Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What to Do?

I was just reading a series of articles about the tragic results of the monstrously cynical treatment of the Palestinians (catch it here and here) and I was thinking about posting something about, you know, what the hell can ordinary people do to stop our leaders from causing one atrocity after another.

Then, I thought that I really didn't know what to say. So I thought that my blog entry for the day would be based on whatever was the top story at the CBC. Which turned out to be:

"After five quiet years, an explosion of refugees in 2006"

At the end of 2005, there were roughly 21 million people in the world on the move — refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons — forced from their homes because of war, famine or persecution. A year later that number had spiked to 33 million, an increase of 56 per cent, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in a just-published report.

I don't know why people are still fleeing Vietnam in such large numbers. Perhaps a right-winger can pontificate about the relentless evil of Vietnam's communist overlords and how this is the result of the defeat of the benevolent, capitalist West.

Except that thesis would really be blown all to shit by the fact that a large part of this international refugee crisis explosion comes from worsening conditions in Gaza (links above); The continually-increasing violence and misery in Afghanistan; US meddling in Somalia, and the charnel house that Iraq has become.

Even if Vietnam's huge refugee creation has something to do with their communist government, there is no way in hell that we here in the West can venture to say that we are a better option for the people of the world.

It's not as if we can hold our heads high about the situations in Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, or The People's Republic of the Congo, either. In those countries, we either backed super-corrupt despots who bled their countries dry until they were overthrown, or we armed perpetual insurgencies that wasted scarce resources and turned governments into authoritarian paranoids, or we imposed IMF programs that exacerbated poverty and enflamed ethnic tensions (that were themselves vestiges of imperialist-colonialist policies).

There are people in the West, "liberals," or "progressives" (and by this I'm including "social-democrats" like Canada's NDP, and European left and green party supporters) who believe that our system works. That while right-wing idiot parties, such as the US Republicans, or Canada's CPC, are horrid, that we have the democratic power to oust these parties and replace them with more moderate, sensible alternatives.

Even those who are aware of the delusion behind this belief (as those who elected Democrats in the 2006 mid-term elections, only to find out that this "anti-war" party was all rhetoric are finding out), there's still the belief that "Oh well, this is terrible, but it's still possible to work within the system to limit the damage and effect change in the wider society.

This sort of thinking is, I think, to a great degree inspired by the inability of even the most sensitive people to fully grasp the horrors that we've unleashed, and will continue to unleash, upon the people of the Global South. "It really is happening somewhere, far away. And don't we all see these refugees in our countries, starting life over again, in conditions far more peaceful?"

We don't really grasp the enormity of the hunger, the starvation even, the fear, the cold, the sadness and misery, the psychological scars of these people fleeing from rapist warlords, and our own militaries' air-strikes, and our own soldiers' bloodlust. (Think the US in Iraq if you're a shit-head starting to seethe because I'm dissing "the troops.") And we forget that the people who manage to get to the rich countries that have visited this upheaval upon them, where they can take shitty jobs and go through a cruel and humiliating process of applying for status and be condemned by racist morons for stealing jobs and living off welfare, are merely a trickle from the ocean of people condemned to filthy, dangerous camps. These camps are often in countries that are desperately poor themselves, but these countries are expected to support these numbers with fitful foreign aid and their own resources which are a fraction of ours, the people who caused the problems in the first place.

No, ... between 2005 and 2007, 10 million, ten million, 10,000,000 extra refugees were created in the world, and many millions of human beings have found themselves in this desperate condition because of us.

I have called for peaceful revolutionary change through the democratic process. Through breaking the power of capitalism to manipulate and distort government policies in the West by increasing the power of workers within their workplaces. This really seems to me to be critical and essential. We will not bring an end to this system of horror without radical, sweeping change. And it is a horrible system. It is a system that depends upon, relies upon, media manipulation, lowering living standards in the wealthy countries, propping-up dictatorships in the resource colonies of the South, both with our tax dollars and the bullets and death-squads that our tax dollars support. It is a system that occasionally sees the recourse to war and invasion in order to maintain itself.

