or a Wegmans. https://www.wegmans.com/

https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/money/business/2010/05/14/alec-baldwins-mom-really-really-likes-wegmans/2195927/

EoH , February 2, 2018 at 4:00 pm

For those who need examples, there is an excellent co-op in Ocean Beach, San Diego. Its customer/members are devoutly loyal. By design, each is small and adapted to its local culture and food ecosystem. Michael Pollan is a good resource for ideas on this topic and on real food in general.

American businesses might prefer home runs, but singles and bunts are more common and sustainable. Besides, co-ops are harder to buy up or put out of business in the manner reputed to be practiced by, say, some retail coffee companies.

EoH , February 2, 2018 at 10:35 am

Jeff Bezos. John Galt. No difference.

Louis Fyne , February 2, 2018 at 12:58 pm

Except Jeff Bezos has sold the Ayn Rand way of life to the 'progressive' intelligensia who would happily rant over John Galt if you gave them your ear and a glass of Bordeaux.

HotFlash , February 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Didn't John Galt go away?

cnchal , February 2, 2018 at 4:18 pm

I don't know, did he?. I didn't finish the stupid book to find out.

Jeff N , February 2, 2018 at 10:38 am

Not just at Amazon, but I'm seeing an anecdotal trend of "get people to quit within a year or two of starting". Not just with ridiculous requests from above, but even with good ol' passive-aggressiveness. I can't remember if this article was tipped off to me by NC but here it is anyway:
https://www.ft.com/content/356ea48c-e6cf-11e6-967b-c88452263daf
(paywall, or websearch for "how employers manage out unwanted staff")

Croatoan , February 2, 2018 at 10:42 am

Don't you all get it? First they took away their freedom to form unions with others. Now they want to take away your freedom to form a union with you own bodies actions. This will crush the idea of sabotage and work slowdowns as an expression of labor power.

The Rev Kev , February 2, 2018 at 7:59 pm

Of course there is always this simple WW2 manual-https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2012-featured-story-archive/simple-sabotage.html

Jeff Z , February 2, 2018 at 10:57 am

OSHA is a part of the DOL. https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/safety-health

EoH , February 2, 2018 at 11:04 am

Waste is inherent to selling fresh food. Trimmings, dry, damaged meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, breads, prepared foods. That's especially true of anything organic and not engineered to be harder, more colorful, durable and less tasty than their natural analogs. Whole Paycheck's intended customers – really, most shoppers anywhere – do not want to buy adulterated, processed versions of eggs, beakless turkeys, caged hens, and drugged industrially raised cows and pigs.

Fresh food, especially organic, does not last as long as industrial bread, fruits and vegetables or highly sugared packaged foods. It is the antithesis of such foods. The reason chicken soup made the way it was c.1940 is tastier and nutritionally better than soup made from a caged, medicated, neurotic fowl today is not great Grandma's recipe: it's the chicken.

Local sourcing, environmentally safe, animal friendly methods of raising require a wider supplier net. What Michael Pollan would call real food costs more. It should. But real food and real people are ripe for the cruel "more efficient" methods of production, distribution and sale that seem part of Jeff Bezos's DNA. Besides, what he really wants is probably the data flow. WF is simply a way to get it.

rd , February 2, 2018 at 3:52 pm

https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/money/business/2017/03/03/wegmans-looks-cut-food-waste-with-new-state-regulations-coming/98049694/

Trey N , February 2, 2018 at 11:19 am

Typical uber-"capitalist" idiocy -- seen this happen in a lot of different industries over the years (esp techs):

CEO: "Our product sucks. We've grown too big, lost our innovative edge, we need to get back to our roots!"

Toady: "Uh, tried that already, boss. No can do. Too much bureaucracy now."

CEO: "Shit! Any ideas?"

Toady: "Actually, yes! We can buy out and take over one of the smaller competitors that's eating our lunch now, and steal their latest ideas and projects."

CEO: "Brilliant! Make it so!"

fast forward 1-2 years

CEO: "How's that takeover working out?"

Toady: "Well, it's taken a while, but we've fully integrated the company in with ours -- all of our corporate policies and procedures etc etc are in place there now."

CEO: "Excellent!"

fast forward 1-2 more years .

CEO: "Our product sucks! What happened to all those great ideas coming from that company we took over?"

Toady: "Well, most everyone working there when we bought it out are gone now. The founders and senior management cashed out the takeover premium and bailed immediately, and everybody else got frustrated with our corporate style and policies and eventually quit. Our people took over their projects, and promptly fucked them up beyond all belief. Instead of a cash cow, we got a dead cow on our hands now."

CEO: "Shit! Any ideas?"

Toady: "Yeah. We can either spin it off to the public again or just shut the whole fucking thing down and take a huge earnings write-off."

CEO: "Hmmm,..decisions, decisions . By the way, are there any other small competitors out there that we can buy out to rejuvenate our stale product line, toady?

Rinse. Repeat. Ad nauseum, ad infinitum .

Jeff N , February 2, 2018 at 4:41 pm

haha that's my place!

Sean , February 2, 2018 at 11:20 am

Amazon corporate sounds like a sweatshop. Their treatment of warehouse staff is nothing short of an abomination. But I can't help feeling that some of the employee comments at WholeFoods are less about bad management and work conditions and more about Millenials and a lack of ability handle criticism and work pressure. (The average age of a Whole Food employee at my store is easily 28yo.)

To call working on an inventory system "punitive". It's called business, and yes, it is difficult and takes a lot of effort. Punitive, though. To use an inventory system. Sorry. Not buying the whole story.

JBird , February 2, 2018 at 12:35 pm

If it's common for people to actually cry at work, and to have nightmares, with massive turnover, decreasing quality of service, product, and cleanliness blaming millennials is an inadequate response. Apparently Amazon wants to run Whole Foods with inadequate staff, fails to reward good good work, unfailingly punish not only poor work, but honest mistakes, and makes no allowance within the system for reality. If you did animal training this way, you would see the same results, I promise. The management "techniques" described will destroy any company, or at least reduce productivity massively.

Yves Smith Post author , February 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm

You are straw manning the post and the underlying article. The staff is grilled very frequently and graded, and much of what they are graded on isn't relevant to customer service. The shelves are supposed to be "leveled" all day, which is a ridiculous standard. The testing and insane shelf appearance standards are not normal to the industry and minor deviations are the basis for firing.

RMO , February 3, 2018 at 12:11 am

I have yet to met a single "Millennial" that fits that ridiculous stereotype – and I know a lot of people in that age bracket even though I was born in 1970. The very few who even seem to have tendencies in those directions seem more influenced by being from wealthy families than by their year of birth and I can think of at least as many Boomers and Gen X'ers that are like that too.

When I think of the high-school age or university age jobs the people I grew up with had and compare them to the jobs I've seen my "Millennial" friends doing the younger people have had it substantially worse over all.

Anarcissie , February 2, 2018 at 11:54 am

According to my browser, the word 'union' does not exist in this article.

Jonathan Holland Becnel , February 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm

#Famazon

Also theres an Ad for the 'United States Secret Service' that wants to recruit me. Lol Not with my Reenlistment Code (RE4)!!!!!

Arizona Slim , February 2, 2018 at 1:09 pm

A college friend of my mother went on to run the Secret Service detail for the White House. Very demanding position, but one that Mom's friend was quite proud of.

Eclair , February 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Lordy, Yves, please put a warning sign on that video! It's still breakfast time here in Seattle, and I clicked on it. No, it didn't offend my 'sensibilities.' But it encapsulated all the frustration and anger and helplessness I feel against our system. As well as being a powerful metaphor for 'late stage capitalism.'

Chauncey Gardiner , February 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Share your sentiments, Eclair. Having breakfast? The observations about employee abuse also pair well with a video of a 10 minute bike ride through the homeless encampments along the Santa Ana River near Angels Stadium and Disneyland in Anaheim:
https://mobile.twitter.com/Dalrymple/status/953739188050059265

Fear is part of their toolkit.

Pelham , February 2, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Whole Foods employees still outnumber these Amazon creatures checking up on them, I presume. If the WF workers and others at Amazon are so universally tormented and humiliated, shouldn't they be taking some kind of collective action?

Twice during WWII German officers tried to get rid of Hitler. I guess American workers don't measure up to even that standard.

Oregoncharles , February 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Those places are begging for union organizers – but are likely to fight back ruthlessly.

EoH , February 2, 2018 at 3:37 pm

I suspect Jeff Bezos would view unions at WF or Amazon the way Reagan viewed unionized Air Traffic Controllers. Or Wal-Mart, which has abandoned markets whose employment laws provide for unions or simply too many protections for employees.

Bezos is extracting resources from his employees with the same thought and in the same manner that early California hard rock miners used massive water hoses (monitors) to liquidate mountains in search for a few gold nuggets. (h/t Gray Brechin)

Petter , February 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Why don't they quit? If you allow yourself to be treated as and act as a slave, you become complicit in your own slavery.

Arizona Slim , February 2, 2018 at 1:53 pm

Which is why I Q-U-I-T the food co-op job mentioned above. Did the same in that office job, which was my second-to-last full-time job.

Have I ever had a good job? Yup. Working in a hot, dark, and greasy bike shop. Place closed in 2000 and I still miss the camaraderie with my fellow mechanics -- and the pride of accomplishment that came with fixing the customers' bikes.

Oregoncharles , February 2, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Because, like most Americans, they have no savings and no fallback if they lose their job.

Yves Smith Post author , February 2, 2018 at 3:13 pm

The article said many are quitting. Of course, the better employees will probably have the best options and be able to leave faster.

Craig H. , February 2, 2018 at 2:16 pm

From The Atlantic:

What Amazon Does to Poor Cities

Mostly about their warehouse in San Bernardino. The employees describe working there as The Hunger Games.

Punxsutawney , February 2, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Decades ago I worked in retail,

When arguing with my boss about crap we were required to do, he finally got frustrated and told me "Shit flows downhill", "DEAL WITH IT!". To which my response was "Yep, right onto the customer!"

It made him so angry I was lucky I wasn't fired on the spot, though in hindsight it would have been a blessing. Looks like nothing has changed 30 years later.

JBird , February 2, 2018 at 7:06 pm

I think it's gotten worse as the whole retail industry specifically and perhaps most industries gradually, have had the slowly MBA'd management reorganized, streamlined, outsourced and efficiencied it into a monetized Hades.

I was lucky to work in a couple of well run, or at competently run, businesses. So I know one can be profitable without brutalizing people. It's depressing to see what has happened.

Synoia , February 2, 2018 at 6:42 pm

I imaging the quickest route to being fired is:

Hi, my name is Jeff Bezos, and I'm a union organizer!

Well maybe not the Bezos part.

Jean , February 2, 2018 at 10:03 pm

Wonder what would happen if a customer started handing out union brochures to Whole Foods employees in one of their stores. What are they going to do? Kick you, a customer, out of the store?

Yves Smith Post author , February 2, 2018 at 10:29 pm

They probably would. It's private space. But it would make for good news stories. You would need to actually shop in fact handing them out to all the cashiers when you are checking out would be the best move, since you'd be out the store before management would catch on.

Dongo , February 2, 2018 at 8:51 pm

As the articles in the Business Insider series explicitly point out, this hated new system preceded the acquisition by Amazon.

Amazon is terrible. The way Whole Foods is now treating its workers is terrible. But Amazon simply did not develop or implement the policies at Whole Foods that this article is ascribing to it.

Jean , February 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm

OTS, What is that?

I know two Whole Foods employees who have quit in the last week.

The new name for the store is "Asswhole Foods".

The game is to sabotage as much as possible and give away and undercharge customers for as much as possible in the weeks before you quit.

A walkout strike on a busy Saturday would be a beautiful thing to see and would really get the public's attention.

Yves Smith Post author , February 2, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Good for your saboteurs! Amazon is trying to stop shrinkage but they'll lose more through deliberately missed scans. Oh, and a freezer door left open or temperature mysteriously reset would wreak even more havoc.

lentilsoup , February 2, 2018 at 10:40 pm

I was in a Whole Foods last night, where I shop a few times per month, here in central California. Lots of unfamiliar faces working there. Produce section definitely looking worse than usual -- empty shelves, low quality items. At checkout, the cashier was a young woman I'd never seen before, who looked tired and dispirited. I asked how she was doing that evening. Smirking wearily, she said, "Hangin' in there " (Which is about how I feel these days, too.) When it came time to pay, it was the first time in my life that the total at Whole Foods was less than I was expecting. Wow, I thought, I didn't think Amazon changed the prices that much? After I got home and looked at the receipt, I realized why -- she hadn't charged me for all the items! Bless her.

I don't believe Amazon and Whole Foods were ever a good match for each other, and with unhappy employees and other problems, I expect this particular branch of WF to be gone in a few years. And I really couldn't care less. There are other good places to shop.

[Jan 30, 2018] Perfect worker on the cheap by Dan Crawford

Jan 29, 2018 | angrybearblog.com

Via Bloomberg Obsession for the Perfect Worker Fading in Tight U.S. Job Market points to an issue in hiring that has been discussed here at AB:

This is a problem because, at 4.1 percent last month, U.S. unemployment is at the lowest level since 2000 and companies from Dallas to Denver are struggling to find the right workers. In some cases this is constraining growth, the Federal Reserve reported last week.

Corporate America's search for an exact match is "the number-one problem with hiring in our country," said Daniel Morgan, a recruiter in Birmingham, Alabama, who owns an Express Employment Professionals franchise. "Most companies get caught up on precise experience to a specific job," he said, adding: "Companies fail to see a person for their abilities and transferable skills."

U.S. employers got used to abundant and cheap labor following the 2007-2009 recession. Unemployment peaked at 10 percent in October 2009, and didn't return to the lows of the previous business cycle until last year. Firms still remain reluctant to boost pay or train employees with less-than-perfect credentials, though recruiters say that may have to change amid a jobless rate that's set to dip further.


Bill H , January 29, 2018 9:53 am

The way the article is cut off with the wage gains chart makes it seem that the article is on the Dean Baker theme of "pay higher wages and they will come," in which he argues that there is no shortage because you can hire workers away from your competitor, thereby merely moving the deficit from one place to another without eliminating it and unintentionally suggesting that there is actually is a shortage after all.

Immediately after that chart, however, the article segues into a pretty intelligent discussion of employers learning to ascertain "how can your experience be used in my application," making it unclear why the wage chart is even there.

The "lack of trained workers" complaint has long annoyed me, with its implication that it is the public sector's responsibility to train workers for the private sector. Why? If a company needs welders, why should that company not train its own welders?

J.Goodwin , January 29, 2018 11:39 am

Last week we were reviewing a job description we were preparing for a role in Canada. It was basically a super senior description, they wanted everything, specific experience, higher education, what amounts to a black belt project management certification but also accounting and finance background.

At the bottom it says 5 years experience.

I almost fell off my chair. That's an indicator of the pay band they were trying to fill at (let's say 3, and the description was written like a 10-15 years 6).

I tried to explain it to the person who wrote it and I said hey if we put this out there, we will get no hits. There is no one with this experience who will take what you are offering. I'm afraid we're going to end up with another home country expat instead. They're often not up the same standard you could get with a local if you reasonably scoped the job and gave a fair offer.

I think companies have forgotten how to compete for employees, and the recruiters are completely out of touch. Or maybe they are aware of the conditions and HR just won't sign on to fair value.

Mona Williams , January 29, 2018 1:09 pm

Before I retired 12 years ago, on-the-job training was much more common. Borders Books (remember them?) trained me for a week with pay for just a temporary Christmas-season job. Employers have gotten spoiled, and I hope they will figure this out. Some of the training programs I hear about just make me sigh. Nobody can afford to be trained while not being paid.

axt113 , January 29, 2018 1:26 pm

My Wife works as a junior recruiter, the problem she says is with the employers, they want a particular set of traits, and if there is even a slight deviation they balk

She says that one recent employer she worked with wanted so many particulars for not enough pay that even well experienced and well educated candidates she could find were either unwilling to accept the offer, or were missing one or two traits that made them unacceptable to the company.

rps , January 29, 2018 3:58 pm

This is exciting news for many of us who've been waiting for the pendulum to swing in favor of potential employees after a decade of reading employers help wanted Santa wish list criteria for a minimum wage job of 40+ hours. I'd argue the unemployment rate is not 4.1%; rather, I know of many intelligent/educated/experienced versatile people who've been cut out of the job market and/or chose not to work for breadcrumbs.

HR's 6 second resume review rule of potential candidates was a massive failure by eliminating candidates whose skills, experience and critical thinking abilities could've cultivated innovation across many disciplines. Instead companies looked for drone replacement at slave wages. HR's narrow candidate searches often focused on resume typos or perceived grammatical errors (highly unlikely HR recruiters have an English Ph.D), thus trashing the resume. Perhaps, HR will be refitted with critical thinking people who see a candidate's potential beyond the forgotten comma or period.

[Jan 06, 2018] More Power to the Workers Seymour Melman on Extraction by the Military, Managers, and Finance

Notable quotes:
"... By Jon Rynn, the author of Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The power to rebuild the American Middle Class, and many other writings available at JonRynn.com . His twitter handle is @JonathanRynn. Originally published at Economic Reconstruction ..."
"... *This article is meant as a wide-ranging, 'high-altitude' look at Melman's work, not as an exhaustive survey. Please see SeymourMelman.com for more of Melman's work, as well as his many books and articles. ..."
"... perhaps the most glaring example being the Soviet Union ..."
"... Somehow he also got an audience with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as the Vietnam War heated up. Melman blamed McNamara, formerly head of Ford Motor Company, for rationalizing and systematizing the military industrial complex. After McNamara got through with it, the Department of Defense had turned into the headquarters of the military industrial complex, with the contractors as virtual divisions of the Pentagon. Melman was concerned that the military industrial complex was siphoning off much of the best and the brightest engineers and scientists, and that there was a surfeit of engineering talent available for civilian firms. "Where are the engineers?! Where are the engineers?!" Melman remembers McNamara screaming at him. It is a question we can continue to ask to this day. ..."
Jan 05, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. Get a cup of coffee. This is a meaty and important post.

While I agree overwhelmingly with the main points, I have a few quibbles. One is that Rynn attributes the dollar's role as reserve currency to oil being denominated in dollars. As we've discussed, the requirements of being a reserve currency is running persistent trade deficits so that there is a lot of the reserve currency in foreign hands so it is tradable. The reason foreigners are so happy to have the US run trade deficits is that pretty much everyone but us runs mercantilist trade policies. The US is effectively exporting jobs to these countries. They can have a higher savings rate and our exporting jobs alleviates the employment cost. What's not to like from their perspective?

By Jon Rynn, the author of Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The power to rebuild the American Middle Class, and many other writings available at JonRynn.com . His twitter handle is @JonathanRynn. Originally published at Economic Reconstruction

Seymour Melman was one of the most important political economists and peace activists of the 20th century. He would have been 100 years old on December 30, 2017 (he died in 2004), therefore this is a good time to consider his legacy, and more importantly from his point of view, to think about how his writings can help us achieve a more just world.

Melman always had a two-track intellectual focus, writing about both the military and the economy. The two concepts were intertwined in his books about the deleterious economic effects of military production, for instance, in 'Pentagon Capitalism', 'The Permanent War Economy', and 'Profits without Production'. He sought to decrease military spending, not just because American wars after World War II were unjust, but also because that spending constituted missed opportunities to improve the public sphere of life, and even more fundamentally, because military spending destroyed the core competence in manufacturing that Melman saw as the basis of economic life.

This integration of peace activism and economics crystallized after the 1950s. In the 1950s, Melman was involved with what became known as the 'ban the bomb' movement. There was a great deal of concern at the time that nuclear war of any sort could lead to the destruction of most if not all mankind, and it took quite a bit of activist effort to eventually lead to, for instance, a ban on testing nuclear weapons overground. Melman and others, such as another political economist born in 1917, Barry Commoner, argued that trying to survive a nuclear strike in fallout shelters and the like was madness, and that the aftereffects of nuclear war would make affected areas unlivable. Melman made the term 'overkill' popular, as a reference to the idea that you only need a small number of nuclear weapons to wipe out your enemy, and any more than that is a complete waste of money. Melman, and others such as Marcus Raskin, founder of the Institute for Policy Studies, helped create a movement for global nuclear disarmament.

At the same time that Melman was addressing the issue of nuclear war, academically Melman was pursuing a production-centered understanding of the economy, as opposed to the exchange-centered approach of mainstream economics that was then beginning to dominate economics departments. As a professor of industrial engineering at Columbia University from 1948 on, his bread-and-butter expertise concerned how to increase productivity on the factory floor. While he was best known for critiquing the military economy, his critiques were based on his intimate knowledge of how things are produced.

Production and Worker Centered Economics

To understand his critique of the role of the military in the economy, therefore, it is critical to understand his understanding of political economy. Much of his framework can be summed up thus: the more decision-making power is given to factory workers, the better the factory and the economy performs. In addition, the more the engineers and managers of industrial firms are competent to organize production, the better the economy of the country-as-a-whole performs. Military production and financial domination interfere with both processes, and divert resources from the infrastructure, another critical part of the production economy.

However, before we can understand why he came to these conclusions, we need to attempt an even more fundamental question, which when answered will make the other hypotheses easier to explore: how does an economy work? What creates economic growth? You may be thinking 'that's what economic departments are there to explain', or, 'I took some economics courses, so I know the answer to that question'. From Melman's perspective, mainstream economics cannot adequately answer these questions. Actually, from my perspective as well, since I spent 20 years working closely with Melman, and wrote a dissertation, book, and articles based on his world view.

The problem revolves around the concept of production. Usually, the concept of production boils down to manufacturing, or 'industrial production', which also involves things like construction and electricity generation. The epochal ideological problem, if you will, as far as I have been able to figure it out, is this: for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the spectacular increases in growth and standards of living that manufacturing and other industry provided were glaringly obvious to most people, and in particular to intellectuals and urban folk. Most people lived through big technological transformations, for instance, to an electrical society or to one using trains, then cars, then planes . The role of manufacturing and other industry was obvious -- maybe a little too obvious. Economics grew, not to explain this technological explosion, but mainly to explain the market mechanisms that enveloped this system of productive machinery.

It was into this industrial environment that people like Seymour Melman, Barry Commoner, John Kenneth Galbraith, John Maynard Keynes, and other, what I would call, 'production-oriented' economists grew up. Indeed, Karl Marx and prewar Marxists also experienced manufacturing transformations. What none of them developed, including Melman, was an explicit argument or framework that manufacturing is the foundation of a wealthy economy. It was obvious. For instance, Melman simply wrote in several books that 'In order to survive, a society must produce'. True enough, but in the current society in which the urban population, and professionals and intellectuals as a whole, have as much exposure to manufacturing as they have to other exotic and remote ecosystems, this doesn't explain much. However, Melman's writings offer a set of principles that can help us grasp the true nature of the political economy.

Let's actually start all the way at the beginning. Humans dominate the planet because we have hands and a brain that cooperatively are able to use tools to make other tools that then make things that we want. This was always our advantage over other animals, and has allowed us to create our own environments (houses and infrastructure in cities, for example), instead of going along with whatever the ecosystem happened to provide.

I said that we make tools that are used to make other tools, not that we simply make tools. The key to human success is ability to use a set of tools together, as a system, and to use one set of tools to make another set. So for instance in the modern economy, there are tools called machine tools that make all kinds of metal parts that are then used to make the machinery that we see in factories, and more machine tools, and which eventually make the goods that we use and the services that use those goods.

What we make depends critically, then, on what kinds of tools and machinery we use to make them. The production machinery may be out of sight, but without it we won't have anything we need. For instance, smart phones would not be possible without all kinds of very sophisticated machinery that makes the small parts that go into the phone. And those machines were made using other machines, in conjunction with workers. So let us explore a list of ten principles that we may glean from Melman's writings.

Melman's Principles of Political Economy

  1. The goods we use and their final price depend on what kind of tools/machinery are available to make them. Advances in tool/machine making is basically what drives economic growth -- you don't get electricity in your society because the market is set free, you get electricity because the machinery is available to generate electricity, and the tools/machines are available to make the machinery that generates the electricity. Melman was a world-leading expert in the production of machine tools.
  2. In order to put this machinery together, and to use the machinery in the best way possible, engineers and managers have to have 'the competence to organize production', as Melman put it. This is the basic stuff of industrial engineering -- how do you design a factory, or any other workplace, so that you get the most output with the least input. If you do this better than other companies, then you can charge less for your product, and presumably get a bigger market share and make more profit. If the country as a whole is doing is organizing work competently, then it will do better than other countries, economically.
  3. In order to maximize the usability of this critical production machinery, you need to maximize the 'productivity of capital', that is, you need to keep the machinery running (maximizing 'uptime'). If you have a car factory and the assembly line keeps breaking down, you will get less output in a particular period of time, just as most people can't be productive now if particular websites are 'down'. This 'uptime' is crucial to a well-functioning factory and indeed an economy. One of the reasons that the Soviet Union collapsed, according to Melman's analysis, is that the Soviets were so focused on making military equipment that they let their industrial machinery literally fall apart, and so they were experiencing a production crisis when Gorbachev entered the scene and decided he needed to shake things up.
  4. The more decision-making power you give workers on the shop floor, the better the machinery will perform, that is, you will maximize the productivity of capital, because well-trained and well-motivated workers will be able to prevent problems in the machinery from happening in the first place, and will react quickly if problems arise (for instance, on the famous Toyota assembly line, any worker can stop all production if they see a problem) . When workers are 'dumbed-down' and have no say, machinery breaks down and the entire production process -- the organization of work -- in not as efficient as it could be.
  5. An economic 'virtuous cycle' emerges if you pay workers more, because competent managers will compensate for higher wages by using more and better machinery, and by improving the way work is organized, which will then lead to higher profits, which can lead to higher wages, leading to better machinery/organization of work, and so on. Indeed, Melman even argued that if you have strong unions, management will be forced to figure out more clever ways of organizing work than just trying to decrease wages.
  6. When wages go up faster than the price of the machinery that is being produced by workers, then this 'virtuous cycle' is reinforced. Melman followed this ratio in various countries starting in the 1950s. For instance, in his last published book 'After Capitalism' he noted that the Japanese and Germans were increasing wages at a higher rate than the increase in their machinery prices, and their machinery industries were world-leading and their workers made more than their American counterparts. In America, on the other hand, machinery prices were going up faster than wages. So cutting or stagnating wages reverses the 'virtuous cycle' of increasing wages leading to better machinery and organization of work. This dynamic was one of the themes of Melman's first book, 'Dynamic Factors in Industrial Productivity'.
  7. A well-functioning management and concomitant organization of work is the basis of a thriving middle class, particularly if unions are strong, that is, workers have decision-making power in the firm. Basically, by generating more wealth, the society becomes richer, but if you generate more wealth by at the same time increasing wages, you not only keep the virtuous cycle of better productivity going, you obviously have a richer working class.
  8. Management, instead of contributing to a country's economic wealth by competently organizing production -- including giving workers more decision-making power -- usually instead divert resources to their own 'administrative overhead', as Melman put it in his dissertation in 1948. He continued to track this society-wide diversion of resources from production to administration until his last book, and found that the ratio of administrative overhead to production continued to increase (and was even worse in the Soviet Union).
  9. Melman agreed with my hypothesis that in order to thrive, a manufacturing sector needs to encompass a full suite of industries. A region's economy will thrive most if all the parts of the manufacturing economy are present in some form. In other words, national manufacturing specialization does not work. You can't be the best in making cars if someone else is making the machine tools that you use to make the cars, or if your country isn't making its own steel. There are relationships of positive reinforcement that occur among the various manufacturing industries. The economy is an ecosystem (a concept Melman's mentor used and I developed further in my writings), the important point being that you can't rip various parts of the regional manufacturing ecosystem apart, sending them willy nilly to other countries, and expect the surviving industries to thrive. This goes against the deification of David Ricardo and his theory of comparative advantage in economics, which is used to justify globalization and many trade treaties which have helped to devastate American manufacturing.

Tenth and finally for our purposes here, the United States has perhaps already reached a 'point of no return' where the managerial class has become so incompetent that the only way they understand to increase profits is to decrease labor costs by moving factories overseas. Not only does this rob the US of its production base, it decreases global growth by discouraging the use of better machinery and organization of work inside the factory. The virtuous cycle is broken. Part of the reason companies offshore factories is because they want to break the power of unions. Melman stressed that management pursues greater power as much as or more than they pursue greater profits -- and unions decrease managerial power. He called this dynamic 'power extension', which he considered more important than simply the drive for profits.

Consequences of Melman's Principles

If we apply these principles broadly, we can see that they collectively offer an alternative to mainstream economics. In the worldview of most economists, growth magically appears if you decrease government intervention. In the real world, economic growth appears if you create better machinery, organize work better, and pay your workers more. In the mainstream economics view, military production is just like anything else, in fact, any production or economic activity is just as important as any other, whether it's providing for tourists, creating machine tools, or making a tank. In the real world, there is a hierarchy of importance of economic activity, and manufacturing, and in particular manufacturing machinery, is at the top of that hierarchy. In the world of the economist, lower wages is equivalent to improving machinery, as long as the short-term profit is the same; in the real world, cutting wages leads to lower productivity which leads to a poorer country overall. In the view of economists, machinery is viewed as a replacement for workers; as I hope these principles have illustrated, machinery actually makes worker participation and decision-maker power more important, and in a well-functioning economy, machinery innovation brings better wages and more jobs.

Since Melman was generally at least a decade or two ahead of his time, we may need to dwell a bit on the following conundrum: in the economists' world, automation means less work, which means less people are needed to work in an economy. In the real world, automation has been going on since the start of the Industrial Revolution, but because of the actions of the managerial class to outsource production and the attendant increase in inequality, in the last few decades the standard of living of the working/middle class has stagnated or even declined.

There has been quite a bit of discussion about automation and inequality recently. Bernie Sanders made the problem of inequality the basis of an almost-successful run for the Presidency, and Thomas Piketty wrote a very well reviewed book about inequality. On the other hand, on the right (and neoliberal center), it has become an article of faith that automation will wreak havoc on the concept of work as we have known it, and maybe a 'basic income' policy will become necessary so that the hordes of unemployed at least can survive without work.

The problem with all of these ideas about automation, and in fact a problem with the progressive agenda as a whole (not to mention the conservative one), is that they ignore 'production', or what I have described as Melman's principles of production (Melman would often use the shorthand of 'they don't understand production' to dismiss someone's argument, a problem I hope to alleviate here). If production is the central way that a society creates wealth, and if that function is removed from an economy, then clearly you are going to have a lot less wealth. If one quarter of the working population in the 1960s was in manufacturing and one tenth is now, and the lost employment went into low-paying services while the income went into finance, then no wonder there has been an increase in inequality. The part of the economy that was producing material wealth, and that supported the backbone of the middle class, was ripped out and thrown away. The society became poorer, and with it most of its people, except the top 1%. (see http://www.globalteachin.com/ for a further explanation)

The astute reader might remember his or her intellectual betters explaining that we are now in a 'post-industrial' society -- a phrase that drove Melman crazy -- because most people work in the service economy. Manufacturing has been 'solved', according to this line of thinking, and is 'less advanced', so it naturally migrates to 'less advanced' countries like China -- ignoring the fact that more advanced countries like Germany and Japan have wealthier middle classes than we do because they have much larger manufacturing sectors. But let's look at the service economy a bit closer.

Services are what you do with goods that are manufactured, for the most part. For instance, the retail and wholesale service sectors retail and wholesale goods. Marketers are generally marketing goods. Airlines run a service based on the use of machinery (jets), and computers are, well, machines. The health industry is very dependent on machinery and goods like drugs, and the restaurant business can actually be considered a kind of manufacturing facility. The real estate industry is based on the construction industry, which uses machinery and goods produced in the manufacturing sector. Just about wherever you look, services mean using goods.

If services are the act of using goods, then it should be clear that a big country can't pay for most of its imported goods by exchanging them for services -- there simply aren't enough exportable services to exchange for all the goods. Any other country besides the US would have had a rude awakening of a decline in their currency had they had the level of trade deficits the US has, that is, the amount of goods and services that are imported vs. the amount exported. The US survives because other countries use the dollar as a medium of exchange and need dollars to buy oil. But this state of affairs will not last forever.

Manufacturing has always contributed the bulk of productivity growth in an economy. In fact, manufacturing productivity increases at about 3%, year after year, at least for the last 100 years. Technological improvements are made to machinery and the organization of work, year after year. The same does not happen in services, generally, because services require human intervention. Ah, but pundits will proclaim that artificial intelligence will replace much human service work. The problem is that the statistics on productivity don't show it, that is, the same amount of labor is still needed for the same amount of work, in almost all service industries. But there is 'technological unemployment' as machines take over some jobs, as they have been doing for almost two centuries, and often those people, unlike other decades, have not been able to find new work. What went wrong?

The Rise and Decline of the Virtuous Cycle

This is what happened in the two decades certainly after World War II, when about the same level of growth of automation (and mechanization) was occurring then as now: when a factory could output more goods with the same work force (because the machinery was better or the organization of work was improved), then the manager could offer the good for a lower price, or he could offer a better product for the same price (common in the electronics industry). By offering the good at a lower price or offering a better product at the same price, consumers would want more, that is, demand would go up. In order to meet the higher demand, the manager would actually hire more workers. In addition, some other workers would be employed in the industries making the automation machinery. So when consumers have enough disposable income to take advantage of advances in technology, automation actually leads to more employment, not less. The history of industrial growth between the end of the Civil War and the 1960s are a testament to this continually occurring (interrupted occasionally by terrible depressions).

This is the process Melman advances in his first book in the 1950s, "Dynamic Factors in Industrial Productivity". This process breaks down when consumers are not being given their fair share of the national income. That is, as more and more of the wealth of what is being generated by the economy winds up with the very rich, there is less and less for the rest of the society to spend on ever-increasing opportunities to buy stuff. Thus we have the phenomenon of all kinds of ways for your self-respecting highly-paid professional to spend money, including fancy goods, food, and housing, while the vast majority of the population is worried about making it to the end of the month and can't take advantage of cheaper or better goods -- and therefore, automation now leads to less employment, instead of more employment.

John Maynard Keynes basically laid out this problem in the 1930s. I called Keynes 'production-centered' because his logic assumed that most economic activity occurred in factories, as did most pre-WWII economists. But he also saw that warping income distribution would lead to lower levels of production. That is, the economy produces a certain amount of wealth, and it needs most people to have enough money in order to buy that produced wealth. When much of that wealth winds up with the very rich, the very rich don't spend that wealth on the produced wealth of the economy. Some goods go unbought, or what is the same thing, are never produced in the first place, and therefore, less people are needed to produce that wealth. Eventually, Keynes argued, the economy spins out of control and works its way into a depression, like the Great Depression. Only the government can kick start the economy, by supplying the demand that was sucked out by the very rich.

Although Melman did not explicitly use Keynes' formulations, he studied Keynes carefully and Keynes' ideas inform Melman's ideas. Melman also was enamored about another theory as to causes of depressions, one that has been mostly ignored, promulgated by the economist Leonard Ayres in a tract called 'The chief cause of this and other depressions', written in 1935. Briefly, Ayres argued that when the growth of consumer goods slows, then managers stop buying new factory machinery. When they stop buying factory machinery, the factory machinery managers start laying off factory machinery workers. When that happens, demand for all goods lessens because now less people are employed, consumer goods managers lay off more workers, and the economy goes into a death spiral. Since the 1960s the US economy has many fewer machinery jobs than it used to, the US doesn't even have much of the demand from those job holders that it used to have, and the economy becomes more brittle. But the effect Ayres writes about has a similar effect to the one Keynes describes: there is not enough demand for all the goods people are employed to produce, and the economy teeters toward depression.

As the rich get richer and the middle class and poor get poorer, the society-wide benefits of productivity increase -- automation -- break down, and actually make things worse. In an economy like the US that now imports much of its factory machinery, automation doesn't even create many new jobs in the US, like it used to. However there is an additional problem that Keynes could not have foreseen, that is, the decreasing competence of the American managerial class to produce, partly because of the effects of military production. Military production leads to a management that is not trained to produce for the civilian market, that is, it doesn't know how to increase the quality of goods or decrease the price by improving machinery or the organization of work, it only knows how to increase profits, often by making goods more expensive and less reliable. Since profits are assured, much of the manufacturing sector gravitate toward military production. The extreme case of this was the Soviet Union, whose manufacturing prowess was almost completely destroyed by the time of its collapse.

So the problem, contra much of progressive thinking, is not simply the lack of demand or the inequality of wealth (which leads to lack of demand). The problem in the US has gotten to the point where supply is a problem, that is, American management doesn't know how to compete globally. Whether the need is for industrial machinery, which mostly now comes from places like Germany or Japan, or the demand is for mass produced consumer goods, where China currently excels, the US is being squeezed from both the high and low quality sides, because management has given up its historic function of organizing work and creating better machinery.

The Role of the Military Industrial Complex

For much of the 1960s and 1970s, Melman laid the most blame for the deterioration of American manufacturing competence at the feet of the military industrial complex. His arguments became an important part of the arsenal of progressive forces in their attempt to reign in the military and the military industrial complex. The military did not harm the economy solely through a creeping incompetence in the economy, however. The military also wasted a huge amount of resources in their bloated budgets. Taking the cue from Eisenhower's famous 'Iron of Cross' speech, in which he lamented all of the schools, roads, and other infrastructure that could be built with the money spent on arms, Melman widely published charts and articles on the equivalence between, say, the cost of a bomber and how many schools could be built instead. Seconding John Kenneth Galbraith's concern about 'private opulence and public squalor', Melman wrote the books 'Peace Race' and 'Our Depleted Society' in the first half of the 1960s in an effort to alert the public to the fact that America had enduring social and infrastructural problems that needed much more resources, while at the same time the monies were being wasted on useless military equipment that was often making the US less secure. When Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders talked to LBJ about the problems of the cities, they brought Melman with them to explain the spreading deterioration of urban public works.

Somehow he also got an audience with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as the Vietnam War heated up. Melman blamed McNamara, formerly head of Ford Motor Company, for rationalizing and systematizing the military industrial complex. After McNamara got through with it, the Department of Defense had turned into the headquarters of the military industrial complex, with the contractors as virtual divisions of the Pentagon. Melman was concerned that the military industrial complex was siphoning off much of the best and the brightest engineers and scientists, and that there was a surfeit of engineering talent available for civilian firms. "Where are the engineers?! Where are the engineers?!" Melman remembers McNamara screaming at him. It is a question we can continue to ask to this day.

The frustration and suffering caused by the Vietnam War buildup made a bad situation worse for the economic fortunes of the country. Martin Luther King and other progressives were furious that money was being taken from worthwhile domestic programs to fund the war. Melman became deeply involved with anti-war activity along with other leading intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, with whom he began a long, productive friendship. As in the case of arguing for nuclear disarmament, Melman's main public image was as an important peace activist.

This combination of concern for war and the preparation for war was complementary to his economic thought. Indeed, the entire field of economics was formerly referred to as political economy, because it was recognized that the state (government) was a vital actor, both good and bad, in the economy. Thorstein Veblen founded the Journal of Political Economy (which now only concentrates on economics), and Melman's mentor, the important industrial engineer Walter Rautenstrauch, worked with Veblen (and also with Frederick Winslow Taylor). The economists and sociologists that Melman encountered at Columbia and at CCNY in the 1930s and 1940s, such as Robert Lynd and John Maurice Clark, were a more eclectic group of thinkers than would emerge in the 1950s. Melman also worked with C. Wright Mills, whose 'Power Elite' were composed of corporate, government, and military officials, and with Paul Goodman and non-mainstream economists.

The Answer: More Democracy

The problem, in both economics and war, are similar: a group of elites attempt to exploit the working people of a country, either by denying workers power over their paychecks and working conditions, on the one hand, or by forcing them to be instruments of elite power extension in the form of war, on the other. In both cases, the answer to Melman was clear: more democracy.

In the case of war, democracy meant forcing the government, whether through protest or voting, to stop an enterprise that the vast majority of people opposed. On the economic front, the answer is to extend democracy to the level of the firm, that is workplace democracy, or a bit more formally, employee-owned-and-operated firms. Workplace democracy is what would come 'After Capitalism', the title of his last published book.

Melman's interest in self-management was kindled in the 1930s, by the temporary success of anarcho-syndicalists in Spain (before Franco brutally suppressed them) and by the example of the kibbutz in what would become Israel. Melman was part of a radical Zionist group at CCNY, and he briefly lived on a kibbutz. His second academic book in 1958, 'Decision-making and productivity', concentrated on the Standard Motor Company in England, which gave an unusual amount of work floor power to the union (he almost got fired from Columbia for the affront of singing the praises of unions, until some eminent professors came to his defense). By the 1980s, he again focused on workplace democracy, exploring the Mondragon system of cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain and the Emilia-Romagna cooperative system in Italy. In 'After Capitalism', he devoted a great deal of space to the problem of constructing a democratic alternative to the hierarchical, managerial structure of most firms.

His last Ph.D. student, in fact, wrote up a comparison of two shops at Ford, one in which the workers were given a great deal of authority and training in the operation of machine tools, and one in which they were only allowed to press an on and off button. His student found that the shop with greater worker decision-making was much more productive, and this finding can be found in numerous other studies.

Full-blown democracy within the firm is perhaps the ultimate manifestation of giving more power to workers. Many of Melman's economic principles are encouraged when managers do not have dictatorial control over the firm. The virtuous cycle, of salaries increasing more than the prices of the produced goods, can be easily enforced, because employees will want to distribute the income of the firm among themselves, not vacuum up most of it for the top managers and absentee owners. Higher wages will lead to greater consumer spending in the economy as a whole, leading to more employment and more spending. Administrative overhead will be minimized, freeing up resources for innovation and rising wages. Employees will not allow their factories (or service companies) to be shut down and moved abroad if they own the company (and can't sell it, as in the Mondragon system). In no case did Melman find, in the 1980s and 1990s, that a factory that had been closed had not been profitable. In other words, had (miraculously) all factories been owned and operated by their workers at the start of the 1980s, no (or very few) factories would have been shut down in the last 30 plus years, and we would have many millions more factory jobs, a strong middle class, and my guess is, no Trump.

This last consideration was very important to Melman, although of course he did not see Trump himself coming (who did?). Melman was very concerned, even by the 1990s, that we were arriving at a 'Weimar moment', as he wrote about in 'The Demilitarized Society'. That is, like 1920s Germany, a large 'lumpenproletariat' appeared, to use Karl Marx's phrase, that is, a large segment of the population who had been excised from the economy -- much of the manufacturing working class -- and that such a group would naturally be open to the ramblings of a demagogue -- like Trump.

By the 1980s, it was clear to Melman that the military industrial complex was not the only major sector that was hurtling manufacturing over a cliff. In 'Profits without Production', he linked the financial sector to the worsening situation of manufacturing. The early 1980s were marked by disastrously high interest rates, which he worried would be the nail in the coffin of American manufacturing exports, and he was right. About that time the Japanese came roaring into the American market, the result of decades of American military industrial spending, financial shenanigans, and the attempted destruction of the American working class. The financial sector, like the military industrial complex, sucked resources out of the manufacturing system, which was the source of the wealth, and gave nothing in return. Money would make more money much more quickly (eventually, in nanoseconds) than building a factory ever could. Global trade treaties, in conjunction with cheaper digital communications, would by the 1990s lead to a rapidly sinking prognosis for manufacturing. Something had to be done, but what?

Having witnessed Melman's attempts to start a manufacturing renaissance first hand, I can say that 'we' (including scholars like Jonathan Feldman) tried a number of things. By the late 1980s, Melman had convinced the Speaker of the House, Jim Wright, to make what Melman called 'economic conversion' a top priority in the House. Economic conversion, as Melman conceived it, would involve requiring every military factory to create a plan to convert that factory to some useful civilian production. Then, if the military budget should be cut, factory workers would not have to fear for their jobs, as they could pull out a plan to succeed in civilian markets. This would also include training engineers and workers in civilian production techniques. Of course, this was not something the Pentagon favored, since the great source of their power is not the defense of the country, but the political machine for creating jobs known as the military industrial complex. Consequently, the Representative from the defense contractor Martin Marietta's home district, Newt Gingrich, plotted to and eventually was able to bring down Jim Wright, torpedo economic conversion, and begin his march to right-wing Republican domination of Congress in the 1990s.

Well, we thought, when the Soviet Union fell, since the main excuse for a large military budget had disappeared, perhaps the American public would be open to arguments for a well-deserved 'peace dividend', that is, the government could finally divert some of the money the Pentagon was using to upgrade the infrastructure. We organized a 'National Town Meeting', involving many cities and progressive politicians. But by this time, the Left as a whole had undergone over 10 years of Reagan politics, and they didn't seem up to the challenge.

Melman also tried various ways of encouraging the unions to take a more innovative path, that is, to work toward a reindustrialization of the US. But they, too, were doing their best to survive the relentless assaults of offshoring and deindustrialization. Looking back on the early 1990s, perhaps if the gravity of global warming had been clearer, it would have been easier to formulate a framework that Melman and I evolved, but unfortunately only shortly before he died. The formulation was the following: To rebuild the economy, rebuild manufacturing, and to rebuild manufacturing, rebuild the infrastructure. With global warming and all the other ecological catastrophes looming on the horizon -- warnings that Barry Commoner and others had been broadcasting for a couple of decades -- it should be clear that the entire infrastructure, transportation, water, energy, urban, and other systems, need to be redesigned in order for global civilization to survive into the 22nd century (I have written a book on this subject, " Manufacturing Green Prosperity ", and article in an edited volume and a sample Federal budget, GreenNewDealPlan.com ).

The idea is that by spending trillions on constructing new infrastructure systems such as high-speed rail and national wind systems, new transit systems and walkable neighborhoods, and fixing old infrastructure, the government would supply the kind of long-term demand for domestic manufacturing that would revive American manufacturing. This effort, in turn, could make unemployment a thing of the past, and that kind of policy would negate the 'Weimar moment' and bring with it enthusiastic support from the entire working class, white, African-American, Latino, of whatever ethnicity or gender. Oh, and the oceans would not rise and wipe out all coastal cities and turn the rest of the land into deserts.

In the 'Demilitarized Society', Melman warned that fear was not a sustainable motivation for progressive activism. Eventually, fear turns to right-wing paranoia and the easy solution of demagogues, a situation we more and more find ourselves in today. Instead, a concrete set of solutions must be advanced at the same time that analysis and warnings are given.

I'm afraid that progressives are still toiling the fields of fear instead of constructing a structure of solutions. Climate activists are warning us of frightening futures, but they have not put forth solutions that fit the scope of the problem, such as spending trillions on infrastructure. The Resistance to Trump and the Republicans is doing an excellent job of rallying people to vote and protest, but they have not put forward a program, such as spending trillions of infrastructure that would create tens of millions of jobs and rebuild manufacturing, that would deal a death blow to the 1920s-style right-wing political revival. Instead of simply decrying the greed and overreach of the large corporations, we should be thinking about how to create an economic system in which employees own and operate their enterprises (Brian D'Agostino has proposed ways to make workplace democracy society-wide in his book 'The Middle Class Fights Back')

Melman would have urged us to understand the importance of production in the economy, of the inner workings of manufacturing, factories and machinery, why workplace democracy leads to greater prosperity, and how a middle class forms out of the virtuous cycle of increasing wages. Using this understanding of the economy as a foundation, we can then propose solutions to our biggest problems -- inequality, climate change, right-wing nationalism, militarism, and others -- that can capture the imaginations of the world's peoples.

*This article is meant as a wide-ranging, 'high-altitude' look at Melman's work, not as an exhaustive survey. Please see SeymourMelman.com for more of Melman's work, as well as his many books and articles.

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SoCal Rhino , January 5, 2018 at 9:50 am

Ran across this a few days back – strikes me as a more fruitful line of argument for political communication than MMT (very challenging to persuade with counterintuitive arguments).

JCC , January 5, 2018 at 9:51 am

Thanks for this. As someone who worked for one of the few ongoing successful machine tool manufacturers in this country as a field service engineer, I got the chance to work in factories across the US and also got the chance to watch them shutdown throughout the eighties and nineties. I also watched the progress of exactly what this article discusses, bloated administrations and fewer workers, most relegated to button-pusher employment.

After 3 years of no raises at all while watching Management wages increase substantially, I finally took heed to the writing on the wall and bailed out (luckily just in time for me) for a better line of work within the M.I.C.

My preference would have been to stick with the factories, but unfortunately they no longer exist at numbers that would have assured a decent working life (the Factory Service Dept. of the company I worked for is now less than 25% of the size it was – most of it off-loaded to low-wage distributorships and/or off-shored.

From the perspective of long-term society goodness, it was not the best decision, but from my perspective of personal goodness – food on my table, affordable health insurance, and a working furnace in the winter – it was my only choice of employment with decent wages that this country offered someone with my skills.

As hedge fund managers like to say relative to the long haul, IBGYBG, but it's a crappy philosophy to live by, especially considering that at the rate we're going, I might not be gone.

Jon Rynn , January 5, 2018 at 10:00 am

JCC, Melman once announced to me that as far as he could tell, all machine tool companies in the US were either foreign or foreign-owned -- although I think there were a few American owned, like Haas. The machine tool industry is the 'canary in the coal mine', if that goes, the rest of manufacturing competence is not far behind.

I think you and millions of others like you are making the rational decision to either get out or not to get in in the first place, and now there is skills shortage. This will require a strong industrial policy from the Federal government, in my opinion.

JCC , January 5, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Mr. Rynn,

The company I worked for is still operating as an American owned company located in NY State. It is still considered a premier Machine Tool Company (they build what are known as Super Precision Machine Tools) and unlike many other smaller American Machine Tool Mfgs. it actually bought some foreign companies as well as what was left of Bridgeport and one or two others instead of being bought. There was a close call a few years ago, if I remember correctly, when they were being courted by what I seem to recall was a foreign-owned Hedge Fund.

I have my regrets and I still consider it to be a good company, but from a financial standpoint, I'm also glad I left. My years there were a major wake-up call to what was happening to Mfg., as well as large businesses in general, across the country during the late 80's through the 90's. I have a very negative attitude towards Accounting/Financial Departments completely taking over the Management of business because of what I saw and experienced. They've gutted the best parts of what these companies provide to their respective communities and stake-holders, and the country.

Your article pointed out that particular problem as well as a few more of the more obvious issues. Thanks for that. It needs wide distribution.

McWatt , January 5, 2018 at 10:34 am

Having experienced all this as a manufacturer in the 70's and 80's Melman's concepts ring true to me. I'd love to hear Michael Hudson comment on Melman's theories.

Ed , January 5, 2018 at 11:19 am

I've not encountered Melman before, and he seems like someone who I should read directly. This site provides a real service.

However, I'll admit I just skimmed the article. My interest is history, not economics, and the same dynamic occurs again and again and again throughout history. And there is even an economics term that could be used for this, "the Dutch disease".

Basically, national economies over time will increasingly specialize in what is most profitable at the moment. Other sectors will gradually be starved of capital since investment will go to the most profitable sector, with less influence in the government, and in some cases be plundered to provide capital for the profitable sector. This creates a cycle as eventually even talented people who don't want to work in the specialized sectors will have to.

The classic example of this is Hapsburg Spain. Castille in fact had a pretty diverse economy in the 15th century, but increasingly specialized in producing soldiers and priests, and this was widely noted in commentary at the time. Personally, having grown up in New York City, I went into finance pretty much because it was either that or retail. New York City actually had a diverse economy before I was born and for a little bit afterwards.

The same process occurred in early 20th century Britain, with finance being the main specialized sector, but it was mild compared to Spain. The British wound down their empire after mid-century. That is a key point. Empires will increasingly specialize in priests, soldiers, and bureaucrats (financiers are are a sort of bureaucrat), finance by overt or implied tribute, because that is what is most profitable at the center. The hollowing out of Italian industry and agriculture was widely noted during the Roman Empire, even as people flocked to Rome. And the only way to fix the damage caused to the center in this way is to get rid of the empire.

WobblyTelomeres , January 5, 2018 at 11:51 am

IANAE. And I took macro 45 years ago, so I most likely have only the vaguest gauzy notion of the following.

Keynes suggested that trade imbalances, which occur when A is able to produce goods more efficiently than B will self correct as the currency of B will be devalued over time wrt the currency of A.

