On Labor Day, a call for calling it like it is

September 1st, 2014 at 7:22 am

Over at PostEverything. There are times when “social unrest” and “class warfare”–analyzing the power imbalance between labor and capital–are appropriate responses to persistent economic injustice. And those of us who work in that space can’t be shy about it.

(OTEers will recognize that this ground has been plowed before in these parts.)

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5 comments in reply to "On Labor Day, a call for calling it like it is"

  1. Robert Salzberg says:

    WIth the declining power of labor unions in the U.S., government is the only potential counter-veiling force capable of balancing the power of corporations.

    The lack of a carbon tax in the U.S. allows corporations to pollute our environment with impunity.

    Finance reaps several percentage points more of our GDP than a few decades ago at a time when computerization should have lowered transaction costs.

    Monopolistic practices have inflated the prices of broadband, fuel, healthcare, etc.

    We’ve moved beyond Labor vs. Capital. It’s now Human Rights vs. Corporate Rights.

    • Robert Salzberg says:

      To see how inadequate the Labor vs Capital frame is, consider FDR’s 4 freedoms:

      Freedom of speech: If you’re a billionaire or a multi-national corporation, feel free to buy all the speech and politicians you want. But if you’re a lowly computer geek that exposes unconstitutional worldwide spying on American citizens and allies, no free speech in America for you. No passport for you. But you’re welcome to come home and be locked up.

      Freedom of worship: You can be a muslim or atheist in America, but don’t talk about it at the Christmas party and god forbid you run for public office. (The exceptions prove the rule.) But hey, you can now legally be a Rastafarian in Colorado and Washington.

      Freedom from want: You have the right to work, but working full-time at the federal minimum wage won’t be enough to afford housing in any state in America.

      Freedom from fear: Global warming, drivers texting, bridges collapsing, gas mains exploding. Even the rich live in gated communities or at least have doormen. Lime disease and terrorists and ebola. Oh my!

      So Happy Labor Day! I hope no one gets carbon footprint indigestion from driving their SUVs to a BBQ where they dined on charred slabs of red meat.

      Here’s a link for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 which is an oldie but goodie for seeing how far we haven’t come in 66 years.


  2. The Raven says:

    Dr. Bernstein, it isn’t only labor. We seem to have a perfect horror of getting in the face of injustice, when the injustice is backed by law. Protesters in Ferguson…just stop. Women’s health clinics…just shut down.

    It is like all the spirit has gone out of these movements, or at least all the courage to challenge an unjust government. Instead, all that spirit is lined up behind movements that support the rich and powerful.


  3. Some guy says:

    Great article, Mr. Bernstein.

    Some of those “we can’t” statements can be addressed. Markets are created and regulated, and nothing is impossible. Balancing the often conflicting needs of those who have capital and those who only have labor to offer is clearly important.

    For example, I’d love to see those overtime exemption rule changes that Obama ordered put into practice. There are way too many people out there who are definitely not executives or white collar workers who are putting in 50-60 hours a week but only being paid for 40.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I’ll ‘second’ that “great article” comment.

      We have a culture driven by Biz School economics with an absurd focus on ‘shareholder value’, which is an invitation for people to cook the books and put more focus on rule-making and accounting tricks, than on producing goods and services.

      We won’t begin to address our problems without more courage; boldness, even.

      I think that many are just now beginning to grasp the conceptual shift of an economy as a complex adaptive system. (And many, like Paul Ryan, may never be able to get their heads around the notion).

      As people better understand the dynamic potential of this new paradigm, perhaps they’ll gain confidence – in which case, courage will follow as naturally as day follows night, if only because they’ll see many new possibilities.

      Without courage, we’re stuck in stasis.
      With courage, we might begin to produce far better outcomes.
      No time to waste!