Let's consider Iraq, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. These were wars fought for control of oil. Iraq, the second-largest proven reserves of easily-obtainable Middle East oil was set to switch from pricing its oil in US dollars to Euros. This would have had an adverse effect on the US currency, which is threatened by US trade and current account deficits, which are to a large degree a cost of the "globalization" that has seen the dismantling of US industry in exchange for manufacturing capacity in poor countries where labour is cheaper. Inequality has grown within the US, and the trade balance is negative and unsustainable, but the owners of capital benefit from exchanging "expensive" domestic labour for cheap sweat-shop labour in the "developing" countries. Furthermore, the system depends on cheap fuel, for our unsustainable consumerist economy, and for the central importance of the automobile society.

Because of this, Iraq and Afghanistan have been invaded, their peoples traumatized, our hands drenched with blood. (Statements about WMDs, bush II's desire to bring "democracy" to the Middle East, the hunt for the evil Taliban or Osama bin Laden, will be met with suitable scorn here.)

We can devote ourselves to the futile quest to elect Democrats, or Liberals, or even NDP, Labour, Social Democratic, or Green parties, as if they can legislate away our undemocratic economic sector's dependence and preference for imperialism. We can follow the same path of marching in the streets calling for peace, shouting out our anger at imperialist governments that ignore us (as we've been doing for forty years with negligable effect). Or, we can seek to find the weakness of our system, and to clearly identify what latent, potential strengths we have within our political equations, and try to get to the heart of the problem, and bring an end to this inhuman system.

A Continuation

I handed the entry above to my partner (code-name "ephemeral") to see if it justified the use of a fair bit of my morning before going to work. She told me that it doesn't explain the "revolutionary alternative" and that I should go into more detail as to how my "solution" can somehow alter the present political equation.

I've got some stuff to do, some places to go, before heading off to work and such, but rather than write a separate entry tomorrow, I'll spend a minute to try to outline the revolutionary potential of "workers as citizens" and how it could conceivably bring an end to this nightmare.

If we democratically elect a political party dedicated to enshrining the human rights of workers within their workplaces as the law of the land, ... as constitutionally protected rights, ... here is what I envision happening.

Increased taxes on the wealthy and on corporations will be imposed, and these powerful groups will not be able to retaliate. Businesses will not be able to carry out threats to move elsewhere or withhold investment because their workers will not allow them to move and workers will have a say in their workplaces' investment decisions.

These increased government revenues will help governments pay for the transition period as workers, environmentalists, and policy planners decide what is a sustainable level of production and consumption in the West. Part of this transformation is going to inevitably mean the dismantling of much of the auto-industry, (which also means the steel industry, and the petroleum industry), and the switch from huge amounts of consumer goods towards necessary services, and the switch from petro-chemical based corporate farming to sustainable, organic agriculture.

If some "Green Party" simply tried to legislate all of this within the present status-quo, it would be a debacle. This is a gigantic enterprise and it cannot be centrally-managed. It has to be done at an industry, firm, and local level. If businesses lay-off workers and justify this with claims that the expenses of meeting environmental regulations, or whatnot, require this, there will be a backlash against environmentalism. If, however, people realize that our present way of life is unsustainable and that they are part of the problem, they will (under workers as citizens) be able to negotiate the ways that their own industries can reposition themselves to work more cleanly and efficiently, as well, they can negotiate with their firm and with governments that possess the revenues to help them, an equal income to finance them as they retrain for some more suitable line of work.

What does all of this (admittedly hurried and vaguely presented) have to do with, say, Iraq? Obviously, if we move away from the automobile society, away from the plastics economy, away from petro-chemical agriculture, there will be less need for oil. Therefore, there will be less "need" to invade countries and install Quisling despots to guarantee our access to this oil at favourable prices. Won't this mean poverty for the people in the oil-producing "less-developed" nations? Not at all. For one thing, few of the people in the OPEC countries ever get to enjoy these oil revenues anyway, and I'm pretty sure that the people of Iraq (at least) are starting to see their oil as a curse instead of a blessing.

But here's something else. As we in the wealthy countries transform our economies towards a more sustainable direction, we will be doing so while maintaining the investment in current high-level science and technology that are helpful in mitigating the harshness of nature. I don't believe the majority in the West want a headlong rush into eco-primitivism. We will be able to decide what technologies are essential and non-negotiable, in a democratic, rational fashion. We will keep the safety net of modern technological capabilities until we either no longer need it, and we can continue to invest in new technologies that will benefit us in the future.

In so doing, we will provide an alternative model for the "less-developed" nations, whose leaderships have traumatized their people by subjecting them to what they imagine is the same path to unsustainable "development" that the West did.