When the currency of B is the global reserve currency (which, I believe, Keynes did not address), this may result in a real constraint on this self-balancing, right? So, in this sense, your statement:

And the only way to fix the damage caused to the center in this way is to get rid of the empire.

might be rephrased as:

And the only way to fix the damage caused to the center in this way is to get rid of the global reserve currency.

Is this accurate?

Mikkel , January 5, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Actually Keynes addressed this very clearly. He knew that various policies can prevent currencies from self regulating and so believed that supranational regulation was required.

He argued for the IMF to be founded with the primary purpose of providing this regulation, including the creation of a global trade currency called the Bancor

Here is a summary of the idea and why things fell apart -- leading to the IMF instead becoming a capo for the creditor nations.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/nov/18/lord-keynes-international-monetary-fund

WobblyTelomeres , January 5, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Thank you!

Jon Rynn , January 5, 2018 at 12:20 pm

I would add that you can narrow down the causes of decline to two main sectors: the military and finance. Basically, if manufacturing is the most important source of wealth -- or manufacturing and infrastructure more generally -- then the state will often divert the surplus from manufacturing in order to become imperial, that is, they will take the surplus and build a military establishment in order to further empire. This certainly happened in Britain, and can be applied to France, Rome, etc., with perhaps the most glaring example being the Soviet Union.

Finance also diverts resources from manufacturing, because the surplus from manufacturing usually takes the form of money, and finance controls the money. But more importantly, the finance sector can increase its economic power faster than manufacturing because money makes more money much more quickly than factories can be built to create real wealth. We saw that in Britain, and the US.

HotFlash , January 5, 2018 at 2:11 pm

perhaps the most glaring example being the Soviet Union

Oooh, I can think of at least one other country

Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon. How odd that mfg in the US these days is less about making life better than about making it short.

Jonathan Holland Becnel , January 5, 2018 at 3:45 pm

I worked on General Dynamics and Raytheon equipment as an ATC Equipment repairer in the Army a few years back. Lol

Thx for the article, JR. Manufacturing is THE ISSUE of 2018 as far as im concerned.

a different chris , January 5, 2018 at 1:32 pm

This was good except for this one glaring mishmash of a paragraph, which needs to be either fixed or removed:

Somehow he also got an audience with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as the Vietnam War heated up. Melman blamed McNamara, formerly head of Ford Motor Company, for rationalizing and systematizing the military industrial complex. After McNamara got through with it, the Department of Defense had turned into the headquarters of the military industrial complex, with the contractors as virtual divisions of the Pentagon. Melman was concerned that the military industrial complex was siphoning off much of the best and the brightest engineers and scientists, and that there was a surfeit of engineering talent available for civilian firms. "Where are the engineers?! Where are the engineers?!" Melman remembers McNamara screaming at him. It is a question we can continue to ask to this day.

Why was McNamara the one screaming about not having engineers, when the rest of the paragraph says he was the engineering sink? To a lesser extent, why did Melman ("somehow" is not satisfying) have an audience with McNamara, and was it during this audience that he "blasted" McNamara?

I'm thinking Melman told McNamara that he (McNamara) had all the engineers, and McNamara was denying it, but it's really hard to parse out and I don't even know why it's worth a sitting duck paragraph in a humongous post anyway.

Jon Rynn , January 5, 2018 at 4:28 pm

Point taken. I know it's unclear, and to the best of my recollection, Melman didn't know how to respond either. I guess the point is, McNamara didn't know how to handle what Melman was telling him. And also I have to admit I don't have the total context. Occassionally Melman would be invited by the military to give a talk, because they figured he knew what he was talking about and they actually wanted to know. I just thought it was an interesting anecdote, but maybe it's a bit too confusing.

Synoia , January 5, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Selling to the Military is easy, when one employs a few ex Generals. Number of salespeople low, and costs controlled.

Selling to the public, hard, costs orders of magnitude higher, and there is that pesky "marketing risk and cost"

What a surprise that the MIC is the easy way ..

sivalenka , January 5, 2018 at 3:50 pm

As a trained Industrial Engineer who worked in the midwest in the 90s , I can vouch for the science behind productivity gains that come from more worker freedoms. As a untrained economist, I can also confirm what I saw was the slow but steady destruction of rust belt and it's middle class from globalization.

Finally, it is also evident that these same laid off workers voted for leaders who both expanded the militiary industrial complex and globalization. Sad.

[Dec 31, 2017] Anti-Populism Ideology of the Ruling Class by James Petras

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... ' Anti-populism' is the simple ruling class formula for covering-up their real agenda, which is pro-militarist, pro-imperialist (globalization), pro-'rebels' (i.e. mercenary terrorists working for regime change), pro crisis makers and pro-financial swindlers. ..."
"... The economic origins of ' anti-populism' are rooted in the deep and repeated crises of capitalism and the need to deflect and discredit mass discontent and demoralize the popular classes in struggle. By demonizing ' populism', the elites seek to undermine the rising tide of anger over the elite-imposed wage cuts, the rise of low-paid temporary jobs and the massive increase in the reserve army of cheap immigrant labor to compete with displaced native workers. ..."
"... Demonization of independent popular movements ignores the fundamental programmatic differences and class politics of genuine populist struggles compared with the contemporary right-wing capitalist political scarecrows and clowns. ..."
"... The anti-populist ideologues label President Trump a 'populist' when his policies and proposals are the exact opposite. Trump champions the repeal of all pro-labor and work safety regulation, as well as the slashing of public health insurance programs while reducing corporate taxes for the ultra-elite. ..."
"... The media's ' anti-populists' ideologues denounce pro-business rightwing racists as ' populists' . In Italy, Finland, Holland, Austria, Germany and France anti-working class parties are called ' populist' for attacking immigrants instead of bankers and militarists. ..."
"... In other words, the key to understanding contemporary ' anti-populism' is to see its role in preempting and undermining the emergence of authentic populist movements while convincing middle class voters to continue to vote for crisis-prone, austerity-imposing neo-liberal regimes. ' Anti-populism' has become the opium (or OxyContin) of frightened middle class voters. ..."
Jul 07, 2017 | www.unz.com

Introduction

Throughout the US and European corporate and state media, right and left, we are told that ' populism' has become the overarching threat to democracy, freedom and . . . free markets. The media's ' anti-populism' campaign has been used and abused by ruling elites and their academic and intellectual camp followers as the principal weapon to distract, discredit and destroy the rising tide of mass discontent with ruling class-imposed austerity programs, the accelerating concentration of wealth and the deepening inequalities.

We will begin by examining the conceptual manipulation of ' populism' and its multiple usages. Then we will turn to the historic economic origins of populism and anti-populism. Finally, we will critically analyze the contemporary movements and parties dubbed ' populist' by the ideologues of ' anti-populism' .

Conceptual Manipulation

In order to understand the current ideological manipulation accompanying ' anti-populism ' it is necessary to examine the historical roots of populism as a popular movement.

Populism emerged during the 19 th and 20 th century as an ideology, movement and government in opposition to autocracy, feudalism, capitalism, imperialism and socialism. In the United States, populist leaders led agrarian struggles backed by millions of small farmers in opposition to bankers, railroad magnates and land speculators. Opposing monopolistic practices of the 'robber barons', the populist movement supported broad-based commercial agriculture, access to low interest farm credit and reduced transport costs.

In all cases, the populist governments in Latin America were based on a coalition of nationalist capitalists, urban workers and the rural poor. In some notable cases, nationalist military officers brought populist governments to power. What they had in common was their opposition to foreign capital and its local supporters and exporters ('compradores'), bankers and their elite military collaborators. Populists promoted 'third way' politics by opposing imperialism on the right, and socialism and communism on the left. The populists supported the redistribution of wealth but not the expropriation of property. They sought to reconcile national capitalists and urban workers. They opposed class struggle but supported state intervention in the economy and import-substitution as a development strategy.

Imperialist powers were the leading anti-populists of that period. They defended property privileges and condemned nationalism as 'authoritarian' and undemocratic. They demonized the mass support for populism as 'a threat to Western Christian civilization'. Not infrequently, the anti-populists ideologues would label the national-populists as 'fascists' . . . even as they won numerous elections at different times and in a variety of countries.

The historical experience of populism, in theory and practice, has nothing to do with what today's ' anti-populists' in the media are calling ' populism' . In reality, current anti-populism is still a continuation of anti-communism , a political weapon to disarm working class and popular movements. It advances the class interest of the ruling class. Both 'anti's' have been orchestrated by ruling class ideologues seeking to blur the real nature of their 'pro-capitalist' privileged agenda and practice. Presenting your program as 'pro-capitalist', pro-inequalities, pro-tax evasion and pro-state subsidies for the elite is more difficult to defend at the ballot box than to claim to be ' anti-populist' .

' Anti-populism' is the simple ruling class formula for covering-up their real agenda, which is pro-militarist, pro-imperialist (globalization), pro-'rebels' (i.e. mercenary terrorists working for regime change), pro crisis makers and pro-financial swindlers.

The economic origins of ' anti-populism' are rooted in the deep and repeated crises of capitalism and the need to deflect and discredit mass discontent and demoralize the popular classes in struggle. By demonizing ' populism', the elites seek to undermine the rising tide of anger over the elite-imposed wage cuts, the rise of low-paid temporary jobs and the massive increase in the reserve army of cheap immigrant labor to compete with displaced native workers.

Historic 'anti-populism' has its roots in the inability of capitalism to secure popular consent via elections. It reflects their anger and frustration at their failure to grow the economy, to conquer and exploit independent countries and to finance growing fiscal deficits.

The Amalgamation of Historical Populism with the Contemporary Fabricated Populism

What the current anti-populists ideologues label ' populism' has little to do with the historical movements.

Unlike all of the past populist governments, which sought to nationalize strategic industries, none of the current movements and parties, denounced as 'populist' by the media, are anti-imperialists. In fact, the current ' populists' attack the lowest classes and defend the imperialist-allied capitalist elites. The so-called current ' populists' support imperialist wars and bank swindlers, unlike the historical populists who were anti-war and anti-bankers.

Ruling class ideologues simplistically conflate a motley collection of rightwing capitalist parties and organizations with the pro-welfare state, pro-worker and pro-farmer parties of the past in order to discredit and undermine the burgeoning popular multi-class movements and regimes.

Demonization of independent popular movements ignores the fundamental programmatic differences and class politics of genuine populist struggles compared with the contemporary right-wing capitalist political scarecrows and clowns.

One has only to compare the currently demonized ' populist' Donald Trump with the truly populist US President Franklin Roosevelt, who promoted social welfare, unionization, labor rights, increased taxes on the rich, income redistribution, and genuine health and workplace safety legislation within a multi-class coalition to see how absurd the current media campaign has become.

The anti-populist ideologues label President Trump a 'populist' when his policies and proposals are the exact opposite. Trump champions the repeal of all pro-labor and work safety regulation, as well as the slashing of public health insurance programs while reducing corporate taxes for the ultra-elite.

The media's ' anti-populists' ideologues denounce pro-business rightwing racists as ' populists' . In Italy, Finland, Holland, Austria, Germany and France anti-working class parties are called ' populist' for attacking immigrants instead of bankers and militarists.

In other words, the key to understanding contemporary ' anti-populism' is to see its role in preempting and undermining the emergence of authentic populist movements while convincing middle class voters to continue to vote for crisis-prone, austerity-imposing neo-liberal regimes. ' Anti-populism' has become the opium (or OxyContin) of frightened middle class voters.

The anti-populism of the ruling class serves to confuse the 'right' with the 'left'; to sidelight the latter and promote the former; to amalgamate rightwing 'rallies' with working class strikes; and to conflate rightwing demagogues with popular mass leaders.

Unfortunately, too many leftist academics and pundits are loudly chanting in the 'anti-populist' chorus. They have failed to see themselves among the shock troops of the right. The left ideologues join the ruling class in condemning the corporate populists in the name of 'anti-fascism'. Leftwing writers, claiming to 'combat the far-right enemies of the people' , overlook the fact that they are 'fellow-travelling' with an anti-populist ruling class, which has imposed savage cuts in living standards, spread imperial wars of aggression resulting in millions of desperate refugees- not immigrants –and concentrated immense wealth.

The bankruptcy of today's ' anti-populist' left will leave them sitting in their coffee shops, scratching at fleas, as the mass popular movements take to the streets!

[Dec 16, 2017] Indirect Effects of Unfair Employer Behavior on Workplace Performance by Matthias Heinz ,

Notable quotes:
"... Originally published at VoxEU ..."
"... Any organisation that needs to restructure, cut wages, or make layoffs needs to know how the employees who are not affected will respond. This column presents a field experiment which revealed that the perception that employers are unfair – in this case, as a result of layoffs – reduces the performance of employees who have not been not directly affected. As part of the experiment, experienced HR managers were able to successfully anticipate the consequences of unfair employer behaviour on unaffected workers. ..."
Dec 16, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Sabrina Jeworrek , Vanessa Mertins , Heiner Schumacher , and Matthias Sutter .

Originally published at VoxEU

Yves here. There has been much gnashing of teeth in the US about lackluster productivity growth, with the citied culprits ranging from lack of fundamental breakthroughs to cheap labor costs discouraging investment. Almost entirely absent from consideration is poor management demotivating worker. This article helps fill that gap.

Any organisation that needs to restructure, cut wages, or make layoffs needs to know how the employees who are not affected will respond. This column presents a field experiment which revealed that the perception that employers are unfair – in this case, as a result of layoffs – reduces the performance of employees who have not been not directly affected. As part of the experiment, experienced HR managers were able to successfully anticipate the consequences of unfair employer behaviour on unaffected workers.

Management matters for the success and profitability of companies. We know that simple management practices – including the regular maintenance of machines, optimisation of inventory, or recording types of quality problems – can improve the productivity of companies substantially (Bloom et al. 2013). Many of these management practices relate to the structure of an organisation, in particular its workflow and how it is controlled. But the relationship between managers and workers is also important. This relationship is characterised by both the wage paid to a worker as an incentive to work hard, but also by the worker's perception that he or she is being treated fairly (Akerlof 1982).

If workers believe that their employer is acting unfairly towards them, this can greatly reduce their performance at work. For example, Mas (2008) demonstrated that the conflict between Caterpillar and its workforce in the 1990s led to lower production quality. It is not clear, though, whether workers react to employer behaviour that they think is unfair only if they are directly affected (for example, through wage cuts or reorganisation), or also if they are not directly affected (their colleagues suffer, but they do not). This distinction is important for any organisation that reorganises or lays off some of its workers.

Random Layoffs

In our new study, we set up a field experiment to measure how unaffected workers react to unfair employer behaviour (Heinz et al. 2017). We rented a call centre and hired 195 employees to conduct a telephone survey in two shifts. Overall, our organisation was very employee-friendly – we paid a generous hourly wage, offered flexible work times, a pleasant work atmosphere, and full discretion to workers how to perform their job. We measured individual performance precisely by the number of calls each worker made during a shift.

We used three treatments to identify the effect of unfair employer behaviour on the performance of unaffected workers:

To keep the remaining workers' prospects constant (in the only remaining shift), we made explicit that there would be no future employment possibilities in our organisation. We also paid the wage upon arrival for each shift. This meant that workers in the 'layoff' treatment knew at the beginning of the second shift that the layoffs of their co-workers could not have any consequences for them.

The Effect of Layoffs on Survivors

We found that the layoff announcement decreased the remaining workers' performance by 12% (Figure 1). In the 'layoff' treatment, workers took a longer break at the beginning of the second shift, and they left their workplace earlier than in the other treatments. The layoff announcement also lowered the quality of workers' output.

In contrast, there was no significant difference in performance between our 'no-layoff' and 'quasi-layoff' treatments. The reduction in staff size per se had no effect on performance. Further robustness checks revealed that our treatment differences were not driven by a change in beliefs about the importance of the job, or changes in perceptions of the management's competence. Since our employees worked in single offices, and few of them had social ties to employees from other treatments, we can largely rule out peer effects.

Figure 1 Difference in performance (number of calls made) between the first and second shift in the 'no layoff', 'quasi-layoff' and 'layoff' treatment

Source : Heinz et al. (2017).

After the field experiment, we conducted surveys with our workers. Overall, workers in all treatments were quite satisfied with their salary, the management's behaviour towards them, and the atmosphere in the call centre. The remaining workers in the 'layoff' treatment, however, were significantly less satisfied with management behaviour towards their colleagues than the workers in the other treatments. We also asked workers from the 'layoff' treatment which parts of the layoff announcement they considered anti-social. Their answers indicate that they saw the layoffs per se, and the random selection of workers, as particularly unfair.

To back up our interpretation of the data, we conducted a prediction experiment with 43 professional human resource managers from medium-sized and large companies in Germany (they had, on average, eight years of professional experience). We explained our call centre setting and our treatment variation to them, and then asked them to predict the change in workplace performance between the first and second shifts.

The HR managers' predictions were remarkably accurate, in the aggregate. They predicted that performance in the 'layoff' treatment would drop significantly between the first and second shift, and that would drop only slightly in the other treatments. A large majority of the HR managers mentioned fairness concerns as the main reason for the performance reduction.

Maintaining Productivity During Layoffs

Our results imply that unfair behaviour towards workers can be costly for the employer, even if the only workers who are directly affected have quit the firm. This is important for any organisation that has to accommodate economic shocks by reducing labour costs.

To reduce or mitigate the costs of supposedly unfair acts, organisations could apply a number of HR practices. They could use HR practices that avoid layoffs (for example using natural fluctuation in the workforce). They could provide severance pay or outplacement services. They might shift the blame to interim managers or business consultants. They could also separate profitable and unprofitable business units, and downsize only the unprofitable units. These practices may help employers to maintain a productive relationship with their workforce.

[Dec 15, 2017] Rise and Decline of the Welfare State, by James Petras

Highly recommended!
Petras did not mention that it was Carter who started neoliberalization of the USA. The subsequent election of Reagan signified the victory of neoliberalism in this country or "quite coup". The death of New Deal from this point was just a matter of time. Labor relations drastically changes and war on union and atomization of workforce are a norm.
Welfare state still exists but only for corporation and MIC. Otherwise the New Deal society is almost completely dismanted.
It is true that "The ' New Deal' was, at best, a de facto ' historical compromise' between the capitalist class and the labor unions, mediated by the Democratic Party elite. It was a temporary pact in which the unions secured legal recognition while the capitalists retained their executive prerogatives." But the key factor in this compromise was the existence of the USSR as a threat to the power of capitalists in the USA. when the USSR disappeared cannibalistic instincts of the US elite prevailed over caution.
Notable quotes:
"... The earlier welfare 'reforms' and the current anti-welfare legislation and austerity practices have been accompanied by a series of endless imperial wars, especially in the Middle East. ..."
"... In the 1940's through the 1960's, world and regional wars (Korea and Indo-China) were combined with significant welfare program – a form of ' social imperialism' , which 'buy off' the working class while expanding the empire. However, recent decades are characterized by multiple regional wars and the reduction or elimination of welfare programs – and a massive growth in poverty, domestic insecurity and poor health. ..."
"... modern welfare state' ..."
"... Labor unions were organized as working class strikes and progressive legislation facilitated trade union organization, elections, collective bargaining rights and a steady increase in union membership. Improved work conditions, rising wages, pension plans and benefits, employer or union-provided health care and protective legislation improved the standard of living for the working class and provided for 2 generations of upward mobility. ..."
"... Social Security legislation was approved along with workers' compensation and the forty-hour workweek. Jobs were created through federal programs (WPA, CCC, etc.). Protectionist legislation facilitated the growth of domestic markets for US manufacturers. Workplace shop steward councils organized 'on the spot' job action to protect safe working conditions. ..."
"... World War II led to full employment and increases in union membership, as well as legislation restricting workers' collective bargaining rights and enforcing wage freezes. Hundreds of thousands of Americans found jobs in the war economy but a huge number were also killed or wounded in the war. ..."
"... So-called ' right to work' ..."
"... Trade union officials signed pacts with capital: higher pay for the workers and greater control of the workplace for the bosses. Trade union officials joined management in repressing rank and file movements seeking to control technological changes by reducing hours (" thirty hours work for forty hours pay ..."
"... Trade union activists, community organizers for rent control and other grassroots movements lost both the capacity and the will to advance toward large-scale structural changes of US capitalism. Living standards improved for a few decades but the capitalist class consolidated strategic control over labor relations. While unionized workers' incomes, increased, inequalities, especially in the non-union sectors began to grow. With the end of the GI bill, veterans' access to high-quality subsidized education declined ..."
"... With the election of President Carter, social welfare in the US began its long decline. The next series of regional wars were accompanied by even greater attacks on welfare via the " Volker Plan " – freezing workers' wages as a means to combat inflation. ..."
"... Guns without butter' became the legislative policy of the Carter and Reagan Administrations. The welfare programs were based on politically fragile foundations. ..."
"... The anti-labor offensive from the ' Oval Office' intensified under President Reagan with his direct intervention firing tens of thousands of striking air controllers and arresting union leaders. Under Presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Clinton cost of living adjustments failed to keep up with prices of vital goods and services. Health care inflation was astronomical. Financial deregulation led to the subordination of American industry to finance and the Wall Street banks. De-industrialization, capital flight and massive tax evasion reduced labor's share of national income. ..."
"... The capitalist class followed a trajectory of decline, recovery and ascendance. Moreover, during the earlier world depression, at the height of labor mobilization and organization, the capitalist class never faced any significant political threat over its control of the commanding heights of the economy ..."
"... Hand in bloody glove' with the US Empire, the American trade unions planted the seeds of their own destruction at home. The local capitalists in newly emerging independent nations established industries and supply chains in cooperation with US manufacturers. Attracted to these sources of low-wage, violently repressed workers, US capitalists subsequently relocated their factories overseas and turned their backs on labor at home. ..."
"... President 'Bill' Clinton ravaged Russia, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia and liberated Wall Street. His regime gave birth to the prototype billionaire swindlers: Michael Milken and Bernard 'Bernie' Madoff. ..."
"... Clinton converted welfare into cheap labor 'workfare', exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable and condemning the next generations to grinding poverty. Under Clinton the prison population of mostly African Americans expanded and the breakup of families ravaged the urban communities. ..."
"... President Obama transferred 2 trillion dollars to the ten biggest bankers and swindlers on Wall Street, and another trillion to the Pentagon to pursue the Democrats version of foreign policy: from Bush's two overseas wars to Obama's seven. ..."
"... Obama was elected to two terms. His liberal Democratic Party supporters swooned over his peace and justice rhetoric while swallowing his militarist escalation into seven overseas wars as well as the foreclosure of two million American householders. Obama completely failed to honor his campaign promise to reduce wage inequality between black and white wage earners while he continued to moralize to black families about ' values' . ..."
"... Obama's war against Libya led to the killing and displacement of millions of black Libyans and workers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The smiling Nobel Peace Prize President created more desperate refugees than any previous US head of state – including millions of Africans flooding Europe. ..."
"... Forty-years of anti welfare legislation and pro-business regimes paved the golden road for the election of Donald Trump ..."
"... Trump and the Republicans are focusing on the tattered remnants of the social welfare system: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. The remains of FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society -- are on the chopping block. ..."
"... The moribund (but well-paid) labor leadership has been notable by its absence in the ensuing collapse of the social welfare state. The liberal left Democrats embraced the platitudinous Obama/Clinton team as the 'Great Society's' gravediggers, while wailing at Trump's allies for shoving the corpse of welfare state into its grave. ..."
"... Over the past forty years the working class and the rump of what was once referred to as the ' labor movement' has contributed to the dismantling of the social welfare state, voting for ' strike-breaker' Reagan, ' workfare' Clinton, ' Wall Street crash' Bush, ' Wall Street savior' Obama and ' Trickle-down' Trump. ..."
"... Gone are the days when social welfare and profitable wars raised US living standards and transformed American trade unions into an appendage of the Democratic Party and a handmaiden of Empire. The Democratic Party rescued capitalism from its collapse in the Great Depression, incorporated labor into the war economy and the post- colonial global empire, and resurrected Wall Street from the 'Great Financial Meltdown' of the 21 st century. ..."
"... The war economy no longer fuels social welfare. The military-industrial complex has found new partners on Wall Street and among the globalized multi-national corporations. Profits rise while wages fall. Low paying compulsive labor (workfare) lopped off state transfers to the poor. Technology – IT, robotics, artificial intelligence and electronic gadgets – has created the most class polarized social system in history ..."
"... "The collaboration of liberals and unions in promoting endless wars opened the door to Trump's mirage of a stateless, tax-less, ruling class." ..."
"... Corporations [now] are welfare recipients and the bigger they are, the more handouts they suck up ..."
"... Corporations not only continuously seek monopolies (with the aid and sanction of the state) but they steadily fine tune the welfare state for their benefit. In fact, in reality, welfare for prols and peasants wouldn't exist if it didn't act as a money conduit and ultimate profit center for the big money grubbers. ..."
"... The article is dismal reading, and evidence of the failings of the "unregulated" society, where the anything goes as long as you are wealthy. ..."
"... Like the Pentagon. Americans still don't readily call this welfare, but they will eventually. Defense profiteers are unions in a sense, you're either in their club Or you're in the service industry that surrounds it. ..."
Dec 13, 2017 | www.unz.com

Introduction

The American welfare state was created in 1935 and continued to develop through 1973. Since then, over a prolonged period, the capitalist class has been steadily dismantling the entire welfare state.

Between the mid 1970's to the present (2017) labor laws, welfare rights and benefits and the construction of and subsidies for affordable housing have been gutted. ' Workfare' (under President 'Bill' Clinton) ended welfare for the poor and displaced workers. Meanwhile the shift to regressive taxation and the steadily declining real wages have increased corporate profits to an astronomical degree.

What started as incremental reversals during the 1990's under Clinton has snowballed over the last two decades decimating welfare legislation and institutions.

The earlier welfare 'reforms' and the current anti-welfare legislation and austerity practices have been accompanied by a series of endless imperial wars, especially in the Middle East.

In the 1940's through the 1960's, world and regional wars (Korea and Indo-China) were combined with significant welfare program – a form of ' social imperialism' , which 'buy off' the working class while expanding the empire. However, recent decades are characterized by multiple regional wars and the reduction or elimination of welfare programs – and a massive growth in poverty, domestic insecurity and poor health.

New Deals and Big Wars

The 1930's witnessed the advent of social legislation and action, which laid the foundations of what is called the ' modern welfare state' .

Labor unions were organized as working class strikes and progressive legislation facilitated trade union organization, elections, collective bargaining rights and a steady increase in union membership. Improved work conditions, rising wages, pension plans and benefits, employer or union-provided health care and protective legislation improved the standard of living for the working class and provided for 2 generations of upward mobility.

Social Security legislation was approved along with workers' compensation and the forty-hour workweek. Jobs were created through federal programs (WPA, CCC, etc.). Protectionist legislation facilitated the growth of domestic markets for US manufacturers. Workplace shop steward councils organized 'on the spot' job action to protect safe working conditions.

World War II led to full employment and increases in union membership, as well as legislation restricting workers' collective bargaining rights and enforcing wage freezes. Hundreds of thousands of Americans found jobs in the war economy but a huge number were also killed or wounded in the war.

The post-war period witnessed a contradictory process: wages and salaries increased while legislation curtailed union rights via the Taft Hartley Act and the McCarthyist purge of leftwing trade union activists. So-called ' right to work' laws effectively outlawed unionization mostly in southern states, which drove industries to relocate to the anti-union states.

Welfare reforms, in the form of the GI bill, provided educational opportunities for working class and rural veterans, while federal-subsidized low interest mortgages encourage home-ownership, especially for veterans.

The New Deal created concrete improvements but did not consolidate labor influence at any level. Capitalists and management still retained control over capital, the workplace and plant location of production.

Trade union officials signed pacts with capital: higher pay for the workers and greater control of the workplace for the bosses. Trade union officials joined management in repressing rank and file movements seeking to control technological changes by reducing hours (" thirty hours work for forty hours pay "). Dissident local unions were seized and gutted by the trade union bosses – sometimes through violence.

Trade union activists, community organizers for rent control and other grassroots movements lost both the capacity and the will to advance toward large-scale structural changes of US capitalism. Living standards improved for a few decades but the capitalist class consolidated strategic control over labor relations. While unionized workers' incomes, increased, inequalities, especially in the non-union sectors began to grow. With the end of the GI bill, veterans' access to high-quality subsidized education declined.

While a new wave of social welfare legislation and programs began in the 1960's and early 1970's it was no longer a result of a mass trade union or workers' "class struggle". Moreover, trade union collaboration with the capitalist regional war policies led to the killing and maiming of hundreds of thousands of workers in two wars – the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

Much of social legislation resulted from the civil and welfare rights movements. While specific programs were helpful, none of them addressed structural racism and poverty.

The Last Wave of Social Welfarism

The 1960'a witnessed the greatest racial war in modern US history: Mass movements in the South and North rocked state and federal governments, while advancing the cause of civil, social and political rights. Millions of black citizens, joined by white activists and, in many cases, led by African American Viet Nam War veterans, confronted the state. At the same time, millions of students and young workers, threatened by military conscription, challenged the military and social order.

Energized by mass movements, a new wave of social welfare legislation was launched by the federal government to pacify mass opposition among blacks, students, community organizers and middle class Americans. Despite this mass popular movement, the union bosses at the AFL-CIO openly supported the war, police repression and the military, or at best, were passive impotent spectators of the drama unfolding in the nation's streets. Dissident union members and activists were the exception, as many had multiple identities to represent: African American, Hispanic, draft resisters, etc.

Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, Medicare, Medicaid, OSHA, the EPA and multiple poverty programs were implemented. A national health program, expanding Medicare for all Americans, was introduced by President Nixon and sabotaged by the Kennedy Democrats and the AFL-CIO. Overall, social and economic inequalities diminished during this period.

The Vietnam War ended in defeat for the American militarist empire. This coincided with the beginning of the end of social welfare as we knew it – as the bill for militarism placed even greater demands on the public treasury.

With the election of President Carter, social welfare in the US began its long decline. The next series of regional wars were accompanied by even greater attacks on welfare via the " Volker Plan " – freezing workers' wages as a means to combat inflation.

Guns without butter' became the legislative policy of the Carter and Reagan Administrations. The welfare programs were based on politically fragile foundations.

The Debacle of Welfarism

Private sector trade union membership declined from a post-world war peak of 30% falling to 12% in the 1990's. Today it has sunk to 7%. Capitalists embarked on a massive program of closing thousands of factories in the unionized North which were then relocated to the non-unionized low wage southern states and then overseas to Mexico and Asia. Millions of stable jobs disappeared.

Following the election of 'Jimmy Carter', neither Democratic nor Republican Presidents felt any need to support labor organizations. On the contrary, they facilitated contracts dictated by management, which reduced wages, job security, benefits and social welfare.

The anti-labor offensive from the ' Oval Office' intensified under President Reagan with his direct intervention firing tens of thousands of striking air controllers and arresting union leaders. Under Presidents Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Clinton cost of living adjustments failed to keep up with prices of vital goods and services. Health care inflation was astronomical. Financial deregulation led to the subordination of American industry to finance and the Wall Street banks. De-industrialization, capital flight and massive tax evasion reduced labor's share of national income.

The capitalist class followed a trajectory of decline, recovery and ascendance. Moreover, during the earlier world depression, at the height of labor mobilization and organization, the capitalist class never faced any significant political threat over its control of the commanding heights of the economy.

The ' New Deal' was, at best, a de facto ' historical compromise' between the capitalist class and the labor unions, mediated by the Democratic Party elite. It was a temporary pact in which the unions secured legal recognition while the capitalists retained their executive prerogatives.

The Second World War secured the economic recovery for capital and subordinated labor through a federally mandated no strike production agreement. There were a few notable exceptions: The coal miners' union organized strikes in strategic sectors and some leftist leaders and organizers encouraged slow-downs, work to rule and other in-plant actions when employers ran roughshod with special brutality over the workers. The recovery of capital was the prelude to a post-war offensive against independent labor-based political organizations. The quality of labor organization declined even as the quantity of trade union membership increased.

Labor union officials consolidated internal control in collaboration with the capitalist elite. Capitalist class-labor official collaboration was extended overseas with strategic consequences.

The post-war corporate alliance between the state and capital led to a global offensive – the replacement of European-Japanese colonial control and exploitation by US business and bankers. Imperialism was later 're-branded' as ' globalization' . It pried open markets, secured cheap docile labor and pillaged resources for US manufacturers and importers.

US labor unions played a major role by sabotaging militant unions abroad in cooperation with the US security apparatus: They worked to coopt and bribe nationalist and leftist labor leaders and supported police-state regime repression and assassination of recalcitrant militants.

' Hand in bloody glove' with the US Empire, the American trade unions planted the seeds of their own destruction at home. The local capitalists in newly emerging independent nations established industries and supply chains in cooperation with US manufacturers. Attracted to these sources of low-wage, violently repressed workers, US capitalists subsequently relocated their factories overseas and turned their backs on labor at home.

Labor union officials had laid the groundwork for the demise of stable jobs and social benefits for American workers. Their collaboration increased the rate of capitalist profit and overall power in the political system. Their complicity in the brutal purges of militants, activists and leftist union members and leaders at home and abroad put an end to labor's capacity to sustain and expand the welfare state.

Trade unions in the US did not use their collaboration with empire in its bloody regional wars to win social benefits for the rank and file workers. The time of social-imperialism, where workers within the empire benefited from imperialism's pillage, was over. Gains in social welfare henceforth could result only from mass struggles led by the urban poor, especially Afro-Americans, community-based working poor and militant youth organizers.

The last significant social welfare reforms were implemented in the early 1970's – coinciding with the end of the Vietnam War (and victory for the Vietnamese people) and ended with the absorption of the urban and anti-war movements into the Democratic Party.

Henceforward the US corporate state advanced through the overseas expansion of the multi-national corporations and via large-scale, non-unionized production at home.

The technological changes of this period did not benefit labor. The belief, common in the 1950's, that science and technology would increase leisure, decrease work and improve living standards for the working class, was shattered. Instead technological changes displaced well-paid industrial labor while increasing the number of mind-numbing, poorly paid, and politically impotent jobs in the so-called 'service sector' – a rapidly growing section of unorganized and vulnerable workers – especially including women and minorities.

Labor union membership declined precipitously. The demise of the USSR and China's turn to capitalism had a dual effect: It eliminated collectivist (socialist) pressure for social welfare and opened their labor markets with cheap, disciplined workers for foreign manufacturers. Labor as a political force disappeared on every count. The US Federal Reserve and President 'Bill' Clinton deregulated financial capital leading to a frenzy of speculation. Congress wrote laws, which permitted overseas tax evasion – especially in Caribbean tax havens. Regional free-trade agreements, like NAFTA, spurred the relocation of jobs abroad. De-industrialization accompanied the decline of wages, living standards and social benefits for millions of American workers.

The New Abolitionists: Trillionaires

The New Deal, the Great Society, trade unions, and the anti-war and urban movements were in retreat and primed for abolition.

Wars without welfare (or guns without butter) replaced earlier 'social imperialism' with a huge growth of poverty and homelessness. Domestic labor was now exploited to finance overseas wars not vice versa. The fruits of imperial plunder were not shared.

As the working and middle classes drifted downward, they were used up, abandoned and deceived on all sides – especially by the Democratic Party. They elected militarists and demagogues as their new presidents.

President 'Bill' Clinton ravaged Russia, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia and liberated Wall Street. His regime gave birth to the prototype billionaire swindlers: Michael Milken and Bernard 'Bernie' Madoff.

Clinton converted welfare into cheap labor 'workfare', exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable and condemning the next generations to grinding poverty. Under Clinton the prison population of mostly African Americans expanded and the breakup of families ravaged the urban communities.

Provoked by an act of terrorism (9/11) President G.W. Bush Jr. launched the 'endless' wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and deepened the police state (Patriot Act). Wages for American workers and profits for American capitalist moved in opposite directions.

The Great Financial Crash of 2008-2011 shook the paper economy to its roots and led to the greatest shakedown of any national treasury in history directed by the First Black American President. Trillions of public wealth were funneled into the criminal banks on Wall Street – which were ' just too big to fail .' Millions of American workers and homeowners, however, were ' just too small to matter' .

The Age of Demagogues

President Obama transferred 2 trillion dollars to the ten biggest bankers and swindlers on Wall Street, and another trillion to the Pentagon to pursue the Democrats version of foreign policy: from Bush's two overseas wars to Obama's seven.

Obama's electoral 'donor-owners' stashed away two trillion dollars in overseas tax havens and looked forward to global free trade pacts – pushed by the eloquent African American President.

Obama was elected to two terms. His liberal Democratic Party supporters swooned over his peace and justice rhetoric while swallowing his militarist escalation into seven overseas wars as well as the foreclosure of two million American householders. Obama completely failed to honor his campaign promise to reduce wage inequality between black and white wage earners while he continued to moralize to black families about ' values' .

Obama's war against Libya led to the killing and displacement of millions of black Libyans and workers from Sub-Saharan Africa. The smiling Nobel Peace Prize President created more desperate refugees than any previous US head of state – including millions of Africans flooding Europe.

'Obamacare' , his imitation of an earlier Republican governor's health plan, was formulated by the private corporate health industry (private insurance, Big Pharma and the for-profit hospitals), to mandate enrollment and ensure triple digit profits with double digit increases in premiums. By the 2016 Presidential elections, ' Obama-care' was opposed by a 45%-43% margin of the American people. Obama's propagandists could not show any improvement of life expectancy or decrease in infant and maternal mortality as a result of his 'health care reform'. Indeed the opposite occurred among the marginalized working class in the old 'rust belt' and in the rural areas. This failure to show any significant health improvement for the masses of Americans is in stark contrast to LBJ's Medicare program of the 1960's, which continues to receive massive popular support.

Forty-years of anti welfare legislation and pro-business regimes paved the golden road for the election of Donald Trump

Trump and the Republicans are focusing on the tattered remnants of the social welfare system: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. The remains of FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society -- are on the chopping block.

The moribund (but well-paid) labor leadership has been notable by its absence in the ensuing collapse of the social welfare state. The liberal left Democrats embraced the platitudinous Obama/Clinton team as the 'Great Society's' gravediggers, while wailing at Trump's allies for shoving the corpse of welfare state into its grave.

Conclusion

Over the past forty years the working class and the rump of what was once referred to as the ' labor movement' has contributed to the dismantling of the social welfare state, voting for ' strike-breaker' Reagan, ' workfare' Clinton, ' Wall Street crash' Bush, ' Wall Street savior' Obama and ' Trickle-down' Trump.

Gone are the days when social welfare and profitable wars raised US living standards and transformed American trade unions into an appendage of the Democratic Party and a handmaiden of Empire. The Democratic Party rescued capitalism from its collapse in the Great Depression, incorporated labor into the war economy and the post- colonial global empire, and resurrected Wall Street from the 'Great Financial Meltdown' of the 21 st century.

The war economy no longer fuels social welfare. The military-industrial complex has found new partners on Wall Street and among the globalized multi-national corporations. Profits rise while wages fall. Low paying compulsive labor (workfare) lopped off state transfers to the poor. Technology – IT, robotics, artificial intelligence and electronic gadgets – has created the most class polarized social system in history. The first trillionaire and multi-billionaire tax evaders rose on the backs of a miserable standing army of tens of millions of low-wage workers, stripped of rights and representation. State subsidies eliminate virtually all risk to capital. The end of social welfare coerced labor (including young mother with children) to seek insecure low-income employment while slashing education and health – cementing the feet of generations into poverty. Regional wars abroad have depleted the Treasury and robbed the country of productive investment. Economic imperialism exports profits, reversing the historic relation of the past.

Labor is left without compass or direction; it flails in all directions and falls deeper in the web of deception and demagogy. To escape from Reagan and the strike breakers, labor embraced the cheap-labor predator Clinton; black and white workers united to elect Obama who expelled millions of immigrant workers, pursued 7 wars, abandoned black workers and enriched the already filthy rich. Deception and demagogy of the labor-

Issac , December 11, 2017 at 11:01 pm GMT

"The military-industrial complex has found new partners on Wall Street and among the globalized multi-national corporations."

"The collaboration of liberals and unions in promoting endless wars opened the door to Trump's mirage of a stateless, tax-less, ruling class."

A mirage so real, it even has you convinced.

whyamihere , December 12, 2017 at 4:24 am GMT
If the welfare state in America was abolished, major American cities would burn to the ground. Anarchy would ensue, it would be magnitudes bigger than anything that happened in Ferguson or Baltimore. It would likely be simultaneous.

I think that's one of the only situations where preppers would actually live out what they've been prepping for (except for a natural disaster).

I've been thinking about this a little over the past few years after seeing the race riots. What exactly is the line between our society being civilized and breaking out into chaos. It's probably a lot thinner than most people think.

I don't know who said it but someone long ago said something along the lines of, "Democracy can only work until the people figure out they can vote for themselves generous benefits from the public treasury." We are definitely in this situation today. I wonder how long it can last.

Disordered , December 13, 2017 at 8:41 am GMT
While I agree with Petras's intent (notwithstanding several exaggerations and unnecessary conflations with, for example, racism), I don't agree so much with the method he proposes. I don't mind welfare and unions to a certain extent, but they are not going to save us unless there is full employment and large corporations that can afford to pay an all-union workforce. That happened during WW2, as only wartime demand and those pesky wage freezes solved the Depression, regardless of all the public works programs; while the postwar era benefited from the US becoming the world's creditor, meaning that capital could expand while labor participation did as well.

From then on, it is quite hard to achieve the same success after outsourcing and mechanization have happened all over the world. Both of these phenomena not only create displaced workers, but also displaced industries, meaning that it makes more sense to develop individual workfare (and even then, do it well, not the shoddy way it is done now) rather than giving away checks that probably will not be cashed for entrepreneurial purposes, and rather than giving away money to corrupt unions who depend on trusts to be able to pay for their benefits, while raising the cost of hiring that only encourages more outsourcing.

The amount of welfare given is not necessarily the main problem, the problem is doing it right for the people who truly need it, and efficiently – that is, with the least amount of waste lost between the chain of distribution, which should reach intended targets and not moochers.

Which inevitably means a sound tax system that targets unearned wealth and (to a lesser degree) foreign competition instead of national production, coupled with strict, yet devolved and simple government processes that benefit both business and individuals tired of bureaucracy, while keeping budgets balanced. Best of both worlds, and no military-industrial complex needed to drive up demand.

Wally , Website December 13, 2017 at 8:57 am GMT
"President Obama transferred 2 trillion dollars to the ten biggest bankers and swindlers on Wall Street " That's twice the amount that Bush gave them.
jacques sheete , December 13, 2017 at 10:52 am GMT

The American welfare state was created in 1935 and continued to develop through 1973. Since then, over a prolonged period, the capitalist class has been steadily dismantling the entire welfare state.

Wrong wrong wrong.

Corporations [now] are welfare recipients and the bigger they are, the more handouts they suck up, and welfare for them started before 1935. In fact, it started in America before there was a USA. I do not have time to elaborate, but what were the various companies such as the British East India Company and the Dutch West India Companies but state pampered, welfare based entities? ~200 years ago, Herbert Spencer, if memory serves, pointed out that the British East India Company couldn't make a profit even with all the special, government granted favors showered upon it.

Corporations not only continuously seek monopolies (with the aid and sanction of the state) but they steadily fine tune the welfare state for their benefit. In fact, in reality, welfare for prols and peasants wouldn't exist if it didn't act as a money conduit and ultimate profit center for the big money grubbers.

Den Lille Abe , December 13, 2017 at 11:09 am GMT
Well, the author kind of nails it. I remember from my childhood in the 50-60 ties in Scandinavia that the US was the ultimate goal in welfare. The country where you could make a good living with your two hands, get you kids to UNI, have a house, a telly ECT. It was not consumerism, it was the American dream, a chicken in every pot; we chewed imported American gum and dreamed.

In the 70-80 ties Scandinavia had a tremendous social and economic growth, EQUALLY distributed, an immense leap forward. In the middle of the 80 ties we were equal to the US in standards of living.

Since we have not looked at the US, unless in pity, as we have seen the decline of the general income, social wealth fall way behind our own.
The average US workers income has not increased since 90 figures adjusted for inflation. The Scandinavian workers income in the same period has almost quadrupled. And so has our societies.

The article is dismal reading, and evidence of the failings of the "unregulated" society, where the anything goes as long as you are wealthy.

wayfarer , December 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm GMT

Between the mid 1970's to the present (2017) labor laws, welfare rights and benefits and the construction of and subsidies for affordable housing have been gutted. 'Workfare' (under President 'Bill' Clinton) ended welfare for the poor and displaced workers. Meanwhile the shift to regressive taxation and the steadily declining real wages have increased corporate profits to an astronomical degree.

source: http://www.unz.com/jpetras/rise-and-decline-of-the-welfare-state/

What does Hollywood "elite" JAP and wannabe hack-stand-up-comic Sarah Silverman think about the class struggle and problems facing destitute Americans? "Qu'ils mangent de la bagels!", source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake

... ... ...

Anonymous , Disclaimer December 13, 2017 at 1:40 pm GMT
@Greg Fraser

Like the Pentagon. Americans still don't readily call this welfare, but they will eventually. Defense profiteers are unions in a sense, you're either in their club Or you're in the service industry that surrounds it.

Anonymous , Disclaimer December 13, 2017 at 2:43 pm GMT
As other commenters have pointed out, it's Petras curious choice of words that sometimes don't make too much sense. We can probably blame the maleable English language for that, but here it's too obvious. If you don't define a union, people might assume you're only talking about a bunch of meat cutters at Safeway.

The welfare state is alive and well for corporate America. Unions are still here – but they are defined by access and secrecy, you're either in the club or not.

The war on unions was successful first by co-option but mostly by the media. But what kind of analysis leaves out the role of the media in the American transformation? The success is mind blowing.

America has barely literate (white) middle aged males trained to spout incoherent Calvinistic weirdness: unabased hatred for the poor (or whoever they're told to hate) and a glorification of hedge fund managers as they get laid off, fired and foreclosed on, with a side of opiates.

There is hardly anything more tragic then seeing a web filled with progressives (management consultants) dedicated to disempowering, disabling and deligitimizing victims by claiming they are victims of biology, disease or a lack of an education rather than a system that issues violence while portending (with the best media money can buy) that they claim the higher ground.

animalogic , December 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm GMT
@Wally

""Democracy can only work until the people figure out they can vote for themselves generous benefits from the public treasury." We are definitely in this situation today."

Quite right: the 0.01% have worked it out & US democracy is a Theatre for the masses.

Reg Cζsar , December 13, 2017 at 3:08 pm GMT

They elected militarists and demagogues as their new presidents.

Wilson and FDR were much more militarist and demagogic than those that followed.

Reg Cζsar , December 13, 2017 at 3:20 pm GMT
@whyamihere

I don't know who said it but someone long ago said something along the lines of, "Democracy can only work until the people figure out they can vote for themselves generous benefits from the public treasury."

Some French aristocrat put it as, once the gates to the treasury have been breached, they can only be closed again with gunpowder. Anyone recognize the author?

phil , December 13, 2017 at 4:48 pm GMT
The author doesn't get it. What we have now IS the welfare state in an intensely diverse society. We have more transfer spending than ever before and Obamacare represents another huge entitlement.

Intellectuals continue to fantasize about the US becoming a Big Sweden, but Sweden has only been successful insofar as it has been a modest nation-state populated by ethnic Swedes. Intense diversity in a huge country with only the remnants of federalism results in massive non-consensual decision-making, fragmentation, increased inequality, and corruption.

HallParvey , December 13, 2017 at 4:57 pm GMT
@Anonymous

The welfare state is alive and well for corporate America. Unions are still here – but they are defined by access and secrecy, you're either in the club or not.

They are largely defined as Doctors, Lawyers, and University Professors who teach the first two. Of course they are not called unions. Access is via credentialing and licensing. Good Day

Anonymous , Disclaimer December 13, 2017 at 4:57 pm GMT
@Linda Green

Bernie Sanders, speaking on behalf of the MIC's welfare bird: "It is the airplane of the United States Air Force, Navy, and of NATO."

Elizabeth Warren, referring to Mossad's Estes Rockets: "The Israeli military has the right to attack Palestinian hospitals and schools in self defense"

Barack Obama, yukking it up with pop stars: "Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming."

It's not the agitprop that confuses the sheep, it's whose blowhole it's coming out of (labled D or R for convenience) that gets them to bare their teeth and speak of poo.

Anonymous , Disclaimer December 13, 2017 at 5:54 pm GMT
@HallParvey

What came first, the credentialing or the idea that it is a necessary part of education? It certainly isn't an accurate indication of what people know or their general intelligence – although that myth has flourished. Good afternoon.

Logan , December 13, 2017 at 9:10 pm GMT
@Realist

For an interesting projection of what might happen in total civilizational collapse, I recommend the Dies the Fire series of novels by SM Stirling.

It has a science-fictiony setup in that all high-energy system (gunpowder, electricity, explosives, internal combustion, even high-energy steam engines) suddenly stop working. But I think it does a good job of extrapolating what would happen if suddenly the cities did not have food, water, power, etc.

Spoiler alert: It ain't pretty. Those who dream of a world without guns have not really thought it through.

Logan , December 13, 2017 at 9:19 pm GMT
@phil

It has been pointed out repeatedly that Sweden does very well relative to the USA. It has also been noted that people of Swedish ancestry in the USA do pretty well also. In fact considerably better than Swedes in Sweden

[Dec 15, 2017] Paul Krugman: Republicans Despise the Working Class

This is a typical feature of neoliberalism in general, not just Republicans. Democratic Party is the same. And this is not just despite. There is real class war against working class unleashed in the USA since 1980. and neoliberals are winning.
Neoliberals disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can't contain it.
Notable quotes:
"... "Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can't contain it": Republicans Despise the Working Class, by Paul Krugman, NY Times : You can always count on Republicans to do two things: try to cut taxes for the rich and try to weaken the safety net for the poor and the middle class. ... ..."
"... PK would probably even tell you that some of his best friends are working class. As a show of his undying love, he even penned opinion pieces on their behalf, promoting the gift of China's ascension the WTO in 2000, saying how great it would be for labor...that was before the great sucking sound of jobs going to China... ..."
"... Britain's opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Morgan Stanley that bankers are right to regard him as a threat because he wants to transform what he cast as a rigged economy that profits speculators at the expense of ordinary people. ..."
"... I have news for you Paul.... the wealthy have always treated labor as second class citizens... what else is new and why are you just now figuring this out? ..."
"... It's interesting that regardless of which party has been in power since the 1960's (e.g. since Johnson) neither have provided any gains in real income to labor's share of income. ..."
"... And regardless of which party has been in power since the 1970's median incomes have grown at a barely perceptible rate while GDP has continued to grow unabated at a very much greater rate... the gap (wedge) has continued to increase without a hitch. ..."
"... Lower prices of goods and services offered to just a small amount above costs of labor in operations and capital. If every business paid 100% of revenue to workers, the taxes owed in profit taxes will be zero. ..."
"... The bizzare result in a corporation pays no taxes for 10 to 15 years when the factory is new and it's productivity means the highest return on investment, until the factory is old and less competitive, and now the loss carry forward is zero so any profit is now taxed, at the time when the factory is old. ..."
"... The point of cutting the profit tax rate is to kill jobs. A profit tax of zero would promote a business trying to create a slave labor force so 100% of revenue is tax free to the owners. A zero profit tax rate means every single dollar paid to workers cuts shareholder income by 100% of those dollars. ..."
"... Maybe only half will end up homeless and hungry, but those will be the ones moving into their kids, or grandkids living rooms, eating their food. In exchange for a $500 tax cut for working class families, these families get to feed and house their grandparent or parent, assuming they were earning enough to move out of their parent's basement. ..."
"... he globalist Democrats despise the working class, but play nice each election cycle while they suck money out of union treasuries. ..."
Dec 15, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
"Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can't contain it": Republicans Despise the Working Class, by Paul Krugman, NY Times : You can always count on Republicans to do two things: try to cut taxes for the rich and try to weaken the safety net for the poor and the middle class. ...

But ... something has been added to the mix. ...Republicans ... don't treat all Americans with a given income the same. Instead, their bill ... hugely privileges owners, whether of businesses or of financial assets, over those who simply work for a living. ...

