Views on politics and current events

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Totally Ignorant About Capitalism

Louis Uchitelle, the author of The Disposable American: Layoffs And Their Consequences was on CSpan-2 today discussing the book. Mr. Uchitelle showed once again his remarkable depth of understanding about the current labor situation in particular and the economy in general. I have read the book, and my comments about the book can be found here.

I was interested in the questions asked after his presentation. The questions were varied, but the one that was the most interesting was the one asked by a man that first read a quote by Samuel Gompers, then proceeded to tell Mr. Uchitelle that he was totally ignorant about capitalism. The questioner's point being that if layoffs are the only way for a company to be profitable, what's wrong with that? It is no doubt not the first time the author has heard comments like this, and most likely the questioner was not the rudest the author has encountered.

It isn't that the author is ignorant of capitalism. By what he's written it seems he understands it very well. It is the fact that he does not agree with unrestrained, free market capitalism where maximum profit is gained by the disregard of the ones that are the creators of profit. And who creates profit? Who creates basic wealth? Labor. For the sake of short-term, maximum profit, labor is taking it on the chin. Poor wages, no benefits, no job security for labor while a handful at the top of the pyramid make more and more. The upper echelon recieve high salaries, huge expense accounts, great benefits, while they repeatedly use layoffs and plant closures as profit-making strategies. And for them, it works. Like bands of corporate marauders, they float from position to position, company to company, skim off the gravy and move on.

This is but one part of the debate that the author is trying to put forth to society. Some others are the moral, ethical, and social aspects of layoffs. How they affect productivity, job security, worker's rights, and society in general. So for someone to accuse the author of ignorance shows me that debate is necessary. Without honest dialogue, where beliefs and fears are brought forth in a civil manner, instead of name-calling and ideological rantings, these issues will never be addressed. And they need to be addressed. Nothing less than the future of labor, of our economy, our country , is at stake.

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