Okay, but what about the sweat-shop workers in the poor countries? Those jobs are terrible, but aren't we going to pull the rug out from under them if we bring textiles and manufacturing jobs back here?

Not necessarily. For one thing, we can provide a model, and aid assistance for more local development. Our tax dollars can go to provide a living income for all the peoples of the world. This will mean more dollars in the pockets of individuals in the South, able to spend on goods and services produced locally. If we in the West can make localized production sustainable, it will be sustainable everywhere.

As well, in some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, our corporations depend to some degree on flooding poor countries with subsidized products (or merely naturally cheaper products) which strangle nascent industries there, or devastate established ones. A more equitable arrangement of production and technology, to serve the people of the world, not a miniscule wealthy elite, is something that will be democratically popular and easily affordable.

The point is, that this is a huge job, and it has to be done organically, democratically, with as much input from those affected as possible, and we have to start not yesterday, but last week, if we're going to avoid oblivion.

And one of the consequences of doing this job is that it will reduce the capitalist economy's present need for under-priced resources and cheap labour from the Global South, which is such a major, if not central contributor, to the the refugee crisis that was the subject of today's post.

I said in an earlier entry that we have to account for the centrality of our economic lives to our lives in total. The power that the masters of production have over the world has to be realized, and dealt with, or our nominal political power will continue to be as relatively useless as it is at present. What good is a vote if you can't eat? What good is an anti-imperialism mindset if you depend upon it to survive.

I've got to get going. Please excuse any spelling mistakes and whatnot.


Scott Neigh said...

Hey thwap...good post, and good choice by your partner to encourage you to expand it in the way you did.

I have to say, as much as there is lots to like about your "workers as citizens" model for social change, my misgivings about it are similar to what they were when we were debating it years ago...the path you propose just does not feel plausible in the sense that capital and the state will not just sit back and let this happen. If "workers as citizens" is really as powerful and revolutionary a reform as you suggest, and there is reason to think it could be, why would people at the pinacles of capital and the state content themselves with mere peaceful electoral reaction to it? If it was a real threat to them, why wouldn't they turn to violence, and to the million other tactics they always use to make social change so much harder and messier that we might wish?

Unknown said...

We need more anti-imperialism and more capitalism, less communism/socialism.

thwap said...


Well, like I said lo' those many years ago, ... what is the alternative?

What is the peaceful way to bring about revolutionary change? (We're both agreed that a change brought about through violent, illegal methods is counter-productive.)

I don't expect capital and the state to blithely sit back and allow this to happen. But as I said, as a strategy that relies on legitimate, democratic methods, it can be made impossible for capital and the state to resist it violently without throroughly discrediting themselves.

This is based on people accepting that this initiative is technically feasible within Canadian parliamentary democracy.

Once we accept that, and once we are cognizant of the possibilities of "workers as citizens," then we allow this knowledge to work its way through the popular imagination, so that the political drive behind it becomes an irresistable force.

It's legitimacy doesn't depend on leaders, just upon popular awareness of a rather simple truth, ... one that corresponds to much of our present political traditions.

Certainly there will be resistance. As there would be towards any genuine threat to capitalism's hegemony. But unless there's a workable alternative, a better, more viable, "BIG PROJECT," ... I can't see abandoning 'workers as citizens' just because it will invite resistance.

Gotta go, .... but first,


You basically missed almost the entire point of my post. Capitalism requires imperialism.

I'm not even going to bother looking at your "Slate" link until you respond to the shit-kicking I gave your two global-warming links yesterday.

Unknown said...

"Capitalism requires imperialism."

I got your point, I just do not agree, capitalism does not require imperialism. Once people have a taste they will want more.

thwap said...

Well that's just great Wayne. Only I'm not too thrilled with you dropping these little turds of yours on my blog.

Even if your comments are about half the action in my commentary section.

If you're going to disagree with me, you're going to have to argue something, not just make empty assertions.

Unknown said...

OK. "workers as citizens" model for social change"

The town where I live is a very free enterprise place, and always has been. As businesses closed we hunted for new people to run them.

A sister town to ours, has always been socialist. As businesses closed the people used their local co-op to take them over.

Our town has a hospital with 5 doctors over 90 businesses and 850 people.

The sister town has a closed hospital and a co-op grocery store left and a chinese cafe. It now has 120 people. 20 years ago they were equal in size and resources to our town.