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has evaluated the Senate bill, which the final bill is expected to resemble. It finds that the bill would reduce taxes on business owners , on average, about three times as much as it would reduce taxes on those whose primary source of income is wages or salaries. For highly paid workers, the gap would be even wider, as much as 10 to one. ...

If this sounds like bad policy, that's because it is. More than that, it opens the doors to an orgy of tax avoidance. ... We're pitting hastily devised legislation, drafted without hearings over the course of just a few days, against the cleverest lawyers and accountants money can buy. Which side do you think will win?

As a result, it's a good guess that the bill will increase the budget deficit far more than currently projected. ...

So why are they doing this? After all, the tax bill appears to be terrible politics as well as terrible policy. ... The ... public overwhelmingly disapproves of the current Republican plan.

But Republicans don't seem able to help themselves: Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can't contain it.

When I realized the extent to which G.O.P. tax plans were going to favor business owners over ordinary workers, I found myself remembering what happened in 2012, when Eric Cantor -- then the House majority leader -- tried to celebrate Labor Day. He put out a tweet for the occasion that somehow failed to mention workers at all, instead praising those who have "built a business and earned their own success." ...

Cantor, a creature of the G.O.P. establishment if ever there was one, had so little respect for working Americans that he forgot to include them in a Labor Day message.

And now that disdain has been translated into legislation, in the form of a bill that treats anyone who works for someone else -- that is, the vast majority of Americans -- as a second-class citizen.

Paine , December 15, 2017 at 12:07 PM

Fair play for the ever so many petty wage heads. Out there ! High achieving high dollar earning high altruism embodying.

Our PK. What a guy ! "haut Liberal oblige " at its most glowing

Exploited citizens are indeed like oppressed citizens. Inferior class types
Hillary prefers earning her daily bread. By making humanist speeches to bankers and writing best selling alibi seasoned memoirs for the bibliophilic public. Why oh why does Paul love her so ?
JohnH -> Paine ... , December 15, 2017 at 01:33 PM

PK would probably even tell you that some of his best friends are working class. As a show of his undying love, he even penned opinion pieces on their behalf, promoting the gift of China's ascension the WTO in 2000, saying how great it would be for labor...that was before the great sucking sound of jobs going to China...

Republicans have no monopoly on selling out the working class...but workers have yet to figure out that there are more than two candidates running for President.

Paine -> JF... , December 15, 2017 at 12:40 PM
Labor parties exist in the OECD. But they had a third way fantasy. Where we all dance together. Most have still not shaken off this collaborationist pipe dream despite the fall of 2008. And the ten year doldrums since
Christopher H. said in reply to Paine ... , December 15, 2017 at 03:08 PM
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-politics-banking/british-labour-leader-corbyn-tells-morgan-stanley-were-a-threat-idUSKBN1DV44L

DECEMBER 1, 2017 / 3:23 AM / 14 DAYS AGO

British Labour leader Corbyn tells Morgan Stanley: 'We're a threat'

Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Morgan Stanley that bankers are right to regard him as a threat because he wants to transform what he cast as a rigged economy that profits speculators at the expense of ordinary people.

...

Longtooth , December 15, 2017 at 12:16 PM
I have news for you Paul.... the wealthy have always treated labor as second class citizens... what else is new and why are you just now figuring this out?

It's interesting that regardless of which party has been in power since the 1960's (e.g. since Johnson) neither have provided any gains in real income to labor's share of income.

And regardless of which party has been in power since the 1970's median incomes have grown at a barely perceptible rate while GDP has continued to grow unabated at a very much greater rate... the gap (wedge) has continued to increase without a hitch.

So Paul, are you just no noticing this or are you under the impression that it's just the GOP wealthy that have disdain for labor... since it would appear to me that it's the wealthy regardless of party identification -- though there are admittedly a few notable exemptions.... but those are only after they have become among the globes richest persons.

DrDick -> Longtooth... , December 15, 2017 at 01:01 PM
That seems a grotesque misreading of the piece, which never claims this is new, just that it is even worse than before. Krugman has also written extensively about these issues in the past (he lambasted the Bush administration for exactly the same issues).
Longtooth -> DrDick... , December 15, 2017 at 02:30 PM
Dr. Dick,

I've been reading PK probably since before you could even read or perhaps since you graduated from Dick, Jane, Sally, & Spot. I'm even a huge fan except:

  1. I lambast him for not calling a spade a spade (which until just very recently he never did before), and
  2. For intentionally misleading, even though the direction he misleads favors my own positions.

In this case he made a clear statement that in the context of his post is intended to mean the current GOP (as you also were led to believe by your statement "worse then before", or perhaps "recent GOP" as you also believed by your statement "Bush administration...").

You are in fact the direct intent of my comment.. people who believe this GOP is any different than any other GOP. The only difference in this one and any other is that the party has a bullet proof majority in both houses AND a complicit Executive to do their bidding. That just makes it possible for the GOP to carry out its objectives... the objectives have never changed... since Coolidge and Hoover at least.

Krugman's explicit statement inferring and implying this GOP is different is:

"But Republicans don't seem able to help themselves: Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can't contain it."

In fact this has been the case all along so why if its not new news does he even mention it? Moreover he neglects entirely to say that it's not just the GOP that has disdain for labor but the entire wealth class, regardless of party. The Dems were persuaded by organized labor to pay attention to labor's issues and preferences .. or else!

Even at that all actual evidence shows quite clearly that labor takes it in the shorts since the 1960's at least, and if you go back to Coolidge and Hoover it was also in clear and obvious evidence at that time as well.

And yet, in all the time since, through all administrations and congress's labor keeps getting the shaft so it's not just the GOP that caters to the wealth, but the Dems as well... and this shouldn't be a surprise (but I'm sure is) because the U.S. gov't is actually run by and to the primarily benefit of the wealthy -- and it always has been in case you haven't much history under your belt yet.

You took Krugman's statement as he intended people like you to take it in his post hook line and sinker.

(my uncle was high up in organized labor in western US in the 1950's through 1970's. I lived with he and my aunt for a summer between college years. He said often and astutely based in his intimate political dealings with Democratic national and State leaders, "The Democrats have nor more back-bone than what Organized Labor provides." The parties aren't really that much different when it comes to the working class."

I was taken aback, and didn't believe him --- after all he was a labor leader --- but I watched over the ensuing decades and sure 'nuff, he was dead on right then and nothing's changed.

To make a difference gov't control has to be taken from the wealthy and has to be shared equally with labor... it doesn't do that nor has it ever done that. Ignore the rhetoric and look at the evidence over time... it's quite obvious and not even remotely vague.

DeDude , December 15, 2017 at 12:20 PM
But even among the predatory capitalists GOP types some are quite angry at the current tax "reform"

https://riabiz.com/a/2017/12/14/why-brent-brodeski-a-6-billion-gop-ria-is-in-a-furious-full-time-fight-against-the-republican-ria-unfriendly-tax-bill

There is likely to be a lot more of that. When some guys get $10 million then others are going to be angry that they only got $1 million. The donor class as a whole will be happy, but some of them will be very unhappy. They may even be willing to support the "Repal the Trump tax cuts" movement and actively support democratic candidates.

Paine -> DeDude... , December 15, 2017 at 12:41 PM
A giant Shark frenzy ? To good to be likely
Patricia Shannon , December 15, 2017 at 12:57 PM
True, but the Democrats do too. When I was active in the local Democratic party, the only concerns were for minorities and the middle-class. The only time the Caucasian working class was mentioned was to put them down.
Patricia Shannon -> Patricia Shannon ... , December 15, 2017 at 12:58 PM
I was referring to attitudes to the low income working class.
mulp -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 15, 2017 at 02:29 PM
If only Democrats were explaining how corporations can cut their taxes: Hire more workers to increase labor cost tax dodging! Pay workers higher wages to increase labor cost tax dodging. Provide more tax exempt benefits to increase labor cost tax dodges. Pay workers to do more R&D which is expensed. Borrow at low interest rates to pay workers to build a huge costly factory that will generate huge depreciation tax dodges plus interest cost tax dodges.

Lower prices of goods and services offered to just a small amount above costs of labor in operations and capital. If every business paid 100% of revenue to workers, the taxes owed in profit taxes will be zero.

mulp , December 15, 2017 at 02:20 PM
Krugman constantly fails to understand that the GOP, intentionally or not, works to kill jobs.

All businesses can dodge that "highest in the world" 35% corporate PROFITS tax by PAYING MORE TO WORKERS!

The biggest corporate business tax dodge in the US is labor costs.

Granted, the tax dodge of paying labor costs building a factory is spread out over decades, but if you build a billion dollar factory, the revenue after paying workers to operate the plant will almost never come close to a billion dollars. Immediate expensing of the billion dollar factory is likely to result in taxable losses of a billion dollars, that can be carried over to shelter $50-100 million in "profit" as the capital cost of production is zero - the capital costs is fully depreciated if capital is expensed, meaning the factory has a book value of zero.

The bizzare result in a corporation pays no taxes for 10 to 15 years when the factory is new and it's productivity means the highest return on investment, until the factory is old and less competitive, and now the loss carry forward is zero so any profit is now taxed, at the time when the factory is old.

Standard double declining balance depreciation spreads taxes out over the life of the factory, so taxes are flatter. Note that selling the factory after taxes are owed merely triggers capital gains equal to the price because the capital book price is zero.

The point of cutting the profit tax rate is to kill jobs. A profit tax of zero would promote a business trying to create a slave labor force so 100% of revenue is tax free to the owners. A zero profit tax rate means every single dollar paid to workers cuts shareholder income by 100% of those dollars.

To create jobs by lowering profit tax rates, investors must suddenly say "No no don't give me so much in dividends and do not increase the price of my shares by stock buyback! I HAVE TOO MUCH MONEY AND I WANT WORKERS TO GET MY MONEY"

To go a step further, the GOP will next call for killing jobs by ending or cutting SS and Medicare and Medicaid payments which pay workers to feed, cloth, house, care for those getting those benefits.

Maybe only half will end up homeless and hungry, but those will be the ones moving into their kids, or grandkids living rooms, eating their food. In exchange for a $500 tax cut for working class families, these families get to feed and house their grandparent or parent, assuming they were earning enough to move out of their parent's basement.

Economies are zero sum.

One person's costs are another person's 100% income.

Cut costs, you cut income.

As I liberal, I say that, like Newt ordered "death" replace "estate", every mention of "costs" get replaced with "jobs".

On tax and spend, the GOP is focused on killing jobs. Cut taxes to kill jobs. Cut spending to kill jobs.

After all, I never knew any employee going into a corporate meeting on cost cutting expecting to hear of a big hiring program or of company wide wage and benefit hikes, other than mandatory long vacations, at zero pay.

Tom aka Rusty , December 15, 2017 at 02:20 PM
The globalist Democrats despise the working class, but play nice each election cycle while they suck money out of union treasuries.

[Dec 15, 2017] Neoliberalism undermines workers health not only via the financial consequences of un/under employment and low wages, but also through chronic exposure to stress due to insecurity

Neoliberalism as "Die-now economics." "Embodiment into lower class" or "the representation as a member the lower class" if often fatal and upper mobility mobility is artificially limited (despite all MSM hype it is lower then in Europe). So just being a member of lower class noticeably and negatively affects your life expectancy and other social metrics. Job insecurity is the hazard reserved for lower and lower middle classes destructivly effect both physical and mental health. Too much stress is not good for humans. Neoliberalism with its manta of competition uber alles and atomization of the workforce is a real killer. also the fact that such article was published and the comments below is a clear sign that the days of neoliberalism are numbered. It should go.
Notable quotes:
"... In our new book , we draw on an extensive body of scientific literature to assess the health effects of three decades of neoliberal policies. Focusing on the social determinants of health -- the conditions of life and work that make it relatively easy for some people to lead long and healthy lives, while it is all but impossible for others -- we show that there are four interconnected neoliberal epidemics: austerity, obesity, stress, and inequality. They are neoliberal because they are associated with or worsened by neoliberal policies. ..."
"... Neoliberalism operates through labor markets to undermine health not only by way of the financial consequences of unemployment, inadequate employment, or low wages, as important as these are, but also through chronic exposure to stress that 'gets under your skin' by way of multiple mechanisms. Quite simply, the effects of chronic insecurity wear people out over the life course in biologically measurable ways . ..."
"... Oh, and "beyond class" because for social beings embodiment involves "social production; social consumption; and social reproduction." In the most reductive definition of class -- the one I used in my crude 1% + 10% + 90% formulation -- class is determined by wage work (or not), hence is a part of production (of capital), not social consumption (eating, etc.) or social reproduction (children, families, household work ). So, even if class in our political economy is the driver, it's not everything. ..."
"... "Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. ..."
"... Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve." ..."
"... As opposed to being champions of "self-actualization/identity" and "absolute relativism", I always got the impression that they were both offering stark warnings about diving too deeply into the self, vis-a-vis, identity. As if, they both understood the terrifying world that it could/would create, devoid of common cause, community, and ultimately empathy. A world where "we" are not possible because we have all become "I". ..."
"... Wonks like Yglesias love to mock working class concerns as "economic anxiety," which is at once belittling (it's all about f-e-e-e-lings ..."
"... "we have measurable health outcomes from political choices" So True!!! ..."
Dec 12, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

...Neoliberal epidemics are particular pathways of embodiment. From Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra in The Conversation :

In our new book , we draw on an extensive body of scientific literature to assess the health effects of three decades of neoliberal policies. Focusing on the social determinants of health -- the conditions of life and work that make it relatively easy for some people to lead long and healthy lives, while it is all but impossible for others -- we show that there are four interconnected neoliberal epidemics: austerity, obesity, stress, and inequality. They are neoliberal because they are associated with or worsened by neoliberal policies. They are epidemics because they are observable on such an international scale and have been transmitted so quickly across time and space that if they were biological contagions they would be seen as of epidemic proportions.

(The Case-Deaton study provides an obvious fifth: Deaths of despair. There are doubtless others.) Case in point for one of the unluckier members of the 90%:

On the morning of 25 August 2014 a young New Jersey woman, Maria Fernandes, died from inhaling gasoline fumes as she slept in her 13-year-old car. She often slept in the car while shuttling between her three, low-wage jobs in food service; she kept a can of gasoline in the car because she often slept with the engine running, and was worried about running out of gasoline. Apparently, the can accidentally tipped over and the vapours from spilled gasoline cost her life. Ms Fernandes was one of the more obvious casualties of the zero-hours culture of stress and insecurity that pervades the contemporary labour market under neoliberalism.

And Schrecker and Bambra conclude:

Neoliberalism operates through labor markets to undermine health not only by way of the financial consequences of unemployment, inadequate employment, or low wages, as important as these are, but also through chronic exposure to stress that 'gets under your skin' by way of multiple mechanisms. Quite simply, the effects of chronic insecurity wear people out over the life course in biologically measurable ways .

... ... ...

Oh, and "beyond class" because for social beings embodiment involves "social production; social consumption; and social reproduction." In the most reductive definition of class -- the one I used in my crude 1% + 10% + 90% formulation -- class is determined by wage work (or not), hence is a part of production (of capital), not social consumption (eating, etc.) or social reproduction (children, families, household work ). So, even if class in our political economy is the driver, it's not everything.

nonclassical , December 11, 2017 at 8:30 pm

L.S. reminiscent of Ernst Becker's, "The Structure of Evil" – "Escape from Evil"? (..not to indicate good vs. evil dichotomy) A great amount of perspective must be agreed upon to achieve "change" intoned. Divide and conquer are complicit, as noted .otherwise (and as indicated by U.S. economic history) change arrives only when all have lost all and can therefore agree begin again.

There is however, Naomi Klein perspective, "Shock Doctrine", whereby influence contributes to destabilization, plan in hand leading to agenda driven ("neoliberal"=market fundamentalism) outcome, not at all spontaneous in nature:

"Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve."

Amfortas the Hippie , December 11, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Well done, as usual.

On Case-Deason: Sounds like home. I keep the scanner on(local news) ems and fire only since 2006(sheriff got a homeland security grant). The incidence of suicide, overdose and "intoxication psychosis" are markedly increased in the last 10+ years out here in the wilderness(5K folks in whole county, last I looked). Our local economy went into near depression after the late 90's farm bill killed the peanut program then 911 meant no hunting season that year(and it's been noticeably less busy ever since) then drought and the real estate crash(we had 30 some realtors at peak..old family land being sold off, mostly). So the local Bourgeoisie have had less money to spend, which "trickles down" onto the rest of us.:less construction, less eating out even at the cheap places, less buying of gas, and on and on means fewer employees are needed, thus fewer jobs. To boot, there is a habit among many employers out here of not paying attention to labor laws(it is Texas ) the last minwage rise took 2 years to filter out here, and one must scrutinize one's pay stub to ensure that the boss isn't getting squirrelly with overtime and witholding.
Geography plays into all this, too 100 miles to any largish city.

... ... ...

Rosario , December 11, 2017 at 10:55 pm

I'm not well versed in Foucault or Lacan but I've read some of both and in reading between the lines of their writing (the phantom philosophy?) I saw a very different message than that often delivered by post-modern theorists.

As opposed to being champions of "self-actualization/identity" and "absolute relativism", I always got the impression that they were both offering stark warnings about diving too deeply into the self, vis-a-vis, identity. As if, they both understood the terrifying world that it could/would create, devoid of common cause, community, and ultimately empathy. A world where "we" are not possible because we have all become "I".

Considering what both their philosophies claimed, if identity is a lie, and the subject is always generated relative to the other, then how the hell can there be any security or well being in self-actualization? It is like trying to hit a target that does not exist.

All potentially oppressive cultural categorizations are examples of this (black, latino, gay, trans, etc.). If the identity is a moving target, both to the oppressor and the oppressed, then how can it ever be a singular source of political action? You can't hit what isn't there. This is not to say that these groups (in whatever determined category) are not oppressed, just that formulating political action based strictly on the identity (often as an essential category) is impossible because it does not actually exist materially. It is an amalgamation of subjects who's subjectivity is always relative to some other whether ally or oppressor. Only the manifestations of oppression on bodies (as brought up in Lambert's post) can be utilized as metrics for political action.

... ... ...

Lambert Strether Post author , December 11, 2017 at 11:20 pm

I thought of a couple of other advantages of the "embodiment" paradigm:

Better Framing . Wonks like Yglesias love to mock working class concerns as "economic anxiety," which is at once belittling (it's all about f-e-e-e-lings *) and disempowering (solutions are individual, like therapy or drugs). Embodiment by contrast insists that neoliberalism (the neoliberal labor market (class warfare)) has real, material, physiological effects that can be measured and tracked, as with any epidemic.

... ... ...

oaf , December 12, 2017 at 7:11 am

"we have measurable health outcomes from political choices" So True!!!

Thank you for posting this.

[Dec 14, 2017] In defence of the labour theory of value

Actually Marx's "labor theory of value" should be properly called the "theory of surplus value".
Notable quotes:
"... For Marx, value was socially-necessary labour time: David Harvey is good on this. From this perspective, exploitation and alienation are linked. Workers are exploited because they must work longer than necessary to get their consumption bundle. And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom. Now, I'll concede that many people hate the labour theory of value. One reason for this is that many discussions of it quickly become obscurantist – as if "value" is some mystical entity embodied in commodities. ..."
"... This, though, certainly was not Marx's intention. Quite the opposite. He intended his theory to be a demystification. He wanted to show how what looked like relations between things – the exchange of money for goods or labour-time – were in fact relations between people. And unequal ones at that. ..."
"... I suspect that some of the animosity to Marx's use of LTV arises because of a resistance to the inference that Marx drew from it – that workers are exploited. This issue, however, is independent of the validity of not of the LTV. For example, Roemer thinks workers are exploited without believing in the LTV, and Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited. ..."
"... * He seems to be recovering now. The vet is also expected to make a full recovery eventually. ..."
"... Further understanding, which evolved after Marx, is that the LTV is just special case of the principle that what produces a surplus of usefulness is not labour per se, but the energy used in the transformation of a larger quantity of something into a smaller quantity of something else, and muscle power is just one way, even if it was the main one for a very long time, to obtain energy to transform a large quantity of less useful commodities into a smaller quantity of more useful commodities. ..."
"... And this follows into the impression that I have derived from various authors that our high standards of living depend not on the high "productivity" of labour, but on the high "productivity" of fossil fuels, which are the product of the fertility of land ..."
"... the complex process of differentiation in the economy (aka the division of labor) obscures the relationship between the creation of the surplus (work time above that necessary to reproduce consumption bundle) and its utilization by capitalists via investment. Investment is not possible without exploitation of workers, but that relationship is occluded by the mechanics of employment, markets, and property. ..."
"... My impression is that your bearded friend Karl does not use "alienation" in that sense at all, in an economic sense, but in a humanist sense: that by being separated from the means of production proletarians are alienated from the meaning of their work, from work as a human activity, as distinct from an economic activity ..."
"... Practically every "Dilbert" strip is about "alienation". This is my favourite ..."
"... Placing a high value on the frivolous and "useless" has always been the hallmark of those most able to decide the value of anything, because they have no use for economic use (so to speak), but rather social signaling. Broad social respect is an extremely expensive thing to buy with money alone. ..."
Dec 11, 2017 | stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com

Lucius has been poorly recently, which has required some trips to the vet and therefore a bill of a size that only David Davis could negotiate*. This has made me wonder: is there more to be said for the labour theory of value than we like to think?

For a long time, I've not really cared about this theory one way or the other. This is partly because I've not bothered much with questions of value; partly because, as John Roemer has shown, we don't need (pdf) a labour theory of value to suggest workers are exploited; and partly because the main Marxian charges against capitalism – for example that it entails relationships of domination – hold true (or not!) independently of the theory.

As I approach retirement, however, I've begun to change my mind. I think of major expenses in terms of labour-time because they mean I have to work longer. A trip to the vet is an extra fortnight of work; a good guitar an extra month, a car an extra year, and so on.

When I consider my spending, I ask: what must I give up in order to get that? And the answer is my time and freedom. My labour-time is the measure of value.

This is a reasonable basis for the claim that workers are exploited. To buy a bundle of goods and services, we must work a number of hours a week. But taking all workers together, the hours we work are greater than the hours needed to produce those bundles because we must also work to provide a profit for the capitalist. As Marx put it:

We have seen that the labourer, during one portion of the labour-process, produces only the value of his labour-power, that is, the value of his means of subsistence During the second period of the labour-process, that in which his labour is no longer necessary labour, the workman, it is true, labours, expends labour-power; but his labour, being no longer necessary labour, he creates no value for himself. He creates surplus-value which, for the capitalist, has all the charms of a creation out of nothing. This portion of the working-day, I name surplus labour-time.

For Marx, value was socially-necessary labour time: David Harvey is good on this. From this perspective, exploitation and alienation are linked. Workers are exploited because they must work longer than necessary to get their consumption bundle. And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom. Now, I'll concede that many people hate the labour theory of value. One reason for this is that many discussions of it quickly become obscurantist – as if "value" is some mystical entity embodied in commodities.

This, though, certainly was not Marx's intention. Quite the opposite. He intended his theory to be a demystification. He wanted to show how what looked like relations between things – the exchange of money for goods or labour-time – were in fact relations between people. And unequal ones at that.

What's more, the charge of obscurantism against Marx is an especially weak one when it comes from orthodox economics. Much of this invokes unobservable concepts such as the natural rate of unemployment, marginal productivity, utility, the marginal product of capital and natural rate of interest – ideas which, in the last two cases, might not even be theoretically coherent.

In fact, the LTV is reasonably successful by the standards of conventional economics: we have empirical evidence to suggest that it does (pdf) a decent (pdf) job of explaining (pdf) relative prices – not that this was how Marx intended it to be used.

You can of course, think of counter-examples to the theory. But so what? in the social sciences, no substantial theory is 100% true.

I suspect that some of the animosity to Marx's use of LTV arises because of a resistance to the inference that Marx drew from it – that workers are exploited. This issue, however, is independent of the validity of not of the LTV. For example, Roemer thinks workers are exploited without believing in the LTV, and Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited.

By the (low) standards of economic theories, perhaps the LTV isn't so bad.

* He seems to be recovering now. The vet is also expected to make a full recovery eventually.

December 11, 2017 Permalink

Comments

Luis Enrique , December 11, 2017 at 02:09 PM

But the LTV says more than the output of the economy is divided between the workers and the (suppliers and) owners of capital goods, doesn't it? I mean, mainstream econ says that too. And unless ownership of capital inputs to production is distributed equally across society, then some people consume things that other's labour has produced, which means workers must produce more than they consume. But again, that's basic mainstream stuff, not LVT. You end by saying you can believe in exploitation but not LVT, and vice versa, but the main body of this blog seems to be connecting the two. I am confused.

Of course if you have the ability to vary your labour supply, and labour is how you earn your money, then you ask yourself how much you need to work to purchase whatever. But again that's mainstream not LVT.

David Friedman , December 11, 2017 at 06:14 PM

Your version of the labor theory of value is one of Adam Smith's versions. I don't think it is Marx's, but I know Smith better than Marx.

And definitely not Ricardo's.

ConfusedNeoLiberal , December 11, 2017 at 08:51 PM

What about value, in terms of risk among others, that the employers put in starting a new business?

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 12:23 AM

"Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited."

The Marxian approach was interested in, as other commenters have said, in the specific capitalist case, where "capitalism" for him means strictly "labour for hire" by workers alienated from the means of production by their ownership by capitalists.

But the labour theory of value, as understood by what Marx called "classicals", applies also to all labour, and he used it in that sense.

My understanding of the classicals and the LTV is reduced to a minimum this:

Further understanding, which evolved after Marx, is that the LTV is just special case of the principle that what produces a surplus of usefulness is not labour per se, but the energy used in the transformation of a larger quantity of something into a smaller quantity of something else, and muscle power is just one way, even if it was the main one for a very long time, to obtain energy to transform a large quantity of less useful commodities into a smaller quantity of more useful commodities.

And this follows into the impression that I have derived from various authors that our high standards of living depend not on the high "productivity" of labour, but on the high "productivity" of fossil fuels, which are the product of the fertility of land.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 12:29 AM

"value, in terms of risk among others, that the employers put in starting a new business?"

If the business produces a surplus, that is value added, than the surplus is the product of the energy/labour expended by all participants

How it is accounted for is one issue, especially over multiple time periods, and how it is shared out is a social relationship.

As to risk, everybody in the business runs the risk of not getting paid at the end of the month, and the opportunity cost of not doing something else, whichever labour they put in.

How risk and opportunity cost are accounted for, especially over multiple time periods, is another issue, and how they are shared is another social relationship.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 01:14 AM

"the surplus is the product of the energy/labour expended by all participants"

I'll perhaps further diminish the reputation of my "contributions" this way: perhaps all social relationships of production (at least among males) map closely onto (cursorial) group hunts.

https://78.media.tumblr.com/d4db6631d383cbfc9bd135c799a06e7f/tumblr_n3u8r0eJu01sohvpko1_500.jpg

:-)

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:40 AM

That's a very long winded way of saying that making stuff requires labour.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 01:50 PM

"a very long winded way of saying that making stuff requires labour"

Well, that's obvious, but what the classicals thought of as the LTV was not entirely obvious: that "surplus" (rather than "stuff") comes from the fertility of land and the transformation achieved with labour, and that nothing else is needed to achieve "surplus". Because for example capital goods are themselves surplus from fertility or labour, again back to the first blades made from chipping lumps of obsidian.

That's quite a bit more insightful, never mind also controversial, than "making stuff requires labour".

Rich Clayton , December 12, 2017 at 03:35 PM

Love this post. But, being a fellow marxist, I can't help but to disagree with this bit: "And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom." This is a colloquial use of alienation, and its not wrong.

But Marx is getting at something else: the complex process of differentiation in the economy (aka the division of labor) obscures the relationship between the creation of the surplus (work time above that necessary to reproduce consumption bundle) and its utilization by capitalists via investment. Investment is not possible without exploitation of workers, but that relationship is occluded by the mechanics of employment, markets, and property.

That's the sense in which workers are alienated under capitalism. Socialism could still have boring work, but, in so far as the investment function is brought under collective democratic control, workers would not be alienated in the special sense Marx is using.

Lukas , December 12, 2017 at 03:41 PM

@Luis Enrique

"Where else could stuff come from?" Well, assuming by "stuff" we mean objects of value, nowhere. But the reasons for which we value them are not dependent upon their natural origins or the labor required for their production. I don't value a computer because it's made of plastic and silicon and so forth, nor because of the labor required to produce it. It's useful because of what it does, not what it is; it's sort of Kant's definition of art versus the general conception of tools.

As for the relationship between production functions and the LTV, that seems (at least prima facie) pretty straightforward. If there is a high olefimity ascribed to the surplus provided by the product created by X, Y, then those production functions will, themselves, be assigned greater value, i.e., be worthy of more labor-time to attain. E.g., even if I'm not very good at fishing, if I really like the flavor of fish over other protein sources, I'll spend more time increasing my labor efficiency (be a better fisherman).

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 05:36 PM

"Everything ultimately derives from nature and the labour of humans. Where else could stuff come from? That's all there is."

Then in theory the cost (not the price) of everything can be measured in terms of physical quantities of primary inputs and of hours of work.

"What's controversial about it?"

What is controversial is that written like that you sound like a Marxist: the alternative approach is to say that *property* creates surplus.
In the standard neoclassical approach "property" is the often forgotten "initial endowments" of the single representative agent.

Anyhow the "narrative" is: as Mr. Moneybags owns the iron mine and the coal mine and the smelter and the ingot roller and spoon press, then he is entitled to the surplus because without his property it is impossible to make spoons. Labour on its own is worthless, wastes away, while property is "valuable" capital.

"And how one gets from a production function (stuff is made from X, Y and Z) to LTV"

Production functions are just not very elaborate scams to pretend that property is the factor of production, rather then the fertility of land and the energy of labour, and land does not exist (after JB Clark "disappeared" it) and labour is just an accessory. Part of the scam is that "X, Y and Z" are denominated in money, not physical quantities.

As I wrote in another answer accounting for the output of land fertility and labour energy and how it is shared are the difficult bits. Welcome to the institutional approach to the political economy. :-)

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 05:41 PM

"the reasons for which we value them are not dependent upon their natural origins or the labor required for their production"

And here be dragons. Your old bearded acquaintance Karl has something to say about this :-).

"It's useful because of what it does, not what it is"

So cleaning floors which is very useful should have a high value, while Leonardo paintings, that are merely scarce, should have a low value :-).

I though that most people reckoned that "value" depends on scarcity: so there is a scarcity of even not very good promoters of torysm, so G Osborne is entitled to £600,000 a year to edit the "Evening Standard", but there is no scarcity of excellent cleaners, so cleaners gets minimum wage if they are lucky.

:-)

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 05:43 PM

counting hours of worked is not a measure of cost, it is a tally of hours worked. In mainstream econ, production functions describe a physical production process (to make 1 unit of Y, you combine inputs like so) and are not not denominated in money. e.g. You multiply L by w to get cost.

mulp , December 12, 2017 at 05:46 PM

Economies are zero sum. GDP must be paid for, otherwise it won't be produced. The only source of money comes from labor costs, the money paid to workers to work producing GDP. As conservatives note, all taxes fall on workers by directly taking their pay, or by hiking the prices of what workers buy.

Taxes pay workers, e.g. teachers, and doctors with Medicare and Medicaid, weapons makers and warriors, or pay people to pay workers, Social Security benefits and SNAP.

Capital has value because it is built by paying workers. It gets a cut to repay the payers of workers.

Monopoly rent seeking is unsustainable. If a monoplists takes more from workers than they pay workers, he eventually takes so much money workers can no longer pay for GDP and it falls to zero as workers produce what they consume without buying from the monopolist capital.

Tanstaafl

As Keynes put it:

"I feel sure that the demand for capital is strictly limited in the sense that it would not be difficult to increase the stock of capital up to a point where its marginal efficiency had fallen to a very low figure. This would not mean that the use of capital instruments would cost almost nothing, but only that the return from them would have to cover little more than their exhaustion by wastage and obsolescence together with some margin to cover risk and the exercise of skill and judgment. In short, the aggregate return from durable goods in the course of their life would, as in the case of short-lived goods, just cover their labour costs of production plus an allowance for risk and the costs of skill and supervision.

"Now, though this state of affairs would be quite compatible with some measure of individualism, yet it would mean the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital. Interest today rewards no genuine sacrifice, any more than does the rent of land. The owner of capital can obtain interest because capital is scarce, just as the owner of land can obtain rent because land is scarce. But whilst there may be intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of land, there are no intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of capital. An intrinsic reason for such scarcity, in the sense of a genuine sacrifice which could only be called forth by the offer of a reward in the shape of interest, would not exist, in the long run, except in the event of the individual propensity to consume proving to be of such a character that net saving in conditions of full employment comes to an end before capital has become sufficiently abundant. But even so, it will still be possible for communal saving through the agency of the State to be maintained at a level which will allow the growth of capital up to the point where it ceases to be scarce."


Economies are zero sum. The value of goods and services must equal the labor costs in the long run. Tanstaaafl

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 06:01 PM

"Socialism could still have boring work, but, in so far as the investment function is brought under collective democratic control, workers would not be alienated in the special sense Marx is using."

My impression is that your bearded friend Karl does not use "alienation" in that sense at all, in an economic sense, but in a humanist sense: that by being separated from the means of production proletarians are alienated from the meaning of their work, from work as a human activity, as distinct from an economic activity.

Collective ownership does not change at all that kind of alienation: being a cog in the capitalist machinery is no less alienating than being a cog in the collectivist machinery.

I think that our blogger when he talks about distributing control of the production process to workers is far closer to the marxian ideal than a collectivist approach.

Practically every "Dilbert" strip is about "alienation". This is my favourite:

http://dilbert.com/strip/2002-03-09

But these are also good:

http://dilbert.com/strip/1991-12-26
http://dilbert.com/strip/1993-01-05
http://dilbert.com/strip/1993-04-26
http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-11-07
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-03-03
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-07-24
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-10-10
http://dilbert.com/strip/2002-08-10

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 06:26 PM

That is not what zero sum means

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 06:53 PM

"counting hours of worked is not a measure of cost"

For a definition of "cost" that is made-up disregarding P Sraffa's work and in general the classics.

"multiply L by w to get cost."

As J Robinson and others pointed out that "w" depends on the distribution of income, on the interest rate, etc., so is an institutional matter.
As I was saying, accounting for the surplus and how to share it is not so easily handwavable.

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:55 PM

sorry, I meant for a money definition of cost that is not just counting inputs, but which is inputs multiplied by their prices.

nobody is hand waving. I think the mainstream view is that 'value' and 'surplus' are not meaningful terms, only prices and profits and subjective value. A production function says nothing about prices, you have to explain them with other stuff, and as you say, institutions and all manner of things could come in the play there.

You can say that that workers produce more in money terms than than they are paid, which is trivial (the wages paid by an employer are less than its gross profits so long as there are non-zero returns to capital, interest on a loan or dividends or whatever) and to my mind it's silly to define that as exploitation because it would apply in situations where the 'capitalist' is getting a small return and workers rewarded handsomely by any standard. Better imo to define exploitation as when capitalists are earning excess returns (and I'd fudge that by differentiating between workers' wages and salaries of top execs). Otherwise you lay yourself open to "the only thing worse than being exploited by capitlists is not beingn exploited by capitalists" which is J Robinson too I believe.

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:57 PM

and i think you only have to look at the income distribution to infer workers are being expoloited

B.L. Zebub , December 13, 2017 at 04:02 AM

@Blissex,

This is a genuine question: what you exposed above is related to or influenced by Steve Keen's ideas, yes? If so, I'd be interested in reading about that in more detail.

Lukas , December 13, 2017 at 04:28 AM

@Blissex

I've always thought that defining value by scarcity was an absurd misdirection, in part because there is no reason that the two should correlate at all. At any point in socioeconomic development beyond subsistence, value is to some extent socially defined, not economically defined. Status ends up being the most "useful" resource, as we see among all those who've never had to worry about their material conditions.

Placing a high value on the frivolous and "useless" has always been the hallmark of those most able to decide the value of anything, because they have no use for economic use (so to speak), but rather social signaling. Broad social respect is an extremely expensive thing to buy with money alone.

@Luis Enrique

Ah, but name for me a production process that doesn't take place over time. There's an infinite amount of time for all of us, but for each of us only so much, and those who fail to value it die full of regret. Surely someone somewhere must have something to say about this.

Luis Enrique , December 13, 2017 at 08:34 AM

I don't know why I wrote the above. Surplus is also a mainstream term. See wages set by bargaing over a surplus. Presume it's based on prices of outputs compared to inputs or if in model with real quantities not prices, then in subjective values.

Lukas production functions are defined over a period of time.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 11:43 AM

Ahem, I am trying to explain my understanding of Marx, who wrote both as economist and a philosopher, and a politial theorist.

Alienation, exploitation and inequality are technically distinct concepts, even if in the marxist (view (and that of every business school, that are faithful to marxist political economy) capitalist control of the means of production leads to alienation which leads to exploitation which leads to inequality. In the marxian political economy inequality can exist even with exploitation, for example, and that makes it less objectionable.

"Surplus is also a mainstream term. See wages set by bargaing over a surplus."

Some Economists have not forgotten at least some terminology of political economy and some Departments of Business still have surviving "history of economic thought" courses that some postgrads may still accidentally occasionally wander into and pick up some terms from...

"are not meaningful terms, only prices and profits and subjective value."

But the mainstream focus on prices and profits etc. is the purest handwaving, because it begs the question...

"A production function says nothing about prices"

Ha! This is one of the best examples where mainstream theory handwaves furiously: mainstream production functions switch effortlessly from "capital" as phusical quantities to aggregating "capital" by reckoning it in "numeraire". That is all about prices, and even about future expected prices and future expected rates of discount. Therefore rational expectations, a grand feat of handwaving.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 11:51 AM

"defining value by scarcity was an absurd misdirection, in part because there is no reason that the two should correlate at all."

Ahhhhhhh but this is a very political point and not quite agreeable because:

One of the conceits of "microfoundations" is to show that there are "laws" of Economics that are precise, so everybody get exactly their just compensation, so for example demand-supply schedules are always presented, cleverly, as lines and static.

The view of political economists is that instead "everything" lies within boundaries of feasibility, which are dynamic, so for example demand-supply schedules are ribbons that change over time and circumstances, and transactions happens not at uniquely determined points of intersections, but in regions of feasibility, the precise point dependent on institutional arrangements.

So the LTV determines one boundary for "price" and desirability another boundary.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 12:03 PM

"exposed above is related to or influenced by Steve Keen's ideas"

Related and independently derived, but also a bit influenced. I had always suspected that the "classicals" used "labour" as a synonym for "muscle power", but various later readings persuaded me that was indeed the case. Later post will have some hopefully interesting detail. Then I looked into the literature and found that obviously this had been figured out before (centuries ago in some cases, like B de Mandeville).

Anyhow for similar approaches some references:

Luis Enrique , December 13, 2017 at 04:33 PM

Blissex if you can come up with a better way of trying to describe total quantities of highly heterogeneous things (i.e. capital) you have a Nobel awaiting. Everybody know that attempts to put a number on the real quantity of capital is always going to be a rough and ready endeavour.

I don't see how working with prices and profits is 'handwaving'. What question does it beg? Much of economics is about trying to explain these things. I would not say economics focuses on prices and profits because many economics models work with real quantities that are high abstract and in theory are made commensurate using subjective value (utility) as the unit of account.

And I don't think this lot
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/oct/11/nobel-prize-for-economics-three-winners
picked up the term surplus by accidentally wandering in to the wrong seminar

[Dec 12, 2017] Can Uber Ever Deliver Part Eleven Annual Uber Losses Now Approaching $5 Billion

Notable quotes:
"... Total 2015 gross passenger payments were 200% higher than 2014, but Uber corporate revenue improved 300% because Uber cut the driver share of passenger revenue from 83% to 77%. This was an effective $500 million wealth transfer from drivers to Uber's investors. ..."
"... Uber's P&L gains were wiped out by higher non-EBIDTAR expense. Thus the 300% Uber revenue growth did not result in any improvement in Uber profit margins. ..."
"... In 2016, Uber unilaterally imposed much larger cuts in driver compensation, costing drivers an additional $3 billion. [6] Prior to Uber's market entry, the take home pay of big-city cab drivers in the US was in the $12-17/hour range, and these earnings were possible only if drivers worked 65-75 hours a week. ..."
"... An independent study of the net earnings of Uber drivers (after accounting for the costs of the vehicles they had to provide) in Denver, Houston and Detroit in late 2015 (prior to Uber's big 2016 cuts) found that driver earnings had fallen to the $10-13/hour range. [7] Multiple recent news reports have documented how Uber drivers are increasing unable to support themselves from their reduced share of passenger payments. [8] ..."
"... Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely, Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017. ..."
"... Socialize the losses, privatize the gains, VC-ize the subsidies. ..."
"... The cold hard truth is that Uber is backed into a corner with severely limited abilities to tweak the numbers on either the supply or the demand side: cut driver compensation and they trigger driver churn (as has already been demonstrated), increase fare prices for riders and riders defect to cheaper alternatives. ..."
"... "Growth and Efficiency" are the sine qua non of Neoliberalism. Kalanick's "hype brilliance" was to con the market with "revenue growth" and signs ..."
Dec 12, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Uber lost $2.5 billion in 2015, probably lost $4 billion in 2016, and is on track to lose $5 billion in 2017.

The top line on the table below shows is total passenger payments, which must be split between Uber corporate and its drivers. Driver gross earnings are substantially higher than actual take home pay, as gross earning must cover all the expenses drivers bear, including fuel, vehicle ownership, insurance and maintenance.

Most of the "profit" data released by Uber over time and discussed in the press is not true GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) profit comparable to the net income numbers public companies publish but is EBIDTAR contribution. Companies have significant leeway as to how they calculate EBIDTAR (although it would exclude interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization) and the percentage of total costs excluded from EBIDTAR can vary significantly from quarter to quarter, given the impact of one-time expenses such as legal settlements and stock compensation. We only have true GAAP net profit results for 2014, 2015 and the 2nd/3rd quarters of 2017, but have EBIDTAR contribution numbers for all other periods. [5]

Uber had GAAP net income of negative $2.6 billion in 2015, and a negative profit margin of 132%. This is consistent with the negative $2.0 billion loss and (143%) margin for the year ending September 2015 presented in part one of the NC Uber series over a year ago.

No GAAP profit results for 2016 have been disclosed, but actual losses likely exceed $4 billion given the EBIDTAR contribution of negative $3.2 billion. Uber's GAAP losses for the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2017 were over $2.5 billion, suggesting annual losses of roughly $5 billion.

While many Silicon Valley funded startups suffered large initial losses, none of them lost anything remotely close to $2.6 billion in their sixth year of operation and then doubled their losses to $5 billion in year eight. Reversing losses of this magnitude would require the greatest corporate financial turnaround in history.

No evidence of significant efficiency/scale gains; 2015 and 2016 margin improvements entirely explained by unilateral cuts in driver compensation, but losses soared when Uber had to reverse these cuts in 2017.

Total 2015 gross passenger payments were 200% higher than 2014, but Uber corporate revenue improved 300% because Uber cut the driver share of passenger revenue from 83% to 77%. This was an effective $500 million wealth transfer from drivers to Uber's investors. These driver compensation cuts improved Uber's EBIDTAR margin, but Uber's P&L gains were wiped out by higher non-EBIDTAR expense. Thus the 300% Uber revenue growth did not result in any improvement in Uber profit margins.

In 2016, Uber unilaterally imposed much larger cuts in driver compensation, costing drivers an additional $3 billion. [6] Prior to Uber's market entry, the take home pay of big-city cab drivers in the US was in the $12-17/hour range, and these earnings were possible only if drivers worked 65-75 hours a week.

An independent study of the net earnings of Uber drivers (after accounting for the costs of the vehicles they had to provide) in Denver, Houston and Detroit in late 2015 (prior to Uber's big 2016 cuts) found that driver earnings had fallen to the $10-13/hour range. [7] Multiple recent news reports have documented how Uber drivers are increasing unable to support themselves from their reduced share of passenger payments. [8]

A business model where profit improvement is hugely dependent on wage cuts is unsustainable, especially when take home wages fall to (or below) minimum wage levels. Uber's primary focus has always been the rate of growth in gross passenger revenue, as this has been a major justification for its $68 billion valuation. This growth rate came under enormous pressure in 2017 given Uber efforts to raise fares, major increases in driver turnover as wages fell, [9] and the avalanche of adverse publicity it was facing.

Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely, Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017.

MKS , December 12, 2017 at 6:19 am

"Uber's business model can never produce sustainable profits"

Two words not in my vocabulary are "Never" and "Always", that is a pretty absolute statement in an non-absolute environment. The same environment that has produced the "Silicon Valley Growth Model", with 15x earnings companies like NVIDA, FB and Tesla (Average earnings/stock price ratio in dot com bubble was 10x) will people pay ridiculous amounts of money for a company with no underlying fundamentals you damn right they will! Please stop with the I know all no body knows anything, especially the psychology and irrationality of markets which are made up of irrational people/investors/traders.

JohnnySacks , December 12, 2017 at 7:34 am

My thoughts exactly. Seems the only possible recovery for the investors is a perfectly engineered legendary pump and dump IPO scheme. Risky, but there's a lot of fools out there and many who would also like to get on board early in the ride in fear of missing out on all the money to be hoovered up from the greater fools. Count me out.

SoCal Rhino , December 12, 2017 at 8:30 am

The author clearly distinguishes between GAAP profitability and valuations, which is after all rather the point of the series. And he makes a more nuanced point than the half sentence you have quoted without context or with an indication that you omitted a portion. Did you miss the part about how Uber would have a strong incentive to share the evidence of a network effect or other financial story that pointed the way to eventual profit? Otherwise (my words) it is the classic sell at a loss, make it up with volume path to liquidation.

tegnost , December 12, 2017 at 9:52 am

apples and oranges comparison, nvidia has lots and lots of patented tech that produces revenue, facebook has a kajillion admittedly irrational users, but those users drive massive ad sales (as just one example of how that company capitalizes itself) and tesla makes an actual car, using technology that inspires it's buyers (the put your money where your mouth is crowd and it can't be denied that tesla, whatever it's faults are, battery tech is not one of them and that intellectual property is worth a lot, and tesla's investors are in on that real business, profitable or otherwise)

Uber is an iphone app. They lose money and have no path to profitability (unless it's the theory you espouse that people are unintelligent so even unintelligent ideas work to fleece them). This article touches on one of the great things about the time we now inhabit, uber drivers could bail en masse, there are two sides to the low attachment employees who you can get rid of easily. The drivers can delete the uber app as soon as another iphone app comes along that gets them a better return

allan , December 12, 2017 at 6:52 am

Yet another source (unintended) of subsidies for Uber, Lyft, etc., which might or might not have been mentioned earlier in the series:

Airports Are Losing Money as Ride-Hailing Services Grow [NYT]

For many air travelers, getting to and from the airport has long been part of the whole miserable experience. Do they drive and park in some distant lot? Take mass transit or a taxi? Deal with a rental car?

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are quickly changing those calculations. That has meant a bit less angst for travelers.

But that's not the case for airports. Travelers' changing habits, in fact, have begun to shake the airports' financial underpinnings. The money they currently collect from ride-hailing services do not compensate for the lower revenues from the other sources.

At the same time, some airports have had to add staff to oversee the operations of the ride-hailing companies, the report said. And with more ride-hailing vehicles on the roads outside terminals,
there's more congestion.

Socialize the losses, privatize the gains, VC-ize the subsidies.

Thuto , December 12, 2017 at 6:55 am

The cold hard truth is that Uber is backed into a corner with severely limited abilities to tweak the numbers on either the supply or the demand side: cut driver compensation and they trigger driver churn (as has already been demonstrated), increase fare prices for riders and riders defect to cheaper alternatives. The only question is how long can they keep the show going before the lights go out, slick marketing and propaganda can only take you so far, and one assumes the dumb money has a finite supply of patience and will at some point begin asking the tough questions.

Louis Fyne , December 12, 2017 at 8:35 am

The irony is that Uber would have been a perfectly fine, very profitable mid-sized company if Uber stuck with its initial model -- sticking to dense cities with limited parking, limiting driver supply, and charging a premium price for door-to-door delivery, whether by livery or a regular sedan. And then perhaps branching into robo-cars.

But somehow Uber/board/Travis got suckered into the siren call of self-driving cars, triple-digit user growth, and being in the top 100 US cities and on every continent.

Thuto , December 12, 2017 at 11:30 am

I've shared a similar sentiment in one of the previous posts about Uber. But operating profitably in decent sized niche doesn't fit well with ambitions of global domination. For Uber to be "right-sized", an admission of folly would have to be made, its managers and investors would have to transcend the sunk cost fallacy in their strategic decision making, and said investors would have to accept massive hits on their invested capital. The cold, hard reality of being blindsided and kicked to the curb in the smartphone business forced RIM/Blackberry to right-size, and they may yet have a profitable future as an enterprise facing software and services company. Uber would benefit from that form of sober mindedness, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

David Carl Grimes , December 12, 2017 at 6:57 am

The question is: Why did Softbank invest in Uber?

Michael Fiorillo , December 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

I know nothing about Softbank or its management, but I do know that the Japanese were the dumb money rubes in the late '80's, overpaying for trophy real estate they lost billions on.

Until informed otherwise, that's my default assumption

JimTan , December 12, 2017 at 10:50 am

Softbank possibly looking to buy more Uber shares at a 30% discount is very odd. Uber had a Series G funding round in June 2016 where a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund resulted in its current $68 billion valuation. Now apparently Softbank wants to lead a new $6 billion funding round to buy the shares of Uber employees and early investors at a 30% discount from this last "valuation". It's odd because Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has pledged $45 billion to SoftBank's Vision Fund , an amount which was supposed to come from the proceeds of its pending Aramco IPO. If the Uber bid is linked to SoftBank's Vision Fund, or KSA money, then its not clear why this investor might be looking to literally 'double down' from $3.5 billion o $6 billion on a declining investment.

Yves Smith Post author , December 12, 2017 at 11:38 am

SoftBank has not yet invested. Its tender is still open. If it does not get enough shares at a price it likes, it won't invest.

As to why, I have no idea.

Robert McGregor , December 12, 2017 at 7:04 am

"Growth and Efficiency" are the sine qua non of Neoliberalism. Kalanick's "hype brilliance" was to con the market with "revenue growth" and signs of efficiency, and hopes of greater efficiency, and make most people just overlook the essential fact that Uber is the most unprofitable company of all time!

divadab , December 12, 2017 at 7:19 am

What comprises "Uber Expenses"? 2014 – $1.06 billion; 2015 $3.33 billion; 2016 $9.65 billion; forecast 2017 $11.418 billion!!!!!! To me this is the big question – what are they spending $10 billion per year on?

ALso – why did driver share go from 68% in 2016 to 80% in 2017? If you use 68% as in 2016, 2017 Uber revenue is $11.808 billion, which means a bit better than break-even EBITDA, assuming Uber expenses are as stated $11.428 billion.

Perhaps not so bleak as the article presents, although I would not invest in this thing.

Phil in Kansas City , December 12, 2017 at 7:55 am

I have the same question: What comprises over 11 billion dollars in expenses in 2017? Could it be they are paying out dividends to the early investors? Which would mean they are cannibalizing their own company for the sake of the VC! How long can this go on before they'll need a new infusion of cash?

lyman alpha blob , December 12, 2017 at 2:37 pm

The Saudis have thrown a few billion Uber's way and they aren't necessarily known as the smart money.

Maybe the pole dancers have started chipping in too as they are for bitcoin .

Vedant Desai , December 12, 2017 at 10:37 am

Oh article does answer your 2nd question. Read this paragraph:-

Since mass driver defections would cause passenger volume growth to collapse completely , Uber was forced to reverse these cuts in 2017 and increased the driver share from 68% to 80%. This meant that Uber's corporate revenue, which had grown over 300% in 2015 and over 200% in 2016 will probably only grow by about 15% in 2017.

As for the 1st, read this line in the article:-

There are undoubtedly a number of things Uber could do to reduce losses at the margin, but it is difficult to imagine it could suddenly find the $4-5 billion in profit improvement needed merely to reach breakeven.

