no third solution

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Coercion, Corporate Privilege, and “Capitalism”

March 23rd, 2012

If someone were to steal all the bread, and then offer to sell it to us for $10/loaf, we would call that a crime. If a business were to steals only some of the bread, prevents a few other bread manufacturers from operating nearby, and offer to sell us a loaf for $5, would you defend the business’ “right” to sell you bread and your “right” to refuse on free market principles?

If so, you’re an idiot.

Yeah, I had a discussion with some of those misguided souls, you know the type of people who spin their wheels trying to rehabilitate the word “capitalism”, pro-“free market” except their pro-corporate blinders keep them from grapsing how badly the market is being brutalized by the government they purport to hate? Recently, there’s been a little splash because some employers are now asking candidates for their Facebook password, in order to see what’s behind their “privacy” wall. Of course, if government did this it would be atrocious because “government is coercive” but if businesses do this it’s OK because businesses are all “consensual”.

Although this was the genesis of the debate, ultimately it was more of a macro argument. I honestly think these jackasses were more pissed off about the fact that some people want to ask the (government) courts to weigh in on this practice, potentially barring it., but ultimately the discussion centered around their core position: corporations are comprised of individuals, individuals have rights, and therefore corporations have rights.

OK. I’ll play that game. But what about the powers that they exercise, either bestowed by or complicit with the government?

You don’t get to cherry-pick facts. Granting the idea that a corporation (as a collective of individuals) has certain rights transmuted from those individuals, you can’t ignore the exercises of illegitimate powers (things like administering the tax code/collection, or regulatory privilege, and barriers to entry which stifle competition), which are not the proper exercise of rights and therefore cannot be defended as the exercise thereof.

Even though they may act legitimately (by that loose collective rights definition) some of the time or even most of the time, sometimes they do not. As a result, they accrue benefits and privileges which they can (and do) lever against others further down the line, whereupon they ignore the privilege that brought them to the current advantageous position and appeal to the mystical rights argument: “Aha! but right now, you see, I am doing something that is perfectly within my rights…”

Like the bread example above, you must consider the body of work and not just the immediate “option” you’re being presented with. You cannot ignore the usurpation of the rights of others, the coercion which becomes an inseparable part of the whole.

Recognizing this coercion for what it is, you are within your rights to resist, even if that means — ahem — trying to sue them in a government court (really your only option, since the government has a monopoly on law and disorder and it’s the only venue that these corporations would recognize as legitimate anyways).

Yes, the sort of large transnationals, stock-market-indexed corporations are the most obvious examples of this sort of thing, but it’s silly to pretend that smaller businesses are immune from this process. Almost nobody is immune from the process, which is why it is important to understand that literally nothing exists at present which even comes close to the sort of free market corporation (and I use this term veryloosely) that would prevail absent the government’s coercion

Failure to make this distinction, and dogmatically believing in “the market” and the benevolence of corporations is what gives “free market” advocates a bad rap.  So keep the “free market” as an end in itself as your goal, and stop trying to twist logic to justify what is happening, accept that things would (and probably should) be very different, and imagine the possibilities of what could happen in their stead.

Unfortunately I was unable to, despite repeated attempts, get either to budge an inch towards accepting the even part of my argument:

It was an entertaining, if not futile discussion which reminded me why I don’t discuss these things anymore.

Black Friday Working Conditions

November 24th, 2011

“Black Friday” and the Christmas season it ushers in seems to come earlier every year. This year’s particularly disturbing trend is that some retailers are opening at midnight. And some retailers I’ve heard are even starting the shenanigans at 9pm tonight or even earlier.

With the possible exception of some seasonal hires, none of the rank-and-file employees at these stores knew, or could have reasonably anticipated that they would be askeddemanded to work these ridiculous hours — probably under threat of termination and most likely at their regular wages. Additionally, I’d wager that almost none of these employees are really OK with this arrangement, that is, they are essentially “agreeing” to these conditions under duress.

This phenomena is not an isolated incident

It’s just the natural offshoot of a sick corporate profit-only culture that always prioritizes the bottom line over its employees’ sanity and well-being, whether you are a cashier at K-mart or a cube-jockey somewhere in corporate America or anywhere in between.

It is particularly odious for part time or non-professional workers

These workers often seek secondary employment out of economic necessity, but it would seem their employers go out of their way to make it difficult or impossible to do so.

When I was younger and working various part-time jobs (bars, restaurants, etc.) typically you could expect a working schedule that was at best unpredictable: posted no more than a few days in advance, and not uncommon to have only 24 hours’ notice that you were expected to be at work tomorrow night. Due to this unpredictability, it is difficult to maintain a job at another company because eventually your schedules are going to conflict, and you’ll be forced to choose which job you want to be fired from.

Black riday StampedeFurther, most of these jobs also had some variations on non-compete policies. It’s one thing to say that the CEO of Sears should probably not also work for Wal-Mart due to conflicts of interest, but it’s retarded to say that the $7/hr stock boy at same should be barred from seeking supplemental income/employment from a “competitor” if/when he is unable to obtain adequate hours/income at one or the other. Although this clause is rarely enforced, this agreement means that even without an actual conflict, they can fire you for having the audacity to try and earn more money somewhere else — even though they’re unwilling to offer you an opportunity, wages, or hours to do so!

This is what your actual employment agreement consists of:

In order to remain an employee in good standing, you the employee will need to be available at the employer’s unpredictable beck and call, on practically no advance notice. And even though the employer will not offer or guarantee you a sufficient living wage or enough hours to meet your financial needs, employer intentionally (or ignorantly) makes it difficult/impossible for you to maintain another job to make up for this one’s shortcomings.

This sort of working arrangement is NOT POSSIBLE in a free market

It is only possible in a market perverted. Human needs and wants are practically boundless, and to satisfy these desires requires labor. In a freed market, there would be a directionaly similar demand for labor — NOT a race to the bottom which can only exist when opportunities are stifled and the complimentary factors of production are monopolized.

Salary is a Scam!

August 29th, 2011

Can anyone explain to me how the majority of entry- and mid-level white-collar workers were hoodwinked in to accepting “salary” compensation, rather than hourly compensation?

Before you purists cry “Foul!” let me assure you I don’t give a shit about the CEO’s and senior management. If you are making that sort of money, you pretty much forfeit any right to complain about working too much. I am talking about the run-of-the-mill cube jockey who is earning median-level income, give or take a few bucks.

One theory is that salaried employees have more freedom in setting their working hours, etc., and that if they finish their duties early, they are essentially rewarded with time off from work. Or, to put it another way, you accept a regular salary compensation rather than variable hourly compensation, based on the assumption that in some weeks you will work 50 hours but in other weeks you will only need to “work” for 30 hours, and in the long-run these should balance out.

In practice though, this is never the case.

  • If you are not working 40 hours or more, you will probably be classified as “underutilized”. You will either be:
    • encouraged to make yourself available to assist other employees,
    • or canned as redundant/unnecessary.
  • The idea of a regularly scheduled work week becomes a fantastic memory; you have committed yourself to be available whenever someone else demands.
  • If you are working more than 40 hours, you do will not receive any additional compensation for the hours over-and-above your “regularly scheduled” workweek.

It is pretty obvious that the workers are getting boned by this arrangement: they have signed up for a compensation plan that has essentially zero upside.

no third solution

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