We have about 10,000 people in our trading area.

I have been on the board of directors of several businesses and co-ops. A co-op is the worst for service, work ethic etc. period.

If "workers" ran the country it would colapse. I was involved with the food and commercial works union, if you have 8 workers, 2 are doing most of the work, the rest are doing almost nothing.

thwap said...

Christ Wayne, debate over.

You've proved that capitalism doesn't require imperialism.

No you haven't. You're talking about something else altogether now.

Workplace democracy won't work because the experiences of two towns in Manitoba proved it so.

Too bad there's so much evidence going the other way:





and etc.,

Basically what you're saying Wayne, is that democracy doesn't work. But workplace democracy will work the same way political democracy works better than any other system.

Unknown said...

I will read your links.

At least I tryed to explain, I am better talker than typer.

Unknown said...

"Indeed, for numerous worker control projects, the Webb's gloomy prophecy has rung true."


Anonymous said...

Where's that? From something I linked to?

hooligan said...

I am unsure what you mean by "human rights", as they pertain to the workplace, that are not already guaranteed by law. You seem to be implying that a democratically-elected government could legislate a "right" for workers to have more control of the decision-making process of their employers. I cannot see how, short of nationalizing every business in the country, such a thing could be done. Workers do not own their employers' businesses, they merely have contracts to provide labour at a set price, whether that price is purely monetary or includes other benefits.
Capital can always flow away from restrictive business environments: you may be able to trap the money already present, but no new money will arrive. You will, in effect, have killed the goose that laid the golden egg. And it would require what amounts to outright theft to trap the investments already present.

As cold-hearted as it is, the fact remains that business is about money, and capitalism is the most effective means of getting money into the hands of the greatest number of people.
That there are many examples of huge disparities in income levels is undeniable, but truly free and open markets are not the cause of such differences.

A thought-provoking post, thwap. Well done.

thwap said...

Thanks Hooligan,

That's a good point and it needs addressing.

"Workers as Citizens" does not transfer ownership of property to anyone. There is no expropriation.

What it is based on is the recognition that the dependent status of the propertyless is based on the completely illegitimate, violence-based imposition of slavery and dictatorship that seemed to arise everywhere settled agriculture developed.

In the state of nature, nobody owns anything, and therefore nobody had the "right" to say to a hungry person, "You can't eat from that tree, it's mine."

But with the development of property (not an entirely bad thing from my perspective) this idea of exclusion set in.

And then came the notion that thugs and extortionists (later to become Kings, Nobles, and Priests [who rationalized everything]) could use organized violence to coerce farmers into surrendering their production to them.

Finally, there came the reality that the whole planet is now "owned" by a relatively small group of people, and there's nowhere for anyone who wants to reject this oppression to realistically go.

Marx's description of the creation of the dependent proletariat at the beginning of the industrial-capitalist era is still apt.

The historical truth of the matter is that to be in the position of a supplicant, applying for a job to an owner of capital, an employer, and being forced to recognize that your rights to free speech, your right to have some control over your work-life (which will contribute a great deal to the kind of person you will be), your right to privacy, your right of assembly, are to be surrendered as a condition of getting this employment, ... this is all based on an unjust social system from centuries, or millenia, ago.

"Workers as Citizens" bases the rights of workers to their jobs (subject to democratically-arrived at conditions), to free speech, to personal autonomy, on the humanity of the workers, not on their ownership of the property in the workplace.

More might be needed to convince you, but I'll let you chew on that for a bit.

Regarding capitalism's superiority to other forms of social organization; First of all, I do not believe it is the single best system that can ever be devised, and secondly, I believe that where it did and does outperform Soviet-style central planning, this is based on "democratic" aspects of capitalism.

To the extent that capitalism allows individuals (alone and enmasse) to freely direct their resources where they wish, and utilize their decision-making power as they wish, to that degree is it democratic, and to that degree it succeeds.

To the extent that state-planning is based on fulfilling the wishes of the people, to that extent is it democratic, and to that extent it suceeds. (Witness the inarguable superior performance of social-democratic healthcare to the pathetic monstrosity of US healthcare.)

I think that to the extent any political-economic system is democratic, to that extent it will succeed.

Unknown said...