Louis Fyne , December 12, 2017 at 8:44 am

in addition to all the points listed in the article/comments, the absolute biggest flaw with Uber is that Uber HQ conditioned its customers on (a) cheap fares and (b) that a car is available within minutes (1-5 if in a big city).

Those two are not mutually compatible in the long-term.

Alfred , December 12, 2017 at 9:49 am

Thus (a) "We cost less" and (b) "We're more convenient" -- aren't those also the advantages that Walmart claims and feeds as a steady diet to its ever hungry consumers? Often if not always, disruption may repose upon delusion.

Martin Finnucane , December 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

Uber's business model could never produce sustainable profits unless it was able to exploit significant anti-competitive market power.

Upon that dependent clause hangs the future of capitalism, and – dare I say it? – its inevitable demise.

Altandmain , December 12, 2017 at 11:09 am

When this Uber madness blows up, I wonder if people will finally begin to discuss the brutal reality of Silicon Valley's so called "disruption".

It is heavily built in around the idea of economic exploitation. Uber drivers are often, especially when the true costs to operate an Uber including the vehicle depreciation are factored in, making not very much per hour driven, especially if they don't get the surge money.

Instacart is another example. They are paying the deliver operators very little.

Jim A. , December 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm

At a fundamental level, I think that the Silicon Valley "disruption" model only works for markets (like software) where the marginal cost for production is de minimus and the products can be protected by IP laws. Volume and market power really work in those cases. But out here in meat-space, where actual material and labor are big inputs to each item sold, you can never just sit back on your laurels and rake in the money. Somebody else will always be able to come and and make an equivalent product. If they can do it more cheaply, you are in trouble.

Altandmain , December 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

There aren't that many areas in goods and services where the marginal costs are very low.

Software is actually quite unique in that regard, costing merely the bandwidth and permanent storage space to store.

Let's see:

1. From the article, they cannot go public and have limited ways to raise more money. An IPO with its more stringent disclosure requirements would expose them.

2. They tried lowering driver compensation and found that model unsustainable.

3. There are no benefits to expanding in terms of economies of scale.

From where I am standing, it looks like a lot of industries gave similar barriers. Silicon Valley is not going to be able to disrupt those.

Tesla, another Silicon Valley company seems to be struggling to mass produce its Model 3 and deliver an electric car that breaks even, is reliable, while disrupting the industry in the ways that Elon Musk attempted to hype up.

So that basically leaves services and manufacturing out for Silicon Valley disruption.

Joe Bentzel , December 12, 2017 at 2:19 pm

UBER has become a "too big to fail" startup because of all the different tentacles of capital from various Tier 1 VCs and investment bankers.

VCs have admitted openly that UBER is a subsidized business, meaning it's product is sold below market value, and the losses reflect that subsidization. The whole "2 sided platform" argument is just marketecture to hustle more investors. It's a form of service "dumping" that puts legacy businesses into bankruptcy. Back during the dotcom bubble one popular investment banker (Paul Deninger) characterized this model as "Terrorist Competition", i.e. coffers full of invested cash to commoditize the market and drive out competition.

UBER is an absolute disaster that has forked the startup model in Silicon Valley in order to drive total dependence on venture capital by founders. And its current diversification into "autonomous vehicles", food delivery, et al are simply more evidence that the company will never be profitable due to its whacky "blitzscaling" approach of layering on new "businesses" prior to achieving "fit" in its current one.

It's economic model has also metastasized into a form of startup cancer that is killing Silicon Valley as a "technology" innovator. Now it's all cargo cult marketing BS tied to "strategic capital".

UBER is the victory of venture capital and user subsidized startups over creativity by real entrepreneurs.

It's shadow is long and that's why this company should be ..wait for it UNBUNDLED (the new silicon valley word attached to that other BS religion called "disruption"). Call it a great unbundling and you can break up this monster corp any way you want.

Naked Capitalism is a great website.

Phil in KC , December 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm

1. I Agree with your last point.

2. The elevator pitch for Uber: subsidize rides to attract customers, put the competition out of business, and then enjoy an unregulated monopoly, all while exploiting economically ignorant drivers–ahem–"partners."

3. But more than one can play that game, and

4. Cab and livery companies are finding ways to survive!

Phil in KC , December 12, 2017 at 3:10 pm

If subsidizing rides is counted as an expense, (not being an accountant, I would guess it so), then whether the subsidy goes to the driver or the passenger, that would account for the ballooning expenses, to answer my own question. Otherwise, the overhead for operating what Uber describes as a tech company should be minimal: A billion should fund a decent headquarters with staff, plus field offices in, say, 100 U.S. cities. However, their global pretensions are probably burning cash like crazy. On top of that, I wonder what the exec compensation is like?

After reading HH's initial series, I made a crude, back-of-the-envelope calculation that Uber would run out of money sometime in the third fiscal quarter of 2018, but that was based on assuming losses were stabilizing in the range of 3 billion a year. Not so, according to the article. I think crunch time is rapidly approaching. If so, then SoftBank's tender offer may look quite appetizing to VC firms and to any Uber employee able to cash in their options. I think there is a way to make a re-envisioned Uber profitable, and with a more independent board, they may be able to restructure the company to show a pathway to profitability before the IPO. But time is running out.

A not insignificant question is the recruitment and retention of the front line "partners." It would seem to me that at some point, Uber will run out of economically ignorant drivers with good manners and nice cars. I would be very interested to know how many drivers give up Uber and other ride-sharing gigs once the 1099's start flying at the beginning of the year. One of the harsh realities of owning a business or being an contractor is the humble fact that you get paid LAST!

Jan Stickle , December 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm

We became instant Uber riders while spending holidays with relatives in San Diego. While their model is indeed unique from a rider perspective, it was the driver pool that fascinates me. These are not professional livery drivers, but rather freebooters of all stripes driving for various reasons. The remuneration they receive cannot possibly generate much income after expenses, never mind the problems associated with IRS filing as independent contractors.

One guy was just cruising listening to music; cooler to get paid for it than just sitting home! A young lady was babbling and gesticulating non stop about nothing coherent and appeared to be on some sort of stimulant. A foreign gentleman, very professional, drove for extra money when not at his regular job. He was the only one who had actually bought a new Prius for this gig, hoping to pay it off in two years.

This is indeed a brave new world. There was a period in Nicaragua just after the Contra war ended when citizens emerged from their homes and hit the streets in large numbers, desperately looking for income. Every car was a taxi and there was a bipedal mini Walmart at every city intersection as individuals sold everything and anything in a sort of euphoric optimism towards the future. Reality just hadn't caught up with them yet .

[Dec 03, 2017] Business Has Killed IT With Overspecialization by Charlie Schluting

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... What happened to the old "sysadmin" of just a few years ago? We've split what used to be the sysadmin into application teams, server teams, storage teams, and network teams. There were often at least a few people, the holders of knowledge, who knew how everything worked, and I mean everything. ..."
"... Now look at what we've done. Knowledge is so decentralized we must invent new roles to act as liaisons between all the IT groups. Architects now hold much of the high-level "how it works" knowledge, but without knowing how any one piece actually does work. In organizations with more than a few hundred IT staff and developers, it becomes nearly impossible for one person to do and know everything. This movement toward specializing in individual areas seems almost natural. That, however, does not provide a free ticket for people to turn a blind eye. ..."
"... Does your IT department function as a unit? Even 20-person IT shops have turf wars, so the answer is very likely, "no." As teams are split into more and more distinct operating units, grouping occurs. One IT budget gets split between all these groups. Often each group will have a manager who pitches his needs to upper management in hopes they will realize how important the team is. ..."
"... The "us vs. them" mentality manifests itself at all levels, and it's reinforced by management having to define each team's worth in the form of a budget. One strategy is to illustrate a doomsday scenario. If you paint a bleak enough picture, you may get more funding. Only if you are careful enough to illustrate the failings are due to lack of capital resources, not management or people. A manager of another group may explain that they are not receiving the correct level of service, so they need to duplicate the efforts of another group and just implement something themselves. On and on, the arguments continue. ..."
Apr 07, 2010 | Enterprise Networking Planet

What happened to the old "sysadmin" of just a few years ago? We've split what used to be the sysadmin into application teams, server teams, storage teams, and network teams. There were often at least a few people, the holders of knowledge, who knew how everything worked, and I mean everything. Every application, every piece of network gear, and how every server was configured -- these people could save a business in times of disaster.

Now look at what we've done. Knowledge is so decentralized we must invent new roles to act as liaisons between all the IT groups. Architects now hold much of the high-level "how it works" knowledge, but without knowing how any one piece actually does work. In organizations with more than a few hundred IT staff and developers, it becomes nearly impossible for one person to do and know everything. This movement toward specializing in individual areas seems almost natural. That, however, does not provide a free ticket for people to turn a blind eye.

Specialization

You know the story: Company installs new application, nobody understands it yet, so an expert is hired. Often, the person with a certification in using the new application only really knows how to run that application. Perhaps they aren't interested in learning anything else, because their skill is in high demand right now. And besides, everything else in the infrastructure is run by people who specialize in those elements. Everything is taken care of.

Except, how do these teams communicate when changes need to take place? Are the storage administrators teaching the Windows administrators about storage multipathing; or worse logging in and setting it up because it's faster for the storage gurus to do it themselves? A fundamental level of knowledge is often lacking, which makes it very difficult for teams to brainstorm about new ways evolve IT services. The business environment has made it OK for IT staffers to specialize and only learn one thing.

If you hire someone certified in the application, operating system, or network vendor you use, that is precisely what you get. Certifications may be a nice filter to quickly identify who has direct knowledge in the area you're hiring for, but often they indicate specialization or compensation for lack of experience.

Resource Competition

Does your IT department function as a unit? Even 20-person IT shops have turf wars, so the answer is very likely, "no." As teams are split into more and more distinct operating units, grouping occurs. One IT budget gets split between all these groups. Often each group will have a manager who pitches his needs to upper management in hopes they will realize how important the team is.

The "us vs. them" mentality manifests itself at all levels, and it's reinforced by management having to define each team's worth in the form of a budget. One strategy is to illustrate a doomsday scenario. If you paint a bleak enough picture, you may get more funding. Only if you are careful enough to illustrate the failings are due to lack of capital resources, not management or people. A manager of another group may explain that they are not receiving the correct level of service, so they need to duplicate the efforts of another group and just implement something themselves. On and on, the arguments continue.

Most often, I've seen competition between server groups result in horribly inefficient uses of hardware. For example, what happens in your organization when one team needs more server hardware? Assume that another team has five unused servers sitting in a blade chassis. Does the answer change? No, it does not. Even in test environments, sharing doesn't often happen between IT groups.

With virtualization, some aspects of resource competition get better and some remain the same. When first implemented, most groups will be running their own type of virtualization for their platform. The next step, I've most often seen, is for test servers to get virtualized. If a new group is formed to manage the virtualization infrastructure, virtual machines can be allocated to various application and server teams from a central pool and everyone is now sharing. Or, they begin sharing and then demand their own physical hardware to be isolated from others' resource hungry utilization. This is nonetheless a step in the right direction. Auto migration and guaranteed resource policies can go a long way toward making shared infrastructure, even between competing groups, a viable option.

Blamestorming

The most damaging side effect of splitting into too many distinct IT groups is the reinforcement of an "us versus them" mentality. Aside from the notion that specialization creates a lack of knowledge, blamestorming is what this article is really about. When a project is delayed, it is all too easy to blame another group. The SAN people didn't allocate storage on time, so another team was delayed. That is the timeline of the project, so all work halted until that hiccup was restored. Having someone else to blame when things get delayed makes it all too easy to simply stop working for a while.

More related to the initial points at the beginning of this article, perhaps, is the blamestorm that happens after a system outage.

Say an ERP system becomes unresponsive a few times throughout the day. The application team says it's just slowing down, and they don't know why. The network team says everything is fine. The server team says the application is "blocking on IO," which means it's a SAN issue. The SAN team say there is nothing wrong, and other applications on the same devices are fine. You've ran through nearly every team, but without an answer still. The SAN people don't have access to the application servers to help diagnose the problem. The server team doesn't even know how the application runs.

See the problem? Specialized teams are distinct and by nature adversarial. Specialized staffers often relegate themselves into a niche knowing that as long as they continue working at large enough companies, "someone else" will take care of all the other pieces.

I unfortunately don't have an answer to this problem. Maybe rotating employees between departments will help. They gain knowledge and also get to know other people, which should lessen the propensity to view them as outsiders

[Nov 28, 2017] The Stigmatization of the Unemployed

"This overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills" . In the IT job markets such postings are often called purple squirrels
Notable quotes:
"... In particular, there seems to be an extremely popular variant of the above where the starting proposition "God makes moral people rich" is improperly converted to "Rich people are more moral" which is then readily negated to "Poor people are immoral" and then expanded to "Poor people are immoral, thus they DESERVE to suffer for it". It's essentially the theological equivalent of dividing by zero ..."
"... That said, the ranks of the neoliberals are not small. They constitute what Jonathan Schell calls a "mass minority." I suspect the neoliberals have about the same level of popular support that the Nazis did at the time of their takeover of Germany in 1932, or the Bolsheviks had in Russia at the time of their takeover in 1917, which is about 20 or 25% of the total population. ..."
"... The ranks of the neoliberals are made to appear far greater than they really are because they have all but exclusive access to the nation's megaphone. The Tea Party can muster a handful of people to disrupt a town hall meeting and it gets coast to coast, primetime coverage. But let a million people protest against bank bailouts, and it is ignored. Thus, by manipulation of the media, the mass minority is made to appear to be much larger than it really is. ..."
Mar 20, 2011 | naked capitalism

Spencer Thomas:

Very good post. Thank you.

Over the past three decades, large parts of our culture here in the US have internalized the lessons of the new Social Darwinism, with a significant body of literature to explain and justify it. Many of us have internalized, without even realizing it, the ideas of "dog eat dog", "every man for himself", "society should be structured like the animal kingdom, where the weak and sick simply die because they cannot compete, and this is healthy", and "everything that happens to you is your own fault. There is no such thing as circumstance that cannot be overcome, and certainly no birth lottery."

The levers pulled by politicians and the Fed put these things into practice, but even if we managed get different (better) politicians or Fed chairmen, ones who weren't steeped in this culture and ideology, we'd still be left with the culture in the population at large, and things like the "unemployed stigma" are likely to die very, very hard. Acceptance of the "just-world phenomenon" here in the US runs deep.

perfect stranger:

"Religion is just as vulnerable to corporate capture as is the government or the academy."

This is rather rhetorical statement, and wrong one. One need to discern spiritual aspect of religion from the religion as a tool.

Religion, as is structured, is complicit: in empoverishment, obedience, people's preconditioning, and legislative enabler in the institutions such as Supreme – and non-supreme – Court(s). It is a form of PR of the ruling class for the governing class.

DownSouth:

perfect stranger,

Religion, just like human nature, is not that easy to put in a box.

For every example you can cite where religion "is complicit: in empoverishment, obedience, people's preconditioning, and legislative enabler in the institution," I can point to an example of where religion engendered a liberating, emancipatory and revolutionary spirit.

Examples:

•Early Christianity •Nominalism •Early Protestantism •Gandhi •Martin Luther King

Now granted, there don't seem to be any recent examples of this of any note, unless we consider Chris Hedges a religionist, which I'm not sure we can do. Would it be appropriate to consider Hedges a religionist?

perfect stranger:

Yes, that maybe, just maybe be the case in early stages of forming new religion(s). In case of Christianity old rulers from Rome were trying to save own head/throne and the S.P.Q.R. imperia by adopting new religion.

You use examples of Gandhi and MLK which is highly questionable both were fighters for independence and the second, civil rights. In a word: not members of establishment just as I said there were (probably) seeing the religion as spiritual force not tool of enslavement.

Matt:

This link may provide some context:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology

In particular, there seems to be an extremely popular variant of the above where the starting proposition "God makes moral people rich" is improperly converted to "Rich people are more moral" which is then readily negated to "Poor people are immoral" and then expanded to "Poor people are immoral, thus they DESERVE to suffer for it". It's essentially the theological equivalent of dividing by zero

DownSouth:

Rex,

I agree.

Poll after poll after poll has shown that a majority of Americans, and a rather significant majority, reject the values, attitudes, beliefs and opinions proselytized by the stealth religion we call "neoclassical economics."

That said, the ranks of the neoliberals are not small. They constitute what Jonathan Schell calls a "mass minority." I suspect the neoliberals have about the same level of popular support that the Nazis did at the time of their takeover of Germany in 1932, or the Bolsheviks had in Russia at the time of their takeover in 1917, which is about 20 or 25% of the total population.

The ranks of the neoliberals are made to appear far greater than they really are because they have all but exclusive access to the nation's megaphone. The Tea Party can muster a handful of people to disrupt a town hall meeting and it gets coast to coast, primetime coverage. But let a million people protest against bank bailouts, and it is ignored. Thus, by manipulation of the media, the mass minority is made to appear to be much larger than it really is.

The politicians love this, because as they carry water for their pet corporations, they can point to the Tea Partiers and say: "See what a huge upwelling of popular support I am responding to."

JTFaraday:

Well, if that's true, then the unemployed are employable but the mass mediated mentality would like them to believe they are literally and inherently unemployable so that they underestimate and under-sell themselves.

This is as much to the benefit of those who would like to pick up "damaged goods" on the cheap as those who promote the unemployment problem as one that inheres in prospective employees rather than one that is a byproduct of a bad job market lest someone be tempted to think we should address it politically.

That's where I see this blame the unemployed finger pointing really getting traction these days.

attempter:

I apologize for the fact that I only read the first few paragraphs of this before quitting in disgust.

I just can no longer abide the notion that "labor" can ever be seen by human beings as a "cost" at all. We really need to refuse to even tolerate that way of phrasing things. Workers create all wealth. Parasites have no right to exist. These are facts, and we should refuse to let argument range beyond them.

The only purpose of civilization is to provide a better way of living and for all people. This includes the right and full opportunity to work and manage for oneself and/or as a cooperative group. If civilization doesn't do that, we're better off without it.

psychohistorian:

I am one of those long term unemployed.

I suppose my biggest employment claim would be as some sort of IT techie, with numerous supply chain systems and component design, development, implementation, interfaces with other systems and ongoing support. CCNP certification and a history of techiedom going back to WEYCOS.

I have a patent (6,209,954) in my name and 12+ years of beating my head against the wall in an industry that buys compliance with the "there is no problem here, move on now" approach.

Hell, I was a junior woodchuck program administrator back in the early 70's working for the Office of the Governor of the state of Washington on CETA PSE or Public Service Employment. The office of the Governor ran the PSE program for 32 of the 39 counties in the state that were not big enough to run their own. I helped organize the project approval process in all those counties to hire folk at ( if memory serves me max of $833/mo.) to fix and expand parks and provide social and other government services as defined projects with end dates. If we didn't have the anti-public congress and other government leadership we have this could be a current component in a rational labor policy but I digress.

I have experience in the construction trades mostly as carpenter but some electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. also.

So, of course there is some sort of character flaw that is keeping me and all those others from employment ..right. I may have more of an excuse than others, have paid into SS for 45 years but still would work if it was available ..taking work away from other who may need it more .why set up a society where we have to compete as such for mere existence???????

One more face to this rant. We need government by the people and for the people which we do not have now. Good, public focused, not corporate focused government is bigger than any entities that exist under its jurisdiction and is kept updated by required public participation in elections and potentially other things like military, peace corps, etc. in exchange for advanced education. I say this as someone who has worked at various levels in both the public and private sectors there are ignorant and misguided folks everywhere. At least with ongoing active participation there is a chance that government would, once constructed, be able to evolve as needed within public focus .IMO.

Ishmael:

Some people would say I have been unemployed for 10 years. In 2000 after losing the last of my four CFO gigs for public companies I found it necessary to start consulting. This has lead to two of my three biggest winning years. I am usually consulting on cutting edge area of my profession and many times have large staffs reporting to me that I bring on board to get jobs done. For several years I subcontacted to a large international consulting firm to clean up projects which went wrong. Let me give some insight here.

  1. First, most good positions have gate keepers who are professional recruiters. It is near impossible to get by them and if you are unemployed they will hardly talk to you. One time talking to a recruiter at Korn Fery I was interviewing for a job I have done several times in an industry I have worked in several times. She made a statement that I had never worked at a well known company. I just about fell out of my chair laughing. At one time I was a senior level executive for the largest consulting firm in the world and lived on three continents and worked with companies on six. In addition, I had held senior positions for 2 fortune 500 firms and was the CFO for a company with $4.5 billion in revenue. I am well known at several PE firms and the founder of one of the largest mentioned in a meeting that one of his great mistakes was not investing in a very successful LBO (return of in excess of 20 multiple to investors in 18 months) I was the CFO for. In a word most recruiters are incompetent.
  2. Second, most CEO's any more are just insecure politicians. One time during an interview I had a CEO asked me to talk about some accomplishments. I was not paying to much attention as I rattled off accomplishments and the CEO went nuclear and started yelling at me that he did not know where I thought I was going with this job but the only position above the CFO job was his and he was not going anywhere. I assured him I was only interested in the CFO position and not his, but I knew the job was over. Twice feed back that I got from recruiters which they took at criticism was the "client said I seemed very assured of myself."
  3. Third, government, banking, business and the top MBA schools are based upon lying to move forward. I remember a top human resource executive telling me right before Enron, MCI and Sarbanes Oxley that I needed to learn to be more flexible. My response was that flexibility would get me an orange jump suit. Don't get me wrong, I have a wide grey zone, but it use to be in business the looked for people who could identify problems early and resolve them. Now days I see far more of a demand for people who can come up with PR spins to hide them. An attorney/treasurer consultant who partnered with me on a number of consulting jobs told me some one called me "not very charming." He said he asked what that meant, and the person who said that said, "Ish walks into a meeting and within 10 minutes he is asking about the 10,000 pound guerilla sitting in the room that no one wants to talk about." CEO do not want any challenges in their organization.
  4. Fourth, three above has lead to the hiring of very young and inexperienced people at senior levels. These people are insecure and do not want more senior and experienced people above them and than has resulted in people older than 45 not finding positions.
  5. Fifth, people are considered expendable and are fired for the lamest reasons anymore. A partner at one of the larger and more prestigious recruiting firms one time told me, "If you have a good consulting business, just stick with it. Our average placement does not last 18 months any more." Another well known recruiter in S. Cal. one time commented to me, "Your average consulting gig runs longer than our average placement."

With all of that said, I have a hard time understanding such statements as "@attempter "Workers create all wealth. Parasites have no right to exist." What does that mean? Every worker creates wealth. There is no difference in people. Sounds like communism to me. I make a good living and my net worth has grown working for myself. I have never had a consulting gig terminated by the client but I have terminated several. Usually, I am brought in to fix what several other people have failed at. I deliver basically intellectual properties to companies. Does that mean I am not a worker. I do not usually lift anything heavy or move equipment but I tell people what and where to do it so does that make me a parasite.

Those people who think everyone is equal and everyone deserves equal pay are fools or lazy. My rate is high, but what usually starts as short term projects usually run 6 months or more because companies find I can do so much more than what most of their staff can do and I am not a threat.

I would again like to have a senior challenging role at a decent size company but due to the reasons above will probably never get one. However, you can never tell. I am currently consulting for a midsize very profitable company (grew 400% last year) where I am twice the age of most people there, but everyone speaks to me with respect so you can never tell.

Lidia:

Ishmael, you're quite right. When I showed my Italian husband's resume to try and "network" in the US, my IT friends assumed he was lying about his skills and work history.

Contemporaneously, in Italy it is impossible to get a job because of incentives to hire "youth". Age discrimination is not illegal, so it's quite common to see ads that ask for a programmer under 30 with 5 years of experience in COBOL (the purple squirrel).

Hosswire

Some good points about the foolishness of recruiters, but a great deal of that foolishness is forced by the clients themselves. I used to be a recruiter myself, including at Korn Ferry in Southern California. I described the recruiting industry as "yet more proof that God hates poor people" because my job was to ignore resumes from people seeking jobs and instead "source" aka "poach" people who already had good jobs by dangling a higher salary in front of them. I didn't do it because I disparaged the unemployed, or because I could not do the basic analysis to show that a candidate had analogous or transferrable skills to the opening.

I did it because the client, as Yves said, wanted people who were literally in the same job description already. My theory is that the client wanted to have their ass covered in case the hire didn't work out, by being able to say that they looked perfect "on paper." The lesson I learned for myself and my friends looking for jobs was simple, if morally dubious. Basically, that if prospective employers are going to judge you based on a single piece of paper take full advantage of the fact that you get to write that piece of paper yourself.

Ishmael:

Hosswire - I agree with your comment. There are poor recruiters like the one I sited but in general it is the clients fault. Fear of failure. All hires have at least a 50% chance of going sideways on you. Most companies do not even have the ability to look at a resume nor to interview. I did not mean to same nasty things about recruiters, and I even do it sometimes but mine.

I look at failure in a different light than most companies. You need to be continually experimenting and changing to survive as a company and there will be some failures. The goal is to control the cost of failures while looking for the big pay off on a winner.

Mannwich:

As a former recruiter and HR "professional" (I use that term very loosely for obvious reasons), I can honestly say that you nailed it. Most big companies looking for mid to high level white collar "talent" will almost always take the perceived safest route by hiring those who look the best ON PAPER and in a suit and lack any real interviewing skills to find the real stars. What's almost comical is that companies almost always want to see the most linear resume possible because they want to see "job stability" (e.g. a CYA document in case the person fails in that job) when in many cases nobody cares about the long range view of the company anyway. My question was why should the candidate or employee care about the long range view if the employer clearly doesn't?

Ishmael:

Manwhich another on point comment. Sometimes either interviewing for a job or consulting with a CEO it starts getting to the absurd. I see all the time the requirement for stability in a persons background. Hello, where have they been the last 15 years. In addition, the higher up you go the more likely you will be terminated sometime and that is especially true if you are hired from outside the orgnanization. Companies want loyalty from an employee but offer none in return.

The average tenure for a CFO anymore is something around 18 months. I have been a first party participant (more than once) where I went through an endless recruiting process for a company (lasting more than 6 months) they final hire some one and that person is with the company for 3 months and then resigns (of course we all know it is through mutual agreement).

Ishmael:

Birch:

The real problem has become and maybe this is what you are referring to is the "Crony Capitalism." We have lost control of our financial situation. Basically, PE is not the gods of the universe that everyone thinks they are. However, every bankers secret wet dream is to become a private equity guy. Accordingly, bankers make ridiculous loans to PE because if you say no to them then you can not play in their sand box any more. Since the govt will not let the banks go bankrupt like they should then this charade continues inslaving everyone.

This country as well as many others has a large percentage of its assets tied up in over priced deals that the bankers/governments will not let collapse while the blood sucking vampires suck the life out of the assets.

On the other hand, govt is not the answer. Govt is too large and accomplishes too little.

kevin de bruxelles:

The harsh reality is that, at least in the first few rounds, companies kick to the curb their weakest links and perceived slackers. Therefore when it comes time to hire again, they are loath to go sloppy seconds on what they perceive to be some other company's rejects. They would much rather hire someone who survived the layoffs working in a similar position in a similar company. Of course the hiring company is going to have to pay for this privilege. Although not totally reliable, the fact that someone survived the layoffs provides a form social proof for their workplace abilities.

On the macro level, labor has been under attack for thirty years by off shoring and third world immigration. It is no surprise that since the working classes have been severely undermined that the middle classes would start to feel some pressure. By mass immigration and off-shoring are strongly supported by both parties. Only when the pain gets strong enough will enough people rebel and these two policies will be overturned. We still have a few years to go before this happens.

davver:

Let's say I run a factory. I produce cars and it requires very skilled work. Skilled welding, skilled machinists. Now I introduce some robotic welders and an assembly line system. The plants productivity improves and the jobs actually get easier. They require less skill, in fact I've simplified each task to something any idiot can do. Would wages go up or down? Are the workers really contributing to that increase in productivity or is it the machines and methods I created?

Lets say you think laying off or cutting the wages of my existing workers is wrong. What happens when a new entrant into the business employs a smaller workforce and lower wages, which they can do using the same technology? The new workers don't feel like they were cut down in any way, they are just happy to have a job. Before they couldn't get a job at the old plant because they lacked the skill, but now they can work in the new plant because the work is genuinely easier. Won't I go out of business?

Escariot:

I am 54 and have a ton of peers who are former white collar workers and professionals (project managers, architects, lighting designers, wholesalers and sales reps for industrial and construction materials and equipment) now out of work going on three years. Now I say out of work, I mean out of our trained and experienced fields.

We now work two or three gigs (waiting tables, mowing lawns, doing free lance, working in tourism, truck driving, moving company and fedex ups workers) and work HARD, for much much less than we did, and we are seeing the few jobs that are coming back on line going to younger workers. It is just the reality. And for most of us the descent has not been graceful, so our credit is a wreck, which also breeds a whole other level of issues as now it is common for the credit record to be a deal breaker for employment, housing, etc.

Strangely I don't sense a lot of anger or bitterness as much as humility. And gratitude for ANY work that comes our way. Health insurance? Retirement accounts? not so much.

Mickey Marzick:

Yves and I have disagreed on how extensive the postwar "pact" between management and labor was in this country. But if you drew a line from say, Trenton-Patterson, NJ to Cincinatti, OH to Minneapolis, MN, north and east of it where blue collar manufacturing in steel, rubber, auto, machinery, etc., predominated, this "pact" may have existed but ONLY because physical plant and production were concentrated there and workers could STOP production.

Outside of these heavy industrial pockets, unions were not always viewed favorably. As one moved into the rural hinterlands surrounding them there was jealously and/or outright hostility. Elsewhere, especially in the South "unions" were the exception not the rule. The differences between NE Ohio before 1975 – line from Youngstown to Toledo – and the rest of the state exemplified this pattern. Even today, the NE counties of Ohio are traditional Democratic strongholds with the rest of the state largely Republican. And I suspect this pattern existed elsewhere. But it is changing too

In any case, the demonization of the unemployed is just one notch above the vicious demonization of the poor that has always existed in this country. It's a constant reminder for those still working that you could be next – cast out into the darkness – because you "failed" or worse yet, SINNED. This internalization of the "inner cop" reinforces the dominant ideology in two ways. First, it makes any resistance by individuals still employed less likely. Second, it pits those still working against those who aren't, both of which work against the formation of any significant class consciousness amongst working people. The "oppressed" very often internalize the value system of the oppressor.

As a nation of immigrants ETHNICITY may have more explanatory power than CLASS. For increasingly, it would appear that the dominant ethnic group – suburban, white, European Americans – have thrown their lot in with corporate America. Scared of the prospect of downward social mobility and constantly reminded of URBAN America – the other America – this group is trapped with nowhere to else to go.

It's the divide and conquer strategy employed by ruling elites in this country since its founding [Federalist #10] with the Know Nothings, blaming the Irish [NINA - no Irish need apply] and playing off each successive wave of immigrants against the next. Only when the forces of production became concentrated in the urban industrial enclaves of the North was this strategy less effective. And even then internal immigration by Blacks to the North in search of employment blunted the formation of class consciousness among white ethnic industrial workers.

Wherever the postwar "pact of domination" between unions and management held sway, once physical plant was relocated elsewhere [SOUTH] and eventually offshored, unemployment began to trend upwards. First it was the "rustbelt" now it's a nationwide phenomenon. Needless to say, the "pact" between labor and management has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

White, suburban America has hitched its wagon to that of the corporate horse. Demonization of the unemployed coupled with demonization of the poor only serve to terrorize this ethnic group into acquiescence. And as the workplace becomes a multicultural matrix this ethnic group is constantly reminded of its perilous state. Until this increasingly atomized ethnic group breaks with corporate America once and for all, it's unlikely that the most debilitating scourge of all working people – UNEMPLOYMENT – will be addressed.

Make no mistake about it, involuntary UNEMPLOYMENT/UNDEREMPLYEMT is a form of terrorism and its demonization is terrorism in action. This "quiet violence" is psychological and the intimidation wrought by unemployment and/or the threat of it is intended to dehumanize individuals subjected to it. Much like spousal abuse, the emotional and psychological effects are experienced way before any physical violence. It's the inner cop that makes overt repression unnecessary. We terrorize ourselves into submission without even knowing it because we accept it or come to tolerate it. So long as we accept "unemployment" as an inevitable consequence of progress, as something unfortunate but inevitable, we will continue to travel down the road to serfdom where ARBEIT MACHT FREI!

FULL and GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT are the ultimate labor power.

Eric:

It's delicate since direct age discrimination is illegal, but when circumstances permit separating older workers they have a very tough time getting back into the workforce in an era of high health care inflation. Older folks consume more health care and if you are hiring from a huge surplus of available workers it isn't hard to steer around the more experienced. And nobody gets younger, so when you don't get job A and go for job B 2 weeks later you, you're older still!

James:

Yves said- "This overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills"

In the IT job markets such postings are often called purple squirrels. The HR departments require the applicant to be expert in a dozen programming languages. This is an excuse to hire a foreigner on a temp h1-b or other visa.

Most people aren't aware that this model dominates the sciences. Politicians scream we have a shortage of scientists, yet it seems we only have a shortage of cheap easily exploitable labor. The economist recently pointed out the glut of scientists that currently exists in the USA.

http://www.economist.com/node/17723223

This understates the problem. The majority of PhD recipients wander through years of postdocs only to end up eventually changing fields. My observation is that the top ten schools in biochem/chemistry/physics/ biology produce enough scientists to satisfy the national demand.

The exemption from h1-b visa caps for academic institutions exacerbates the problem, providing academics with almost unlimited access to labor.

The pharmaceutical sector has been decimated over the last ten years with tens of thousands of scientists/ factory workers looking for re-training in a dwindling pool of jobs (most of which will deem you overqualified.)

http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/03/03/a_postdocs_lament.php

Abe, NYC:

I wonder how the demonization of the unemployed can be so strong even in the face of close to 10% unemployment/20% underemployment. It's easy and tempting to demonize an abstract young buck or Cadillac-driving welfare queen, but when a family member or a close friend loses a job, or your kids are stuck at your place because they can't find one, shouldn't that alter your perceptions? Of course the tendency will be to blame it all on the government, but there has to be a limit to that in hard-hit places like Ohio, Colorado, or Arizona. And yet, the dynamics aren't changing or even getting worse. Maybe Wisconsin marks a turning point, I certainly hope it does

damien:

It's more than just stupid recruiting, this stigma. Having got out when the getting was good, years ago, I know that any corporate functionary would be insane to hire me now. Socialization wears off, the deformation process reverses, and the ritual and shibboleths become a joke. Even before I bailed I became a huge pain in the ass as economic exigency receded, every bosses nightmare. I suffered fools less gladly and did the right thing out of sheer anarchic malice.

You really can't maintain corporate culture without existential fear – not just, "Uh oh, I'm gonna get fired," fear, but a visceral feeling that you do not exist without a job. In properly indoctrinated workers that feeling is divorced from economic necessity. So anyone who's survived outside a while is bound to be suspect. That's a sign of economic security, and security of any sort undermines social control.

youniquelikeme:

You hit the proverbial nail with that reply. (Although, sorry, doing the right thing should not be done out of malice) The real fit has to be in the corporate yes-man culture (malleable ass kisser) to be suited for any executive position and beyond that it is the willingness to be manipulated and drained to be able to keep a job in lower echelon.

This is the new age of evolution in the work place. The class wars will make it more of an eventual revolution, but it is coming. The unemployment rate (the actual one, not the Government one) globalization and off shore hiring are not sustainable for much longer.

Something has to give, but it is more likely to snap then to come easily. People who are made to be repressed and down and out eventually find the courage to fight back and by then, it is usually not with words.

down and out in Slicon Valley:

This is the response I got from a recruiter:

"I'm going to be overly honest with you. My firm doesn't allow me to submit any candidate who hasn't worked in 6-12 months or more. Recruiting brokers are probably all similar in that way . You are going to have to go through a connection/relationship you have with a colleague, co-worker, past manager or friend to get your next job .that's my advice for you. Best of luck "

I'm 56 years old with MSEE. Gained 20+ years of experience at the best of the best (TRW, Nortel, Microsoft), have been issued a patent. Where do I sign up to gain skills required to find a job now?

Litton Graft :

"Best of the Best?" I know you're down now, but looking back at these Gov'mint contractors you've enjoyed the best socialism money can by.

Nortel/TRW bills/(ed) the Guvmint at 2x, 3x your salary, you can ride this for decades. At the same time the Inc is attached to the Guvmint ATM localities/counties are giving them a red carpet of total freedom from taxation. Double subsidies.

I've worked many years at the big boy bandits, and there is no delusion in my mind that almost anyone, can do what I do and get paid 100K+. I've never understood the mindset of some folks who work in the Wermacht Inc: "Well, someone has to do this work" or worse "What we do, no one else can do" The reason no one else "can do it" is that they are not allowed to. So, we steal from the poor to build fighter jets, write code or network an agency.

Hosswire:

I used to work as a recruiter and can tell you that I only parroted the things my clients told me. I wanted to get you hired, because I was lazy and didn't want to have to talk to someone else next.

So what do you do? To place you that recruiter needs to see on a piece of paper that you are currently working? Maybe get an email or phone call from someone who will vouch for your employment history. That should not be that hard to make happen.

Francois T :

The "bizarre way that companies now spec jobs" is essentially a coded way for mediocre managers to say without saying so explicitly that "we can afford to be extremely picky, and by God, we shall do so no matter what, because we can!"

Of course, when comes the time to hire back because, oh disaster! business is picking up again, (I'm barely caricaturing here; some managers become despondent when they realize that workers regain a bit of the higher ground; loss of power does that to lesser beings) the same idiots who designed those "overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills" are thrown into a tailspin of despair and misery. Instead of figuring out something as simple as "if demand is better, so will our business", they can't see anything else than the (eeeek!) cost of hiring workers. Unable to break their mental corset of penny-pincher, they fail to realize that lack of qualified workers will prevent them to execute well to begin with.

And guess what: qualified workers cost money, qualified workers urgently needed cost much more.

This managerial attitude must be another factor that explain why entrepreneurship and the formation of small businesses is on the decline in the US (contrary to the confabulations of the US officialdumb and the chattering class) while rising in Europe and India/China.

Kit:

If you are 55-60, worked as a professional (i.e., engineering say) and are now unemployed you are dead meat. Sorry to be blunt but thats the way it is in the US today. Let me repeat that : Dead Meat.

I was terminated at age 59, found absolutely NOTHING even though my qualifications were outstanding. Fortunately, my company had an old style pension plan which I was able to qualify for (at age 62 without reduced benefits). So for the next 2+ years my wife and I survived on unemployment insurance, severance, accumulated vacation pay and odd jobs. Not nice – actually, a living hell.

At age 62, I applied for my pension, early social security, sold our old house (at a good profit) just before the RE crash, moved back to our home state. Then my wife qualified for social security also. Our total income is now well above the US median.

Today, someone looking at us would think we were the typical corporate retiree. We surely don't let on any differently but the experience (to get to this point) almost killed us.

I sympathize very strongly with the millions caught in this unemployment death spiral. I wish I had an answer but I just don't. We were very lucky to survive intact.

Ming:

Thank you Yves for your excellent post, and for bringing to light this crucial issue.

Thank you to all the bloggers, who add to the richness of the this discussion.

I wonder if you could comment on this Yves, and correct me if I am wrong I believe that the power of labor was sapped by the massive available supply of global labor. The favorable economic policies enacted by China (both official and unofficial), and trade negotiations between the US government and the Chinese government were critical to creating the massive supply of labor.

Thank you. No rush of course.

Nexus:

There are some odd comments and notions here that are used to support dogma and positions of prejudice. The world can be viewed in a number of ways. Firstly from a highly individualised and personal perspective – that is what has happened to me and here are my experiences. Or alternatively the world can be viewed from a broader societal perspective.

In the context of labour there has always been an unequal confrontation between those that control capital and those that offer their labour, contrary to some of the views exposed here – Marx was a first and foremost a political economist. The political economist seeks to understand the interplay of production, supply, the state and institutions like the media. Modern day economics branched off from political economy and has little value in explaining the real world as the complexity of the world has been reduced to a simplistic rationalistic model of human behaviour underpinned by other equally simplistic notions of 'supply and demand', which are in turn represented by mathematical models, which in themselves are complex but merely represent what is a simplistic view of the way the world operates. This dogmatic thinking has avoided the need to create an underpinning epistemology. This in turn underpins the notion of free choice and individualism which in itself is an illusion as it ignores the operation of the modern state and the exercise of power and influence within society.

It was stated in one of the comments that the use of capital (machines, robotics, CAD design, etc.) de-skills. This is hardly the case as skills rise for those that remain and support highly automated/continuous production factories. This is symptomatic of the owners of capital wanting to extract the maximum value for labour and this is done via the substitution of labour for capital making the labour that remains to run factories highly productive thus eliminating low skill jobs that have been picked up via services (people move into non productive low skilled occupations warehousing and retail distribution, fast food outlets, etc). Of course the worker does not realise the additional value of his or her labour as this is expropriated for the shareholders (including management as shareholders).

The issue of the US is that since the end of WW2 it is not the industrialists that have called the shots and made investments it is the financial calculus of the investment banker (Finance Capital). Other comments have tried to ignore the existence of the elites in society – I would suggest that you read C.W.Mills – The Power Elites as an analysis of how power is exercised in the US – it is not through the will of the people.

For Finance capital investments are not made on the basis of value add, or contribution through product innovation and the exchange of goods but on basis of the lowest cost inputs. Consequently, the 'elites' that make investment decisions, as they control all forms of capital seek to gain access to the cheapest cost inputs. The reality is that the US worker (a pool of 150m) is now part of a global labour pool of a couple of billion that now includes India and China. This means that the elites, US transnational corporations for instance, can access both cheaper labour pools, relocate capital and avoid worker protection (health and safety is not a concern). The strategies of moving factories via off-shoring (over 40,000 US factories closed or relocated) and out-sourcing/in-sourcing labour is also a representations of this.

The consequence for the US is that the need for domestic labour has diminished and been substituted by cheap labour to extract the arbitrage between US labour rates and those of Chinese and Indians. Ironically, in this context capital has become too successful as the mode of consumption in the US shifted from workers that were notionally the people that created the goods, earned wages and then purchased the goods they created to a new model where the worker was substituted by the consumer underpinned by cheap debt and low cost imports – it is illustrative to note that real wages have not increased in the US since the early 1970's while at the same time debt has steadily increased to underpin the illusion of wealth – the 'borrow today and pay tomorrow' mode of capitalist operation. This model of operation is now broken. The labour force is now being demonized as there is a now surplus of labour and a need to drive down labour rates through changes in legislation and austerity programs to meet those of the emerging Chinese and Indian middle class so workers rights need to be broken. Once this is done a process of in-source may take place as US labour costs will be on par with overseas labour pools.

It is ironic that during the Regan administration a number of strategic thinkers saw the threat from emerging economies and the danger of Finance Capital and created 'Project Socrates' that would have sought to re-orientate the US economy from one that was based on the rationale of Finance Capital to one that focused in productive innovation which entailed an alignment of capital investment, research and training to product innovative goods. Of course this was ignored and the rest is history. The race to the lowest input cost is ultimately self defeating as it is clear that the economy de-industrialises through labour and capital changes and living standards collapse. The elites – bankers, US transnational corporations, media, industrial military complex and the politicians don't care as they make money either way and this way you get other people overseas to work cheap for you.

S P:

Neoliberal orthodoxy treats unemployment as well as wage supression as a necessary means to fight "inflation." If there was too much power in the hands of organized labor, inflationary pressures would spiral out of control as supply of goods cannot keep up with demand.

It also treats the printing press as a necessary means to fight "deflation."

So our present scenario: widespread unemployment along with QE to infinity, food stamps for all, is exactly what you'd expect.

The problem with this orthodoxy is that it assumes unlimited growth on a planet with finite resources, particularly oil and energy. Growth is not going to solve unemployment or wages, because we are bumping up against limits to growth.

There are only two solutions. One is tax the rich and capital gains, slow growth, and reinvest the surplus into jobs/skills programs, mostly to maintain existing infrastructure or build new energy infrastructure. Even liberals like Krugman skirt around this, because they aren't willing to accept that we have the reached the end of growth and we need radical redistribution measures.

The other solution is genuine classical liberalism / libertarianism, along the lines of Austrian thought. Return to sound money, and let the deflation naturally take care of the imbalances. Yes, it would be wrenching, but it would likely be wrenching for everybody, making it fair in a universal sense.

Neither of these options is palatable to the elite classes, the financiers of Wall Street, or the leeches and bureaucrats of D.C.

So this whole experiment called America will fail.

[Nov 27, 2017] This Is Why Hewlett-Packard Just Fired Another 30K

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Imagine working at HP and having to listen to Carly Fiorina bulldoze you...she is like a blow-torch...here are 4 minutes of Carly and Ralph Nader (if you can take it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC4JDwoRHtk ..."
"... My husband has been a software architect for 30 years at the same company. Never before has he seen the sheer unadulterated panic in the executives. All indices are down and they are planning for the worst. Quality is being sacrificed for " just get some relatively functional piece of shit out the door we can sell". He is fighting because he has always produced a stellar product and refuses to have shit tied to his name ( 90% of competitor benchmarks fail against his projects). They can't afford to lay him off, but the first time in my life I see my husband want to quit... ..."
"... HP basically makes computer equipment (PCs, servers, Printers) and software. Part of the problem is that computer hardware has been commodized. Since PCs are cheap and frequent replacements are need, People just by the cheapest models, expecting to toss it in a couple of years and by a newer model (aka the Flat screen TV model). So there is no justification to use quality components. Same is become true with the Server market. Businesses have switched to virtualization and/or cloud systems. So instead of taking a boat load of time to rebuild a crashed server, the VM is just moved to another host. ..."
"... I hung an older sign next to the one saying Information Technology. Somehow MIS-Information Technology seemed appropriate.) ..."
"... Then I got to my first duty assignment. It was about five months after the first moon landing, and the aerospace industry was facing cuts in government aerospace spending. I picked up a copy of an engineering journal in the base library and found an article about job cuts. There was a cartoon with two janitors, buckets at their feet and mops in their hands, standing before a blackboard filled with equations. Once was saying to the other, pointing to one section, "you can see where he made his mistake right here...". It represented two engineers who had been reduced to menial labor after losing their jobs. ..."
"... So while I resent all the H1Bs coming into the US - I worked with several for the last four years of my IT career, and was not at all impressed - and despise the politicians who allow it, I know that it is not the first time American STEM grads have been put out of jobs en masse. In some ways that old saying applies: the more things change, the more they stay the same ..."
"... Just like Amazon, HP will supposedly make billions in profit analyzing things in the cloud that nobody looks at and has no use to the real economy, but it makes good fodder for Power Point presentations. I am amazed how much daily productivity goes into creating fancy charts for meetings that are meaningless to the actual business of the company. ..."
"... 'Computers' cost as much - if not more time than they save, at least in corporate settings. Used to be you'd work up 3 budget projections - expected, worst case and best case, you'd have a meeting, hash it out and decide in a week. Now you have endless alternatives, endless 'tweaking' and changes and decisions take forever, with outrageous amounts of time spent on endless 'analysis' and presentations. ..."
"... A recent lay off here turned out to be quite embarrassing for Parmalat there was nobody left that knew how to properly run the place they had to rehire many ex employees as consultants-at a costly premium ..."
"... HP is laying off 80,000 workers or almost a third of its workforce, converting its long-term human capital into short-term gains for rich shareholders at an alarming rate. The reason that product quality has declined is due to the planned obsolescence that spurs needless consumerism, which is necessary to prop up our debt-backed monetary system and the capitalist-owned economy that sits on top of it. ..."
"... The world is heading for massive deflation. Computers have hit the 14 nano-meter lithography zone, the cost to go from 14nm to say 5nm is very high, and the net benefit to computing power is very low, but lets say we go from 14nm to 5nm over the next 4 years. Going from 5nm to 1nm is not going to net a large boost in computing power and the cost to shrink things down and re-tool will be very high for such an insignificant gain in performance. ..."
"... Another classic "Let's rape all we can and bail with my golden parachute" corporate leaders setting themselves up. Pile on the string of non-IT CEOs that have been leading the company to ruin. To them it is nothing more than a contest of being even worse than their predecessor. Just look at the billions each has lost before their exit. Compaq, a cluster. Palm Pilot, a dead product they paid millions for and then buried. And many others. ..."
"... Let's not beat around the bush, they're outsourcing, firing Americans and hiring cheap labor elsewhere: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-15/hewlett-packard-to-cut-up-to-30-000-more-jobs-in-restructuring It's also shifting employees to low-cost areas, and hopes to have 60 percent of its workers located in cheaper countries by 2018, Nefkens said. ..."
"... Carly Fiorina: (LOL, leading a tech company with a degree in medieval history and philosophy) While at ATT she was groomed from the Affirmative Action plan. ..."
"... It is very straightforward. Replace 45,000 US workers with 100,000 offshore workers and you still save millions of USD ! Use the "savings" to buy back stock, then borrow more $$ at ZIRP to buy more stock back. ..."
"... If you look on a site like LinkedIN, it will always say 'We're hiring!'. YES, HP is hiring.....but not YOU, they want Ganesh Balasubramaniamawapbapalooboopawapbamboomtuttifrutti, so that they can work him as modern day slave labor for ultra cheap. We can thank idiot 'leaders' like Meg Pasty Faced Whitman and Bill 'Forced Vaccinations' Gates for lobbying Congress for decades, against the rights of American workers. ..."
"... An era of leadership in computer technology has died, and there is no grave marker, not even a funeral ceremony or eulogy ... Hewlett-Packard, COMPAQ, Digital Equipment Corp, UNIVAC, Sperry-Rand, Data General, Tektronix, ZILOG, Advanced Micro Devices, Sun Microsystems, etc, etc, etc. So much change in so short a time, leaves your mind dizzy. ..."
Sep 15, 2015 | Zero Hedge

SixIsNinE

yeah thanks Carly ... HP made bullet-proof products that would last forever..... I still buy HP workstation notebooks, especially now when I can get them for $100 on ebay .... I sold HP products in the 1990s .... we had HP laserjet IIs that companies would run day & night .... virtually no maintenance ... when PCL5 came around then we had LJ IIIs .... and still companies would call for LJ I's, .... 100 pounds of invincible Printing ! .

This kind of product has no place in the World of Planned-Obsolesence .... I'm currently running an 8510w, 8530w, 2530p, Dell 6420 quad i7, hp printers hp scanners, hp pavilion desktops, .... all for less than what a Laserjet II would have cost in 1994, Total.

Not My Real Name

I still have my HP 15C scientific calculator I bought in 1983 to get me through college for my engineering degree. There is nothing better than a hand held calculator that uses Reverse Polish Notation!

BigJim

HP used to make fantastic products. I remember getting their RPN calculators back in th 80's; built like tanks. Then they decided to "add value" by removing more and more material from their consumer/"prosumer" products until they became unspeakably flimsy. They stopped holding things together with proper fastenings and starting hot melting/gluing it together, so if it died you had to cut it open to have any chance of fixing it.

I still have one of their Laserjet 4100 printers. I expect it to outlast anything they currently produce, and it must be going on 16+ years old now.

Fuck you, HP. You started selling shit and now you're eating through your seed corn. I just wish the "leaders" who did this to you had to pay some kind of penalty greater than getting $25M in a severance package.

Automatic Choke

+100. The path of HP is everything that is wrong about modern business models. I still have a 5MP laserjet (one of the first), still works great. Also have a number of 42S calculators.....my day-to-day workhorse and several spares. I don't think the present HP could even dream of making these products today.

nope-1004

How well will I profit, as a salesman, if I sell you something that works? How valuable are you, as a customer in my database, if you never come back? Confucious say "Buy another one, and if you can't afford it, f'n finance it!" It's the growing trend. Look at appliances. Nothing works anymore.

Normalcy Bias

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence

Son of Loki

GE to cut Houston jobs as work moves overseas http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2015/09/15/ge-to-cut-houston-job... " Yes we can! "

Automatic Choke

hey big brother.... if you are curious, there is a damn good android emulator of the HP42S available (Free42). really it is so good that it made me relax about accumulating more spares. still not quite the same as a real calculator. (the 42S, by the way, is the modernization/simplification of the classic HP41, the real hardcord very-programmable, reconfigurable, hackable unit with all the plug-in-modules that came out in the early 80s.)

