Rather than investing in state of the art facilities, corporations found that the opening of China offered them something that exceeded the cost performance of the best automation: an infinite supply of human hands available so cheaply that for the first time in a century the price of labor was a negligible fraction of the cost of goods. Why build complex and expensive factories, when you can rent sheds full of people? And hey, you can even get someone else to pay for the shed.
You could—you can—rent people to use without regard for safety laws, pollution laws, health care costs, or any danger of legal recourse. People you can use without concern over discrimination and without compensation for workplace injuries. People who have never heard of a pension. People who will perform the most tedious, repetitious, injurious processes right up until the day they can’t.
In fact, you can rent people wholesale and use them as an excuse against ever paying retail. You can rent disposable, untrained kids, work them to destruction for peanuts, and use their very availability as proof that other workers should be willing to accept the same terms. You know, American workers, the most capable, most productive workers on the planet. The people whose efforts and partnership made the corporations possible. Former workers. You can use desperation as proof that the workers who took the wages you paid them and lived under the agreements you offered, were overpaid bums. It’s a win-win.
It doesn’t stop with the workers. You can produce your goods in a place where environment is not even an afterthought, and justice barely a rumor, then argue the same should be true everywhere. You can drink from the firehouse of statist dictatorship, and use it to declare that the burdens of democracy are too great to be tolerated. You can eat your cake… and a billion other people’s too.
China was the weapon that corporations wielded against not just Japan, but American government and American workers. And why not? The business of corporations is to make money. They are obligated by law to maximize profit for shareholders. They’re not there to help workers. They’re not there to hurt workers. They are agnostic to the concerns of workers. Ditto America. Protecting the nation and workers is the business of government not corporations.
But that can only happen when the government is focused on the welfare of it’s citizens rather than the panacea of being “business friendly.” Under the motto of being business friendly deregulation in the United States accelerated the outsourcing of jobs, driving up income inequality and destroying our manufacturing base in a way that didn’t happen in places that didn’t buy into the farce of corporate rights. Because a business friendly government rather than a worker friendly government is a pointless government, an anti-government, a poor quality cartoon of a government only without the helpful robots and the automatic shaving machine.
Some folks have heard me beat this drum. But it’s a fresh-enough thought - going to fundamentals that run deep beneath normal politics - so that I am moved to raise it yet again. In part because someone recently asked me, as author of The Transparent Society:“Can transparency and libertarianism complement each other?”
Now let’s have the simple answer first. Yes. A sane, better-focused libertarianism would be utterly compatible with transparency. In fact, it should be the very top priority.
Both Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek proclaimed that markets are healthy in direct proportion to the number of skilled and knowing player-participants. Indeed, one chief indictment against every pre-modern economic system is that nearly all of them were based on “allocation” of resources by elites. Allocators are inherently knowledge limited and likely to be delusional, precisely because they are few.
Just to be doubly clear on that: almost all previous cultures used GAR - or Guided Allocation of Resources - as their guiding economic principle. Whether the allocation was done by kings, feudal lords, priests or communist nomenklatura, it was nearly always the same: decisions over how to invest society’s surplus, which endeavors to capitalize and which products to produce were made by a small clade of delusional elites, as wrong in their models as they were sure of them.
Starting with Adam Smith - and later fervently preached by others, including Hayek - the notion of FIBM, or Faith In Blind Markets, began to compete against GAR. The core notion? That the mass wisdom of millions of buyers, sellers, voters and investors will tend to emphasize or reinforce better ideas and cancel or punish bad ones. Delusions - the greatest human tendency - will be quickly discovered because no longer will some narrow group be able to nurse them without question. Hence, getting back to the original question: the more transparency - and the greater the number of participants - the more people can come up with relatively accurate models and act upon them… or acutely criticize flaws in the models of others.
But let’s extend that thought and ask an even more general question.
Isn’t libertarianism fundamentally an appreciation of competition?
Think about all the core enlightenment processes—entrepreneurial markets, science, democracy and justice. Each of these modern systems produce the modern miracle of positive-sum games… creating win-win scenarios for everybody. The famous rising tide that lifts all boats.
Now sure, there’s a lot more involved than just competition! There are many cooperative or consensus or even moral aspects… read Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, to see that “competition” does not mean “cut-throat” or the brutal image of social darwinism. Many of today’s libertarians oversimplify, especially the followers of Ayn Rand.
Nevertheless, it is wholly right and proper for a libertarian to emphasize and focus on one main feature of these positive sum processes. The fact that they all arise by harnessing and encouraging fair rivalry among human beings
Fake ‘NYPD’ drone signs hit New York
by Eric Stoner | January 30, 2012, 3:51 pm
Several weeks ago, a 28-year-old Army vet, who had worked with drones during two tours in Iraq and is now a radical art student in New York, came up with a creative act of protest to raise awareness around the growing use of drones domestically by police forces across the country.
According to an article in last week’s New Yorker, over the course of several nights, the veteran (who remains anonymous) and a few friends posted eleven unusual street signs around New York City, which is apparently investigating using drones as a law enforcement tool.
Designed to look exactly like official street signs, the fake NYPD signs had several different messages: “ATTENTION: Drone Activity in Progress,” or “ATTENTION: Local Statutes Enforced by Drones,” or “ATTENTION: Authorized Drone Strike Zone, 8am-8pm, Including Sunday.”
Near each sign, they also stenciled a quote from a Founding Father, such as a warning from Ben Franklin that seems particularly apropos: “They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
As Avaaz pledged to do as part of a recent petition, activists now need to buy or build their own drones and fly them over the city to back up these signs and make the reality of drones just a bit more tangible to an American public that often seems completely disconnected from the issue.