"Neoclassical economic theory contends that a worker owned firm will reach lower levels of output and employment than its capitalist counterpart and fail to take advantage of economies of scale. Beatrice and Sidney Webb, the Fabian Socialists who pioneered the development of British consumer cooperatives, argued that worker owned producer cooperatives were a bad idea because they would either degenerate into capitalist controlled firms or collapse under the weight of inferior efficiency."

But I am so dumb that I have only observed the above, so I don't know what I am talking about.

Yes it came from one of your links.

When I owned a Grocery Store in the early 80's, the local co-op manager and two people from their head office came to talk to me at my store.

I was 21 and had just taken a loan out for $350,000 dollars to buy my store (got the money on a hand shake).

Anyway they told me that they were going to put me out of business in two years.

In the following two years with well trained staff, hard work, better than average wages and city pricing. I had gone from $800,000 to $2,000,000 dollars in sales.

The co-op lost half its workers and was near bankrupt.

I sold my grocery store a few years later and bought a farm and started a computer business. I also get paid to trouble shoot businesses that are in trouble.

You are right staff have to feel they are part of the business and need to be well trained and be allowed to make decisions. Being paid fairly is also very important.

thwap said...

"But I am so dumb that I have only observed the above, so I don't know what I am talking about."

Knock it off with the self-pitying whining.

If I showed up at your blog everyday and said nothing but

"I disagree. Read this:"

What would you say?

Especially if you spent almost an entire morning typing an extended entry and i posted some mindless little comment that denied everything you said without explaining anything about my disagreement or your position?

How would you react?

And then, when pressed by you to actually provide some substantial argument, I replied with some personal anecdotal experience from, say, two jobs in Hamilton, Ontario, as if that would settle the matter, ... How would you respond?

So, ... one of the links I posted turned out to be different from what a cursory glance had made it seem?

Shame on me I suppose.

Truth be told, I've read shit-loads of works that confirm that worker-organization can function as good, or better than private capitalist firms.

One such work was this one:

Which I read a few years back that reported the superior performance and survival of worker-owned sawmills over privately-run firms in the US North-West during a recessionary time.

But since that one is behind a subscription wall, I quickly looked for other links just to establish that there's mounds of evidence establishing my position.

One of them turned out to be counterproductive.

But i love how you cherry-picked the source that confirmed what you already believed. I wonder, do you have anything at all to say about the other links that don't reinforce your preconceived opinion?

I have never said that capitalism has produced no achievements. Even Karl Marx testified to its explosive productivity.

What I have laid out in considerable detail is why I think it is (at root) an inhumane, unsustainable system.

Your replied that capitalism wasn't inherently imperialist, with no explanation, other than something else you wanted me to spend my time reading.

Since you complied with my demand to do some more work on the global warming thread, I suppose I'll read your "slate" article and respond to it.

But if it's anything like your irrelevant links in the global warming thread, I'll be seriously pissed.

If your accounts of your personal business success are true, then I'll say that you've got tons more going on upstairs than I give you credit for.

But let's look at the track record of the positions you take:

1. george w. bush is not a moron.

2. Saddam Hussein had WMDs that threatened the world.

3. The invasion of Iraq will turn out to be a success.

4. Israel responded in a reasonable, moderate fashion in Lebanon in 2006, unless I want to celebrate Israel's military might, in which case, Israel flattened the whole pathetic, miserable shit-hole of Lebanon. Oh yeah. And it's all Hezbollah's fault.

5. We can torture people and shoot them without trial so long as we're good and they're evil.

6. Capitalism isn't imperialist.

7. Globabl warming doesn't exist, unless it's caused by natural solar activity, in which case everything'll be super. I know this because someone told me that the ice-sheet on Mars' Southern Pole is shrinking, and I know beyond the shadow of a fucking doubt that this is caused by the same thing that's causing Earth's polar ice-sheets to melt.

Let's face it, we disagree on pretty much everything. But this is my blog. You're going to piss me off if you just pop-in all the time and say: "Nope."

Unknown said...

I admire the way you can communicate on your blog.

" There is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood. " John Stuart Mill

"cherry-picked the source that confirmed what you already believed" True.

I just have trouble typing what I am trying to say. I hope I am getting better at this. The cherry-picked quote said what I was trying to say.

I don't want to piss you off, I really want to try and learn where you are coming from. Your ideas are way out there compared to what I am used to.

I am going to try hard to do a better job at this. Because if you and I can ever agree on a solution, then the world has hope. But it takes understanding each other.