Miss Expectations

Imagine working at HP and having to listen to Carly Fiorina bulldoze you...she is like a blow-torch...here are 4 minutes of Carly and Ralph Nader (if you can take it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC4JDwoRHtk

Miffed Microbiologist

My husband has been a software architect for 30 years at the same company. Never before has he seen the sheer unadulterated panic in the executives. All indices are down and they are planning for the worst. Quality is being sacrificed for " just get some relatively functional piece of shit out the door we can sell". He is fighting because he has always produced a stellar product and refuses to have shit tied to his name ( 90% of competitor benchmarks fail against his projects). They can't afford to lay him off, but the first time in my life I see my husband want to quit...

unplugged

I've been an engineer for 31 years - our managements's unspoken motto at the place I'm at (large company) is: "release it now, we'll put in the quality later". I try to put in as much as possible before the product is shoved out the door without killing myself doing it.

AGuy

Do they even make test equipment anymore?

HP test and measurement was spun off many years ago as Agilent. The electronics part of Agilent was spun off as keysight late last year.

HP basically makes computer equipment (PCs, servers, Printers) and software. Part of the problem is that computer hardware has been commodized. Since PCs are cheap and frequent replacements are need, People just by the cheapest models, expecting to toss it in a couple of years and by a newer model (aka the Flat screen TV model). So there is no justification to use quality components. Same is become true with the Server market. Businesses have switched to virtualization and/or cloud systems. So instead of taking a boat load of time to rebuild a crashed server, the VM is just moved to another host.

HP has also adopted the Computer Associates business model (aka Borg). HP buys up new tech companies and sits on the tech and never improves it. It decays and gets replaced with a system from a competitor. It also has a habit of buying outdated tech companies that never generate the revenues HP thinks it will.

BullyBearish

When Carly was CEO of HP, she instituted a draconian "pay for performance" plan. She ended up leaving with over $146 Million because she was smart enough not to specify "what type" of performance.

GeezerGeek

Regarding your statement "All those engineers choosing to pursue other opportunities", we need to realize that tech in general has been very susceptible to the vagaries of government actions. Now the employment problems are due to things like globalization and H1B programs. Some 50 years ago tech - meaning science and engineering - was hit hard as the US space program wound down. Permit me this retrospective:

I graduated from a quite good school with a BS in Physics in 1968. My timing was not all that great, since that was when they stopped granting draft deferments for graduate school. I joined the Air Force, but as an enlisted airman, not an officer. Following basic training, I was sent to learn to operate PCAM operations. That's Punched Card Accounting Machines. Collators. Sorters. Interpreters. Key punches. I was in a class with nine other enlistees. One had just gotten a Masters degree in something. Eight of us had a BS in one thing or another, but all what would now be called STEM fields. The least educated only had an Associate degree. We all enlisted simply to avoid being drafted into the Marines. (Not that there's anything wrong with the Marines, but all of us proclaimed an allergy to energetic lead projectiles and acted accordingly. Going to Canada, as many did, pretty much ensured never getting a job in STEM fields later in life.) So thanks to government action (fighting in VietNam, in this case) a significant portion of educated Americans found themselves diverted from chosen career paths. (In my case, it worked out fine. I learned to program, etc., and spent a total of over 40 years in what is now called IT. I think it was called EDP when I started the trek. Somewhere along the line it became (where I worked) Management Information Systems. MIS. And finally the department became simply Information Technology. I hung an older sign next to the one saying Information Technology. Somehow MIS-Information Technology seemed appropriate.)

Then I got to my first duty assignment. It was about five months after the first moon landing, and the aerospace industry was facing cuts in government aerospace spending. I picked up a copy of an engineering journal in the base library and found an article about job cuts. There was a cartoon with two janitors, buckets at their feet and mops in their hands, standing before a blackboard filled with equations. Once was saying to the other, pointing to one section, "you can see where he made his mistake right here...". It represented two engineers who had been reduced to menial labor after losing their jobs.

So while I resent all the H1Bs coming into the US - I worked with several for the last four years of my IT career, and was not at all impressed - and despise the politicians who allow it, I know that it is not the first time American STEM grads have been put out of jobs en masse. In some ways that old saying applies: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

If you made it this far, thanks for your patience.

adr

Just like Amazon, HP will supposedly make billions in profit analyzing things in the cloud that nobody looks at and has no use to the real economy, but it makes good fodder for Power Point presentations. I am amazed how much daily productivity goes into creating fancy charts for meetings that are meaningless to the actual business of the company.

IT'S ALL BULLSHIT!!!!!

I designed more products in one year for the small company I work for than a $15 billion corporation did throughout their entire design department employing hundreds of people. That is because 90% of their workday is spent preparing crap for meetings and they never really get anything meaningful done.

It took me one week to design a product and send it out for production branded for the company I work for, but it took six months to get the same type of product passed through the multi billion dollar corporation we license for. Because it had to pass through layer after layer of bullshit and through every level of management before it could be signed off. Then a month later somebody would change their mind in middle management and the product would need to be changed and go through the cycle all over again.

Their own bag department made six bags last year, I designed 16. Funny how I out produce a department of six people whose only job is to make bags, yet I only get paid the salary of one.

Maybe I'm just an imbecile for working hard.

Bear

You also have to add all the wasted time of employees having to sit through those presentations and the even more wasted time on Ashley Madison

cynicalskeptic

'Computers' cost as much - if not more time than they save, at least in corporate settings. Used to be you'd work up 3 budget projections - expected, worst case and best case, you'd have a meeting, hash it out and decide in a week. Now you have endless alternatives, endless 'tweaking' and changes and decisions take forever, with outrageous amounts of time spent on endless 'analysis' and presentations.

EVERY VP now has an 'Administrative Assistant' whose primary job is to develop PowerPoint presentations for the endless meetings that take up time - without any decisions ever being made.

Computers stop people from thinking. In ages past when you used a slide rule you had to know the order of magnitude of the end result. Now people make a mistake and come up with a ridiculous number and take it at face value because 'the computer' produced it.

Any exec worht anythign knew what a given line in their department or the total should be +or a small amount. I can't count the number of times budgets and analyses were WRONG because someone left off a few lines on a spreadsheet total.

Yes computer modeling for advanced tech and engineering is a help, CAD/CAM is great and many other applications in the tech/scientific world are a great help but letting computers loose in corporate and finance has produced endless waste AND - worsde - thigns like HFT (e.g. 'better' more effective ways to manipulate and cheat markets.

khnum

A recent lay off here turned out to be quite embarrassing for Parmalat there was nobody left that knew how to properly run the place they had to rehire many ex employees as consultants-at a costly premium

Anopheles

Consultants don't come at that much of a premium becaue the company doesn't have to pay benefits, vacation, sick days, or payroll taxes, etc. Plus it's really easy and cheap to get rid of consultants.

arrowrod

Obviously, you haven't worked as a consultant. You get paid by the hour. To clean up a mess. 100 hours a week are not uncommon. (What?, is it possible to work 100 hours a week? Yes, it is, but only for about 3 months.)

RaceToTheBottom

HP Executives are trying hard to bring the company back to its roots: The ability to fit into one garage...

PrimalScream

ALL THAT Meg Whitman needs to do ... is to FIRE EVERYBODY !! Then have all the products made in China, process all the sales orders in Hong Kong, and sub-contract the accounting and tax paperwork to India. Then HP can use all the profits for stock buybacks, except of course for Meg's salary ... which will keep rising astronomically!

Herdee

That's where education gets you in America.The Government sold out America's manufacturing base to Communist China who holds the debt of the USA.Who would ever guess that right-wing neo-cons(neo-nazis) running the government would sell out to communists just to get the money for war? Very weird.

Really20

"Communist"? The Chinese government, like that of the US, never believed in worker ownership of businesses and never believed that the commerical banking system (whether owned by the state, or private corporations which act like a state) should not control money. Both countries believe in centralization of power among a few shareholders, who take the fruits of working people's labor while contributing nothing of value themselves (money being but a token that represents a claim on real capital, not capital itself.)

Management and investors ought to be separate from each other; management should be chosen by workers by universal equal vote, while a complementary investor board should be chosen by investors much as corporate boards are now. Both of these boards should be legally independent but bound organizations; the management board should run the business while the investor board should negotiate with the management board on the terms of equity issuance. No more buybacks, no more layoffs or early retirements, unless workers as a whole see a need for it to maintain the company.

The purpose of investors is to serve the real economy, not the other way round; and in turn, the purpose of the real economy is to serve humanity, not the other way around. Humans should stop being slaves to perpetual growth.

Really20

HP is laying off 80,000 workers or almost a third of its workforce, converting its long-term human capital into short-term gains for rich shareholders at an alarming rate. The reason that product quality has declined is due to the planned obsolescence that spurs needless consumerism, which is necessary to prop up our debt-backed monetary system and the capitalist-owned economy that sits on top of it.

NoWayJose

HP - that company that sells computers and printers made in China and ink cartridges made in Thailand?

Dominus Ludificatio

Another company going down the drain because their focus is short term returns with crappy products.They will also bring down any company they buy as well.

Barnaby

HP is microcosm of what Carly will do to the US: carve it like a pumpkin and leave the shell out to bake in the sun for a few weeks. But she'll make sure and poison the seeds too! Don't want anything growing out of that pesky Palm division...

Dre4dwolf

The world is heading for massive deflation. Computers have hit the 14 nano-meter lithography zone, the cost to go from 14nm to say 5nm is very high, and the net benefit to computing power is very low, but lets say we go from 14nm to 5nm over the next 4 years. Going from 5nm to 1nm is not going to net a large boost in computing power and the cost to shrink things down and re-tool will be very high for such an insignificant gain in performance.

What does that mean

  1. Computers (atleast non-quantum ones) have hit the point where about 80-90% of the potential for the current science has been tap'd
  2. This means that the consumer is not going to be put in the position where they will have to upgrade to faster systems for atleast another 7-8 years.... (because the new computer wont be that much faster than their existing one).
  3. If no one is upgrading the only IT sectors of the economy that stand to make any money are software companies (Microsoft, Apple, and other small software developers), most software has not caught up with hardware yet.
  4. We are obviously heading for massive deflation, consumer spending levels as a % are probably around where they were in the late 70s - mid 80s, this is a very deflationary environment that is being compounded by a high debt burden (most of everyones income is going to service their debts), that signals monetary tightening is going on... people simply don't have enough discretionary income to spend on new toys.

All that to me screams SELL consumer electronics stocks because profits are GOING TO DECLINE , SALES ARE GOING TO DECLINE. There is no way , no amount of buy backs will float the stocks of corporations like HP/Dell/IBM etc... it is inevitable that these stocks will be worth 30% less over the next 5 - 8 years

But what do I know? maybe I am missing something.

In anycase a lot of pressure is being put on HP to do all it can at any cost to boost the stock valuations, because so much of its stock is institution owned, they will strip the wallpaper off the walls and sell it to a recycling plant if it would give them more money to boost stock valuations. That to me signals that most of the people pressuring the board of HP to boost the stock, want them to gut the company as much as they can to boost it some trivial % points so that the majority of shares can be dumped onto muppets.

To me it pretty much also signals something is terribly wrong at HP and no one is talking about it.

PoasterToaster

Other than die shrinks there really hasn't been a lot going on in the CPU world since Intel abandoned its Netburst architecture and went back to its (Israeli created) Pentium 3 style pipeline. After that they gave up on increasing speed and resorted to selling more cores. Now that wall has been hit, they have been selling "green" and "efficient" nonsense in place of increasing power.

x86 just needs to go, but a lot is invested in it not the least of which is that 1-2 punch of forced, contrived obsolesence carried out in a joint operation with Microsoft. 15 years ago you could watch videos with no problem on your old machine using Windows XP. Fast forward to now and their chief bragging point is still "multitasking" and the ability to process datastreams like video. It's a joke.

The future is not in the current CPU paradigm of instructions per second; it will be in terms of variables per second. It will be more along the lines of what GPU manufacturers are creating with their thousands of "engines" or "processing units" per chip, rather than the 4, 6 or 12 core monsters that Intel is pushing. They have nearly given up on their roadmap to push out to 128 cores as it is. x86 just doesn't work with all that.

Dojidog

Another classic "Let's rape all we can and bail with my golden parachute" corporate leaders setting themselves up. Pile on the string of non-IT CEOs that have been leading the company to ruin. To them it is nothing more than a contest of being even worse than their predecessor. Just look at the billions each has lost before their exit. Compaq, a cluster. Palm Pilot, a dead product they paid millions for and then buried. And many others.

Think the split is going to help? Think again. Rather than taking the opportunity to fix their problems, they have just duplicated and perpetuated them into two separate entities.

HP is a company that is mired in a morass of unmanageable business processes and patchwork of antiquated applications all interconnected to the point they are petrified to try and uncouple them.

Just look at their stock price since January. The insiders know. Want to fix HP? All it would take is a savvy IT based leader with a boatload of common sense. What makes money at HP? Their printers and ink. Not thinking they can provide enterprise solutions to others when they can't even get their own house in order.

I Write Code

Let's not beat around the bush, they're outsourcing, firing Americans and hiring cheap labor elsewhere: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-15/hewlett-packard-to-cut-up-to-30-000-more-jobs-in-restructuring It's also shifting employees to low-cost areas, and hopes to have 60 percent of its workers located in cheaper countries by 2018, Nefkens said.

yogibear

Carly Fiorina: (LOL, leading a tech company with a degree in medieval history and philosophy) While at ATT she was groomed from the Affirmative Action plan.

Alma Mater: Stanford University (B.A. in medieval history and philosophy); University of Maryland (MBA); Massachusetts Institute of Technology

==================================================================

Patricia Russo: (Lucent) (Dedree in Political Science). Another lady elevated through the AA plan, Russo got her bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in political science and history in 1973. She finished the advanced management program at Harvard Business School in 1989

Both ladies steered their corporations to failure.

Clowns on Acid

It is very straightforward. Replace 45,000 US workers with 100,000 offshore workers and you still save millions of USD ! Use the "savings" to buy back stock, then borrow more $$ at ZIRP to buy more stock back.

You guys don't know nuthin'.

homiegot

HP: one of the worst places you could work. Souless.

Pancho de Villa

Ladies and Gentlemen! Integrity has left the Building!

space junk

I worked there for a while and it was total garbage. There are still some great folks around, but they are getting paid less and less, and having to work longer hours for less pay while reporting to God knows who, often a foreigner with crappy engrish skills, yes likely another 'diversity hire'. People with DEEP knowledge, decades and decades, have either gotten unfairly fired or demoted, made to quit, or if they are lucky, taken some early retirement and GTFO (along with their expertise - whoopsie! who knew? unintended consequences are a bitch aren't they? )....

If you look on a site like LinkedIN, it will always say 'We're hiring!'. YES, HP is hiring.....but not YOU, they want Ganesh Balasubramaniamawapbapalooboopawapbamboomtuttifrutti, so that they can work him as modern day slave labor for ultra cheap. We can thank idiot 'leaders' like Meg Pasty Faced Whitman and Bill 'Forced Vaccinations' Gates for lobbying Congress for decades, against the rights of American workers.

Remember that Meg 'Pasty Faced' Whitman is the person who came up with the idea of a 'lights out' datacenter....that's right, it's the concept of putting all of your computers in a building, in racks, in the dark, and maybe hiring an intern to come in once a month and keep them going. This is what she actually believed. Along with her other statement to the HP workforce which says basically that the future of HP is one of total automation.....TRANSLATION: If you are a smart admin, engineer, project manager, architect, sw tester, etc.....we (HP management) think you are an IDIOT and can be replaced by a robot, a foreigner, or any other cheap worker.

Race to the bottom is like they say a space ship approaching a black hole......after a while the laws of physics and common sense, just don't apply anymore.

InnVestuhrr

An era of leadership in computer technology has died, and there is no grave marker, not even a funeral ceremony or eulogy ... Hewlett-Packard, COMPAQ, Digital Equipment Corp, UNIVAC, Sperry-Rand, Data General, Tektronix, ZILOG, Advanced Micro Devices, Sun Microsystems, etc, etc, etc. So much change in so short a time, leaves your mind dizzy.

[Nov 27, 2017] The Robot Productivity Paradox and the concept of bezel

This concept of "bezel" is an important one
Notable quotes:
"... "In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.) ..."
"... At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in – or more precisely not in – the country's business and banks. ..."
"... This inventory – it should perhaps be called the bezzle – amounts at any moment to many millions [trillions!] of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle. ..."
"... In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly. ..."
"... In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks ..."
Feb 22, 2017 | econospeak.blogspot.com

Sandwichman -> Sandwichman ... February 24, 2017 at 08:36 AM

John Kenneth Galbraith, from "The Great Crash 1929":

"In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.)

At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in – or more precisely not in – the country's business and banks.

This inventory – it should perhaps be called the bezzle – amounts at any moment to many millions [trillions!] of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle.

In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly.

In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks."

Sanwichman, February 24, 2017 at 05:24 AM

For nearly a half a century, from 1947 to 1996, real GDP and real Net Worth of Households and Non-profit Organizations (in 2009 dollars) both increased at a compound annual rate of a bit over 3.5%. GDP growth, in fact, was just a smidgen faster -- 0.016% -- than growth of Net Household Worth.

From 1996 to 2015, GDP grew at a compound annual rate of 2.3% while Net Worth increased at the rate of 3.6%....

-- Sanwichman

anne -> anne... February 24, 2017 at 05:25 AM

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cOU6

January 15, 2017

Gross Domestic Product and Net Worth for Households & Nonprofit Organizations, 1952-2016

(Indexed to 1952)

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cPq1

January 15, 2017

Gross Domestic Product and Net Worth for Households & Nonprofit Organizations, 1992-2016

(Indexed to 1992)

anne -> Sandwichman ... February 24, 2017 at 03:35 PM

The real home price index extends from 1890. From 1890 to 1996, the index increased slightly faster than inflation so that the index was 100 in 1890 and 113 in 1996. However from 1996 the index advanced to levels far beyond any previously experienced, reaching a high above 194 in 2006. Previously the index high had been just above 130.

Though the index fell from 2006, the level in 2016 is above 161, a level only reached when the housing bubble had formed in late 2003-early 2004.

Real home prices are again strikingly high:

http://www.econ.yale.edu/~shiller/data.htm Reply Friday, February 24, 2017 at 03:34 PM anne -> Sandwichman ... February 24, 2017

Valuation

The Shiller 10-year price-earnings ratio is currently 29.34, so the inverse or the earnings rate is 3.41%. The dividend yield is 1.93. So an expected yearly return over the coming 10 years would be 3.41 + 1.93 or 5.34% provided the price-earnings ratio stays the same and before investment costs.

Against the 5.34% yearly expected return on stock over the coming 10 years, the current 10-year Treasury bond yield is 2.32%.

The risk premium for stocks is 5.34 - 2.32 or 3.02%:

http://www.econ.yale.edu/~shiller/data.htm

anne -> anne..., February 24, 2017 at 05:36 AM

What the robot-productivity paradox is puzzles me, other than since 2005 for all the focus on the productivity of robots and on robots replacing labor there has been a dramatic, broad-spread slowing in productivity growth.

However what the changing relationship between the growth of GDP and net worth since 1996 show, is that asset valuations have been increasing relative to GDP. Valuations of stocks and homes are at sustained levels that are higher than at any time in the last 120 years. Bear markets in stocks and home prices have still left asset valuations at historically high levels. I have no idea why this should be.

Sandwichman -> anne... February 24, 2017 at 08:34 AM

The paradox is that productivity statistics can't tell us anything about the effects of robots on employment because both the numerator and the denominator are distorted by the effects of colossal Ponzi bubbles.

John Kenneth Galbraith used to call it "the bezzle." It is "that increment to wealth that occurs during the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it." The current size of the gross national bezzle (GNB) is approximately $24 trillion.

Ponzilocks and the Twenty-Four Trillion Dollar Question

http://econospeak.blogspot.ca/2017/02/ponzilocks-and-twenty-four-trillion.html

Twenty-three and a half trillion, actually. But what's a few hundred billion? Here today, gone tomorrow, as they say.

At the beginning of 2007, net worth of households and non-profit organizations exceeded its 1947-1996 historical average, relative to GDP, by some $16 trillion. It took 24 months to wipe out eighty percent, or $13 trillion, of that colossal but ephemeral slush fund. In mid-2016, net worth stood at a multiple of 4.83 times GDP, compared with the multiple of 4.72 on the eve of the Great Unworthing.

When I look at the ragged end of the chart I posted yesterday, it screams "Ponzi!" "Ponzi!" "Ponz..."

To make a long story short, let's think of wealth as capital. The value of capital is determined by the present value of an expected future income stream. The value of capital fluctuates with changing expectations but when the nominal value of capital diverges persistently and significantly from net revenues, something's got to give. Either economic growth is going to suddenly gush forth "like nobody has ever seen before" or net worth is going to have to come back down to earth.

Somewhere between 20 and 30 TRILLION dollars of net worth will evaporate within the span of perhaps two years.

When will that happen? Who knows? There is one notable regularity in the data, though -- the one that screams "Ponzi!"

When the net worth bubble stops going up...
...it goes down.

[Nov 27, 2017] Nineteen Ninety-Six: The Robot/Productivity Paradox and the concept of bezel

This concept of "bezel" is an important one
Feb 22, 2017 | econospeak.blogspot.com

Sandwichman -> Sandwichman ... February 24, 2017 at 08:36 AM

John Kenneth Galbraith, from "The Great Crash 1929":

"In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.)

At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in – or more precisely not in – the country's business and banks.

This inventory – it should perhaps be called the bezzle – amounts at any moment to many millions [trillions!] of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle.

In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly.

In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye.

The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks."

Sanwichman, February 24, 2017 at 05:24 AM

For nearly a half a century, from 1947 to 1996, real GDP and real Net Worth of Households and Non-profit Organizations (in 2009 dollars) both increased at a compound annual rate of a bit over 3.5%. GDP growth, in fact, was just a smidgen faster -- 0.016% -- than growth of Net Household Worth.

From 1996 to 2015, GDP grew at a compound annual rate of 2.3% while Net Worth increased at the rate of 3.6%....

-- Sanwichman

anne -> anne... February 24, 2017 at 05:25 AM

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cOU6

January 15, 2017

Gross Domestic Product and Net Worth for Households & Nonprofit Organizations, 1952-2016

(Indexed to 1952)

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cPq1

January 15, 2017

Gross Domestic Product and Net Worth for Households & Nonprofit Organizations, 1992-2016

(Indexed to 1992)

anne -> Sandwichman ... February 24, 2017 at 03:35 PM

The real home price index extends from 1890. From 1890 to 1996, the index increased slightly faster than inflation so that the index was 100 in 1890 and 113 in 1996. However from 1996 the index advanced to levels far beyond any previously experienced, reaching a high above 194 in 2006. Previously the index high had been just above 130.

Though the index fell from 2006, the level in 2016 is above 161, a level only reached when the housing bubble had formed in late 2003-early 2004.

Real home prices are again strikingly high:

http://www.econ.yale.edu/~shiller/data.htm Reply Friday, February 24, 2017 at 03:34 PM anne -> Sandwichman ... February 24, 2017

Valuation

The Shiller 10-year price-earnings ratio is currently 29.34, so the inverse or the earnings rate is 3.41%. The dividend yield is 1.93. So an expected yearly return over the coming 10 years would be 3.41 + 1.93 or 5.34% provided the price-earnings ratio stays the same and before investment costs.

Against the 5.34% yearly expected return on stock over the coming 10 years, the current 10-year Treasury bond yield is 2.32%.

The risk premium for stocks is 5.34 - 2.32 or 3.02%:

http://www.econ.yale.edu/~shiller/data.htm

anne -> anne..., February 24, 2017 at 05:36 AM

What the robot-productivity paradox is puzzles me, other than since 2005 for all the focus on the productivity of robots and on robots replacing labor there has been a dramatic, broad-spread slowing in productivity growth.

However what the changing relationship between the growth of GDP and net worth since 1996 show, is that asset valuations have been increasing relative to GDP. Valuations of stocks and homes are at sustained levels that are higher than at any time in the last 120 years. Bear markets in stocks and home prices have still left asset valuations at historically high levels. I have no idea why this should be.

Sandwichman -> anne... February 24, 2017 at 08:34 AM

The paradox is that productivity statistics can't tell us anything about the effects of robots on employment because both the numerator and the denominator are distorted by the effects of colossal Ponzi bubbles.

John Kenneth Galbraith used to call it "the bezzle." It is "that increment to wealth that occurs during the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it." The current size of the gross national bezzle (GNB) is approximately $24 trillion.

Ponzilocks and the Twenty-Four Trillion Dollar Question

http://econospeak.blogspot.ca/2017/02/ponzilocks-and-twenty-four-trillion.html

Twenty-three and a half trillion, actually. But what's a few hundred billion? Here today, gone tomorrow, as they say.

At the beginning of 2007, net worth of households and non-profit organizations exceeded its 1947-1996 historical average, relative to GDP, by some $16 trillion. It took 24 months to wipe out eighty percent, or $13 trillion, of that colossal but ephemeral slush fund. In mid-2016, net worth stood at a multiple of 4.83 times GDP, compared with the multiple of 4.72 on the eve of the Great Unworthing.

When I look at the ragged end of the chart I posted yesterday, it screams "Ponzi!" "Ponzi!" "Ponz..."

To make a long story short, let's think of wealth as capital. The value of capital is determined by the present value of an expected future income stream. The value of capital fluctuates with changing expectations but when the nominal value of capital diverges persistently and significantly from net revenues, something's got to give. Either economic growth is going to suddenly gush forth "like nobody has ever seen before" or net worth is going to have to come back down to earth.

Somewhere between 20 and 30 TRILLION dollars of net worth will evaporate within the span of perhaps two years.

When will that happen? Who knows? There is one notable regularity in the data, though -- the one that screams "Ponzi!"

When the net worth bubble stops going up...
...it goes down.

[Nov 08, 2017] Labour coercion and outside options

Notable quotes:
"... Coercion of the worker can be quite simply introduced into this setup by allowing firms to pay a 'negative wage' if the bad outcome occurs. This is simply the more cost-effective flipside of paying a higher wage if the good outcome occurs. Negative wages describe a world in which workers can be 'punished' (i.e. a world with coercion). ..."
www.theamericanconservative.com

Christian Dippel, Daniel Trefler 05 November 2017

One way employers can compel workers to accept contracts they otherwise would not accept is by limiting the outside options for those workers...

Related

Labour coercion is arguably as old human civilisation. In the words of Acemoglu and Wolitzky (2011), "the majority of labour transactions throughout much of history and a significant fraction of such transactions in many developing countries today are coercive".

Indeed, labour coercion is at the heart of much of the literature on long run development and institutional change (Domar 1970, Acemoglu et al. 2001, Engerman and Sokoloff 2002, Nunn 2008, Dell 2010, Naidu and Yuchtman 2013, Bobonis and Morrow 2014, Ashraf et al. 2017). Despite this, rigorous empirical evidence on labour coercion is scarce and is mostly focused on relating present-day outcomes to historical labour coercion.

The term 'labour coercion' is used quite broadly to describe the use of, or threat of, force in convincing workers to accept labour contracts they otherwise would not.

However, labour coercion can take two quite distinct forms, and this important distinction is often not well articulated. The distinction is best seen by imagining a standard principal-agent framework. In broad terms, a firm (the principal) offers a labour contract to a worker (the agent). If effort is not observable, it can only be inferred from the outcome, which can be 'good' or 'bad' (e.g. high output or low output). The firm can incentivise its workers to exert effort by offering them a higher wage if the good outcome materialises. The difference in the wages the firm pays in the good and bad state needs to be sufficiently high that workers exert effort (i.e. the 'incentive compatibility constraint' binds). The second constraint on the contract is that workers may walk away from it if they can earn a higher expected wage elsewhere. The expected wage (averaging over the effort-dependent outcome probabilities) thus needs to exceed the worker's outside option (i.e. the 'participation constraint' binds).

Coercion of the worker can be quite simply introduced into this setup by allowing firms to pay a 'negative wage' if the bad outcome occurs. This is simply the more cost-effective flipside of paying a higher wage if the good outcome occurs. Negative wages describe a world in which workers can be 'punished' (i.e. a world with coercion). In this way, slavery, serfdom, or indenture can be nested inside a standard economic framework and, indeed, there is a long tradition in economics that does this (Chwe 1990). However, the participation constraint still binds when there is coercion. Even in the extreme case of slavery, outside options were usually not zero so long as slaves could run away and had a chance of evading capture. The interaction of the two constraints implies that there is complementarity in coercive activities – firms can punish workers more severely if they can also reduce their outside options.

In many modern-day labour markets, it may be entirely impossible for a firm to reduce a worker's outside options and the complementarity between coercion that punishes workers and coercion that reduces outside options can therefore safely be ignored. However, for countries at the early stages of structural transformation – where workers' outside options are not to work for a different firm or in a different sector, but to be self-employed in the informal sector as a yeoman farmer or artisan (a state that describes most of modern economic history and many developing countries today) 1 – coercion that reduces workers' outside options was and still is critical.

This was recognised by early development economists, as attested, for example, by Arthur Lewis' famous quote that "the fact that the wage level in the capitalist sector depends upon earnings in the subsistence sector is of immense political importance, since its effect is that capitalists have a direct interest in holding down the productivity of the subsistence workers. Thus the owners of plantations, if they are influential in government, are often found engaged in turning the peasants off their lands" (Lewis 1954).

[Oct 31, 2017] The threat of offshored jobs and outsourced supply chains is wielded to discipline the domestic workforce in the United States, and Zucman points out that tax havens have effectively allowed the wealthy to choose their own tax system and regulatory regime

Oct 31, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Class Warfare

"The Unseen Threat of Capital Mobility" [ The Boston Review ]. "Two new books link rising inequality to unseen forces: tax havens in economist Gabriel Zucman's case, and overseas labor and environmental exploitation in historian Erik Loomis's. The adverse consequences of the free movement of capital suffuse both narratives. Loomis recognizes that the threat of offshored jobs and outsourced supply chains is wielded to discipline the domestic workforce in the United States, and Zucman points out that tax havens have effectively allowed the wealthy to choose their own tax system and regulatory regime. They each question received wisdom and ideologically charged models in which "globalization" is an inexorable force innocent of politics or power, which operates to either universal benefit or at worst whose ill effects can be compensated. In fact, thanks to globalization, the economic body -- what its ideological affiliates call 'The Market' -- is able to transcend the national body politic, to the benefit of multinational corporations and the wealthy individuals who own them."

"Why You're Not Getting a Raise" [ The Minskys ]. "A sure way to speed up wage growth again is fiscal stimulus. Government spending lifts aggregate demand directly and effectively. If enough spending is injected into the economy, it will create enough jobs to bring full employment. The momentum and labor scarcity created by the stimulus will force wages up and give workers and labor unions more bargaining power. A Job Guarantee Program , if ever implemented, would effectively set a wage floor in the economy, since any person working at a lower wage than the Job Guarantee offers will be given work in the public sector.:

"One of Arkansas' top politicians relies on unpaid workers from a local drug rehabilitation center at his plastics company, which makes dock floats sold at Home Depot and Walmart" [ Review News ]. "Hendren Plastics, owned by Arkansas State Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren, partners with a rehab program under scrutiny for making participants work grueling jobs for free, under the threat of prison, according to interviews with former workers and a new lawsuit." That reminds me of something

"What makes me tired when organising with middle class comrades" [ Guardian ].

"What I've observed over and over again is this inherent need for middle class people to censor, control and mediate emotions. There's a deep fear of conflict, loosing status and control. I've been told to be less angry on demos, less emotional at events and more serious. Stop telling me how to feel. When you've had a life of teachers, social workers and probation officers telling you how you should act, you don't need the same mediating middle class behaviour in your collectives."

[Oct 27, 2017] Why didn't Democrats pass legislation in 2009 to eliminate the right to work legislation by states? The answeer is they want Wall street money.

Oct 27, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

DJG , October 27, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Portside article about NAFTA, unions, and Canadian unions: Here is a paragraph from the underlying article at New York Magazine about the three sponsors:

On Wednesday, Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Kirsten Gillibrand announced their agreement -- and introduced legislation to ban "right-to-work" laws throughout the United States.

[NY Mag article is dated 20 Sept 2017]

The sooner we collectively kill off the feudal idea of "right to work," the better. Right now, though, we're only what -- sixty, seventy–years too late?

Scott , October 27, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Why didn't Democrats pass legislation in 2009 to eliminate it?

It was one of the few policies that I could think of what would actually, you know, help the win elections. But then I realized the the purpose of the DNC isn't actually to win elections, it's to raise money from Wall Street, Hollywood and Silcon Valley to pay for consultants.

Huey Long , October 27, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Why didn't Democrats pass legislation in 2009 to eliminate it?

Yeah, Captain Hope'N-Change failed to deliver labor any meaningful legislation during his eight years in office.

Labor was essentially told "We put some friendly faces on the NLRB and in the judiciary. Be thankful, and forget about card check or right to work preemption."

Sid_finster , October 27, 2017 at 7:40 pm

" the purpose of the DNC isn't actually to win elections, it's to raise money from Wall Street, Hollywood and Silcon Valley to pay for consultants."

Money.

Henry Moon Pie , October 27, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Good luck with that. The Rs ads write themselves.

And it's a bad look anyway. With the basically insurmountable barriers to organizing under the Wagner Act these days, a focus on making sure the money keeps flowing, much of it ending up in the Ds campaign coffers. How about repealing Taft-Hartley?

Maybe unions would be better off with less bureaucracy and more member participation. Do it like the Wobs: you come to the meeting, you pay your dues, you voice your opinion and you vote.

Huey Long , October 27, 2017 at 5:16 pm

How about repealing Taft-Hartley?

Here here!

Repealing Taft-Hartley would bring back:

The Closed Shop
Jurisdictional Strikes
Secondary Boycotts
Common Situs Picketing
A Ban on Right-to-Work
A Ban on presidential interventions in strikes
Supervisor's Unions
Employer Nuetrality

Hopefully this happens before I die. I would absolutely love to see the yacht and learjet owning class in tears!

a different chris , October 27, 2017 at 6:06 pm

>The Rs ads write themselves.

They not only write themselves they've already been written and burned into the brain. True or not, there they are. So what are you risking?

The thing is the D-time is well past the point (no House, no Senate, no Pres, vanishing amount of Govs, vanishing amount of State leges..) where saying "That's not true!!" can be considered a winning strategy, even if you could show me what you've won by saying it.

How about "hell yeah that's how we feel, America rocked (when we had strong labor)". Stand up to the bully for once, again whaddya got to lose now. I often wonder what Steve Gilliard would say at this point, he always made sure that us white people realized that something was better than nothing when you were looking at absolutely nothing at all . but things have sunk so low would he still feel that what has become nothing more than an orderly, but continuous retreat should be sustained? Or is it time to dig in and really declare full throated opposition?

(like the rest of your post, just think the time to avoid things is past)

DJG , October 27, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Henry Moon Pie: So? Let's repeal the Wagner Act and Taft-Hartley. And let's not pre-defeat ourselves.

Just as Lambert keeps reminding us, Who would have though five years ago that the momentum is now toward single-payer health insurance even if the current couple of bills don't pass? For years, John Conyers carried on the fight almost single-handedly. And now we have influential physicians stumping for single-payer.

[Oct 17, 2017] Agents of Neoliberal Globalization Corporate Networks, State Structures, and Trade Policy by Michael C. Dreiling, Derek Y. Darve

Notable quotes:
"... Amid the global financial crisis of 2008, a new chapter in the history of neoliberal globalization emerged. Simple assumptions about markets as pure and neutral arbiters of economic transactions faced new challenges from beyond the pages of economic history and sociology. ..."
"... The apparent triumph of global capitalism came into temporary question, and with it, the reigning economic paradigm of neoliberalism. ..."
"... The specter of the Occupy movement in 1011, with its sweeping critique of corporate power, took root in ways not seen in the United States since the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. ..."
"... In response, proponents of neoliberalism heightened their demands for a market-governed society, further tax cuts, deregulation, trade liberalization, and more. From the GOP and Tea Party's politics of austerity arose a fresh defense of free market politics in the United States, as well as a rcinvigorated denial of class as a structuring force in US society. These social tensions persist even as neoliberalism, as an ideology and a model for institutional restructuring, exhibits remarkable resilience. ..."
"... From the early 1980s onward, it provided the basic policy framework for "structural adjustment" in the global south, for "rescuing" the welfare state in the global north, and as a vision for a global economy unbound from centrally planned markets, dying industries, or rent-seeking interest groups. ..."
"... One cornerstone of this paradigm that remains mostly unchallenged among political elites is the principal of "free trade." Broadly speaking, neoliberalism and free trade have provided the ideological framework for most reciprocal trade agreements since the early 1980s, when President Reagan initiated a wave of new trade policies in February 1982 during a speech to the Organization of American States (OAS). ..."
"... This formulaic discourse of free markets, free trade, and personal liberty - hallmark features of Reagan's popular rhetoric - also captured what would later be acknowledged as core principles of an incipient neoliberal ideology that promised a restoration of US economic hegemony (Mudge 2008). Domestically and internationally, neoliberal trade proposals were generally presented in tandem with calls for privatization, deregulation, and a reduction in the size of government spending as a share of GDP. ..."
"... Was it the fever pitch of a new' policy ideology acted out by government partisans and policy makers committed to its mantra? Or did the very economic actors benefitting from market liberalization act politically and concertedly to unleash it? And if so, did this coordinated corporate political campaign arise from a reorganized and newly emboldened economic class, or simply through ad hoc alignments created by shared organizational interests? Specifically, can we detect class political signatures on the wave of free trade policies, like the CBI, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the World Trade Organization (WTO), that erected the institutional framework of neoliberal globalization? 6 ..."
"... We believe that our approach, rooted in the "elite studies" and "power structure" research traditions, expands (and, in some areas, corrects) conventional explanations of neoliberal trade and globalization that emphasize market, institutional, and ideological factors, while neglecting to incorporate a concept of class political action ..."
Oct 17, 2017 | www.amazon.com

Amid the global financial crisis of 2008, a new chapter in the history of neoliberal globalization emerged. Simple assumptions about markets as pure and neutral arbiters of economic transactions faced new challenges from beyond the pages of economic history and sociology.

The apparent triumph of global capitalism came into temporary question, and with it, the reigning economic paradigm of neoliberalism. From the left wing of US politics, a newly invigorated discourse of class and income inequality began to challenge corporate power with calls for greater accountability on Wall Street. The specter of the Occupy movement in 1011, with its sweeping critique of corporate power, took root in ways not seen in the United States since the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle.

In response, proponents of neoliberalism heightened their demands for a market-governed society, further tax cuts, deregulation, trade liberalization, and more. From the GOP and Tea Party's politics of austerity arose a fresh defense of free market politics in the United States, as well as a rcinvigorated denial of class as a structuring force in US society. These social tensions persist even as neoliberalism, as an ideology and a model for institutional restructuring, exhibits remarkable resilience.

Neoliberalism - which promises to efficiently generate wealth while disciplining states and bureaucracies with market forces - took shape over the course of decades. As a kind of governing philosophy, it has been offered, variously, as a remedy for economic stagnation, bureaucratic bloat, corruption, inflation, and more (Bourdieu 1999; Mirowski and Plehwe 2009; Mudge 2008). From the early 1980s onward, it provided the basic policy framework for "structural adjustment" in the global south, for "rescuing" the welfare state in the global north, and as a vision for a global economy unbound from centrally planned markets, dying industries, or rent-seeking interest groups.

One cornerstone of this paradigm that remains mostly unchallenged among political elites is the principal of "free trade." Broadly speaking, neoliberalism and free trade have provided the ideological framework for most reciprocal trade agreements since the early 1980s, when President Reagan initiated a wave of new trade policies in February 1982 during a speech to the Organization of American States (OAS). There, Reagan unilaterally called for a Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) that would "make use of the magic of the marketplace of the Americas, to earn their own way toward self-sustaining growth" (quoted in Polanyi-Levitt 1985: 232)/ This formulaic discourse of free markets, free trade, and personal liberty - hallmark features of Reagan's popular rhetoric - also captured what would later be acknowledged as core principles of an incipient neoliberal ideology that promised a restoration of US economic hegemony (Mudge 2008). Domestically and internationally, neoliberal trade proposals were generally presented in tandem with calls for privatization, deregulation, and a reduction in the size of government spending as a share of GDP. 5

Although a large and varied group of economists, policy wonks, and government leaders supported the general principles of neoliberal globalization, the "market fever" of the 1980s did not spread simply because certain individuals espoused free trade and domestic deregulation. The fact that many of these noncorporate actors assume a central role in many popular and academic accounts of this era does not reduce the many empirical problems with this view.

In particular, the problem with this "triumphant" vision of neoliberal history is the manner in which the very engines of capital behind the market mania - globalizing corporations appear as liberated historical agents acting out their market freedoms, not as class political actors foisting new institutional realities on the world. We contest this prevailing view and instead ask who liberated, or in Blyth's (2001) terminology, "disembedded," these markets from national social and political institutions?

Was it the fever pitch of a new' policy ideology acted out by government partisans and policy makers committed to its mantra? Or did the very economic actors benefitting from market liberalization act politically and concertedly to unleash it? And if so, did this coordinated corporate political campaign arise from a reorganized and newly emboldened economic class, or simply through ad hoc alignments created by shared organizational interests? Specifically, can we detect class political signatures on the wave of free trade policies, like the CBI, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the World Trade Organization (WTO), that erected the institutional framework of neoliberal globalization? 6

The answer to these questions and, in particular, the role of class agency within these macroeconomic shifts, is not simply a question of whether one likes Karl Marx or Adam Smith. Notwithstanding the recent tendency to equate the mention of class with "class warfare," it is our contention that removing class from accounts of recent economic history creates, at best, a narrow and distorted perspective on this important era. The primary purpose of this book, then, is to introduce and empirically validate a concept of class agency that deepens our understanding of both the trade policy-making apparatus as well as the neoliberal globalization "project" more generally.

We believe that our approach, rooted in the "elite studies" and "power structure" research traditions, expands (and, in some areas, corrects) conventional explanations of neoliberal trade and globalization that emphasize market, institutional, and ideological factors, while neglecting to incorporate a concept of class political action .

Our general line of argument historicizes US trade policy and neoliberal globalization, highlighting the active and at times contradictory processes that shape the state and class relationships responsible for propelling institutions, like the WTO, into existence. Following McMichael (2001: 207), we concur that globalization is best understood as a "historical project rather than a culminating process." Treating neoliberal trade policies as part of a much larger historical project - made and remade by collective actors - offers a more realistic and empirically grounded framework for exploring the intersection of class and state actors in the political articulation of globalization.

Whereas much of the literature on globalization assigns an important role to the economic activity of multinational corporations, the force of their collective political agency in pressuring states to ratify trade agreements and enact institutional reforms is mostly attributed to narrow sectoral interests, like factor mobility', economies of scale, or various industry-specific characteristics...

[Oct 11, 2017] The effects of opioids and heroin in Huntington, W.Va

Oct 11, 2017 | www.unz.com

republic, October 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm GMT

@Issac Nothing could be more laughable than to suggest sixty years of deck-stacking against middle and working class whites was a design that favored them over minorities. Hedges clearly hates those elites, but appears to share the majority of their biases. re: working class whites

Brilliant documentary by Louis Theroux, first aired last Sunday on BBC2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ1tszdWoTs

It shows the effects of opioids and heroin in Huntington, W.Va

[Oct 08, 2017] Profiting Without Producing How Finance Exploits Us All by Costas Lapavitsas

Notable quotes:
"... the lives of people in the Western world have reached levels of unprecedented material well-being and there is a middle class who are not emiserated materially. ..."
"... So the surplus value ( profit ) which is socially produced by a community gets appropriated and its potential productive value is turned to the use and benefit of a very tiny percentage of the population who produce the wealth socially, rather than redistributed into the community according to the wishes of the community. ..."
Oct 07, 2017 | www.amazon.com
Introduction

The 2000s were an extraordinary period for finance in terms of prices, profits, and volume of transactions, but also in terms of influence and arrogance. By the middle of the decade a vast bubble had been inflated in the US and the UK, the bursting of which could not be reliably timed but whose aftermath was likely to be devastating. Trivial as this point might seem in 2013, it was almost impossible to convey it at the time to spe- cialists and students of finance, and even to activists and socialists. Public perceptions were dominated by the so-called expert skills of the financial system in 'slicing and dicing' risk, and by the putative wisdom of the 'Great Moderation' in inflation policy. Structural crises were a thing of the past, or of the developing world, not of mature countries, where institutions were strong and economists well trained. It seemed that finance had discovered the perpetuum mobile of profit making.

By the middle of the first decade of the new century, it was also apparent that the processes under way amounted to more than financial excess. The bubble reflected profound changes in the conduct of non-financial enterprises, banks, and households. Alter years of financial ascendancy, the agents of capitalist accumulation assigned to financial operations a weight that was historically unprecedented. Finance was pivotal to profit making and to organizing everyday life, but also to determining economic policy as a whole. Mature capitalism had become financialized.

This book was initially conceived in that context, and its aim was to analyse the ascendancy of finance and the concomitant financialization of capitalism. By bringing to bear previous work on money and finance, the intention was to develop a theoretical analysis of financialization with clear Marxist characteristics. It was to be a book that would draw on Anglo-Saxon political economy and Japanese Uno Marxism, while being familiar with mainstream theory of money and finance. It would thus contribute to filling the hole still gaping in political economy in this field.

As is often the case with plans of this sort, reality intervened. In August 2007 the US money market had a heart attack, and in August-September 2008 the global financial system had a near-death experience. The bubble had indeed burst and a catastrophe was in the offing. The destructive influence of finance on the rest of the economy had become evident, as had the role of the state in supporting and promoting financialization. More than that, however, it soon became clear that this was a structural crisis that would not go away quickly. The bursting of the bubble had ushered in a crisis of financialization that cast fresh light on the historic transformation of mature capitalism during the preceding decades. It became necessary to re-examine the underlying tendencies of financialization, focusing in particular on the sources of financial profit. The book would have to be delayed.

And then in 2010-2012 the crisis took an even more dangerous turn. States had become perilously exposed to debt because recession had reduced tax revenues, while rescuing finance had imposed fresh costs on the exchequer. A bubble inflated by private capital had resulted in a crisis of public finance. Rising state indebtedness created turmoil of extraordinary ferocity in the eurozone, bringing into sharp relief the split between core and periphery, pushing several peripheral countries toward default, and threatening a break-up of the monetary union. The spectre of a gigantic crisis hung over the world economy. It became clear that financialization would have to be rethought still further in view of its monetary dimension, particularly the precariousness of its domestic and international monetary underpinnings.

The crisis was far from over at the time of writing this book. However, the temptation had to be resisted to delay publication still further in the expectation that other important features of financialization would emerge. It was time to submit to the public sphere the analysis of the structural and historical content of financialization, even if that meant trying to hit a moving target. The monetary and financial aspects of the transformation of capitalism during the last four decades have been increasingly discussed by political economy, particularly its Marxist strain. This book has a distinctive argument to make regarding financialization, including particularly the predatory and expropriating character of financial profit and its implications for social stratification. Light could thus be shed on the tendency to crisis that has characterized financialization since its inception.

kievite on October 8, 2017

Insightful book on "financialization"

The concept of "casino capitalism" which was put forward by Susan Strange in her 1983 book is closely related to the concept of "financialization". So this is not new and not the first attempt to analyze this aspect of neoliberalism. But the author managed to write a very interesting and insightful book.

Again, the fact that financialization is at the core of neoliberalism (as the term "Casino Capitalism" implies) is well established, but the details of how this mechanism works and how finance institutions position themselves under neoliberalism as universal intermediaries of almost any economic and even social activity: education (via student loans), pensions (via 401k Plans), heath (via heath insurance), consumption (via credit cards), extracting rents from each of them is not well known or understood.

This is the area in which this book provide some deep insights. Brief overview of the book from the author can be found in his lecture on YouTube (Profiting Without Producing How Finance Exploits Us All -- A lecture by Costas Lapavitsas ) and in his Guardian article "Finance's hold on our everyday life must be broken ".

Converting the whole economy into one giant casino where you can bet on almost anything, commodities prices, interests rate and even volatility of the market has profound social effects. And those effects are different on large enterprises and small enterprises and population at large.

The author argues that "Financialization represents a historic and deep-seated transformation of mature capitalism. Big businesses have become "financialised" as they have ample profits to finance investment, rely less on banks for loans and play financial games with available funds. Big banks, in turn, have become more distant from big businesses, turning to profits from trading in open financial markets and from lending to households. Households have become "financialised" too, as public provision in housing, education, health, pensions and other vital areas has been partly replaced by private provision, access to which is mediated by the financial system. Not surprisingly, households have accumulated a tremendous volume of financial assets and liabilities over the past four decades. "

When like in casino sheer luck begins to determine more and more of what happens to financial well-being of people due to their exposition to stock markets (hypertrophied under neoliberalism into some incredible monster due to 401K plans participation) , and skill, effort, initiative, determination and hard work count for less and less, then inevitably faith and confidence in the social and political system quickly fades.

That's what happened with casino capitalism in the USA and that's why Trump was elected.

Paradoxically, as people more and more play in stock market (including with their 401K money) then respect the system less and less. In a way neoliberalism brings with is 'casino capitalism" mentality" its own demise. Frustration and anger become sharper and prone to be violently expressed when the realm of inequality becomes too large and when the system seems to operate so very unequally and biased toward the top 1% or, more correctly, the top 0.01%. While many people find themselves without jobs and without any opportunity to earn a decent living. Thrown out of "economy for winners." That's the problem Pope Francis "LAUDATO SI" was devoted to.

As author states "This book has a distinctive argument to make regarding financialization, including particularly the predatory and expropriating character of financial profit and its implications for social stratification. Light could thus be shed on the tendency to crisis that has characterized financialization since its inception."

Highly recommended.

merjet December 2, 2014

Clear and informative but a Marxist bias

I discovered this book by chance. The title looked intriguing and I have seen very few books about financialization, so I decided to read it. It was good enough to keep my interest, despite the influence by the distorting lens of Marxist thought. It doesn't live up to its title of showing how financial people profit without producing and exploit us all. (I make an exception for those in government who do that.) Indeed, despite "exploit" in the subtitle, it appears in the book only two other places, which likely helped hold my interest. Also, the writing was good.

The author makes a fundamental distinction between productive capital and financial capital. Add '-ist' to each to denote the people. I think it's safe to say the book implicitly says:

1. The former are capital providers who also work in the productive business. The business produces non-financial products, e.g. food, or services, e.g. transportation.

2. The latter provide the non-financial business capital but don't work in said business, like outside stockholders, bondholders and lenders.

Lenders are mostly banks. The author is not critical of productive capital, but, as a Marxist, he regards financial capitalists as expropriators who profit without producing. The fact that many of these financial capitalists are individuals who worked productively for decades and are now retired and depend on income from said capital for living expenses is conveniently omitted.

Marx's notions of money and exchange value are flawed. Firstly, money is the medium of _indirect_ exchange, which Marx didn't recognize and Lapavitsas's reference to Carl Menger didn't recognize. Also, Austrians like Menger realize that indirect exchange increases with the division of labor. Despite its huge significance, division of labor is an idea barely worth mention by Marx, and then only negatively. Also, indirect exchange encompasses more than just "spot market" exchanges. It includes X now for Y later, like in a forward or futures contract. It also includes both X and Y being money and Y is indeterminate when X occurs. X and Y may even be in different currencies and utilize a financial mediator.

Page 200 says, "the financial system is an intermediate entity that does not produce value." Page 201 says the financial system's services include creation of credit money, safekeeping of funds, money transfers, facilitating foreign exchange, mobilization of loanable capital, and turning that into loans. "The financial, consequently, acts as the nerves and brains of the capitalist economy." Extending his metaphor, what he considers the productive part of the economy must be the bones, muscle, and other organs. If that isn't a bad analogy, it's an amazing contradiction of Marxist thought unrecognized by the author. It implies that the nerves and brains of an animal's body provide no value to the rest of the body.

