Friday, April 28, 2017

Ox and Grain


You don't muzzle the ox while it threshes the grain, right?

It's perhaps like a contract between the ox and the farmer.  The ox agrees to a day's work for, say, a bucket of grain, and the farmer agrees.  Reasonable.

Then the farmer discovers this other ox that will do the work for a smaller bucket of grain.  He's not concerned that the ox will be underfed and will eventually die. There's plenty more oxen where that one came from. There will always be one that is desperate enough that it will take less than a living wage.  As the only shareholder, the farmer will make a killing.

The farmer's narrowly capitalistic view, that workers are a resource to be used and discarded, is the current business model for most large corporations.  The cost of workers is managed accordingly.

Government regulations intrude.  There are laws about workplace safety, and laws about max hours and minimum wage.  Such regulations are a burden on burgeoning enterprise and are a continual point of contention between businesses and workers.

In the absence of such regulations, there would of course be many more employees working, but it would be for whatever their employer thought was good enough.  The fact that they would not be able to survive or have a meaningful life is not considered in that equation.

There has always been a push-back by the elite against the rising commoner.  Slavery, indentured servitude, child labor, abusive employment practices, all of them have been defended by the wealthy. All such defense comes from one single motive.  Single.  I choose to prosper at the expense of another.  That's neither free enterprise nor fair trade.

If I agree that laws are needed to keep businesses from putting children on the factory floor (like they used to do), should I also agree to a living wage?  Should I oppose discrimination?  Wage theft?  Financial fraud?  Marketplace manipulation?  Predatory finance?  All such behavior stems from that same single motive.

Capitalism is neither moral nor immoral, of course.  As has been said, it works well in an ethical environment founded on sound principles.  There seems to be a dearth of ethical capitalists these days, unfortunately, and the lower economic segment pays a high price.

Some responses from defenders of unconstrained capitalism regarding the poor might include:
- if they tried harder and made better decisions
- if they worked hard in school like I did
- if they didn't resort to crime
- if they were smart like me
- if they had a work ethic

They perhaps believe such things preferentially rather than evidentiarily.  They perhaps know of a welfare queen or drugged dad they consider the example of all in poverty.  Those are real but a miniscule minority.

In the real world,
- The poor along with their children work harder and longer than the rich.
- The poor commonly have more life, relationship, and survival skills than the rich.
- The poor possess equal intellectual and developmental potential with the rest of humanity.
Beyond that, the poor are generally more generous, less selfish, and more hospitable than the rich.

As the GAP widens, those at the top are further disconnected from the real world and their impact on others.  Those in the wealthier segment are generally unaware and personally unconcerned with the daily lives of the least wealthy 80% of humanity.

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