Marxist thought cherry-picks who is a producer or worker. Those in roles readily visible to making products or providing services, and roles easy to understand rank high. Roles less visible and understandable like research and development, executive-level decision-making, marketing, and especially financial people rank low and may even be considered expropriators. Union leaders and organizers whose livelihood is extracted from union dues? Many government employees? While the author gives a significant role to governments (states) and central banks in financialization, Lapavitsas blames mostly financial capitalists. Governments and central banks are more like their assistants. However, what people typically call "capitalist economies" are more properly called "mixed economies" with extensive government control well beyond prevention and punishment for coercion and fraud. So assigning all blame to capitalism is quite biased.

Interest is often not simply exploitation of labor. It is mainly a reward for savings and the cost of borrowing. The author occasionally refers to savings with the perjorative term "hoarding." Consider those retirees mentioned above again.

The author often attributes to surplus value predation and exploitation, as if all surplus value does is put money in the financial capitalist's pocket and extracts from labor. Not so. Surplus value, i.e. profit, is often the source of funds for growth, upgrades, and replacement of old capital. The author himself acknowledges this when he writes about 'internal' financing, along with graphs showing 'internal' financing over time averaging about 100% in the U.S. He does not integrate these two things, which shows an incoherence in Marxist thought. Surplus value can also be the reward from entrepreneurship.

About mortgages the author says: "In short, the money revenue of workers is transformed into loanable capital at a stroke, allowing financial intermediaries to absorb parts of it as financial profit by trading securities that are based on future wage payments. The path is thus opened for financial institutions to bring to bear predatory practices reflecting the systematic difference in power and outlook between financial institutions and workers" (p. 167).

My comments:

1. Loanable capital doesn't arise simply because a worker wants a mortgage. Unless the money is newly created "out of thin air" by government-backed banks, loanable capital is the result of somebody saving, the saver not spending the money on something else.

2. The worker's future wages are in fact a condition for obtaining the mortgage. Rather than being exploited, the worker is given the opportunity to become a homeowner at the stroke of a pen.

3. Regarding working people you know who have purchased a house with a mortgage, which may include you, have they felt elated or exploited?

4. All or most working people living in many of the poorer countries of the world can't even get a mortgage. There is not enough savings to offer loanable capital to support a mortgage market.

5. Granted, there have been victims of predatory practices by lenders, but lenders also become victims if the borrower defaults on the mortgage. Also, such predatory practices by lenders is a recent phenomena for a _part_ of the market for mortgages, hardly characteristic of the mortgage market generally.

Chapter 9 is a pretty good description of the recent financial crisis. It also covers different Marxist theories about how crises develop. All typically claim that capitalism is inherently unstable due to 'contradictions' in production. Unlike free market advocates, they hardly ever cite government intervention as a cause of instability. They don't distinguish between a capitalist economy and mixed economy.

The final chapter, Controlling Finance, addresses what has been done and what the author wishes can be done. It makes an interesting distinction between market-negating and market-conforming regulation. I don't agree with the author's utopian visions about government ownership and/or control of finance. Indeed, I found it puzzling to see after (1) his earlier saying elected politicians are plain dishonest (p. 195), (2) describing how much states and central banks have aided financial capitalists in recent decades with deregulation and bailouts, and (3) his saying "there are no clear paths to regulatory change" (p. 324). By the way, a good way to avoid such utopian visions is to compare East and West Germany, North and South Korea, and the USSR and the USA.

7 comments 22 people found this helpful.

Stergios D. Marangos 1 year ago

This reviewer is more concerned with trying to critique Marx than this book. Needless to say, the second someone says surplus value = profit ( not to mention the muddle that surplus value can come from entrepreneurship) you know there is something wrong...

merjet 2 years ago (Edited) In reply to an earlier post Robert Fenton 2 years ago

Fenton: "The contradictions of money are fairly evident from this point."

A thing having more than one attribute does not make a "contradiction." I suggest you learn some logic.

Fenton: "Difference between capitalist and mixed economy makes no sense."

I suppose the difference between voluntary and coerced, or non-political versus political, makes no sense to you either.

Fenton: "For Marx, who lived in the 19th century, the idea of a "free market" made no sense at all."

No wonder he was so confused and fabricated nonsense about it.

Fenton: "The USA practiced protectionism to build up its industrial capacity, the USSR directed production from central committee."

The consequence of USSR's centrally-directed agricultural production was millions dying by starvation. Ditto for China. Perhaps you should read the histories of countries that have implemented Marxist ideas. While I don't approve of protectionism, it is paltry compared to millions dying by starvation.

Fenton: "This review ... is laden with ideological positions."

The pot calls the kettle black.

Robert Fenton 2 years ago (Edited)

People without an intimate knowledge of Marxism should probably refrain from commenting on it like they know what they are talking about. First of all, Marx's theory of money does account for "indirect" exchange: this is key to his entire dialectical edifice. Prices do not equal values, they are merely representations of value (i.e., exchange value). But Marx's theory of money is even more complex, and rests on a three-fold determination of money as 1.) measure of value, 2.) means of circulation and exchange (your "indirect" means), and 3.) store of value. The contradictions of money are fairly evident from this point. The Austrians assume the problematic position by conflating the value of money with its price: it is what it is. Their wholesale acceptance of Say's Law is troubling too, considering they accept money as "indirect" means of exchange. But by failing to recognize money's other determinations, they basically treat it as direct exchange in theorem.

Secondly, to claim that the division of labor is an afterthought for Marxist thought is asinine. It is literally at the core of his entire Critique. Marx actually has a rosier interpretation of it than Adam Smith (see book 3 Wealth of Nations). Marx's entire critique of political economy (read: critique of economic science and practice) is that capitalists need to extract surplus value from nominally free workers. How do they do this? Both absolutely, by extending duration of work day, and relatively, buy increasing productivity (in practice, Marx acknowledges that we can see a combination of both). This is not visible in the wage or in the act of exchange, but in the relations of production and the dual character of the commodity "labor-power." But the division of labor is actually the basis for new forms of "Co-operation" (perhaps the best chapter in Capital Vol. I) and solidarity. It is dialectical. If you only see the negative in Marx it is because you have an ideological predisposition to dislike his work, or you don't understand how dialectics work--I would say it is probably both.

M-C-M' (circuit of expanded production); M-M' (fictitious capital arising from speculative credit economy). You need to read about this on your own. Central to the entire argument in Capital.

I don't think you understand Marx's notion of "exploitation," which I have briefly summarized above. It is not treating someone badly, it is not some morally repugnant slavery, per se. It is a legal means of covering the ways in which surpluses are generated in capitalist society. Workers make things but never receive the values they produce back as wages. There is a temporal issue at play, but it is all highly predicated on how capitalists must work: they need to constantly expand their capital (increase profits and invest those profits into expanding production, etc., accumulation for accumulation's sake). A capitalist pays a worker a certain wage, the worker works as the capitalist wants him/her to, the worker produces something they don't have control over, the capitalist receives (if the product can find a market) money back from that product that needs to be more than the outlays in fixed capital (buildings, supplies, equipment) and variable capital (labor) he originally spent to produce. This is exploitation. Mortgaging and other consumption-based loans are basically a means of recouping surpluses that were paid to workers in wages. Marx clearly does not buy into any these of material immiseration (Ricardo's Iron law of wages), nor does he deny the productive capabilities of capitalist economies. He says workers can get paid more for labor-power than the value of labor, it is in Capital. This is part of the entire business cycle theory Marx develops.

Difference between capitalist and mixed economy makes no sense. It is a product of ridiculous bifurcation of economic and political spheres prevalent in bourgeois (liberal) thought, hence economic liberalism and political liberalism. Capitalist economies are characterized by the generalization of the commodity, wage labor, and private (i.e., not collective, which a class of government bureaucrats certainly aren't) ownership of the means of production (factories, tools, etc.). Marx and later Marxist show exactly how something like a welfare state is untenable, the law of value prohibits it. This goes back to your issue understanding what productive laborers are for Marx (btw, research and development is part of productive labor). For Marx, who lived in the 19th century (read Karl Polanyi's Great Transformation), the idea of a "free market" made no sense at all. The political and economic forces were aligned, forcing peasants from their lands and into towns and factories ("On so-called Primitive Accumulation"). But why should we avoid utopian visions by comparing "mixed economies" with "mixed economies"? Perhaps you should read the histories about the countries you listed. The USA practiced protectionism to build up its industrial capacity, the USSR directed production from central committee. South Korean had a capitalist dictator who controlled the entire country and murdered anyone with communist sympathies, the North did roughly the same thing. Two sides of the same coin. The real utopia is the "free market." It never has and never will exist because there are too many factors that impinge upon it. If you want to see something approximating a "free market" come down to Latin America. Even in "socialist" Ecuador things are more laissez-faire.

I have not read this book yet, but I plan to. This review shows an utter lack of understand, however, for even the most basic points of Marxist critiques. It is laden with ideological positions and insinuates a variety of banalities about Marxism and communism which don't hold true on close scrutiny of Marx's work. Please educate yourself.

Frank 2 years ago (Edited)

There is a critical response to your example of house ownership. Again that gets very complex but, just a part of that response, to your 2nd point:
"2. The worker's future wages are in fact a condition for obtaining the mortgage. Rather than being exploited, the worker is given the opportunity to become a homeowner at the stroke of a pen."

This could be described as a bargain with the devil. The worker has to work extra to pay 3 times the current market value of the home due to the interest. The capitalist makes a good profit out of that.

Frank 2 years ago (Edited)

So what I think you miss here is a connection between capitalism criticised as a means of exploitation and capitalism described as a working economic system with its own character and good and bad points.

So what is being gotten at, amongst other points, in Marxist critiques of capitalism is that:

  1. Capitalism is a very productive system
  2. Its productivity has to do with the division of labour and refinements of productive activity which is linked into supply and demand
  3. But Marx's point, amongst others, was that this would lead to a polarisation into a class of capitalists who became richer through appropriation of surplus value (including its redeployment in further profit producing enterprises) and those "workers" who produce by transforming the raw materials into actual goods and services who become or remain emiserated over time. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
  4. This last point 3 is quite possibly historically inaccurate in the sense that capitalism is enormously productive and has produced increasing levels of material well being through this increased production. Hence the lives of people in the Western world have reached levels of unprecedented material well-being and there is a middle class who are not emiserated materially.

But there is some sort of residual truth in that given the increasing levels of inequality on the one hand and global impoverishment on the other. In respect of global impoverishment it is credible to propose that the billions who live in poverty can't attain to the levels of affluence in the West due to the ecological limits of capitalism - that the western lifestyle of the wealthy is a phantasmorgoria to them. So its arguable that an alternative means that might be more socialist might in fact be needed for that relief of impoverishment to happen. That proposal needs to be moderated by the fact that there is a lot that can be done through refinements of production without coming into conflict with those ecological limits. For instance cities could be made a lot more liveable without increasing ecological damage.

So the main point that you miss (in an otherwise clear critical statement) is that a tiny percentage of the global population own and control a huge percentage of the world's wealth.

In part this is done through the translation of the production of goods and services into financial ie monetary equivalents which is distributed through private ownership and systems thereof into further capitalist enterprise. That seems to me what the book is actually getting at.

So I would think that "exploitation" would need to be conceived of as some sort of taking of an undeserved share of the productive potential of a social project ie the surplus value that is produced (surplus to whatever is needed for production or reproduction) then that becomes exclusively available to the capitalist entrepreneur who then reinvests it unlocking further profitability and production. So its the productive potential for further deployment that is expropriated by the capitalist entrepreneur.

This surplus value is produced by all those who work in the enterprise, in other words socially, but then that is leveraged into further productive activity which in turn increases the financial wealth of the capitalist. The entrepreneurial capitalist is also, initially, a participating worker, eg an organiser, co-ordinator, innovator and even sometimes an inventor but once enough surplus value is realised the system begins to work for him instead of his own activity being responsible so he makes a transition himself. Eventually the entrepreneurial capitalist is virtually free from the necessity of work.

So the surplus value ( profit ) which is socially produced by a community gets appropriated and its potential productive value is turned to the use and benefit of a very tiny percentage of the population who produce the wealth socially, rather than redistributed into the community according to the wishes of the community.

Most of these comments of mine are, I know, just partial thoughts needing to be made more adequate rather than completed. I am not a committed Marxist but neither am I in love with capitalism as a system. In fact I wouldn't claim much authority here just a partial understanding at a preliminary sort of level of something complex that I don't understand fully. The mixed modes that you talk about seem to me part of a continuing search for ways of reconciling socialism and capitalism. Hence my way of expressing this as what he or Marx is "trying to get at".

[Oct 05, 2017] How Billionaires become Billionaires - The Unz Review

Notable quotes:
"... Billionaires in the commercial conglomerates, like Walmart, exploit workers by paying poverty wages and providing few, if any, benefits. Walmart earns $16 billion dollar a year in profits by paying its workers between $10 and $13 an hour and relying on state and federal assistance to provide services to the families of its impoverished workers through Medicaid and food stamps. ..."
"... Inequality is not a result of 'technology' and 'education'- contemporary euphemisms for the ruling class cult of superiority – as liberals and conservative economists and journalists like to claim. Inequalities are a result of low wages, based on big profits, financial swindles, multi-trillion dollar public handouts and multi-billion-dollar tax evasion. ..."
"... Workers pay disproportional taxes for education, health, social and public services and subsidies for billionaires ..."
"... First and foremost, billionaires and their political, legal and corporate associates dominate the political parties. They designate the leaders and key appointees, thus ensuring that budgets and policies will increase their profits, erode social benefits for the masses and weaken the political power of popular organizations ..."
"... As a result, wage and salary workers are less organized and less influential; they work longer and for less pay, suffer greater workplace insecurity and injuries – physical and mental – fall into decline and disability, drop out of the system, die earlier and poorer, and, in the process, provide unimaginable profits for the billionaire class ..."
"... The bulk of repatriated profits are directed to buy back stock to increase dividends for investors; they are not invested in the productive economy. Lower taxes and greater profits for conglomerates means more buy-outs and greater outflows to low wage countries. In real terms taxes are already less than half the headline rate and are a major factor heightening the concentration of income and power – both cause and effect. ..."
"... In other words, the capitalist class as a whole, globalist and domestic alike, pursues the same regressive policies, promoting inequalities while struggling over shares of the profits. One hundred and fifty million wage and salaried taxpayers are excluded from the political and social decisions that directly affect their income, employment, rates of taxation, and political representation. ..."
"... However, worker hostility and despair is directed against 'immigrants' and against the 'liberals' who have backed the import of cheap skilled and semi-skilled labor under the guise of 'freedom'. This 'politically correct' image of imported labor covers up a policy, which has served to lower wages, benefits and living standards for American workers, whether they are in technology, construction or production. ..."
"... The pro and anti-immigrant issue avoids the root cause for the economic exploitation and social degradation of the working class – the billionaire owners operating in alliance with the political elite. ..."
Oct 05, 2017 | www.unz.com

Billionaires in the commercial conglomerates, like Walmart, exploit workers by paying poverty wages and providing few, if any, benefits. Walmart earns $16 billion dollar a year in profits by paying its workers between $10 and $13 an hour and relying on state and federal assistance to provide services to the families of its impoverished workers through Medicaid and food stamps. Amazon plutocrat Jeff Bezos exploits workers by paying $12.50 an hour while he has accumulated over $80 billion dollars in profits. UPS CEO David Albany takes $11 million a year by exploiting workers at $11 an hour. Federal Express CEO, Fred Smith gets $16 million and pays workers $11 an hour.

Inequality is not a result of 'technology' and 'education'- contemporary euphemisms for the ruling class cult of superiority – as liberals and conservative economists and journalists like to claim. Inequalities are a result of low wages, based on big profits, financial swindles, multi-trillion dollar public handouts and multi-billion-dollar tax evasion. The ruling class has mastered the 'technology' of exploiting the state, through its pillage of the treasury, and the working class. Capitalist exploitation of low paid production workers provides additional billions for the 'philanthropic' billionaire family foundations to polish their public image – using another tax avoidance gimmick – self-glorifying 'donations'.

Workers pay disproportional taxes for education, health, social and public services and subsidies for billionaires.

Billionaires in the arms industry and security/mercenary conglomerates receive over $700 billion dollars from the federal budget, while over 100 million US workers lack adequate health care and their children are warehoused in deteriorating schools.

Workers and Bosses: Mortality Rates

Billionaires and multi-millionaires and their families enjoy longer and healthier lives than their workers. They have no need for health insurance policies or public hospitals. CEO's live on average ten years longer than a worker and enjoy twenty years more of healthy and pain-free lives.

Private, exclusive clinics and top medical care include the most advanced treatment and safe and proven medication which allow billionaires and their family members to live longer and healthier lives. The quality of their medical care and the qualifications of their medical providers present a stark contrast to the health care apartheid that characterizes the rest of the United States.

Workers are treated and mistreated by the health system: They have inadequate and often incompetent medical treatment, cursory examinations by inexperienced medical assistants and end up victims of the widespread over-prescription of highly addictive narcotics and other medications. Over-prescription of narcotics by incompetent 'providers' has significantly contributed to the rise in premature deaths among workers, spiraling cases of opiate overdose, disability due to addiction and descent into poverty and homelessness. These irresponsible practices have made additional billions of dollars in profits for the insurance corporate elite, who can cut their pensions and health care liabilities as injured, disabled and addicted workers drop out of the system or die.

The shortened life expectancy for workers and their family members is celebrated on Wall Street and in the financial press. Over 560,000 workers were killed by opioids between 1999-2015 contributing to the decline in life expectancy for working age wage and salary earners and reduced pension liabilities for Wall Street and the Social Security Administration.

Inequalities are cumulative, inter-generational and multi-sectorial.

Billionaire families, their children and grandchildren, inherit and invest billions. They have privileged access to the most prestigious schools and medical facilities, and conveniently fall in love to equally privileged, well-connected mates to join their fortunes and form even greater financial empires. Their wealth buys favorable, even fawning, mass media coverage and the services of the most influential lawyers and accountants to cover their swindles and tax evasion.

Billionaires hire innovators and sweat shop MBA managers to devise more ways to slash wages, increase productivity and ensure that inequalities widen even further. Billionaires do not have to be the brightest or most innovative people: Such individuals can simply be bought or imported on the 'free market' and discarded at will.

Billionaires have bought out or formed joint ventures with each other, creating interlocking directorates. Banks, IT, factories, warehouses, food and appliance, pharmaceuticals and hospitals are linked directly to political elites who slither through doors of rotating appointments within the IMF, the World Bank, Treasury, Wall Street banks and prestigious law firms.

Consequences of Inequalities

First and foremost, billionaires and their political, legal and corporate associates dominate the political parties. They designate the leaders and key appointees, thus ensuring that budgets and policies will increase their profits, erode social benefits for the masses and weaken the political power of popular organizations .

Secondly, the burden of the economic crisis is shifted on to the workers who are fired and later re-hired as part-time, contingent labor. Public bailouts, provided by the taxpayer, are channeled to the billionaires under the doctrine that Wall Street banks are too big to fail and workers are too weak to defend their wages, jobs and living standards.

Billionaires buy political elites, who appoint the World Bank and IMF officials tasked with instituting policies to freeze or reduce wages, slash corporate and public health care obligations and increase profits by privatizing public enterprises and facilitating corporate relocation to low wage, low tax countries.

As a result, wage and salary workers are less organized and less influential; they work longer and for less pay, suffer greater workplace insecurity and injuries – physical and mental – fall into decline and disability, drop out of the system, die earlier and poorer, and, in the process, provide unimaginable profits for the billionaire class . Even their addiction and deaths provide opportunities for huge profit – as the Sackler Family, manufacturers of Oxycontin, can attest.

The billionaires and their political acolytes argue that deeper regressive taxation would increase investments and jobs. The data speaks otherwise. The bulk of repatriated profits are directed to buy back stock to increase dividends for investors; they are not invested in the productive economy. Lower taxes and greater profits for conglomerates means more buy-outs and greater outflows to low wage countries. In real terms taxes are already less than half the headline rate and are a major factor heightening the concentration of income and power – both cause and effect.

Corporate elites, the billionaires in the Silicon Valley-Wall Street global complex are relatively satisfied that their cherished inequalities are guaranteed and expanding under the Demo-Republican Presidents- as the 'good times' roll on.

Away from the 'billionaire elite', the 'outsiders' – domestic capitalists – clamor for greater public investment in infrastructure to expand the domestic economy, lower taxes to increase profits, and state subsidies to increase the training of the labor force while reducing funds for health care and public education. They are oblivious to the contradiction.

In other words, the capitalist class as a whole, globalist and domestic alike, pursues the same regressive policies, promoting inequalities while struggling over shares of the profits. One hundred and fifty million wage and salaried taxpayers are excluded from the political and social decisions that directly affect their income, employment, rates of taxation, and political representation. They understand, or at least experience, how the class system works. Most workers know about the injustice of the fake 'free trade' agreements and regressive tax regime, which weighs heavy on the majority of wage and salary earners.

However, worker hostility and despair is directed against 'immigrants' and against the 'liberals' who have backed the import of cheap skilled and semi-skilled labor under the guise of 'freedom'. This 'politically correct' image of imported labor covers up a policy, which has served to lower wages, benefits and living standards for American workers, whether they are in technology, construction or production. Rich conservatives, on the other hand, oppose immigration under the guise of 'law and order' and to lower social expenditures – despite that fact that they all use imported nannies, tutors, nurses, doctors and gardeners to service their families. Their servants can always be deported when convenient.

The pro and anti-immigrant issue avoids the root cause for the economic exploitation and social degradation of the working class – the billionaire owners operating in alliance with the political elite.

In order to reverse the regressive tax practices and tax evasion, the low wage cycle and the spiraling death rates resulting from narcotics and other preventable causes, which profit insurance companies and pharmaceutical billionaires, class alliances need to be forged linking workers, consumers, pensioners, students, the disabled, the foreclosed homeowners, evicted tenants, debtors, the under-employed and immigrants as a unified political force.

Sooner said than done, but never tried! Everything and everyone is at stake: life, health and happiness.

conatus > , October 5, 2017 at 9:02 am GMT

Ronald Reagan can be blamed for the excess of billionaires we now have. His lauding of the entrepreneurial spirit and how we are all brave individual risk takers makes it seem you are an envious chickensh$t if you advocate against unlimited assets.

But even Warren Buffet has come out for the estate tax saying something like now the Forbes 400 now possesses total assets of 2.5 trillion in a 20 trillion economy when 40 years ago they totaled in the millions. The legal rule against perpetuities generally used to limit trusts to a lifetime of 100 years, now some states offer 1000 year trusts which will only concretize an outlandishly high Gini coefficient(a measure of income inequality).
The rationale for lowering taxes and the untouchable rich is usually the trickle down theory but, as one of these billionaires said, "How many pairs of pants can I buy?" It takes 274 years spending 10,000 a day to spend a billion dollars.
Better Henry Ford's virtuous circle than Ronald Reagan's entrepreneur.
Ban all billionaires. Bring back the union label. Otherwise .. what do we have to lose?

http://nobillionairescom.dotster.com/

jacques sheete > , October 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm GMT

@Wally "According to the US Internal Revenue Service, billionaire tax evasion amounts to $458 billion dollars in lost public revenues every year – almost a trillion dollars every two years by this conservative estimate."

No, it's $458 billion that the government has not managed to steal.

https://www.ronpaul.com/taxes/


An income tax is the most degrading and totalitarian of all possible taxes. Its implementation wrongly suggests that the government owns the lives and labor of the citizens it is supposed to represent.

Tellingly, "a heavy progressive or graduated income tax" is Plank #2 of the Communist Manifesto, which was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and first published in 1848.
To provide funding for the federal government, Ron Paul supports excise taxes, non-protectionist tariffs, massive cuts in spending

"We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don't need to "replace" the income tax at all. I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax, and I would vote for the Fair-Tax if it came up in the House of Representatives, but it is not my goal. We can do better."

https://youtu.be/qI5lC4Z_T80

No, it's $458 billion that the government has not managed to steal.

There was a time that I would have agreed with that, and technically still get the point, but what it really means is that the government merely allows the corporations which they favor, subsidize, and bail out to keep the chump change they've stolen from the workers, besides that which the government steals from the workers and hands to the corporations.

Corporations and government work hand in hand to fleece the herd and most of the herd apparently think it's just fine.

Never forget that thanks to government, corporations socialize risk while privatizing profit. They are partners in gangsterism.

advancedatheist > , October 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm GMT

Private, exclusive clinics and top medical care include the most advanced treatment and safe and proven medication which allow billionaires and their family members to live longer and healthier lives.

Sorry, I don't buy the notion that billionaires have access to some super-healthcare that the rest of us don't know about. In the real world rich people notoriously waste a lot of money on quackery, like the current fad of receiving plasma transfusions from young people as a phony "anti-aging" treatment.

More likely the kinds of men who become billionaires just enjoy better health and longevity for genetic reasons. They tend to have higher IQ's, for example, and some scientists think that IQ correlates with "system integrity" in their bodies which just make higher IQ people more resilient. Look up the growing body of research on cognitive epidemiology.

anonymous > , Disclaimer October 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm GMT

I'm disappointed there was no mention of the "Billionaires" use of social media. They've always controlled the press of course: startin' wars, hatin' on those guys, gettin' the blood up, jailin' the 'bad guys', preaching an empty delusion of social justice propaganda, payin' Ken Burns to propagandize and put a new coat of paint on the industrial scale killing of Vietnam. Probably just in time for more violence.

Let's face it, many of the workin' stiff will blow a hedge fund manager and kneel before the so-called free market corpse of Sam Walton but most importantly they'll grab their guns outa' patriotic fervor and social media will be right there with 'em. "I love Elon Musk!"

It's a great thing we're watched and datamined for our own good – information is how billionaires became billionaires along with a lot of help from the Government they usually encourage you to dislike. Keep posting!

MarkinLA > , October 5, 2017 at 3:29 pm GMT

Rich conservatives, on the other hand, oppose immigration under the guise of 'law and order' and to lower social expenditures – despite that fact that they all use imported nannies, tutors, nurses, doctors and gardeners to service their families. Their servants can always be deported when convenient.

BZZZZ – wrong. Rich conservative support massive immigration so they can get cheap labor while simutaneously virtue signaling. I thought you just got done sayiong they don't pay for the costs of the working poor? The middle class is who is against immigratioin. They bear the burden and pay the taxes that support it.

[Oct 04, 2017] Nothing damage the interests of financial oligarchy more than restricting immigration labor supply and creating a more homogeneous politi that has a greater sense of ownership of the nation

Unrestricted immigration is form of war on labor.
Notable quotes:
"... Nothing does more to damage to the interests of runaway Capital than restricting immigration labour supply and creating a more homogeneous politi that has a greater sense of ownership of the nation. ..."
"... Nothing solidifies neo-liberalism like mass migration. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com

Altai > , October 4, 2017 at 1:36 pm GMT

Nothing does more to damage to the interests of runaway Capital than restricting immigration labour supply and creating a more homogeneous politi that has a greater sense of ownership of the nation.

Nothing solidifies neo-liberalism like mass migration.

Brazil will never be Denmark. Icelanders young and old, mothers with their small children were able to assemble and demand justice, they actually got it and a few of the bankers were jailed because they were a highly cohesive, homogeneous community with a sense of ownership of their nation. (For a little while anyway, mass pressure from the US and other governments to do away with any unpleasant examples lead to appallingly early releases)

There is nothing else to discuss at this point. Tax rates and regulations can be changed and will be changed back and forth.

If Chomsky wants to play pretend that it's 1968 that's his business, but if he has himself fallen so deep into the very elitist narratives he professes to challenge and advocate essentially open borders (A position even the likes of Sanders not too long ago were very much aware was the greatest threat to reducing inequality and social democracy.) for socialism, there is no hope.

Sadly Chomsky seems to relish the idea of ethnic cleansing of whites in opposition to everything he claimed he stood for for decades. In doing so, for (((no apparent reason))), he simply becomes another alt-right meme.

[Oct 02, 2017] Techs push to teach coding isnt about kids success – its about cutting wages by Ben Tarnoff

Highly recommended!
IT is probably one of the most "neoliberalized" industry (even in comparison with finance). So atomization of labor and "plantation economy" is a norm in IT. It occurs on rather high level of wages, but with influx of foreign programmers and IT specialists (in the past) and mass outsourcing (now) this is changing. Completion for good job positions is fierce. Dog eats dog competition, the dream of neoliberals. Entry level jobs are already paying $15 an hour, if not less.
Programming is a relatively rare talent, much like ability to play violin. Even amateur level is challenging. On high level (developing large complex programs in a team and still preserving your individuality and productivity ) it is extremely rare. Most of "commercial" programmers are able to produce only a mediocre code (which might be adequate). Only a few programmers can excel if complex software projects. Sometimes even performing solo. There is also a pathological breed of "programmer junkie" ( graphomania happens in programming too ) who are able sometimes to destroy something large projects singlehandedly. That often happens with open source projects after the main developer lost interest and abandoned the project.
It's good to allow children the chance to try their hand at coding when they otherwise may not had that opportunity, But in no way that means that all of them can became professional programmers. No way. Again the top level of programmers required position of a unique talent, much like top musical performer talent.
Also to get a decent entry position you iether need to be extremely talented or graduate from Ivy League university. When applicants are abundant, resume from less prestigious universities are not even considered. this is just easier for HR to filter applications this way.
Also under neoliberalism cheap labor via H1B visas flood the market and depresses wages. Many Silicon companies were so to say "Russian speaking in late 90th after the collapse of the USSR. Not offshoring is the dominant way to offload the development to cheaper labor.
Notable quotes:
"... As software mediates more of our lives, and the power of Silicon Valley grows, it's tempting to imagine that demand for developers is soaring. The media contributes to this impression by spotlighting the genuinely inspiring stories of those who have ascended the class ladder through code. You may have heard of Bit Source, a company in eastern Kentucky that retrains coalminers as coders. They've been featured by Wired , Forbes , FastCompany , The Guardian , NPR and NBC News , among others. ..."
"... A former coalminer who becomes a successful developer deserves our respect and admiration. But the data suggests that relatively few will be able to follow their example. Our educational system has long been producing more programmers than the labor market can absorb. ..."
"... More tellingly, wage levels in the tech industry have remained flat since the late 1990s. Adjusting for inflation, the average programmer earns about as much today as in 1998. If demand were soaring, you'd expect wages to rise sharply in response. Instead, salaries have stagnated. ..."
"... Tech executives have pursued this goal in a variety of ways. One is collusion – companies conspiring to prevent their employees from earning more by switching jobs. The prevalence of this practice in Silicon Valley triggered a justice department antitrust complaint in 2010, along with a class action suit that culminated in a $415m settlement . Another, more sophisticated method is importing large numbers of skilled guest workers from other countries through the H1-B visa program. These workers earn less than their American counterparts, and possess little bargaining power because they must remain employed to keep their status. ..."
"... Guest workers and wage-fixing are useful tools for restraining labor costs. But nothing would make programming cheaper than making millions more programmers. ..."
"... Silicon Valley has been unusually successful in persuading our political class and much of the general public that its interests coincide with the interests of humanity as a whole. But tech is an industry like any other. It prioritizes its bottom line, and invests heavily in making public policy serve it. The five largest tech firms now spend twice as much as Wall Street on lobbying Washington – nearly $50m in 2016. The biggest spender, Google, also goes to considerable lengths to cultivate policy wonks favorable to its interests – and to discipline the ones who aren't. ..."
"... Silicon Valley is not a uniquely benevolent force, nor a uniquely malevolent one. Rather, it's something more ordinary: a collection of capitalist firms committed to the pursuit of profit. And as every capitalist knows, markets are figments of politics. They are not naturally occurring phenomena, but elaborately crafted contraptions, sustained and structured by the state – which is why shaping public policy is so important. If tech works tirelessly to tilt markets in its favor, it's hardly alone. What distinguishes it is the amount of money it has at its disposal to do so. ..."
"... The problem isn't training. The problem is there aren't enough good jobs to be trained for ..."
"... Everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to code. Coding can be a rewarding, even pleasurable, experience, and it's useful for performing all sorts of tasks. More broadly, an understanding of how code works is critical for basic digital literacy – something that is swiftly becoming a requirement for informed citizenship in an increasingly technologized world. ..."
"... But coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry. Learning to build software does not make you any more immune to the forces of American capitalism than learning to build a house. Whether a coder or a carpenter, capital will do what it can to lower your wages, and enlist public institutions towards that end. ..."
"... Exposing large portions of the school population to coding is not going to magically turn them into coders. It may increase their basic understanding but that is a long way from being a software engineer. ..."
"... All schools teach drama and most kids don't end up becoming actors. You need to give all kids access to coding in order for some can go on to make a career out of it. ..."
"... it's ridiculous because even out of a pool of computer science B.Sc. or M.Sc. grads - companies are only interested in the top 10%. Even the most mundane company with crappy IT jobs swears that they only hire "the best and the brightest." ..."
"... It's basically a con-job by the big Silicon Valley companies offshoring as many US jobs as they can, or "inshoring" via exploitation of the H1B visa ..."
"... Masters is the new Bachelors. ..."
"... I taught CS. Out of around 100 graduates I'd say maybe 5 were reasonable software engineers. The rest would be fine in tech support or other associated trades, but not writing software. Its not just a set of trainable skills, its a set of attitudes and ways of perceiving and understanding that just aren't that common. ..."
"... Yup, rings true. I've been in hi tech for over 40 years and seen the changes. I was in Silicon Valley for 10 years on a startup. India is taking over, my current US company now has a majority Indian executive and is moving work to India. US politicians push coding to drive down wages to Indian levels. ..."
Oct 02, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

This month, millions of children returned to school. This year, an unprecedented number of them will learn to code.

Computer science courses for children have proliferated rapidly in the past few years. A 2016 Gallup report found that 40% of American schools now offer coding classes – up from only 25% a few years ago. New York, with the largest public school system in the country, has pledged to offer computer science to all 1.1 million students by 2025. Los Angeles, with the second largest, plans to do the same by 2020. And Chicago, the fourth largest, has gone further, promising to make computer science a high school graduation requirement by 2018.

The rationale for this rapid curricular renovation is economic. Teaching kids how to code will help them land good jobs, the argument goes. In an era of flat and falling incomes, programming provides a new path to the middle class – a skill so widely demanded that anyone who acquires it can command a livable, even lucrative, wage.

This narrative pervades policymaking at every level, from school boards to the government. Yet it rests on a fundamentally flawed premise. Contrary to public perception, the economy doesn't actually need that many more programmers. As a result, teaching millions of kids to code won't make them all middle-class. Rather, it will proletarianize the profession by flooding the market and forcing wages down – and that's precisely the point.

At its root, the campaign for code education isn't about giving the next generation a shot at earning the salary of a Facebook engineer. It's about ensuring those salaries no longer exist, by creating a source of cheap labor for the tech industry.

As software mediates more of our lives, and the power of Silicon Valley grows, it's tempting to imagine that demand for developers is soaring. The media contributes to this impression by spotlighting the genuinely inspiring stories of those who have ascended the class ladder through code. You may have heard of Bit Source, a company in eastern Kentucky that retrains coalminers as coders. They've been featured by Wired , Forbes , FastCompany , The Guardian , NPR and NBC News , among others.

A former coalminer who becomes a successful developer deserves our respect and admiration. But the data suggests that relatively few will be able to follow their example. Our educational system has long been producing more programmers than the labor market can absorb. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that the supply of American college graduates with computer science degrees is 50% greater than the number hired into the tech industry each year. For all the talk of a tech worker shortage, many qualified graduates simply can't find jobs.

More tellingly, wage levels in the tech industry have remained flat since the late 1990s. Adjusting for inflation, the average programmer earns about as much today as in 1998. If demand were soaring, you'd expect wages to rise sharply in response. Instead, salaries have stagnated.

Still, those salaries are stagnating at a fairly high level. The Department of Labor estimates that the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations is $82,860 – more than twice the national average. And from the perspective of the people who own the tech industry, this presents a problem. High wages threaten profits. To maximize profitability, one must always be finding ways to pay workers less.

Tech executives have pursued this goal in a variety of ways. One is collusion – companies conspiring to prevent their employees from earning more by switching jobs. The prevalence of this practice in Silicon Valley triggered a justice department antitrust complaint in 2010, along with a class action suit that culminated in a $415m settlement . Another, more sophisticated method is importing large numbers of skilled guest workers from other countries through the H1-B visa program. These workers earn less than their American counterparts, and possess little bargaining power because they must remain employed to keep their status.

Guest workers and wage-fixing are useful tools for restraining labor costs. But nothing would make programming cheaper than making millions more programmers. And where better to develop this workforce than America's schools? It's no coincidence, then, that the campaign for code education is being orchestrated by the tech industry itself. Its primary instrument is Code.org, a nonprofit funded by Facebook, Microsoft, Google and others . In 2016, the organization spent nearly $20m on training teachers, developing curricula, and lobbying policymakers.

Silicon Valley has been unusually successful in persuading our political class and much of the general public that its interests coincide with the interests of humanity as a whole. But tech is an industry like any other. It prioritizes its bottom line, and invests heavily in making public policy serve it. The five largest tech firms now spend twice as much as Wall Street on lobbying Washington – nearly $50m in 2016. The biggest spender, Google, also goes to considerable lengths to cultivate policy wonks favorable to its interests – and to discipline the ones who aren't.

Silicon Valley is not a uniquely benevolent force, nor a uniquely malevolent one. Rather, it's something more ordinary: a collection of capitalist firms committed to the pursuit of profit. And as every capitalist knows, markets are figments of politics. They are not naturally occurring phenomena, but elaborately crafted contraptions, sustained and structured by the state – which is why shaping public policy is so important. If tech works tirelessly to tilt markets in its favor, it's hardly alone. What distinguishes it is the amount of money it has at its disposal to do so.

Money isn't Silicon Valley's only advantage in its crusade to remake American education, however. It also enjoys a favorable ideological climate. Its basic message – that schools alone can fix big social problems – is one that politicians of both parties have been repeating for years. The far-fetched premise of neoliberal school reform is that education can mend our disintegrating social fabric. That if we teach students the right skills, we can solve poverty, inequality and stagnation. The school becomes an engine of economic transformation, catapulting young people from challenging circumstances into dignified, comfortable lives.

This argument is immensely pleasing to the technocratic mind. It suggests that our core economic malfunction is technical – a simple asymmetry. You have workers on one side and good jobs on the other, and all it takes is training to match them up. Indeed, every president since Bill Clinton has talked about training American workers to fill the "skills gap". But gradually, one mainstream economist after another has come to realize what most workers have known for years: the gap doesn't exist. Even Larry Summers has concluded it's a myth.

The problem isn't training. The problem is there aren't enough good jobs to be trained for . The solution is to make bad jobs better, by raising the minimum wage and making it easier for workers to form a union, and to create more good jobs by investing for growth. This involves forcing business to put money into things that actually grow the productive economy rather than shoveling profits out to shareholders. It also means increasing public investment, so that people can make a decent living doing socially necessary work like decarbonizing our energy system and restoring our decaying infrastructure.

Everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to code. Coding can be a rewarding, even pleasurable, experience, and it's useful for performing all sorts of tasks. More broadly, an understanding of how code works is critical for basic digital literacy – something that is swiftly becoming a requirement for informed citizenship in an increasingly technologized world.

But coding is not magic. It is a technical skill, akin to carpentry. Learning to build software does not make you any more immune to the forces of American capitalism than learning to build a house. Whether a coder or a carpenter, capital will do what it can to lower your wages, and enlist public institutions towards that end.

Silicon Valley has been extraordinarily adept at converting previously uncommodified portions of our common life into sources of profit. Our schools may prove an easy conquest by comparison.

See also:

willyjack, 21 Sep 2017 16:56

"Everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to code. " OK, and that's what's being done. And that's what the article is bemoaning. What would be better: teach them how to change tires or groom pets? Or pick fruit? Amazingly condescending article.

MrFumoFumo , 21 Sep 2017 14:54
However, training lots of people to be coders won't automatically result in lots of people who can actually write good code. Nor will it give managers/recruiters the necessary skills to recognize which programmers are any good.

congenialAnimal -> alfredooo , 24 Sep 2017 09:57

A valid rebuttal but could I offer another observation? Exposing large portions of the school population to coding is not going to magically turn them into coders. It may increase their basic understanding but that is a long way from being a software engineer.

Just as children join art, drama or biology classes so they do not automatically become artists, actors or doctors. I would agree entirely that just being able to code is not going to guarantee the sort of income that might be aspired to. As with all things, it takes commitment, perseverance and dogged determination. I suppose ultimately it becomes the Gattaca argument.

alfredooo -> racole , 24 Sep 2017 06:51
Fair enough, but, his central argument, that an overabundance of coders will drive wages in that sector down, is generally true, so in the future if you want your kids to go into a profession that will earn them 80k+ then being a "coder" is not the route to take. When coding is - like reading, writing, and arithmetic - just a basic skill, there's no guarantee having it will automatically translate into getting a "good" job.
Wiretrip , 21 Sep 2017 14:14
This article lumps everyone in computing into the 'coder' bin, without actually defining what 'coding' is. Yes there is a glut of people who can knock together a bit of HTML and JavaScript, but that is not really programming as such.

There are huge shortages of skilled developers however; people who can apply computer science and engineering in terms of analysis and design of software. These are the real skills for which relatively few people have a true aptitude.

The lack of really good skills is starting to show in some terrible software implementation decisions, such as Slack for example; written as a web app running in Electron (so that JavaScript code monkeys could knock it out quickly), but resulting in awful performance. We will see more of this in the coming years...

Taylor Dotson -> youngsteveo , 21 Sep 2017 13:53
My brother is a programmer, and in his experience these coding exams don't test anything but whether or not you took (and remember) a very narrow range of problems introduce in the first years of a computer science degree. The entire hiring process seems premised on a range of ill-founded ideas about what skills are necessary for the job and how to assess them in people. They haven't yet grasped that those kinds of exams mostly test test-taking ability, rather than intelligence, creativity, diligence, communication ability, or anything else that a job requires beside coughing up the right answer in a stressful, timed environment without outside resources.

The_Raven , 23 Sep 2017 15:45

I'm an embedded software/firmware engineer. Every similar engineer I've ever met has had the same background - starting in electronics and drifting into embedded software writing in C and assembler. It's virtually impossible to do such software without an understanding of electronics. When it goes wrong you may need to get the test equipment out to scope the hardware to see if it's a hardware or software problem. Coming from a pure computing background just isn't going to get you a job in this type of work.
waltdangerfield , 23 Sep 2017 14:42
All schools teach drama and most kids don't end up becoming actors. You need to give all kids access to coding in order for some can go on to make a career out of it.
TwoSugarsPlease , 23 Sep 2017 06:13
Coding salaries will inevitably fall over time, but such skills give workers the option, once they discover that their income is no longer sustainable in the UK, of moving somewhere more affordable and working remotely.
DiGiT81 -> nixnixnix , 23 Sep 2017 03:29
Completely agree. Coding is a necessary life skill for 21st century but there are levels to every skill. From basic needs for an office job to advanced and specialised.
nixnixnix , 23 Sep 2017 00:46
Lots of people can code but very few of us ever get to the point of creating something new that has a loyal and enthusiastic user-base. Everyone should be able to code because it is or will be the basis of being able to create almost anything in the future. If you want to make a game in Unity, knowing how to code is really useful. If you want to work with large data-sets, you can't rely on Excel and so you need to be able to code (in R?). The use of code is becoming so pervasive that it is going to be like reading and writing.

All the science and engineering graduates I know can code but none of them have ever sold a stand-alone software. The argument made above is like saying that teaching everyone to write will drive down the wages of writers. Writing is useful for anyone and everyone but only a tiny fraction of people who can write, actually write novels or even newspaper columns.

DolyGarcia -> Carl Christensen , 22 Sep 2017 19:24
Immigrants have always a big advantage over locals, for any company, including tech companies: the government makes sure that they will stay in their place and never complain about low salaries or bad working conditions because, you know what? If the company sacks you, an immigrant may be forced to leave the country where they live because their visa expires, which is never going to happen with a local. Companies always have more leverage over immigrants. Given a choice between more and less exploitable workers, companies will choose the most exploitable ones.

Which is something that Marx figured more than a century ago, and why he insisted that socialism had to be international, which led to the founding of the First International Socialist. If worker's fights didn't go across country boundaries, companies would just play people from one country against the other. Unfortunately, at some point in time socialists forgot this very important fact.

xxxFred -> Tomix Da Vomix , 22 Sep 2017 18:52
SO what's wrong with having lots of people able to code? The only argument you seem to have is that it'll lower wages. So do you think that we should stop teaching writing skills so that journalists can be paid more? And no one os going to "force" kids into high-level abstract coding practices in kindergarten, fgs. But there is ample empirical proof that young children can learn basic principles. In fact the younger that children are exposed to anything, the better they can enhance their skills adn knowlege of it later in life, and computing concepts are no different.
Tomix Da Vomix -> xxxFred , 22 Sep 2017 18:40
You're completely missing the point. Kids are forced into the programming field (even STEM as a more general term), before they evolve their abstract reasoning. For that matter, you're not producing highly skilled people, but functional imbeciles and a decent labor that will eventually lower the wages.
Conspiracy theory? So Google, FB and others paying hundreds of millions of dollars for forming a cartel to lower the wages is not true? It sounds me that you're sounding more like a 1969 denier that Guardian is. Tech companies are not financing those incentives because they have a good soul. Their primary drive has always been money, otherwise they wouldn't sell your personal data to earn money.

But hey, you can always sleep peacefully when your kid becomes a coder. When he is 50, everyone will want to have a Cobol, Ada programmer with 25 years of experience when you can get 16 year old kid from a high school for 1/10 of a price. Go back to sleep...

Carl Christensen -> xxxFred , 22 Sep 2017 16:49
it's ridiculous because even out of a pool of computer science B.Sc. or M.Sc. grads - companies are only interested in the top 10%. Even the most mundane company with crappy IT jobs swears that they only hire "the best and the brightest."
Carl Christensen , 22 Sep 2017 16:47
It's basically a con-job by the big Silicon Valley companies offshoring as many US jobs as they can, or "inshoring" via exploitation of the H1B visa - so they can say "see, we don't have 'qualified' people in the US - maybe when these kids learn to program in a generation." As if American students haven't been coding for decades -- and saw their salaries plummet as the H1B visa and Indian offshore firms exploded......
Declawed -> KDHughes , 22 Sep 2017 16:40
Dude, stow the attitude. I've tested code from various entities, and seen every kind of crap peddled as gold.

But I've also seen a little 5-foot giggly lady with two kids, grumble a bit and save a $100,000 product by rewriting another coder's man-month of work in a few days, without any flaws or cracks. Almost nobody will ever know she did that. She's so far beyond my level it hurts.

And yes, the author knows nothing. He's genuinely crying wolf while knee-deep in amused wolves. The last time I was in San Jose, years ago , the room was already full of people with Indian surnames. If the problem was REALLY serious, a programmer from POLAND was called in.

If you think fighting for a violinist spot is hard, try fighting for it with every spare violinist in the world . I am training my Indian replacement to do my job right now . At least the public can appreciate a good violin. Can you appreciate Duff's device ?

So by all means, don't teach local kids how to think in a straight line, just in case they make a dent in the price of wages IN INDIA.... *sheesh*

Declawed -> IanMcLzzz , 22 Sep 2017 15:35
That's the best possible summarisation of this extremely dumb article. Bravo.

For those who don't know how to think of coding, like the article author, here's a few analogies :

A computer is a box that replays frozen thoughts, quickly. That is all.

Coding is just the art of explaining. Anyone who can explain something patiently and clearly, can code. Anyone who can't, can't.

Making hardware is very much like growing produce while blind. Making software is very much like cooking that produce while blind.

Imagine looking after a room full of young eager obedient children who only do exactly, *exactly*, what you told them to do, but move around at the speed of light. Imagine having to try to keep them from smashing into each other or decapitating themselves on the corners of tables, tripping over toys and crashing into walls, etc, while you get them all to play games together.

The difference between a good coder and a bad coder is almost life and death. Imagine a broth prepared with ingredients from a dozen co-ordinating geniuses and one idiot, that you'll mass produce. The soup is always far worse for the idiot's additions. The more cooks you involve, the more chance your mass produced broth will taste bad.

People who hire coders, typically can't tell a good coder from a bad coder.

Zach Dyer -> Mystik Al , 22 Sep 2017 15:18
Tech jobs will probably always be available long after your gone or until another mass extinction.
edmundberk -> AmyInNH , 22 Sep 2017 14:59
No you do it in your own time. If you're not prepared to put in long days IT is not for you in any case. It was ever thus, but more so now due to offshoring - rather than the rather obscure forces you seem to believe are important.
WithoutPurpose -> freeandfair , 22 Sep 2017 13:21
Bit more rhan that.
peter nelson -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 12:44
Sorry, offworldguy, but you're losing this one really badly. I'm a professional software engineer in my 60's and I know lots of non-professionals in my age range who write little programs, scripts and apps for fun. I know this because they often contact me for help or advice.

So you've now been told by several people in this thread that ordinary people do code for fun or recreation. The fact that you don't know any probably says more about your network of friends and acquaintances than about the general population.

xxxFred , 22 Sep 2017 12:18
This is one of the daftest articles I've come across in a long while.
If it's possible that so many kids can be taught to code well enough so that wages come down, then that proves that the only reason we've been paying so much for development costs is the scarcity of people able to do it, not that it's intrinsically so hard that only a select few could anyway. In which case, there is no ethical argument for keeping the pools of skilled workers to some select group. Anyone able to do it should have an equal opportunity to do it.
What is the argument for not teaching coding (other than to artificially keep wages high)? Why not stop teaching the three R's, in order to boost white-collar wages in general?
Computing is an ever-increasingly intrinsic part of life, and people need to understand it at all levels. It is not just unfair, but tantamount to neglect, to fail to teach children all the skills they may require to cope as adults.
Having said that, I suspect that in another generation or two a good many lower-level coding jobs will be redundant anyway, with such code being automatically generated, and "coders" at this level will be little more than technicians setting various parameters. Even so, understanding the basics behind computing is a part of understanding the world they live in, and every child needs that.
Suggesting that teaching coding is some kind of conspiracy to force wages down is well, it makes the moon-landing conspiracy looks sensible by comparison.
timrichardson -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 12:16
I think it is important to demystify advanced technology, I think that has importance in its own right.Plus, schools should expose kids to things which may spark their interest. Not everyone who does a science project goes on years later to get a PhD, but you'd think that it makes it more likely. Same as giving a kid some music lessons. There is a big difference between serious coding and the basic steps needed to automate a customer service team or a marketing program, but the people who have some mastery over automation will have an advantage in many jobs. Advanced machines are clearly going to be a huge part of our future. What should we do about it, if not teach kids how to understand these tools?
rogerfederere -> William Payne , 22 Sep 2017 12:13
tl;dr.
Mystik Al , 22 Sep 2017 12:08
As automation is about to put 40% of the workforce permanently out of work getting into to tech seems like a good idea!
timrichardson , 22 Sep 2017 12:04
This is like arguing that teaching kids to write is nothing more than a plot to flood the market for journalists. Teaching first aid and CPR does not make everyone a doctor.
Coding is an essential skill for many jobs already: 50 years ago, who would have thought you needed coders to make movies? Being a software engineer, a serious coder, is hard. IN fact, it takes more than technical coding to be a software engineer: you can learn to code in a week. Software Engineering is a four year degree, and even then you've just started a career. But depriving kids of some basic insights may mean they won't have the basic skills needed in the future, even for controlling their car and house. By all means, send you kids to a school that doesn't teach coding. I won't.
James Jones -> vimyvixen , 22 Sep 2017 11:41
Did you learn SNOBOL, or is Snowball a language I'm not familiar with? (Entirely possible, as an American I never would have known Extended Mercury Autocode existed we're it not for a random book acquisition at my home town library when I was a kid.)
William Payne , 22 Sep 2017 11:17
The tide that is transforming technology jobs from "white collar professional" into "blue collar industrial" is part of a larger global economic cycle.

Successful "growth" assets inevitably transmogrify into "value" and "income" assets as they progress through the economic cycle. The nature of their work transforms also. No longer focused on innovation; on disrupting old markets or forging new ones; their fundamental nature changes as they mature into optimising, cost reducing, process oriented and most importantly of all -- dividend paying -- organisations.

First, the market invests. And then, .... it squeezes.

Immature companies must invest in their team; must inspire them to be innovative so that they can take the creative risks required to create new things. This translates into high skills, high wages and "white collar" social status.

Mature, optimising companies on the other hand must necessarily avoid risks and seek variance-minimising predictability. They seek to control their human resources; to eliminate creativity; to to make the work procedural, impersonal and soulless. This translates into low skills, low wages and "blue collar" social status.

This is a fundamental part of the economic cycle; but it has been playing out on the global stage which has had the effect of hiding some of its' effects.

Over the past decades, technology knowledge and skills have flooded away from "high cost" countries and towards "best cost" countries at a historically significant rate. Possibly at the maximum rate that global infrastructure and regional skills pools can support. Much of this necessarily inhumane and brutal cost cutting and deskilling has therefore been hidden by the tide of outsourcing and offshoring. It is hard to see the nature of the jobs change when the jobs themselves are changing hands at the same time.

The ever tighter ratchet of dehumanising industrialisation; productivity and efficiency continues apace, however, and as our global system matures and evens out, we see the seeds of what we have sown sail home from over the sea.

Technology jobs in developed nations have been skewed towards "growth" activities since for the past several decades most "value" and "income" activities have been carried out in developing nations. Now, we may be seeing the early preparations for the diffusion of that skewed, uneven and unsustainable imbalance.

The good news is that "Growth" activities are not going to disappear from the world. They just may not be so geographically concentrated as they are today. Also, there is a significant and attention-worthy argument that the re-balancing of skills will result in a more flexible and performant global economy as organisations will better be able to shift a wider variety of work around the world to regions where local conditions (regulation, subsidy, union activity etc...) are supportive.

For the individuals concerned it isn't going to be pretty. And of course it is just another example of the race to the bottom that pits states and public sector purse-holders against one another to win the grace and favour of globally mobile employers.

As a power play move it has a sort of inhumanly psychotic inevitability to it which is quite awesome to observe.

I also find it ironic that the only way to tame the leviathan that is the global free-market industrial system might actually be effective global governance and international cooperation within a rules-based system.

Both "globalist" but not even slightly both the same thing.

Vereto -> Wiretrip , 22 Sep 2017 11:17
not just coders, it put even IT Ops guys into this bin. Basically good old - so you are working with computers sentence I used to hear a lot 10-15 years ago.
Sangmin , 22 Sep 2017 11:15
You can teach everyone how to code but it doesn't necessarily mean everyone will be able to work as one. We all learn math but that doesn't mean we're all mathematicians. We all know how to write but we're not all professional writers.

I have a graduate degree in CS and been to a coding bootcamp. Not everyone's brain is wired to become a successful coder. There is a particular way how coders think. Quality of a product will stand out based on these differences.

Vereto -> Jared Hall , 22 Sep 2017 11:12
Very hyperbolic is to assume that the profit in those companies is done by decreasing wages. In my company the profit is driven by ability to deliver products to the market. And that is limited by number of top people (not just any coder) you can have.
KDHughes -> kcrane , 22 Sep 2017 11:06
You realise that the arts are massively oversupplied and that most artists earn very little, if anything? Which is sort of like the situation the author is warning about. But hey, he knows nothing. Congratulations, though, on writing one of the most pretentious posts I've ever read on CIF.
offworldguy -> Melissa Boone , 22 Sep 2017 10:21
So you know kids, college age people and software developers who enjoy doing it in their leisure time? Do you know any middle aged mothers, fathers, grandparents who enjoy it and are not software developers?

Sorry, I don't see coding as a leisure pursuit that is going to take off beyond a very narrow demographic and if it becomes apparent (as I believe it will) that there is not going to be a huge increase in coding job opportunities then it will likely wither in schools too, perhaps replaced by music lessons.

Bread Eater , 22 Sep 2017 10:02
From their perspective yes. But there are a lot of opportunities in tech so it does benefit students looking for jobs.
Melissa Boone -> jamesbro , 22 Sep 2017 10:00
No, because software developer probably fail more often than they succeed. Building anything worthwhile is an iterative process. And it's not just the compiler but the other devs, oyur designer, your PM, all looking at your work.
Melissa Boone -> peterainbow , 22 Sep 2017 09:57
It's not shallow or lazy. I also work at a tech company and it's pretty common to do that across job fields. Even in HR marketing jobs, we hire students who can't point to an internship or other kind of experience in college, not simply grades.
Vereto -> savingUK , 22 Sep 2017 09:50
It will take ages, the issue of Indian programmers is in the education system and in "Yes boss" culture.

But on the other hand most of Americans are just as bad as Indians

Melissa Boone -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 09:50
A lot of people do find it fun. I know many kids - high school and young college age - who code in the leisure time because they find it pleasurable to make small apps and video games. I myself enjoy it too. Your argument is like saying since you don't like to read books in your leisure time, nobody else must.

The point is your analogy isn't a good one - people who learn to code can not only enjoy it in their spare time just like music, but they can also use it to accomplish all kinds of basic things. I have a friend who's a software developer who has used code to program his Roomba to vacuum in a specific pattern and to play Candy Land with his daughter when they lost the spinner.

Owlyrics -> CapTec , 22 Sep 2017 09:44
Creativity could be added to your list. Anyone can push a button but only a few can invent a new one.
One company in the US (after it was taken over by a new owner) decided it was more profitable to import button pushers from off-shore, they lost 7 million customers (gamers) and had to employ more of the original American developers to maintain their high standard and profits.
Owlyrics -> Maclon , 22 Sep 2017 09:40
Masters is the new Bachelors.
Maclon , 22 Sep 2017 09:22
So similar to 500k a year people going to university ( UK) now when it used to be 60k people a year( 1980). There was never enough graduate jobs in 1980 so can't see where the sudden increase in need for graduates has come from.
PaulDavisTheFirst -> Ethan Hawkins , 22 Sep 2017 09:17

They aren't really crucial pieces of technology except for their popularity

It's early in the day for me, but this is the most ridiculous thing I've read so far, and I suspect it will be high up on the list by the end of the day.

There's no technology that is "crucial" unless it's involved in food, shelter or warmth. The rest has its "crucialness" decided by how widespread its use is, and in the case of those 3 languages, the answer is "very".

You (or I) might not like that very much, but that's how it is.

Julian Williams -> peter nelson , 22 Sep 2017 09:12
My benchmark would be if the average new graduate in the discipline earns more or less than one of the "professions", Law, medicine, Economics etc. The short answer is that they don't. Indeed, in my experience of professions, many good senior SW developers, say in finance, are paid markedly less than the marketing manager, CTO etc. who are often non-technical.

My benchmark is not "has a car, house etc." but what does 10, 15 20 years of experience in the area generate as a relative income to another profession, like being a GP or a corporate solicitor or a civil servant (which is usually the benchmark academics use for pay scaling). It is not to denigrate, just to say that markets don't always clear to a point where the most skilled are the highest paid.

I was also suggesting that even if you are not intending to work in the SW area, being able to translate your imagination into a program that reflects your ideas is a nice life skill.

AmyInNH -> freeandfair , 22 Sep 2017 09:05
Your assumption has no basis in reality. In my experience, as soon as Clinton ramped up H1Bs, my employer would invite 6 same college/degree/curriculum in for interviews, 5 citizen, 1 foreign student and default offer to foreign student without asking interviewers a single question about the interview. Eventually, the skipped the farce of interviewing citizens all together. That was in 1997, and it's only gotten worse. Wall St's been pretty blunt lately. Openly admits replacing US workers for import labor, as it's the "easiest" way to "grow" the economy, even though they know they are ousting citizens from their jobs to do so.
AmyInNH -> peter nelson , 22 Sep 2017 08:59
"People who get Masters and PhD's in computer science" Feed western universities money, for degree programs that would otherwise not exist, due to lack of market demand. "someone has a Bachelor's in CS" As citizens, having the same college/same curriculum/same grades, as foreign grad. But as citizens, they have job market mobility, and therefore are shunned. "you can make something real and significant on your own" If someone else is paying your rent, food and student loans while you do so.
Ethan Hawkins -> farabundovive , 22 Sep 2017 07:40
While true, it's not the coders' fault. The managers and execs above them have intentionally created an environment where these things are secondary. What's primary is getting the stupid piece of garbage out the door for Q profit outlook. Ship it amd patch it.
offworldguy -> millartant , 22 Sep 2017 07:38
Do most people find it fun? I can code. I don't find it 'fun'. Thirty years ago as a young graduate I might have found it slightly fun but the 'fun' wears off pretty quick.
Ethan Hawkins -> anticapitalist , 22 Sep 2017 07:35
In my estimation PHP is an utter abomination. Python is just a little better but still very bad. Ruby is a little better but still not at all good.

Languages like PHP, Python and JS are popular for banging out prototypes and disposable junk, but you greatly overestimate their importance. They aren't really crucial pieces of technology except for their popularity and while they won't disappear they won't age well at all. Basically they are big long-lived fads. Java is now over 20 years old and while Java 8 is not crucial, the JVM itself actually is crucial. It might last another 20 years or more. Look for more projects like Ceylon, Scala and Kotlin. We haven't found the next step forward yet, but it's getting more interesting, especially around type systems.

A strong developer will be able to code well in a half dozen languages and have fairly decent knowledge of a dozen others. For me it's been many years of: Z80, x86, C, C++, Java. Also know some Perl, LISP, ANTLR, Scala, JS, SQL, Pascal, others...

millartant -> Islingtonista , 22 Sep 2017 07:26
You need a decent IDE
millartant -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 07:24

One is hardly likely to 'do a bit of coding' in ones leisure time

Why not? The right problem is a fun and rewarding puzzle to solve. I spend a lot of my leisure time "doing a bit of coding"

Ethan Hawkins -> Wiretrip , 22 Sep 2017 07:12
The worst of all are the academics (on average).
Ethan Hawkins -> KatieL , 22 Sep 2017 07:09
This makes people like me with 35 years of experience shipping products on deadlines up and down every stack (from device drivers and operating systems to programming languages, platforms and frameworks to web, distributed computing, clusters, big data and ML) so much more valuable. Been there, done that.
Ethan Hawkins -> Taylor Dotson , 22 Sep 2017 07:01
It's just not true. In SV there's this giant vacuum created by Apple, Google, FB, etc. Other good companies struggle to fill positions. I know from being on the hiring side at times.
TheBananaBender -> peter nelson , 22 Sep 2017 07:00
You don't work for a major outsourcer then like Serco, Atos, Agilisys
offworldguy -> LabMonkey , 22 Sep 2017 06:59
Plenty of people? I don't know of a single person outside of my work which is teaming with programmers. Not a single friend, not my neighbours, not my wife or her extended family, not my parents. Plenty of people might do it but most people don't.
Ethan Hawkins -> finalcentury , 22 Sep 2017 06:56
Your ignorance of coding is showing. Coding IS creative.
Ricardo111 -> peter nelson , 22 Sep 2017 06:56
Agreed: by gifted I did not meant innate. It's more of a mix of having the interest, the persistence, the time, the opportunity and actually enjoying that kind of challenge.

While some of those things are to a large extent innate personality traits, others are not and you don't need max of all of them, you just need enough to drive you to explore that domain.

That said, somebody that goes into coding purelly for the money and does it for the money alone is extremely unlikelly to become an exceptional coder.

Ricardo111 -> eirsatz , 22 Sep 2017 06:50
I'm as senior as they get and have interviewed quite a lot of programmers for several positions, including for Technical Lead (in fact, to replace me) and so far my experience leads me to believe that people who don't have a knack for coding are much less likely to expose themselves to many different languages and techniques, and also are less experimentalist, thus being far less likely to have those moments of transcending merely being aware of the visible and obvious to discover the concerns and concepts behind what one does. Without those moments that open the door to the next Universe of concerns and implications, one cannot do state transitions such as Coder to Technical Designer or Technical Designer to Technical Architect.

Sure, you can get the title and do the things from the books, but you will not get WHY are those things supposed to work (and when they will not work) and thus cannot adjust to new conditions effectively and will be like a sailor that can't sail away from sight of the coast since he can't navigate.

All this gets reflected in many things that enhance productivity, from the early ability to quickly piece together solutions for a new problem out of past solutions for different problems to, later, conceiving software architecture designs fittted to the typical usage pattern in the industry for which the software is going to be made.

LabMonkey , 22 Sep 2017 06:50
From the way our IT department is going, needing millions of coders is not the future. It'll be a minority of developers at the top, and an army of low wage monkeys at the bottom who can troubleshoot from a script - until AI comes along that can code faster and more accurately.
LabMonkey -> offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 06:46

One is hardly likely to 'do a bit of coding' in ones leisure time

Really? I've programmed a few simple videogames in my spare time. Plenty of people do.

CapTec , 22 Sep 2017 06:29
Interesting piece that's fundamentally flawed. I'm a software engineer myself. There is a reason a University education of a minimum of three years is the base line for a junior developer or 'coder'.

Software engineering isn't just writing code. I would say 80% of my time is spent designing and structuring software before I even touch the code.

Explaining software engineering as a discipline at a high level to people who don't understand it is simple.

Most of us who learn to drive learn a few basics about the mechanics of a car. We know that brake pads need to be replaced, we know that fuel is pumped into an engine when we press the gas pedal. Most of us know how to change a bulb if it blows.

The vast majority of us wouldn't be able to replace a head gasket or clutch though. Just knowing the basics isn't enough to make you a mechanic.

Studying in school isn't enough to produce software engineers. Software engineering isn't just writing code, it's cross discipline. We also need to understand the science behind the computer, we need too understand logic, data structures, timings, how to manage memory, security, how databases work etc.

A few years of learning at school isn't nearly enough, a degree isn't enough on its own due to the dynamic and ever evolving nature of software engineering. Schools teach technology that is out of date and typically don't explain the science very well.

This is why most companies don't want new developers, they want people with experience and multiple skills.

Programming is becoming cool and people think that because of that it's easy to become a skilled developer. It isn't. It takes time and effort and most kids give up.

French was on the national curriculum when I was at school. Most people including me can't hold a conversation in French though.

Ultimately there is a SKILL shortage. And that's because skill takes a long time, successes and failures to acquire. Most people just give up.

This article is akin to saying 'schools are teaching basic health to reduce the wages of Doctors'. It didn't happen.

offworldguy -> thecurio , 22 Sep 2017 06:19
There is a difference. When you teach people music you teach a skill that can be used for a lifetimes enjoyment. One might sit at a piano in later years and play. One is hardly likely to 'do a bit of coding' in ones leisure time.

The other thing is how good are people going to get at coding and how long will they retain the skill if not used? I tend to think maths is similar to coding and most adults have pretty terrible maths skills not venturing far beyond arithmetic. Not many remember how to solve a quadratic equation or even how to rearrange some algebra.

One more thing is we know that if we teach people music they will find a use for it, if only in their leisure time. We don't know that coding will be in any way useful because we don't know if there will be coding jobs in the future. AI might take over coding but we know that AI won't take over playing piano for pleasure.

If we want to teach logical thinking then I think maths has always done this and we should make sure people are better at maths.

Alex Mackaness , 22 Sep 2017 06:08
Am I missing something here? Being able to code is a skill that is a useful addition to the skill armoury of a youngster entering the work place. Much like reading, writing, maths... Not only is it directly applicable and pervasive in our modern world, it is built upon logic.

The important point is that American schools are not ONLY teaching youngsters to code, and producing one dimensional robots... instead coding makes up one part of their overall skill set. Those who wish to develop their coding skills further certainly can choose to do so. Those who specialise elsewhere are more than likely to have found the skills they learnt whilst coding useful anyway.

I struggle to see how there is a hidden capitalist agenda here. I would argue learning the basics of coding is simply becoming seen as an integral part of the school curriculum.

thecurio , 22 Sep 2017 05:56
The word "coding" is shorthand for "computer programming" or "software development" and it masks the depth and range of skills that might be required, depending on the application.

This subtlety is lost, I think, on politicians and perhaps the general public. Asserting that teaching lots of people to code is a sneaky way to commodotise an industry might have some truth to it, but remember that commodotisation (or "sharing and re-use" as developers might call it) is nothing new. The creation of freely available and re-usable software components and APIs has driven innovation, and has put much power in the hands of developers who would not otherwise have the skill or time to tackle such projects.

There's nothing to fear from teaching more people to "code", just as there's nothing to fear from teaching more people to "play music". These skills simply represent points on a continuum.

There's room for everyone, from the kid on a kazoo all the way to Coltrane at the Village Vanguard.

sbw7 -> ragingbull , 22 Sep 2017 05:44
I taught CS. Out of around 100 graduates I'd say maybe 5 were reasonable software engineers. The rest would be fine in tech support or other associated trades, but not writing software. Its not just a set of trainable skills, its a set of attitudes and ways of perceiving and understanding that just aren't that common.
offworldguy , 22 Sep 2017 05:02
I can't understand the rush to teach coding in schools. First of all I don't think we are going to be a country of millions of coders and secondly if most people have the skills then coding is hardly going to be a well paid job. Thirdly you can learn coding from scratch after school like people of my generation did. You could argue that it is part of a well rounded education but then it is as important for your career as learning Shakespeare, knowing what an oxbow lake is or being able to do calculus: most jobs just won't need you to know.
savingUK -> yannick95 , 22 Sep 2017 04:35
While you roll on the floor laughing, these countries will slowly but surely get their act together. That is how they work. There are top quality coders over there and they will soon promoted into a position to organise the others.

You are probably too young to remember when people laughed at electronic products when they were made in Japan then Taiwan. History will repeat it's self.

zii000 -> JohnFreidburg , 22 Sep 2017 04:04
Yes it's ironic and no different here in the UK. Traditionally Labour was the party focused on dividing the economic pie more fairly, Tories on growing it for the benefit of all. It's now completely upside down with Tories paying lip service to the idea of pay rises but in reality supporting this deflationary race to the bottom, hammering down salaries and so shrinking discretionary spending power which forces price reductions to match and so more pressure on employers to cut costs ... ad infinitum.
Labour now favour policies which would cause an expansion across the entire economy through pay rises and dramatically increased investment with perhaps more tolerance of inflation to achieve it.
ID0193985 -> jamesbro , 22 Sep 2017 03:46
Not surprising if they're working for a company that is cold-calling people - which should be banned in my opinion. Call centres providing customer support are probably less abuse-heavy since the customer is trying to get something done.
vimyvixen , 22 Sep 2017 02:04
I taught myself to code in 1974. Fortran, COBOL were first. Over the years as a aerospace engineer I coded in numerous languages ranging from PLM, Snowball, Basic, and more assembly languages than I can recall, not to mention deep down in machine code on more architectures than most know even existed. Bottom line is that coding is easy. It doesn't take a genius to code, just another way of thinking. Consider all the bugs in the software available now. These "coders", not sufficiently trained need adult supervision by engineers who know what they are doing for computer systems that are important such as the electrical grid, nuclear weapons, and safety critical systems. If you want to program toy apps then code away, if you want to do something important learn engineering AND coding.
Dwight Spencer , 22 Sep 2017 01:44
Laughable. It takes only an above-average IQ to code. Today's coders are akin to the auto mechanics of the 1950s where practically every high school had auto shop instruction . . . nothing but a source of cheap labor for doing routine implementations of software systems using powerful code libraries built by REAL software engineers.
sieteocho -> Islingtonista , 22 Sep 2017 01:19
That's a bit like saying that calculus is more valuable than arithmetic, so why teach children arithmetic at all?

Because without the arithmetic, you're not going to get up to the calculus.

JohnFreidburg -> Tommyward , 22 Sep 2017 01:15
I disagree. Technology firms are just like other firms. Why then the collusion not to pay more to workers coming from other companies? To believe that they are anything else is naive. The author is correct. We need policies that actually grow the economy and not leaders who cave to what the CEOs want like Bill Clinton did. He brought NAFTA at the behest of CEOs and all it ended up doing was ripping apart the rust belt and ushering in Trump.
Tommyward , 22 Sep 2017 00:53
So the media always needs some bad guys to write about, and this month they seem to have it in for the tech industry. The article is BS. I interview a lot of people to join a large tech company, and I can guarantee you that we aren't trying to find cheaper labor, we're looking for the best talent.

I know that lots of different jobs have been outsourced to low cost areas, but these days the top companies are instead looking for the top talent globally.

I see this article as a hit piece against Silicon Valley, and it doesn't fly in the face of the evidence.

finalcentury , 22 Sep 2017 00:46
This has got to be the most cynical and idiotic social interest piece I have ever read in the Guardian. Once upon a time it was very helpful to learn carpentry and machining, but now, even if you are learning those, you will get a big and indispensable headstart if you have some logic and programming skills. The fact is, almost no matter what you do, you can apply logic and programming skills to give you an edge. Even journalists.
hoplites99 , 22 Sep 2017 00:02
Yup, rings true. I've been in hi tech for over 40 years and seen the changes. I was in Silicon Valley for 10 years on a startup. India is taking over, my current US company now has a majority Indian executive and is moving work to India. US politicians push coding to drive down wages to Indian levels.

On the bright side I am old enough and established enough to quit tomorrow, its someone else's problem, but I still despise those who have sold us out, like the Clintons, the Bushes, the Googoids, the Zuckerboids.

liberalquilt -> yannick95 , 21 Sep 2017 23:45
Sure markets existed before governments, but capitalism didn't, can't in fact. It needs the organs of state, the banking system, an education system, and an infrastructure.
thegarlicfarmer -> canprof , 21 Sep 2017 23:36
Then teach them other things but not coding! Here in Australia every child of school age has to learn coding. Now tell me that everyone of them will need it? Look beyond computers as coding will soon be automated just like every other job.
Islingtonista , 21 Sep 2017 22:25
If you have never coded then you will not appreciate how labour intensive it is. Coders effectively use line editors to type in, line by line, the instructions. And syntax is critical; add a comma when you meant a semicolon and the code doesn't work properly. Yeah, we use frameworks and libraries of already written subroutines, but, in the end, it is all about manually typing in the code.

Which is an expensive way of doing things (hence the attractions of 'off-shoring' the coding task to low cost economies in Asia).

And this is why teaching kids to code is a waste of time.

Already, AI based systems are addressing the task of interpreting high level design models and simply generating the required application.

One of the first uses templates and a smart chatbot to enable non-tech business people to build their websites. By describe in non-coding terms what they want, the chatbot is able to assemble the necessary components and make the requisite template amendments to build a working website.

Much cheaper than hiring expensive coders to type it all in manually.

It's early days yet, but coding may well be one of the big losers to AI automation along with all those back office clerical jobs.

Teaching kids how to think about design rather than how to code would be much more valuable.

jamesbro -> peter nelson , 21 Sep 2017 21:31
Thick-skinned? Just because you might get a few error messages from the compiler? Call centre workers have to put up with people telling them to fuck off eight hours a day.
Joshua Ian Lee , 21 Sep 2017 21:03
Spot on. Society will never need more than 1% of its people to code. We will need far more garbage men. There are only so many (relatively) good jobs to go around and its about competing to get them.
canprof , 21 Sep 2017 20:53
I'm a professor (not of computer science) and yet, I try to give my students a basic understanding of algorithms and logic, to spark an interest and encourage them towards programming. I have no skin in the game, except that I've seen unemployment first-hand, and want them to avoid it. The best chance most of them have is to learn to code.
Evelita , 21 Sep 2017 14:35
Educating youth does not drive wages down. It drives our economy up. China, India, and other countries are training youth in programming skills. Educating our youth means that they will be able to compete globally. This is the standard GOP stand that we don't need to educate our youth, but instead fantasize about high-paying manufacturing jobs miraculously coming back.

Many jobs, including new manufacturing jobs have an element of coding because they are automated. Other industries require coding skills to maintain web sites and keep computer systems running. Learning coding skills opens these doors.

Coding teaches logic, an essential thought process. Learning to code, like learning anything, increases the brains ability to adapt to new environments which is essential to our survival as a species. We must invest in educating our youth.

cwblackwell , 21 Sep 2017 13:38
"Contrary to public perception, the economy doesn't actually need that many more programmers." This really looks like a straw man introducing a red herring. A skill can be extremely valuable for those who do not pursue it as a full time profession.

The economy doesn't actually need that many more typists, pianists, mathematicians, athletes, dietitians. So, clearly, teaching typing, the piano, mathematics, physical education, and nutrition is a nefarious plot to drive down salaries in those professions. None of those skills could possibly enrich the lives or enhance the productivity of builders, lawyers, public officials, teachers, parents, or store managers.

DJJJJJC , 21 Sep 2017 14:23

A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that the supply of American college graduates with computer science degrees is 50% greater than the number hired into the tech industry each year.

You're assuming that all those people are qualified to work in software because they have a piece of paper that says so, but that's not a valid assumption. The quality of computer science degree courses is generally poor, and most people aren't willing or able to teach themselves. Universities are motivated to award degrees anyway because if they only awarded degrees to students who are actually qualified then that would reflect very poorly on their quality of teaching.

A skills shortage doesn't mean that everyone who claims to have a skill gets hired and there are still some jobs left over that aren't being done. It means that employers are forced to hire people who are incompetent in order to fill all their positions. Many people who get jobs in programming can't really do it and do nothing but create work for everyone else. That's why most of the software you use every day doesn't work properly. That's why competent programmers' salaries are still high in spite of the apparently large number of "qualified" people who aren't employed as programmers.

[Oct 01, 2017] Neoliberalism Is a Political Project

Notable quotes:
"... I've always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor. ..."
"... In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world ..."
"... So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, What to do?. The ruling class wasn't omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism. ..."
"... The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell . He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. ..."
"... Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgment at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics. ..."
"... This process took a long time. I think now we've reached a point where you don't need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them. ..."
"... With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest. ..."
"... Instead they chose the other way -- to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor. ..."
"... At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change , deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor. ..."
"... It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project ..."
"... I think they just intuitively said, We gotta crush labor, how do we do it? And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that. ..."
Oct 01, 2017 | www.jacobinmag.com

I've always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor.

In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world -- Mozambique, Angola, China etc. -- but also a rising tide of communist influences in countries like Italy and France and, to a lesser degree, the threat of a revival of that in Spain.

Even in the United States, trade unions had produced a Democratic Congress that was quite radical in its intent. In the early 1970s they, along with other social movements, forced a slew of reforms and reformist initiatives which were anti-corporate: the Environmental Protection Agency , the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, consumer protections, and a whole set of things around empowering labor even more than it had been empowered before.

So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, What to do?. The ruling class wasn't omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism.

BSR Can you talk a bit about the ideological and political fronts and the attacks on labor? DH The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell . He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgment at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics.

The idea was to have these think tanks do serious research and some of them did -- for instance, the National Bureau of Economic Research was a privately funded institution that did extremely good and thorough research. This research would then be published independently and it would influence the press and bit by bit it would surround and infiltrate the universities.

This process took a long time. I think now we've reached a point where you don't need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them.

With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest.

Instead they chose the other way -- to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor.

At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change , deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor.

It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project, and I think the bourgeoisie or the corporate capitalist class put it into motion bit by bit.

I don't think they started out by reading Hayek or anything, I think they just intuitively said, We gotta crush labor, how do we do it? And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that.

[Sep 11, 2017] Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That's what is wrenching society apart by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do. ..."
"... A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like. ..."
"... Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction. ..."
"... Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement. ..."
"... It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It's more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is a project that explicitly aims, and has achieved, the undermining and elimination of social networks in favour of market competition ..."
"... In practice, loosening social and legal institutions has reduced social security (in the general sense rather than simply welfare payments) and encouraged the limitation of social interaction to money based activity ..."
"... All powerful institutions have a vested interest in keeping us atomized and individualistic. The gangs at the top don't want competition. They're afraid of us. In particular, they're afraid of men organising into gangs. That's where this very paper comes in ..."
"... The alienation genie was out of the bottle with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and mass migration to cities began and we abandoned living in village communities ..."
"... Neoliberalism expressly encourages 'atomisation'- it is all about reducing human interaction to markets. And so this is just one of the reasons that neoliberalism is such a bunk philosophy. ..."
"... My stab at an answer would first question the notion that we are engaging in anything. That presupposes we are making the choices. Those who set out the options are the ones that make the choices. We are being engaged by the grotesquely privileged and the pathologically greedy in an enterprise that profits them still further. It suits the 1% very well strategically, for obvious reasons, that the 99% don't swap too many ideas with each other. ..."
"... According to Robert Putnam, as societies become more ethnically diverse they lose social capital, contributing to the type of isolation and loneliness which George describes. Doesn't sound as evil as neoliberalism I suppose. ..."
"... multiculturalism is a direct result of Neoliberalism. The market rules and people are secondary. Everything must be done for business owners, and that everything means access to cheap labor. ..."
"... I'd have thought what he really wants to say is that loneliness as a phenomenon in modern Western society arises out of an intent on the part of our political and social elites to divide us all into competing against one another, as individuals and as members of groups, all the better to keep us under control and prevent us from working together to claim our fair share of resources. ..."
"... Has it occurred to you that the collapse in societal values has allowed 'neo-liberalism' to take hold? ..."
"... No. It has been the concentrated propaganda of the "free" press. Rupert Murdoch in particular, but many other well-funded organisations working in the background over 50 years. They are winning. ..."
"... We're fixated on a magical, abstract concept called "the economy". Everything must be done to help "the economy", even if this means adults working through their weekends, neglecting their children, neglecting their elderly parents, eating at their desks, getting diabetes, breaking down from stress, and giving up on a family life. ..."
"... You can make a reasonable case that 'Neoliberalism' expects that every interaction, including between individuals, can be reduced to a financial one. ..."
"... As can be seen from many of the posts, neo-liberalism depends on, and fosters, ignorance, an inability to see things from historical and different perspectives and social and intellectual disciplines. On a sociological level how other societies are arranged throws up interesting comparisons. Scandanavian countries, which have mostly avoided neo-liberalism by and large, are happier, healthier places to live. America and eastern countries arranged around neo-liberal, market driven individualism, are unhappy places, riven with mental and physical health problems and many more social problems of violence, crime and suicide. ..."
"... The people who fosted this this system onto us, are now either very old or dead. We're living in the shadow of their revolutionary transformation of our more equitable post-war society. Hayek, Friedman, Keith Joseph, Thatcher, Greenspan and tangentially but very influentially Ayn Rand. Although a remainder (I love the wit of the term 'Remoaner') , Brexit can be better understood in the context of the death-knell of neoliberalism. ..."
"... Criticism of his hypotheses on this thread (where articualted at all) focus on the existence of solitude and loneliness prior to neo liberalism, which seems to me to be to deliberately miss his point: this was formerly a minor phenomenon, yet is now writ on an incredible scale - and it is a social phenomenon particular to those western economies whose elites have most enthusiastically embraced neo liberalism. ..."
"... We all want is to: (and feel we have the right to) wear the best clothes, have the foreign holidays, own the latest tech and eat the finest foods. At the same time our rights have increased and awareness of our responsibilities have minimized. The execution of common sense and an awareness that everything that goes wrong will always be someone else fault. ..."
"... We are not all special snowflakes, princesses or worthy of special treatment, but we act like self absorbed, entitled individuals. Whether that's entitled to benefits, the front of the queue or bumped into first because its our birthday! ..."
"... Unhealthy social interaction, yes. You can never judge what is natural to humans based on contemporary Britain. Anthropologists repeatedly find that what we think natural is merely a social construct created by the system we are subject to. ..."
"... We are becoming fearful of each other and I believe the insecurity we feel plays a part in this. ..."
"... We have become so disconnected from ourselves and focused on battling to stay afloat. Having experienced periods of severe stress due to lack of money I couldn't even begin to think about how I felt, how happy I was, what I really wanted to do with my life. I just had to pay my landlord, pay the bills and try and put some food on my table so everything else was totally neglected. ..."
"... We need a radical change of political thinking to focus on quality of life rather than obsession with the size of our economy. High levels of immigration of people who don't really integrate into their local communities has fractured our country along with the widening gap between rich and poor. Governments only see people in terms of their "economic value" - hence mothers being driven out to work, children driven into daycare and the elderly driven into care homes. Britain is becoming a soulless place - even our great British comedy is on the decline. ..."
"... Quality of life is far more important than GDP I agree but it is also far more important than inequality. ..."
"... Thatcher was only responsible for "letting it go" in Britain in 1980, but actually it was already racing ahead around the world. ..."
"... Eric Fromm made similar arguments to Monbiot about the psychological impact of modern capitalism (Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society) - although the Freudian element is a tad outdated. However, for all the faults of modern society, I'd rather be unhappy now than in say, Victorian England. Similarly, life in the West is preferable to the obvious alternatives. ..."
"... Whilst it's very important to understand how neoliberalism, the ideology that dare not speak it's name, derailed the general progress in the developed world. It's also necessary to understand that the roots this problem go much further back. Not merely to the start of the industrial revolution, but way beyond that. It actually began with the first civilizations when our societies were taken over by powerful rulers, and they essentially started to farm the people they ruled like cattle. On the one hand they declared themselves protector of their people, whilst ruthlessly exploiting them for their own political gain. I use the livestock farming analogy, because that explains what is going on. ..."
"... Neo-liberalism allows psychopaths to flourish, and it has been argued by Robert Hare that they are disproportionately represented in the highest echelons of society. So people who lack empathy and emotional attachment are probably weilding a significant amount of influence over the way our economy and society is organised. Is it any wonder that they advocate an economic model which is most conducive to their success? Things like job security, rigged markets, unions, and higher taxes on the rich simply get in their way. ..."
"... . Data suggests that inequality has widened massively over the last 30 years ( https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/infographic-income-inequality-uk ) - as has social mobility ( https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts ). Homelessness has risen substantially since 1979. ..."
"... As a director and CEO of an organisation employing several hundred people I became aware that 40% of the staff lived alone and that the workplace was important to them not only for work but also for interacting with their colleagues socially . ..."
"... A thoughtful article. But the rich and powerful will ignore it; their doing very well out of neo liberalism thank you. Meanwhile many of those whose lives are affected by it don't want to know - they're happy with their bigger TV screen. Which of course is what the neoliberals want, 'keep the people happy and in the dark'. An old Roman tactic - when things weren't going too well for citizens and they were grumbling the leaders just extended the 'games'. Evidently it did the trick ..."
"... Sounds like the inevitable logical outcome of a society where the predator sociopathic and their scared prey are all that is allowed. This dynamic dualistic tautology, the slavish terrorised to sleep and bullying narcissistic individual, will always join together to protect their sick worldview by pathologising anything that will threaten their hegemony of power abuse: compassion, sensitivity, moral conscience, altruism and the immediate effects of the ruthless social effacement or punishment of the same ie human suffering. ..."
"... "Alienation, in all areas, has reached unprecedented heights; the social machinery for deluding consciousnesses in the interest of the ruling class has been perfected as never before. The media are loaded with upscale advertising identifying sophistication with speciousness. Television, in constant use, obliterates the concept under the image and permanently feeds a baseless credulity for events and history. Against the will of many students, school doesn't develop the highly cultivated critical capacities that a real sovereignty of the people would require. And so on. ..."
"... There's no question - neoliberalism has been wrenching society apart. It's not as if the prime movers of this ideology were unaware of the likely outcome viz. "there is no such thing as society" (Thatcher). Actually in retrospect the whole zeitgeist from the late 70s emphasised the atomised individual separated from the whole. Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" (1976) may have been influential in creating that climate. ..."
"... I would add that the basic concepts of the Neoliberal New world order are fundamentally Evil, from the control of world population through supporting of strife starvation and war to financial inducements of persons in positions of power. Let us not forget the training of our younger members of our society who have been induced to a slavish love of technology. ..."
"... The kind of personal freedom that you say goes hand in hand with capitalism is an illusion for the majority of people. It holds up the prospect of that kind of freedom, but only a minority get access to it. ..."
"... Problems in society are not solved by having a one hour a week class on "self esteem". In fact self-esteem and self-worth comes from the things you do. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is the bastard child of globalization which in effect is Americanization. The basic premise is the individual is totally reliant on the corporate world state aided by a process of fear inducing mechanisms, pharmacology is one of the tools. No community no creativity no free thinking. Poded sealed and cling filmed a quasi existence. ..."
"... Having grown up during the Thatcher years, I entirely agree that neoliberalism has divided society by promoting individual self-optimisation at the expensive of everyone else. ..."
"... There is no such thing as a free-market society. Your society of 'self-interest' is really a state supported oligarchy. If you really want to live in a society where there is literally no state and a more or less open market try Somalia or a Latin American city run by drug lords - but even then there are hierarchies, state involvement, militias. ..."
"... Furthermore, a society in which people are encouraged to be narrowly selfish is just plain uncivilized. Since when have sociopathy and barbarism been something to aspire to? ..."
"... Why don't we explore some of the benefits?.. Following the long list of some the diseases, loneliness can inflict on individuals, there must be a surge in demand for all sort of medications; anti-depressants must be topping the list. There is a host many other anti-stress treatments available of which Big Pharma must be carving the lion's share. Examine the micro-economic impact immediately following a split or divorce. There is an instant doubling on the demand for accommodation, instant doubling on the demand for electrical and household items among many other products and services. But the icing on the cake and what is really most critical for Neoliberalism must be this: With the morale barometer hitting the bottom, people will be less likely to think of a better future, and therefore, less likely to protest. In fact, there is nothing left worth protecting. ..."
"... Your freedom has been curtailed. Your rights are evaporating in front of your eyes. And Best of all, from the authorities' perspective, there is no relationship to defend and there is no family to protect. If you have a job, you want to keep, you must prove your worthiness every day to 'a company'. ..."
Oct 12, 2016 | www.theguardian.com

What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children's mental health in England reflect a global crisis.

There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract.

Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.

As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their "beauty" settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves.

Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing

Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress? A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like.

If social rupture is not treated as seriously as broken limbs, it is because we cannot see it. But neuroscientists can. A series of fascinating papers suggest that social pain and physical pain are processed by the same neural circuits. This might explain why, in many languages, it is hard to describe the impact of breaking social bonds without the words we use to denote physical pain and injury. In both humans and other social mammals, social contact reduces physical pain. This is why we hug our children when they hurt themselves: affection is a powerful analgesic. Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction.

Experiments summarised in the journal Physiology & Behaviour last month suggest that, given a choice of physical pain or isolation, social mammals will choose the former. Capuchin monkeys starved of both food and contact for 22 hours will rejoin their companions before eating. Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement.

It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly enhanced when they are strongly bonded with the rest of the pack. It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators, or to starve. Just as physical pain protects us from physical injury, emotional pain protects us from social injury. It drives us to reconnect. But many people find this almost impossible.

It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It's more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.

Studies in both animals and humans suggest a reason for comfort eating: isolation reduces impulse control, leading to obesity. As those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are the most likely to suffer from loneliness, might this provide one of the explanations for the strong link between low economic status and obesity?

Anyone can see that something far more important than most of the issues we fret about has gone wrong. So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain? Should this question not burn the lips of everyone in public life?

There are some wonderful charities doing what they can to fight this tide, some of which I am going to be working with as part of my loneliness project. But for every person they reach, several others are swept past.

This does not require a policy response. It requires something much bigger: the reappraisal of an entire worldview. Of all the fantasies human beings entertain, the idea that we can go it alone is the most absurd and perhaps the most dangerous. We stand together or we fall apart.

RachelL , 12 Oct 2016 03:57

Well its a bit of a stretch blaming neoliberalism for creating loneliness. Yet it seems to be the fashion today to imagine that the world we live in is new...only created just years ago. And all the suffering that we see now never existed before. Plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness never happened in the past, because everything was bright and shiny and world was good.

Regrettably history teaches us that suffering and deprivation have dogged mankind for centuries, if not tens of thousands of years. That's what we do; survive, persist...endure. Blaming 'neoliberalism' is a bit of cop-out. It's the human condition man, just deal with it.

B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 03:57
Some of the connections here are a bit tenuous, to say the least, including the link to political ideology. Economic liberalism is usually accompanied with social conservatism, and vice versa. Right wing ideologues are more likely to emphasize the values of marriage and family stability, while left wing ones are more likely to favor extremes of personal freedom and reject those traditional structures that used to bind us together.
ID236975 -> B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 04:15
You're a little confused there in your connections between policies, intentions and outcomes. Nevertheless, Neoliberalism is a project that explicitly aims, and has achieved, the undermining and elimination of social networks in favour of market competition.

In practice, loosening social and legal institutions has reduced social security (in the general sense rather than simply welfare payments) and encouraged the limitation of social interaction to money based activity.

As Monbiot has noted, we are indeed lonelier.

DoctorLiberty -> B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 04:18
That holds true when you're talking about demographics/voters.

Economic and social liberalism go hand in hand in the West. No matter who's in power, the establishment pushes both but will do one or the other covertly.

All powerful institutions have a vested interest in keeping us atomized and individualistic. The gangs at the top don't want competition. They're afraid of us. In particular, they're afraid of men organising into gangs. That's where this very paper comes in.

deskandchair , 12 Oct 2016 04:00
The alienation genie was out of the bottle with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and mass migration to cities began and we abandoned living in village communities. Over the ensuing approx 250 years we abandoned geographically close relationships with extended families, especially post WW2. Underlying economic structures both capitalist and marxist dissolved relationships that we as communal primates evolved within. Then accelerate this mess with (anti-) social media the last 20 years along with economic instability and now dissolution of even the nuclear family (which couldn't work in the first place, we never evolved to live with just two parents looking after children) and here we have it: Mass mental illness. Solution? None. Just form the best type of extended community both within and outside of family, be engaged and generours with your community hope for the best.
terraform_drone -> deskandchair , 12 Oct 2016 04:42
Indeed, Industrialisation of our pre-prescribed lifestyle is a huge factor. In particular, our food, it's low quality, it's 24 hour avaliability, it's cardboard box ambivalence, has caused a myriad of health problems. Industrialisation is about profit for those that own the 'production-line' & much less about the needs of the recipient.
afinch , 12 Oct 2016 04:03

It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat.

Yes, although there is some question of which order things go in. A supportive social network is clearly helpful, but it's hardly a simple cause and effect. Levels of different mental health problems appear to differ widely across societies just in Europe, and it isn't particularly the case that more capitalist countries have greater incidence than less capitalist ones.

You could just as well blame atheism. Since the rise of neo-liberalism and drop in church attendance track each other pretty well, and since for all their ills churches did provide a social support group, why not blame that?

ID236975 -> afinch, 12 Oct 2016 04:22
While attending a church is likely to alleviate loneliness, atheism doesn't expressly encourage limiting social interactions and selfishness. And of course, reduced church attendance isn't exactly the same as atheism.

Neoliberalism expressly encourages 'atomisation'- it is all about reducing human interaction to markets. And so this is just one of the reasons that neoliberalism is such a bunk philosophy.

anotherspace , 12 Oct 2016 04:05
So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain?

My stab at an answer would first question the notion that we are engaging in anything. That presupposes we are making the choices. Those who set out the options are the ones that make the choices. We are being engaged by the grotesquely privileged and the pathologically greedy in an enterprise that profits them still further. It suits the 1% very well strategically, for obvious reasons, that the 99% don't swap too many ideas with each other.

notherspace -> TremblingFactHunt , 12 Oct 2016 05:46
We as individuals are offered the 'choice' of consumption as an alternative to the devastating ennui engendered by powerlessness. It's no choice at all of course, because consumption merely enriches the 1% and exacerbates our powerlessness. That was the whole point of my post.

The 'choice' to consume is never collectively exercised as you suggest. Sadly. If it was, 'we' might be able to organise ourselves into doing something about it.

Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 04:09
According to Robert Putnam, as societies become more ethnically diverse they lose social capital, contributing to the type of isolation and loneliness which George describes. Doesn't sound as evil as neoliberalism I suppose.
ParisHiltonCommune -> Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 07:59
Disagree. Im British but have had more foreign friends than British. The UK middle class tend to be boring insular social status obsessed drones.other nationalities have this too, but far less so
Dave Powell -> Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 10:54
Multiculturalism is destroying social cohesion.
ParisHiltonCommune -> Dave Powell , 12 Oct 2016 14:47
Well, yes, but multiculturalism is a direct result of Neoliberalism. The market rules and people are secondary. Everything must be done for business owners, and that everything means access to cheap labor.

Multiculturalism isn't the only thing destroying social cohesion, too. It was being destroyed long before the recent surges of immigrants. It was reported many times in the 1980's in communities made up of only one culture. In many ways, it is being used as the obvious distraction from all the other ways Fundamentalist Free Marketers wreck live for many.

Rozina , 12 Oct 2016 04:09
This post perhaps ranges too widely to the point of being vague and general, and leading Monbiot to make some huge mental leaps, linking loneliness to a range of mental and physical problems without being able to explain, for example, the link between loneliness and obesity and all the steps in-between without risking derailment into a side issue.

I'd have thought what he really wants to say is that loneliness as a phenomenon in modern Western society arises out of an intent on the part of our political and social elites to divide us all into competing against one another, as individuals and as members of groups, all the better to keep us under control and prevent us from working together to claim our fair share of resources.

Go on, George, you can say that, why not?

MSP1984 , 12 Oct 2016 04:18
Are you familiar with the term 'Laughter is the best medicine'? Well, it's true. When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins, yeah? Your stress hormones are reduced and the oxygen supply to your blood is increased, so...

I try to laugh several times a day just because... it makes you feel good! Let's try that, eh? Ohohoo... Hahaha... Just, just... Hahahaha... Come on, trust me.. you'll feel.. HahaHAhaha! O-o-o-o-a-hahahahaa... Share

ID8701745 , 12 Oct 2016 04:19
>Neoliberalism is creating loneliness.

Has it occurred to you that the collapse in societal values has allowed 'neo-liberalism' to take hold?

totaram -> ID8701745 , 12 Oct 2016 05:00
No. It has been the concentrated propaganda of the "free" press. Rupert Murdoch in particular, but many other well-funded organisations working in the background over 50 years. They are winning.
greenwichite , 12 Oct 2016 04:20
We're fixated on a magical, abstract concept called "the economy". Everything must be done to help "the economy", even if this means adults working through their weekends, neglecting their children, neglecting their elderly parents, eating at their desks, getting diabetes, breaking down from stress, and giving up on a family life.

Impertinent managers ban their staff from office relationships, as company policy, because the company is more important than its staff's wellbeing.

Companies hand out "free" phones that allow managers to harrass staff for work out of hours, on the understanding that they will be sidelined if thy don't respond.

And the wellbeing of "the economy" is of course far more important than whether the British people actually want to merge into a European superstate. What they want is irrelevant.

That nasty little scumbag George Osborne was the apotheosis of this ideology, but he was abetted by journalists who report any rise in GDP as "good" - no matter how it was obtained - and any "recession" to be the equivalent of a major natural disaster.

If we go on this way, the people who suffer the most will be the rich, because it will be them swinging from the lamp-posts, or cowering in gated communities that they dare not leave (Venezuela, South Africa). Those riots in London five years ago were a warning. History is littered with them.

DiscoveredJoys -> greenwichite , 12 Oct 2016 05:48
You can make a reasonable case that 'Neoliberalism' expects that every interaction, including between individuals, can be reduced to a financial one. If this results in loneliness then that's certainly a downside - but the upside is that billions have been lifted out of absolute poverty worldwide by 'Neoliberalism'.

Mr Monbiot creates a compelling argument that we should end 'Neoliberalism' but he is very vague about what should replace it other than a 'different worldview'. Destruction is easy, but creation is far harder.

concerned4democracy , 12 Oct 2016 04:28
As a retired teacher it grieves me greatly to see the way our education service has become obsessed by testing and assessment. Sadly the results are used not so much to help children learn and develop, but rather as a club to beat schools and teachers with. Pressurised schools produce pressurised children. Compare and contrast with education in Finland where young people are not formally assessed until they are 17 years old. We now assess toddlers in nursery schools.
SATs in Primary schools had children concentrating on obscure grammatical terms and usage which they will never ever use again. Pointless and counter-productive.
Gradgrind values driving out the joy of learning.
And promoting anxiety and mental health problems.
colddebtmountain , 12 Oct 2016 04:33
It is all the things you describe, Mr Monbiot, and then some. This dystopian hell, when anything that did work is broken and all things that have never worked are lined up for a little tinkering around the edges until the camouflage is good enough to kid people it is something new. It isn't just neoliberal madness that has created this, it is selfish human nature that has made it possible, corporate fascism that has hammered it into shape. and an army of mercenaries who prefer the take home pay to morality. Crime has always paid especially when governments are the crooks exercising the law.

The value of life has long been forgotten as now the only thing that matters is how much you can be screwed for either dead or alive. And yet the Trumps, the Clintons, the Camerons, the Johnsons, the Merkels, the Mays, the news media, the banks, the whole crooked lot of them, all seem to believe there is something worth fighting for in what they have created, when painfully there is not. We need revolution and we need it to be lead by those who still believe all humanity must be humble, sincere, selfless and most of all morally sincere. Freedom, justice, and equality for all, because the alternative is nothing at all.

excathedra , 12 Oct 2016 04:35
Ive long considered neo-liberalism as the cause of many of our problems, particularly the rise in mental health problems, alienation and loneliness.

As can be seen from many of the posts, neo-liberalism depends on, and fosters, ignorance, an inability to see things from historical and different perspectives and social and intellectual disciplines. On a sociological level how other societies are arranged throws up interesting comparisons. Scandanavian countries, which have mostly avoided neo-liberalism by and large, are happier, healthier places to live. America and eastern countries arranged around neo-liberal, market driven individualism, are unhappy places, riven with mental and physical health problems and many more social problems of violence, crime and suicide.

The worst thing is that the evidence shows it doesn't work. Not one of the privatisations in this country have worked. All have been worse than what they've replaced, all have cost more, depleted the treasury and led to massive homelessness, increased mental health problems with the inevitable financial and social costs, costs which are never acknowledged by its adherents.

Put crudely, the more " I'm alright, fuck you " attitude is fostered, the worse societies are. Empires have crashed and burned under similar attitudes.

MereMortal , 12 Oct 2016 04:37
A fantastic article as usual from Mr Monbiot.

The people who fosted this this system onto us, are now either very old or dead. We're living in the shadow of their revolutionary transformation of our more equitable post-war society. Hayek, Friedman, Keith Joseph, Thatcher, Greenspan and tangentially but very influentially Ayn Rand. Although a remainder (I love the wit of the term 'Remoaner') , Brexit can be better understood in the context of the death-knell of neoliberalism.

I never understood how the collapse of world finance, resulted in a right wing resurgence in the UK and the US. The Tea Party in the US made the absurd claim that the failure of global finance was not due to markets being fallible, but because free markets had not been enforced citing Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac as their evidence and of Bill Clinton insisting on more poor and black people being given mortgages.

I have a terrible sense that it will not go quietly, there will be massive global upheavals as governments struggle deal with its collapse.

flyboy101 , 12 Oct 2016 04:39
I have never really agreed with GM - but this article hits the nail on the head.

I think there are a number of aspects to this:

  1. The internet. The being in constant contact, our lives mapped and our thoughts analysed - we can comment on anything (whether informed or total drivel) and we've been fed the lie that our opinion is is right and that it matters) Ive removed fscebook and twitter from my phone, i have never been happier
  2. Rolling 24 hour news. That is obsessed with the now, and consistently squeezes very complex issues into bite sized simple dichotomies. Obsessed with results and critical in turn of everyone who fails to feed the machine
  3. The increasing slicing of work into tighter and slimmer specialisms, with no holistic view of the whole, this forces a box ticking culture. "Ive stamped my stamp, my work is done" this leads to a lack of ownership of the whole. PIP assessments are an almost perfect example of this - a box ticking exercise, designed by someone who'll never have to go through it, with no flexibility to put the answers into a holistic context.
  4. Our education system is designed to pass exams and not prepare for the future or the world of work - the only important aspect being the compilation of next years league tables and the schools standings. This culture is neither healthy no helpful, as students are schooled on exam technique in order to squeeze out the marks - without putting the knowledge into a meaningful and understandable narrative.

Apologies for the long post - I normally limit myself to a trite insulting comment :) but felt more was required in this instance.

Taxiarch -> flyboy101 , 12 Oct 2016 05:42
Overall, I agree with your points. Monbiot here adopts a blunderbuss approach (competitive self-interest and extreme individualism; "brutal" education, employment social security; consumerism, social media and vanity). Criticism of his hypotheses on this thread (where articualted at all) focus on the existence of solitude and loneliness prior to neo liberalism, which seems to me to be to deliberately miss his point: this was formerly a minor phenomenon, yet is now writ on an incredible scale - and it is a social phenomenon particular to those western economies whose elites have most enthusiastically embraced neo liberalism. So, when Monbiot's rhetoric rises:

"So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain?"

the answer is, of course, 'western capitalist elites'.

We stand together or we fall apart.

Hackneyed and unoriginal but still true for all that.

flyboy101 -> Taxiarch , 12 Oct 2016 06:19
I think the answer is only

the answer is, of course, 'western capitalist elites'.

because of the lies that are being sold. We all want is to: (and feel we have the right to) wear the best clothes, have the foreign holidays, own the latest tech and eat the finest foods. At the same time our rights have increased and awareness of our responsibilities have minimized. The execution of common sense and an awareness that everything that goes wrong will always be someone else fault.

We are not all special snowflakes, princesses or worthy of special treatment, but we act like self absorbed, entitled individuals. Whether that's entitled to benefits, the front of the queue or bumped into first because its our birthday!

I share Monbiots pain here. But rather than get a sense of perspective - the answer is often "More public money and counseling"

DGIxjhLBTdhTVh7T , 12 Oct 2016 04:42
George Monbiot has struck a nerve. They are there every day in my small town local park: people, young and old, gender and ethnically diverse, siting on benches for a couple of hours at a time.

Trite as it may seem, this temporary thread of canine affection breaks the taboo of strangers passing by on the other side. Conversations, sometimes stilted, sometimes deeper and more meaningful, ensue as dog walkers become a brief daily healing force in a fractured world of loneliness. It's not much credit in the bank of sociability. But it helps.

Trite as it may seem from the outside, their interaction with the myriad pooches regularly walk

wakeup99 -> DGIxjhLBTdhTVh7T , 12 Oct 2016 04:47
Do a parkrun and you get the same thing. Free and healthy.
ParisHiltonCommune -> SenseCir , 12 Oct 2016 08:47
Unhealthy social interaction, yes. You can never judge what is natural to humans based on contemporary Britain. Anthropologists repeatedly find that what we think natural is merely a social construct created by the system we are subject to.

If you don't work hard, you will be a loser, don't look out of the window day dreaming you lazy slacker. Get productive, Mr Burns millions need you to work like a machine or be replaced by one.

Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 04:46
Good article. You΄re absoluately right. And the deeper casue is this: separation from God. If we don΄t fight our way back to God, individually and collectively, things are going to get a lot worse. With God, loneliness doesn΄t exist. I encourage anyone and everyone to start talking to Him today and invite Him into your heart and watch what starts to happen.
wakeup99 -> Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 04:52
Religion divides not brings people together. Only when you embrace all humanity and ignore all gods will you find true happiness. The world and the people in it are far more inspiring when you contemplate the lack of any gods. The fact people do amazing things without needing the promise of heaven or the threat of hell - that is truly moving.
TeaThoughts -> Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 05:23
I see what you're saying but I read 'love' instead of God. God is too religious which separates and divides ("I'm this religion and my god is better than yours" etc etc). I believe that George is right in many ways in that money is very powerful on it's impact on our behavior (stress, lack etc) and therefore our lives. We are becoming fearful of each other and I believe the insecurity we feel plays a part in this.

We have become so disconnected from ourselves and focused on battling to stay afloat. Having experienced periods of severe stress due to lack of money I couldn't even begin to think about how I felt, how happy I was, what I really wanted to do with my life. I just had to pay my landlord, pay the bills and try and put some food on my table so everything else was totally neglected.

When I moved house to move in with family and wasn't expected to pay rent, though I offered, all that dissatisfaction and undealt with stuff came spilling out and I realised I'd had no time for any real safe care above the very basics and that was not a good place to be. I put myself into therapy for a while and started to look after myself and things started to change. I hope to never go back to that kind of position but things are precarious financially and the field I work in isn't well paid but it makes me very happy which I realise now is more important.

geoffhoppy , 12 Oct 2016 04:47
Neo-liberalism has a lot to answer for in bringing misery to our lives and accelerating the demise of the planet but I find it not guilty on this one. The current trends as to how people perceive themselves (what you've got rather than who you are) and the increasing isolation in our cities started way before the neo-liberals. It is getting worse though and on balance social media is making us more connected but less social. Share
RandomName2016 , 12 Oct 2016 04:48
The way that the left keeps banging on about neoliberalism is half of what makes them such a tough sell electorally. Just about nobody knows what neoliberalism is, and literally nobody self identifies as a neoliberal. So all this moaning and wailing about neoliberalism comes across as a self absorbed, abstract and irrelevant. I expect there is the germ of an idea in there, but until the left can find away to present that idea without the baffling layer of jargon and over-analysis, they're going to remain at a disadvantage to the easy populism of the right.
Astrogenie , 12 Oct 2016 04:49
Interesting article. We have heard so much about the size of our economy but less about our quality of life. The UK quality of life is way below the size of our economy i.e. economy size 6th largest in the world but quality of life 15th. If we were the 10th largest economy but were 10th for quality of life we would be better off than we are now in real terms.

We need a radical change of political thinking to focus on quality of life rather than obsession with the size of our economy. High levels of immigration of people who don't really integrate into their local communities has fractured our country along with the widening gap between rich and poor. Governments only see people in terms of their "economic value" - hence mothers being driven out to work, children driven into daycare and the elderly driven into care homes. Britain is becoming a soulless place - even our great British comedy is on the decline.

wakeup99 -> Astrogenie , 12 Oct 2016 04:56
Quality of life is far more important than GDP I agree but it is also far more important than inequality.
MikkaWanders , 12 Oct 2016 04:49
Interesting. 'It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators....' so perhaps the species is developing its own predators to fill a vacated niche.

(Not questioning the comparison to other mammals at all as I think it is valid but you would have to consider the whole rather than cherry pick bits)

johnny991965 , 12 Oct 2016 04:52
Generation snowflake. "I'll do myself in if you take away my tablet and mobile phone for half an hour".
They don't want to go out and meet people anymore. Nightclubs for instance, are closing because the younger generation 'don't see the point' of going out to meet people they would otherwise never meet, because they can meet people on the internet. Leave them to it and the repercussions of it.....
johnny991965 -> grizzly , 12 Oct 2016 05:07
Socialism is dying on its feet in the UK, hence the Tory's 17 point lead at the mo. The lefties are clinging to whatever influence they have to sway the masses instead of the ballot box. Good riddance to them.
David Ireland -> johnny991965 , 13 Oct 2016 12:45
17 point lead? Dying on it's feet? The neo-liberals are showing their disconnect from reality. If anything, neo-liberalism is driving a people to the left in search of a fairer and more equal society.
justask , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
George Moniot's articles are better thought out, researched and written than the vast majority of the usual clickbait opinion pieces found on the Guardian these days. One of the last journalists, rather than liberal arts blogger vying for attention.
Nada89 , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
Neoliberalism's rap sheet is long and dangerous but this toxic philosophy will continue unabated because most people can't join the dots and work out how detrimental it has proven to be for most of us.

It dangles a carrot in order to create certain economic illusions but the simple fact is neoliberal societies become more unequal the longer they persist.

wakeup99 -> Nada89 , 12 Oct 2016 05:05
Neoliberal economies allow people to build huge global businesses very quickly and will continue to give the winners more but they also can guve everyone else more too but just at a slower rate. Socialism on the other hand mires everyone in stagnant poverty. Question is do you want to be absolutely or relatively better off.
totaram -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:19
You have no idea. Do not confuse capitalism with neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a political ideology based on a mythical version of capitalism that doesn't actually exist, but is a nice way to get the deluded to vote for something that doesn't work in their interest at all.
peterfieldman , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
And things will get worse as society falls apart due to globalisation, uberization, lack of respect for authority, lacks of a fair tax and justice system, crime, immorality, loss of trust of politicians and financial and corporate sectors, uncontrolled immigration bringing with it insecurity and the risk of terrorism and a dumbing down of society with increasing inequality. All this is in a new book " The World at a Crossroads" which deals with the major issues facing the planet.
Nada89 -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:07
What, like endless war, unaffordable property, monstrous university fees, zero hours contracts and a food bank on every corner, and that's before we even get to the explosion in mental distress.
monsieur_flaneur -> thedisclaimer , 12 Oct 2016 05:10
There's nothing spurious or obscure about Neoliberalism. It is simply the political ideology of the rich, which has been our uninterrupted governing ideology since Reagan and Thatcher: Privatisation, deregulation, 'liberalisation' of housing, labour, etc, trickledown / low-tax-on-the-rich economics, de-unionization. You only don't see it if you don't want to see it.
arkley , 12 Oct 2016 05:03
I'm just thinking what is wonderful about societies that are big of social unity. And conformity. Those societies for example where you "belong" to your family. Where teenage girls can be married off to elderly uncles to cement that belonging. Or those societies where the belonging comes through religious centres. Where the ostracism for "deviant" behaviour like being gay or for women not submitting to their husbands can be brutal. And I'm not just talking about muslims here.

Or those societies that are big on patriotism. Yep they are usually good for mental health as the young men are given lessons in how to kill as many other men as possible efficiently.

And then I have to think how our years of "neo-liberal" governments have taken ideas of social liberalisation and enshrined them in law. It may be coincidence but thirty years after Thatcher and Reagan we are far more tolerant of homosexuality and willing to give it space to live, conversely we are far less tolerant of racism and are willing to prosecute racist violence. Feminists may still moan about equality but the position of women in society has never been better, rape inside marriage has (finally) been outlawed, sexual violence generally is no longer condoned except by a few, work opportunities have been widened and the woman's role is no longer just home and family. At least that is the case in "neo-liberal" societies, it isn't necessarily the case in other societies.

So unless you think loneliness is some weird Stockholm Syndrome thing where your sense of belonging comes from your acceptance of a stifling role in a structured soiety, then I think blaming the heightened respect for the individual that liberal societies have for loneliness is way off the mark.

What strikes me about the cases you cite above, George, is not an over-respect for the individual but another example of individuals being shoe-horned into a structure. It strikes me it is not individualism but competition that is causing the unhappiness. Competition to achieve an impossible ideal.

I fear George, that you are not approaching this with a properly open mind dedicated to investigation. I think you have your conclusion and you are going to bend the evidence to fit. That is wrong and I for one will not support that. In recent weeks and months we have had the "woe, woe and thrice woe" writings. Now we need to take a hard look at our findings. We need to take out the biases resulting from greater awareness of mental health and better and fuller diagnosis of mental health issues. We need to balance the bias resulting from the fact we really only have hard data for modern Western societies. And above all we need to scotch any bias resulting from the political worldview of the researchers.

Then the results may have some value.

birney -> arkley , 12 Oct 2016 05:10
It sounded to me that he was telling us of farm labouring and factory fodder stock that if we'd 'known our place' and kept to it ,all would be well because in his ideal society there WILL be or end up having a hierarchy, its inevitable.
EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:04
Wasn't all this started by someone who said, "There is no such thing as Society"? The ultimate irony is that the ideology that championed the individual and did so much to dismantle the industrial and social fabric of the Country has resulted in a system which is almost totalitarian in its disregard for its ideological consequences.
wakeup99 -> EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
Thatcher said it in the sense that society is not abstract it is just other people so when you say society needs to change then people need to change as society is not some independent concept it is an aggregation of all us. The left mis quote this all the time and either they don't get it or they are doing on purpose.
HorseCart -> EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:09
No, Neoliberalism has been around since 1938.... Thatcher was only responsible for "letting it go" in Britain in 1980, but actually it was already racing ahead around the world.

Furthermore, it could easily be argued that the Beatles helped create loneliness - what do you think all those girls were screaming for? And also it could be argued that the Beatles were bringing in neoliberalism in the 1960s, via America thanks to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis etc.. Share

billybagel -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:26
They're doing it on purpose. ""If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." -- Joseph Boebbels
Luke O'Brien , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
Great article, although surely you could've extended the blame to capitalism has a whole?

In what, then, consists the alienation of labor? First, in the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., that it does not belong to his nature, that therefore he does not realize himself in his work, that he denies himself in it, that he does not feel at ease in it, but rather unhappy, that he does not develop any free physical or mental energy, but rather mortifies his flesh and ruins his spirit. The worker, therefore, is only himself when he does not work, and in his work he feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor, therefore, is not voluntary, but forced--forced labor. It is not the gratification of a need, but only a means to gratify needs outside itself. Its alien nature shows itself clearly by the fact that work is shunned like the plague as soon as no physical or other kind of coercion exists.

Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

JulesBywaterLees , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
We have created a society with both flaws and highlights- and we have unwittingly allowed the economic system to extend into our lives in negative ways.

On of the things being modern brings is movement- we move away from communities, breaking friendships and losing support networks, and the support networks are the ones that allow us to cope with issues, problems and anxiety.

Isolation among the youth is disturbing, it is also un natural, perhaps it is social media, or fear of parents, or the fall in extra school activities or parents simply not having a network of friends because they have had to move for work or housing.

There is some upsides, I talk and get support from different international communities through the social media that can also be so harmful- I chat on xbox games, exchange information on green building forums, arts forums, share on youtube as well as be part of online communities that hold events in the real world.

LordMorganofGlossop , 12 Oct 2016 05:11
Increasingly we seem to need to document our lives on social media to somehow prove we 'exist'. We seem far more narcissistic these days, which tends to create a particular type of unhappiness, or at least desire that can never be fulfilled. Maybe that's the secret of modern consumer-based capitalism. To be happy today, it probably helps to be shallow, or avoid things like Twitter and Facebook!

Eric Fromm made similar arguments to Monbiot about the psychological impact of modern capitalism (Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society) - although the Freudian element is a tad outdated. However, for all the faults of modern society, I'd rather be unhappy now than in say, Victorian England. Similarly, life in the West is preferable to the obvious alternatives.

Interestingly, the ultra conservative Adam Smith Institute yesterday decided to declare themselves 'neoliberal' as some sort of badge of honour:
http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/coming-out-as-neoliberals

eamonmcc , 12 Oct 2016 05:15
Thanks George for commenting in such a public way on the unsayable: consume, consume, consume seems to be the order of the day in our modern world and the points you have highlighted should be part of public policy everywhere.

I'm old enough to remember when we had more time for each other; when mothers could be full-time housewives; when evenings existed (evenings now seem to be spent working or getting home from work). We are undoubtedly more materialistic, which leads to more time spent working, although our modern problems are probably not due to increasing materialism alone.

Regarding divorce and separation, I notice people in my wider circle who are very open to affairs. They seem to lack the self-discipline to concentrate on problems in their marriage and to give their full-time partner a high level of devotion. Terrible problems come up in marriages but if you are completely and unconditionally committed to your partner and your marriage then you can get through the majority of them.

CEMKM , 12 Oct 2016 05:47
Aggressive self interest is turning in on itself. Unfortunately the powerful who have realised their 'Will to Power' are corrupted by their own inflated sense of self and thus blinded. Does this all predict a global violent revolution?
SteB1 -> NeverMindTheBollocks , 12 Oct 2016 06:32

A diatribe against a vague boogieman that is at best an ill-defined catch-all of things this CIFer does not like.

An expected response from someone who persistently justifies neoliberalism through opaque and baseless attacks on those who reveal how it works. Neoliberalism is most definitely real and it has a very definite history.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

However, what is most interesting is how nearly all modern politicians who peddle neoliberal doctrine or policy, refuse to use the name, or even to openly state what ideology they are in fact following.

I suppose it is just a complete coincidence that the policy so many governments are now following so closely follow known neoliberal doctrine. But of course the clever and unpleasant strategy of those like yourself is to cry conspiracy theory if this ideology, which dare not speak its name is mentioned.

Your style is tiresome. You make no specific supported criticisms again, and again. You just make false assertions and engage in unpleasant ad homs and attempted character assassination. You do not address the evidence for what George Monbiot states at all.

heian555 , 12 Oct 2016 05:56
An excellent article. One wonders exactly what one needs to say in order to penetrate the reptilian skulls of those who run the system.

As an addition to Mr Monbiot's points, I would like to point out that it is not only competitive self-interest and extreme individualism that drives loneliness. Any system that has strict hierarchies and mechanisms of social inclusion also drives it, because such systems inhibit strongly spontaneous social interaction, in which people simply strike up conversation. Thailand has such a system. Despite her promoting herself as the land of smiles, I have found the people here to be deeply segregated and unfriendly. I have lived here for 17 years. The last time I had a satisfactory face-to-face conversation, one that went beyond saying hello to cashiers at checkout counters or conducting official business, was in 1999. I have survived by convincing myself that I have dialogues with my books; as I delve more deeply into the texts, the authors say something different to me, to which I can then respond in my mind.

SteB1 , 12 Oct 2016 05:56

Epidemics of mental illness are crushing the minds and bodies of millions. It's time to ask where we are heading and why

I want to quote the sub headline, because "It's time to ask where we are heading and why", is the important bit. George's excellent and scathing evidence based criticism of the consequences of neoliberalism is on the nail. However, we need to ask how we got to this stage. Despite it's name neoliberalism doesn't really seem to contain any new ideas, and in some way it's more about Thatcher's beloved return to Victorian values. Most of what George Monbiot highlights encapsulatec Victorian thinking, the sort of workhouse mentality.

Whilst it's very important to understand how neoliberalism, the ideology that dare not speak it's name, derailed the general progress in the developed world. It's also necessary to understand that the roots this problem go much further back. Not merely to the start of the industrial revolution, but way beyond that. It actually began with the first civilizations when our societies were taken over by powerful rulers, and they essentially started to farm the people they ruled like cattle. On the one hand they declared themselves protector of their people, whilst ruthlessly exploiting them for their own political gain. I use the livestock farming analogy, because that explains what is going on.

To domesticate livestock, and to make them pliable and easy to work with the farmer must make himself appear to these herd animals as if they are their protector, the person who cares for them, nourishes and feeds them. They become reliant on their apparent benefactor. Except of course this is a deceitful relationship, because the farmer is just fattening them up to be eaten.

For the powerful to exploit the rest of people in society for their own benefit they had to learn how to conceal what they were really doing, and to wrap it in justifications to bamboozle the people they were exploiting for their own benefit. They did this by altering our language and inserting ideas in our culture which justified their rule, and the positions of the rest of us.

Before state religions, generally what was revered was the Earth, the natural world. It was on a personal level, and not controlled by the powerful. So the powerful needed to remove that personal meaningfulness from people's lives, and said the only thing which was really meaningful, was the religion, which of course they controlled and were usually the head of. Over generations people were indoctrinated in a completely new way of thinking, and a language manipulated so all people could see was the supposed divine right of kings to rule. Through this language people were detached from what was personally meaningful to them, and could only find meaningfulness by pleasing their rulers, and being indoctrinated in their religion.

If you control the language people use, you can control how perceive the world, and can express themselves.

By stripping language of meaningful terms which people can express themselves, and filling it full of dubious concepts such as god, the right of kings completely altered how people saw the world, how they thought. This is why over the ages, and in different forms the powerful have always attempted to have full control of our language through at first religion and their proclamations, and then eventually by them controlling our education system and the media.

The idea of language being used to control how people see the world, and how they think is of course not my idea. George Orwell's Newspeak idea explored in "1984" is very much about this.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

This control of language is well known throughout history. Often conquerors would abolish languages of those they conquered. In the so called New World the colonists eventually tried to control how indigenous people thought by forcibly sending their children to boarding school, to be stripped of their culture, their native language, and to be inculcated in the language and ideas of their colonists. In Britain various attempts were made to banish the Welsh language, the native language of the Britons, before the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans took over.

However, what Orwell did not deal with properly is the origin of language style. To Orwell, and to critics of neoliberalism, the problems can be traced back to the rise of what they criticised. To a sort of mythical golden age. Except all the roots of what is being criticised can be found in the period before the invention of these doctrines. So you have to go right back to the beginning, to understand how it all began.

Neoliberalism would never have been possible without this long control of our language and ideas by the powerful. It prevents us thinking outside the box, about what the problem really is, and how it all began.

clarissa3 -> SteB1 , 12 Oct 2016 06:48
All very well but you are talking about ruthlessness of western elites, mostly British, not all.

It was not like that everywhere. Take Poland for example, and around there..

New research is emerging - and I'd recommend reading of prof Frost from St Andrew's Uni - that lower classes were actually treated with respect by elites there, mainly land owners and aristocracy who more looked after them and employed and cases of such ruthlessness as you describe were unknown of.

So that 'truth' about attitudes to lower classes is not universal!

SteB1 -> Borisundercoat , 12 Oct 2016 06:20

What is "neoliberalism" exactly?

It's spouted by many on here as the root of all evil.

I'd be interested to see how many different definitions I get in response...


The reason I call neoliberalism the ideology which dare not speak it's name is that in public you will rarely hear it mentioned by it's proponents. However, it was a very important part of Thatcherism, Blairism, and so on. What is most definite is that these politicians and others are most definitely following some doctrine. Their ideas about what we must do and how we must do it are arbitrary, but they make it sound as if it's the only way to do things.

If you want to learn more about neoliberalism, read a summary such as the Wikipedia page on it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

However, as I hint, the main problem in dealing with neoliberalism is that none of the proponents of this doctrine admit to what ideology they are actually following. Yet very clearly around the world leaders in many countries are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet because the policy they implement is so similar. Something has definitely changed. All the attempts to roll back welfare, benefits, and public services is most definitely new, or they wouldn't be having to reverse policy of the past if nothing had change. But as all these politicians implementing this policy all seem to refuse to explain what doctrine they are following, it makes it difficult to pin down what is happening. Yet we can most definitely say that there is a clear doctrine at work, because why else would so many political leaders around the world be trying to implement such similar policy.

Winstons1 -> TerryMcBurney , 12 Oct 2016 06:24

Neo-liberalism doesn't really exist except in the minds of the far left and perhaps a few academics.

Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. ... Neoliberal policies aim for a laissez-faire approach to economic development.

I believe the term 'Neo liberalism' was coined by those well known 'Lefties'The Chicago School .
If you don't believe that any of the above has been happening ,it does beg the question as to where you have been for the past decade.

UnderSurveillance , 12 Oct 2016 06:12
The ironies of modern civilization - we have never been more 'connected' to other people on global level and less 'connected' on personal level.

We have never had access to such a wide range of information and opinions, but also for a long time been so divided into conflicting groups, reading and accessing in fact only that which reinforces what we already think.

John Pelan , 12 Oct 2016 06:18
Sir Harry Burns, ex-Chief Medical Officer in Scotland talks very powerfully about the impact of loneliness and isolation on physical and mental health - here is a video of a recent talk by him - http://www.befs.org.uk/calendar/48/164-BEFS-Annual-Lecture
MightyDrunken , 12 Oct 2016 06:22
These issues have been a long time coming, just think of the appeals of the 60's to chill out and love everyone. Globalisation and neo-liberalism has simply made society even more broken.
The way these problems have been ignored and made worse over the last few decades make me think that the solution will only happen after a massive catastrophe and society has to be rebuilt. Unless we make the same mistakes again.
A shame really, you would think intelligence would be useful but it seems not.
ParisHiltonCommune -> MightyDrunken , 12 Oct 2016 07:19
Contemporary Neo-liberalism is a reaction against that ideal of the 60s
DevilMayCareIDont , 12 Oct 2016 06:25
I would argue that it creates a bubble of existence for those who pursue a path of "success" that instead turns to isolation . The amount of people that I have met who have moved to London because to them it represents the main location for everything . I get to see so many walking cliches of people trying to fit in or stand out but also fitting in just the same .

The real disconnect that software is providing us with is truly staggering . I have spoken to people from all over the World who seem to feel more at home being alone and playing a game with strangers . The ones who are most happy are those who seem to be living all aloe and the ones who try and play while a girlfriend or family are present always seemed to be the ones most agitated by them .

We are humans relying on simplistic algorithms that reduce us ,apps like Tinder which turns us into a misogynist at the click of a button .

Facebook which highlights our connections with the other people and assumes that everyone you know or have met is of the same relevance .

We also have Twitter which is the equivalent of screaming at a television when you are drunk or angry .

We have Instagram where people revel in their own isolation and send updates of it . All those products that are instantly updated and yet we are ageing and always feeling like we are grouped together by simple algorithms .

JimGoddard , 12 Oct 2016 06:28
Television has been the main destroyer of social bonds since the 1950s and yet it is only mentioned once and in relation to the number of competitions on it, which completely misses the point. That's when I stopped taking this article seriously.
GeoffP , 12 Oct 2016 06:29
Another shining example of the slow poison of capitalism. Maybe it's time at last to turn off the tap?
jwestoby , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
I actually blame Marx for neoliberalism. He framed society purely in terms economic, and persuaded that ideology is valuable in as much as it is actionable.

For a dialectician he was incredibly short sighted and superficial, not realising he was creating a narrative inimical to personal expression and simple thoughtfulness (although he was warned). To be fair, he can't have appreciated how profoundly he would change the way we concieve societies.

Neoliberalism is simply the dark side of Marxism and subsumes the personal just as comprehensively as communism.

We're picked apart by quantification and live as particulars, suffering the ubiquitous consequences of connectivity alone . . .

Unless, of course, you get out there and meet great people!

ParisHiltonCommune -> jwestoby , 12 Oct 2016 07:16
Marxism arose as a reaction against the harsh capitalism of its day. Of course it is connected. It is ironic how Soviet our lives have become.
zeeeel , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
Neo-liberalism allows psychopaths to flourish, and it has been argued by Robert Hare that they are disproportionately represented in the highest echelons of society. So people who lack empathy and emotional attachment are probably weilding a significant amount of influence over the way our economy and society is organised. Is it any wonder that they advocate an economic model which is most conducive to their success? Things like job security, rigged markets, unions, and higher taxes on the rich simply get in their way.
Drewv , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
That fine illustration by Andrzej Krauze up there is exactly what I see whenever I walk into an upscale mall or any Temple of Consumerism.

You can hear the Temple calling out: "Feel bad, atomized individuals? Have a hole inside? Feel lonely? That's all right: buy some shit you don't need and I guarantee you'll feel better."

And then it says: "So you bought it and you felt better for five minutes, and now you feel bad again? Well, that's not rocket science...you should buy MORE shit you don't need! I mean, it's not rocket science, you should have figured this out on your own."

And then it says: "Still feel bad and you have run out of money? Well, that's okay, just get it on credit, or take out a loan, or mortgage your house. I mean, it's not rocket science. Really, you should have figured this out on your own already...I thought you were a modern, go-get-'em, independent, initiative-seizing citizen of the world?"

And then it says: "Took out too many loans, can't pay the bills and the repossession has begun? Honestly, that's not my problem. You're just a bad little consumer, and a bad little liberal, and everything is your own fault. You go sit in a dark corner now where you don't bother the other shoppers. Honestly, you're just being a burden on other consumers now. I'm not saying you should kill yourself, but I can't say that we would mind either."

And that's how the worms turn at the Temples of Consumerism and Neoliberalism.

havetheyhearts , 12 Oct 2016 06:31
I kept my sanity by not becoming a spineless obedient middle class pleaser of a sociopathic greedy tribe pretending neoliberalism is the future.

The result is a great clarity about the game, and an intact empathy for all beings.

The middle class treated each conscious "outsider" like a lowlife, and now they play the helpless victims of circumstances.

I know why I renounced to my privileges. They sleepwalk into their self created disorder. And yes, I am very angry at those who wasted decades with their social stupidity, those who crawled back after a start of change into their petit bourgeois niche.

I knew that each therapist has to take a stand and that the most choose petty careers. Do not expect much sanity from them for your disorientated kids.
Get insightful yourself and share your leftover love to them. Try honesty and having guts...that might help both of you.

Likewhatever , 12 Oct 2016 06:32
Alternatively, neo-liberalism has enabled us to afford to live alone (entire families were forced to live together for economic reasons), and technology enables us to work remotely, with no need for interaction with other people.

This may make some people feel lonely, but for many others its utopia.

Peter1Barnet , 12 Oct 2016 06:32
Some of the things that characterise Globalisation and Neoliberalism are open borders and free movement. How can that contribute to isolation? That is more likely to be fostered by Protectionism. And there aren't fewer jobs. Employment is at record highs here and in many other countries. There are different jobs, not fewer, and to be sure there are some demographics that have lost out. But overall there are not fewer jobs. That falls for the old "lump of labour" fallacy.
WhigInterpretation , 12 Oct 2016 06:43
The corrosive state of mass television indoctrination sums it up: Apprentice, Big Brother, Dragon's Den. By degrees, the standard keeps lowering. It is no longer unusual for a licence funded TV programme to consist of a group of the mentally deranged competing to be the biggest asshole in the room.

Anomie is a by-product of cultural decline as much as economics.

Pinkie123 -> Stephen Bell , 12 Oct 2016 07:18

What is certain, is that is most ways, life is far better now in the UK than 20, 30 or 40 years ago, by a long way!

That's debatable. Data suggests that inequality has widened massively over the last 30 years ( https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/infographic-income-inequality-uk ) - as has social mobility ( https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts ). Homelessness has risen substantially since 1979.

Our whole culture is more stressful. Jobs are more precarious; employment rights more stacked in favor of the employer; workforces are deunionised; leisure time is on the decrease; rents are unaffordable; a house is no longer a realistic expectation for millions of young people. Overall, citizens are more socially immobile and working harder for poorer real wages than they were in the late 70's.

As for mental health, evidence suggest that mental health problems have been on the increase over recent decades, especially among young people. The proportion of 15/16 year olds reporting that they frequently feel anxious or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years, from 1 in 30 to 2 in 30 for boys and 1 in 10 to 2 in ten for girls ( http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/increased-levels-anxiety-and-depression-teenage-experience-changes-over-time

Unfortunately, sexual abuse has always been a feature of human societies. However there is no evidence to suggest it was any worse in the past. Then sexual abuse largely took place in institutional settings were at least it could be potentially addressed. Now much of it has migrated to the great neoliberal experiment of the internet, where child exploitation is at endemic levels and completely beyond the control of law enforcement agencies. There are now more women and children being sexually trafficked than there were slaves at the height of the slave trade. Moreover, we should not forget that Jimmy Saville was abusing prolifically right into the noughties.

My parents were both born in 1948. They say it was great. They bought a South London house for next to nothing and never had to worry about getting a job. When they did get a job it was one with rights, a promise of a generous pension, a humane workplace environment, lunch breaks and an ethos of public service. My mum says that the way women are talked about now is worse.

Sounds fine to me. That's not to say everything was great: racism was acceptable (though surely the vile views pumped out onto social media are as bad or worse than anything that existed then), homosexuality was illegal and capital punishment enforced until the 1960's. However, the fact that these things were reformed showed society was moving in the right direction. Now we are going backwards, back to 1930's levels or inequality and a reactionary, small-minded political culture fueled by loneliness, rage and misery.

Pinkie123 -> Stephen Bell , 12 Oct 2016 07:28
And there is little evidence to suggest that anyone has expanded their mind with the internet. A lot of people use it to look at porn, post racist tirades on Facebook, send rape threats, distributes sexual images of partners with their permission, take endless photographs of themselves and whip up support for demagogues. In my view it would much better if people went to a library than lurked in corporate echo chambers pumping out the like of 'why dont theese imagrantz go back home and all those lezbo fems can fuckk off too ha ha megalolz ;). Seriously mind expanding stuff. Share
Pinkie123 -> Pinkie123 , 12 Oct 2016 07:38
Oops ' without their permission...
maldonglass , 12 Oct 2016 06:49
As a director and CEO of an organisation employing several hundred people I became aware that 40% of the staff lived alone and that the workplace was important to them not only for work but also for interacting with their colleagues socially . This was encouraged and the organisation achieved an excellent record in retaining staff at a time when recruitment was difficult. Performance levels were also extremely high . I particulalry remember with gratitude the solidarity of staff when one of our colleagues - a haemophiliac - contracted aids through an infected blood transfusion and died bravely but painfully - the staff all supported him in every way possible through his ordeal and it was a privilege for me to work with such kind and caring people .
oommph -> maldonglass , 12 Oct 2016 07:00
Indeed. Those communities are often undervalued. However, the problem is, as George says, lots of people are excluded from them.

They are also highly self-selecting (e.g. you need certain trains of inclusivity, social adeptness, empathy, communication, education etc to get the job that allows you to join that community).

Certainly I make it a priority in my life. I do create communities. I do make an effort to stand by people who live like me. I can be a leader there.

Sometimes I wish more people would be. It is a sustained, long-term effort. Share

forkintheroad , 12 Oct 2016 06:50
'a war of everyone against themselves' - post-Hobbesian. Genius, George.
sparclear , 12 Oct 2016 06:51
Using a word like 'loneliness' is risky insofar as nuances get lost. It can have thousand meanings, as there are of a word like 'love'.

isolation
grief
loneliness
feeling abandoned
solitude
purposelessness
neglect
depression
&c.

To add to this discussion, we might consider the strongest need and conflict each of us experiences as a teenager, the need to be part of a tribe vs the the conflict inherent in recognising one's uniqueness. In a child's life from about 7 or 8 until adolescence, friends matter the most. Then the young person realises his or her difference from everyone else and has to grasp what this means.

Those of us who enjoyed a reasonably healthy upbringing will get through the peer group / individuation stage with happiness possible either way - alone or in friendship. Our parents and teachers will have fostered a pride in our own talents and our choice of where to socialise will be flexible and non-destructive.

Those of us who at some stage missed that kind of warmth and acceptance in childhood can easily stagnate. Possibly this is the most awkward of personal developmental leaps. The person neither knows nor feels comfortable with themselves, all that faces them is an abyss.
Where creative purpose and strength of spirit are lacking, other humans can instinctively sense it and some recoil from it, hardly knowing what it's about. Vulnerabilities attendant on this state include relationships holding out some kind of ersatz rescue, including those offered by superficial therapists, religions, and drugs, legal and illegal.

Experience taught that apart from the work we might do with someone deeply compassionate helping us where our parents failed, the natural world is a reliable healer. A kind of self-acceptance and individuation is possible away from human bustle. One effect of the seasons and of being outdoors amongst other life forms is to challenge us physically, into present time, where our senses start to work acutely and our observational skills get honed, becoming more vibrant than they could at any educational establishment.

This is one reason we have to look after the Earth, whether it's in a city context or a rural one. Our mental, emotional and physical health is known to be directly affected by it.

Buster123 , 12 Oct 2016 06:55
A thoughtful article. But the rich and powerful will ignore it; their doing very well out of neo liberalism thank you. Meanwhile many of those whose lives are affected by it don't want to know - they're happy with their bigger TV screen. Which of course is what the neoliberals want, 'keep the people happy and in the dark'. An old Roman tactic - when things weren't going too well for citizens and they were grumbling the leaders just extended the 'games'. Evidently it did the trick
worried -> Buster123 , 12 Oct 2016 07:32
The rich and powerful can be just as lonely as you and me. However, some of them will be lonely after having royally forked the rest of us over...and that is another thing
Hallucinogen , 12 Oct 2016 06:59

We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.

- Fight Club
People need a tribe to feel purpose. We need conflict, it's essential for our species... psychological health improved in New York after 9/11.
ParisHiltonCommune , 12 Oct 2016 07:01
Totally agree with the last sentences. Human civilisation is a team effort. Individual humans cant survive, our language evolved to aid cooperation.

Neo-liberalism is really only an Anglo-American project. Yet we are so indoctrinated in it, It seems natural to us, but not to hardly any other cultures.

As for those "secondary factors. Look to advertising and the loss of real jobs forcing more of us to sell services dependent on fake needs. Share

deirdremcardle , 12 Oct 2016 07:01
Help save the Notting Hill Carnival
http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/teen-disembowelled-years-notting-hill-11982129

It's importance for social cohesion -- yes inspite of the problems , can not be overestimated .Don't let the rich drive it out , people who don't understand ,or care what it's for .The poorer boroughs cannot afford it .K&C have easily 1/2billion in Capital Reserves ,so yes they must continue . Here I can assure you ,one often sees the old and lonely get a hug .If drug gangs are hitting each other or their rich boy customers with violence - that is a different matter . And yes of course if we don't do something to help boys from ethnic minorities ,with education and housing -of course it only becomes more expensive in the long run.

Boris Johnson has idiotically mouthed off about trying to mobilise people to stand outside the Russian Embassy , as if one can mobilise youth by telling them to tidy their bedroom .Because that's all it amounts to - because you have to FEEL protest and dissent . Well here at Carnival - there it is ,protest and dissent . Now listen to it . And of course it will be far easier than getting any response from sticking your tongue out at the Putin monster --
He has his bombs , just as Kensington and Chelsea have their money. (and anyway it's only another Boris diversion ,like building some fucking stupid bridge ,instead of doing anything useful)

Lafcadio1944 , 12 Oct 2016 07:03
"Society" or at least organized society is the enemy of corporate power. The idea of Neoliberal capitalism is to replace civil society with corporate law and rule. The same was true of the less extreme forms of capitalism. Society is the enemy of capital because it put restrictions on it and threatens its power.

When society organizes itself and makes laws to protect society from the harmful effects of capitalism, for example demands on testing drugs to be sure they are safe, this is a big expense to Pfizer, there are many examples - just now in the news banning sugary drinks. If so much as a small group of parents forming a day care co-op decide to ban coca cola from their group that is a loss of profit.

That is really what is going on, loneliness is a big part of human life, everyone feels it sometimes, under Neoliberal capitalism it is simply more exaggerated due to the out and out assault on society itself.

Joan Cant , 12 Oct 2016 07:10
Well the prevailing Global Capitalist world view is still a combination 1. homocentric Cartesian Dualism i.e. seeing humans as most important and sod all other living beings, and seeing humans as separate from all other living beings and other humans and 2. Darwinian "survival of the fittest" seeing everything as a competition and people as "winners and losers, weak or strong with winners and the strong being most important". From these 2 combined views all kinds of "games" arise. The main one being the game of "victim, rescuer, persecutor" (Transactional Analysis). The Guardian engages in this most of the time and although I welcome the truth in this article to some degree, surprisingly, as George is environmentally friendly, it kinda still is talking as if humans are most important and as if those in control (the winners) need to change their world view to save the victims. I think the world view needs to zoom out to a perspective that recognises that everything is interdependent and that the apparent winners and the strong are as much victims of their limited world view as those who are manifesting the effects of it more obviously.
Zombiesfan , 12 Oct 2016 07:14
Here in America, we have reached the point at which police routinely dispatch the mentally ill, while complaining that "we don't have the time for this" (N. Carolina). When a policeman refuses to kill a troubled citizen, he or she can and will be fired from his job (West Virginia). This has become not merely commonplace, but actually a part of the social function of the work of the police -- to remove from society the burden of caring for the mentally ill by killing them. In the state where I live, a state trooper shot dead a mentally ill man who was not only unarmed, but sitting on the toilet in his own home. The resulting "investigation" exculpated the trooper, of course; in fact, young people are constantly told to look up to the police.
ianita1978 -> Zombiesfan , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
Sounds like the inevitable logical outcome of a society where the predator sociopathic and their scared prey are all that is allowed. This dynamic dualistic tautology, the slavish terrorised to sleep and bullying narcissistic individual, will always join together to protect their sick worldview by pathologising anything that will threaten their hegemony of power abuse: compassion, sensitivity, moral conscience, altruism and the immediate effects of the ruthless social effacement or punishment of the same ie human suffering.
Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 07:14
The impact of increasing alienation on individual mental health has been known about and discussed for a long time.

When looking at a way forward, the following article is interesting:

"Alienation, in all areas, has reached unprecedented heights; the social machinery for deluding consciousnesses in the interest of the ruling class has been perfected as never before. The media are loaded with upscale advertising identifying sophistication with speciousness. Television, in constant use, obliterates the concept under the image and permanently feeds a baseless credulity for events and history. Against the will of many students, school doesn't develop the highly cultivated critical capacities that a real sovereignty of the people would require. And so on.

The ordinary citizen thus lives in an incredibly deceiving reality. Perhaps this explains the tremendous and persistent gap between the burgeoning of motives to struggle, and the paucity of actual combatants. The contrary would be a miracle. Thus the considerable importance of what I call the struggle for representation: at every moment, in every area, to expose the deception and bring to light, in the simplicity of form which only real theoretical penetration makes possible, the processes in which the false-appearances, real and imagined, originate, and this way, to form the vigilant consciousness, placing our image of reality back on its feet and reopening paths to action."

https://www.marxists.org/archive/seve/lucien_seve.htm

ianita1978 -> Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 08:18
For the global epidemic of abusive, effacing homogenisation of human intellectual exchange and violent hyper-sexualisation of all culture, I blame the US Freudian PR guru Edward Bernays and his puritan forebears - alot.
bonhee -> Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 09:03
Thanks for proving that Anomie is a far more sensible theory than Dialectical Materialistic claptrap that was used back in the 80s to terrorize the millions of serfs living under the Jack boot of Leninist Iron curtain.
RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:15
There's no question - neoliberalism has been wrenching society apart. It's not as if the prime movers of this ideology were unaware of the likely outcome viz. "there is no such thing as society" (Thatcher). Actually in retrospect the whole zeitgeist from the late 70s emphasised the atomised individual separated from the whole. Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" (1976) may have been influential in creating that climate.

Anyway, the wheel has turned thank goodness. We are becoming wiser and understanding that "ecology" doesn't just refer to our relationship with the natural world but also, closer to home, our relationship with each other.

Jayarava Attwood -> RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:37
The Communist manifesto makes the same complaint in 1848. The wheel has not turned, it is still grinding down workers after 150 years. We are none the wiser.
Ben Wood -> RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:49
"The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will."
R Hunter
ianita1978 -> Ben Wood , 12 Oct 2016 08:13
Yep. And far too many good people have chosen to be the grateful dead in order to escape the brutal torture of bullying Predators.
magicspoon3 , 12 Oct 2016 07:30
What is loneliness? I love my own company and I love walking in nature and listening to relaxation music off you tube and reading books from the library. That is all free. When I fancied a change of scene, I volunteered at my local art gallery.

Mental health issues are not all down to loneliness. Indeed, other people can be a massive stress factor, whether it is a narcissistic parent, a bullying spouse or sibling, or an unreasonable boss at work.

I'm on the internet far too much and often feel the need to detox from it and get back to a more natural life, away from technology. The 24/7 news culture and selfie obsessed society is a lot to blame for social disconnect.

The current economic climate is also to blame, if housing and job security are a problem for individuals as money worries are a huge factor of stress. The idea of not having any goal for the future can trigger depressive thoughts.

I have to say, I've been happier since I don't have such unrealistic expectations of what 'success is'. I rarely get that foreign holiday or new wardrobe of clothes and my mobile phone is archaic. The pressure that society puts on us to have all these things- and get in debt for them is not good. The obsession with economic growth at all costs is also stupid, as the numbers don't necessarily mean better wealth, health or happiness.

dr8765 , 12 Oct 2016 07:34
Very fine article, as usual from George, until right at the end he says:

This does not require a policy response.

But it does. It requires abandonment of neoliberalism as the means used to run the world. People talk about the dangers of man made computers usurping their makers but mankind has, it seems, already allowed itself to become enslaved. This has not been achieved by physical dependence upon machines but by intellectual enslavement to an ideology.

John Smythe , 12 Oct 2016 07:35
A very good "Opinion" by George Monbiot one of the best I have seen on this Guardian blog page.

I would add that the basic concepts of the Neoliberal New world order are fundamentally Evil, from the control of world population through supporting of strife starvation and war to financial inducements of persons in positions of power. Let us not forget the training of our younger members of our society who have been induced to a slavish love of technology. Many other areas of human life are also under attack from the Neoliberal, even the very air we breathe, and the earth we stand upon.

Jayarava Attwood , 12 Oct 2016 07:36
The Amish have understood for 300 years that technology could have a negative effect on society and decided to limit its effects. I greatly admire their approach. Neal Stephenson's recent novel Seveneves coined the term Amistics for the practice of assessing and limiting the impact of tech. We need a Minister for Amistics in the government. Wired magazine did two features on the Amish use of telephones which are quite insightful.

The Amish Get Wired. The Amish ? 6.1.1993
look Who's talking . 1.1.1999

If we go back to 1848, we also find Marx and Engels, in the Communist Manifesto, complaining about the way that the first free-market capitalism (the original liberalism) was destroying communities and families by forcing workers to move to where the factories were being built, and by forcing women and children into (very) low paid work. 150 years later, after many generations of this, combined with the destruction of work in the North, the result is widespread mental illness. But a few people are really rich now, so that's all right, eh?

Social media is ersatz community. It's like eating grass: filling, but not nourishing.

ICYMI I had some thoughts a couple of days ago on how to deal with the mental health epidemic .

maplegirl , 12 Oct 2016 07:38
Young people are greatly harmed by not being able to see a clear path forward in the world. For most people, our basic needs are a secure job, somewhere secure and affordable to live, and a decent social environment in terms of public services and facilities. Unfortunately, all these things are sliding further out of reach for young people in the UK, and they know this. Many already live with insecure housing where their family could have to move at a month or two's notice.

Our whole economic system needs to be built around providing these basic securities for people. Neoliberalism = insecure jobs, insecure housing and poor public services, because these are the end result of its extreme free market ideology.

dynamicfrog , 12 Oct 2016 07:44
I agree with this 100%. Social isolation makes us unhappy. We have a false sense of what makes us unhappy - that success or wealth will enlighten or liberate us. What makes us happy is social connection. Good friendships, good relationships, being part of community that you contribute to. Go to some of the poorest countries in the world and you may meet happy people there, tell them about life in rich countries, and say that some people there are unhappy. They won't believe you. We do need to change our worldview, because misery is a real problem in many countries.
SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 07:47
It is tempting to see the world before Thatcherism, which is what most English writers mean when they talk about neo-liberalism, as an idyll, but it simply wasn't.

The great difficulty with capitalism is that while it is in many ways an amoral doctrine, it goes hand in hand with personal freedom. Socialism is moral in its concern for the poorest, but then it places limits on personal freedom and choice. That's the price people pay for the emphasis on community, rather than the individual.

Close communities can be a bar on personal freedom and have little tolerance for people who deviate from the norm. In doing that, they can entrench loneliness.

This happened, and to some extent is still happening, in the working class communities which we typically describe as 'being destroyed by Thatcher'. It's happening in close-knit Muslim communities now.

I'm not attempting to vindicate Thatcherism, I'm just saying there's a pay-off with any model of society. George Monbiot's concerns are actually part of a long tradition - Oliver Goldsmith's Deserted Village (1770) chimes with his thinking, as does DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

proteusblu -> SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 08:04
The kind of personal freedom that you say goes hand in hand with capitalism is an illusion for the majority of people. It holds up the prospect of that kind of freedom, but only a minority get access to it. For most, it is necessary to submit yourself to a form of being yoked, in terms of the daily grind which places limits on what you can then do, as the latter depends hugely on money. The idea that most people are "free" to buy the house they want, private education, etc., not to mention whether they can afford the many other things they are told will make them happy, is a very bad joke. Hunter-gatherers have more real freedom than we do. Share
Stephen Bell -> SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 09:07
Well said. One person's loneliness is another's peace and quiet.
stumpedup_32 -> Firstact , 12 Oct 2016 08:12
According to Wiki: 'Neoliberalism refers primarily to the 20th century resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.'
queequeg7 , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
We grow into fear - the stress of exams and their certain meanings; the lower wages, longer hours, and fewer rights at work; the certainty of debt with ever greater mortgages; the terror of benefit cuts combined with rent increases.

If we're forever afraid, we'll cling to whatever life raft presents.

It's a demeaning way to live, but it serves the Market better than having a free, reasonably paid, secure workforce, broadly educated and properly housed, with rights.

CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
Insightful analysis... George quite rightly pinpoints the isolating effects of modern society and technology and the impact on the quality of our relationships. The obvious question is how can we offset these trends and does the government care enough to do anything about them?

It strikes me that one of the major problems is that [young] people have been left to their own devices in terms of their consumption of messages from Social and Mass online Media - analogous to leaving your kids in front of a video in lieu of a parental care or a babysitter. In traditional society - the messages provided by Society were filtered by family contact and real peer interaction - and a clear picture of the limited value of the media was propogated by teachers and clerics. Now young and older people alike are left to make their own judgments and we cannot be surprised when they extract negative messages around body image, wealth and social expectations and social and sexual norms from these channels. It's inevitable that this will create a boundary free landscape where insecurity, self-loathing and ultimately mental illness will prosper.

I'm not a traditionalist in any way but there has to be a role for teachers and parents in mediating these messages and presenting the context for analysing what is being said in a healthy way. I think this kind of Personal Esteem and Life Skills education should be part of the core curriculum in all schools. Our continued focus on basic academic skills just does not prepare young people for the real world of judgementalism, superficiality and cliques and if anything dealing with these issues are core life skills.

We can't reverse the fact that media and modern society is changing but we can prepare people for the impact which it can have on their lives.

school10 -> CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 08:04
A politician's answer. X is a problem. Someone else, in your comment it will be teachers that have to sort it out. Problems in society are not solved by having a one hour a week class on "self esteem". In fact self-esteem and self-worth comes from the things you do. Taking kids away from their academic/cultural studies reduces this. This is a problem in society. What can society as a whole do to solve it and what are YOU prepared to contribute.
David Ireland -> CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 09:28
Rather difficult to do when their parents are Thatchers children and buy into the whole celebrity, you are what you own lifestyle too....and teachers are far too busy filling out all the paperwork that shows they've met their targets to find time to teach a person centred course on self-esteem to a class of 30 teenagers.
Ian Harris , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
I think we should just continue to be selfish and self-serving, sneering and despising anyone less fortunate than ourselves, look up to and try to emulate the shallow, vacuous lifestyle of the non-entity celebrity, consume the Earth's natural resources whilst poisoning the planet and the people, destroy any non-contributing indigenous peoples and finally set off all our nuclear arsenals in a smug-faced global firework display to demonstrate our high level of intelligence and humanity. Surely, that's what we all want? Who cares? So let's just carry on with business as usual!
BetaRayBill , 12 Oct 2016 08:01
Neoliberalism is the bastard child of globalization which in effect is Americanization. The basic premise is the individual is totally reliant on the corporate world state aided by a process of fear inducing mechanisms, pharmacology is one of the tools. No community no creativity no free thinking. Poded sealed and cling filmed a quasi existence.
Bluecloud , 12 Oct 2016 08:01 Contributor
Having grown up during the Thatcher years, I entirely agree that neoliberalism has divided society by promoting individual self-optimisation at the expensive of everyone else.

What's the solution? Well if neoliberalism is the root cause, we need a systematic change, which is a problem considering there is no alternative right now. We can however, get active in rebuilding communities and I am encouraged by George Monbiot's work here.

My approach is to get out and join organizations working toward system change. 350.org is a good example. Get involved.

SemenC , 12 Oct 2016 08:09
we live in a narcissistic and ego driven world that dehumanises everyone. we have an individual and collective crisis of the soul. it is our false perception of ourselves that creates a disconnection from who we really are that causes loneliness.
rolloverlove -> SemenC , 12 Oct 2016 11:33
I agree. This article explains why it is a perfectly normal reaction to the world we are currently living in. It goes as far as to suggest that if you do not feel depressed at the state of our world there's something wrong with you ;-)
http://upliftconnect.com/mutiny-of-the-soul/
HaveYouFedTheFish , 12 Oct 2016 08:10
Surely there is a more straightforward possible explanation for increasing incidence of "unhapiness"?

Quite simply, a century of gradually increasing general living standards in the West have lifted the masses up Maslows higiene hierarchy of needs, to where the masses now have largely only the unfulfilled self esteem needs that used to be the preserve of a small, middle class minority (rather than the unfulfilled survival, security and social needs of previous generations)

If so - this is good. This is progress. We just need to get them up another rung to self fulfillment (the current concern of the flourishing upper middle classes).

avid Ireland -> HaveYouFedTheFish , 12 Oct 2016 08:59
Maslow's hierarchy of needs was not about material goods. One could be poor and still fulfill all his criteria and be fully realised. You have missed the point entirely.