I liked some of the ideas in your links and brought them up at the last council meeting, and hope this will help motivate our workers.

Your 7 points on my views are almost right.

1. george w. bush is not a moron, he is just niave and religious, which can be just as dangerous.

2. Saddam Hussein had WMDs/or would have had them soon that would threaten the world.

3. The invasion of Iraq may turn out to be a success, I have faith in the Iraqi people, not the US.

4. Israel responded in a reasonable, moderate fashion in Lebanon in 2006. I don't celebrate death, but am greatful for Israel's military might. Oh yeah. And it's MOSTLY Hezbollah's fault.

5. We can torture people and shoot them without trial so long as we're good and they're evil. Not torture. Shoot them only in combat, when it is sanctioned. They should have a fair trial, the rule of law should be upheld in our democracy.

6. Capitalism isn't imperialist. True, but it can happen, which is wrong.

7. Globabl warming doesn't exist, unless it's caused by natural solar activity, in which case we should adapt. I know this because someone told me that the ice-sheet on Mars' Southern Pole is shrinking, and I am skeptical and think that this is caused by the same thing that's causing Earth's polar ice-sheets to melt.

I am a skeptic, I want to see real proof before we blow real money, and make a mistake like we did with DDT. How many people should we let die????

thwap said...

Ahrr, I can't stay mad at you, yah big lug!

[actually, i probably could.]

Dude, the main thing is, ... if you're going to disagree with something I spent almost all morning writing, ... put a little work into your comments.

And realize, the anger you feel about the things you disagree with, ... well, I get angry at a lot of the stuff you agree with.

So your work's cut out for you.

hooligan said...

"To the extent that capitalism allows individuals (alone and enmasse) to freely direct their resources where they wish, and utilize their decision-making power as they wish, to that degree is it democratic, and to that degree it succeeds."

Despite the democratic beginning, results will vary among individuals because we do not all have equal ability. Disparity is the inevitable result. Capitalism can be looked at as a tool, one that we are not all adept at using. If we strive for equal results instead of merely an equal starting point, we are in effect punishing those with superior skills for having them.

"To the extent that state-planning is based on fulfilling the wishes of the people, to that extent is it democratic, and to that extent it suceeds. (Witness the inarguable superior performance of social-democratic healthcare to the pathetic monstrosity of US healthcare.)"

The fly-in-the-ointment here is determining the wishes of the people, and how best to measure them. A cursory look at any newspaper on any day will demonstrate how difficult it is to get people to agree on anything at all. Taxes, war, politics, religion...everyone has an opinion and a vote; little wonder things are so fractured. Canada has, since the 1960s, used socialist policies to run a sort of state-planning lite, where government decides how to spread the money around in an effort to get greater equality of results. Spiralling deficits and a huge national debt show how difficult that task has been: I can't imagine the problems government would have trying to actually oversee every single aspect of economic activity in the country.

""Workers as Citizens" bases the rights of workers to their jobs (subject to democratically-arrived at conditions), to free speech, to personal autonomy, on the humanity of the workers, not on their ownership of the property in the workplace."

A company does not exist until someone starts it; it grows initially through the work of one or possibly a few owners, partners. When it grows to the point of needing more labour, it hires those with labour available. Does a worker really have a right to a particular job? If so, how do we determine who gets which job? Why would my right to a particular job surpass your right to the same job? Why would either of our rights surpass those of the owner of the company to decide whether he requires our services any longer, or even wishes to continue being in business? Is the owner not entitled to personal autonomy, to do with his property as he sees fit?

As you said, there is plenty to chew on

thwap said...


I spent 45 minutes crafting a reply to you this morning when my ISP died on me, and I lost my post.

This reply will be a bit more abrupt, but maybe, hopefully, more concise and clear.

[the result of a blessing in disguise?]

1. About capitalism's inevitable inequalities: You say that any attempt to artificially constrain this will punish the talented.

I have very little respect for Ayn Rand. The world doesn't work on such simplistic terms.

a) Yes, some businesspeople are visionary geniuses. There can even be admirable people and benevolent despots or whatever.

But there are also brilliant technicians, craftspeople, service employees, etc.,

And many businesses are not run by visionary owner-operators, but by paid bureaucratic managers. And they are owned by by talentless heirs, and/or anonymous, distant shareholders.

But the wealth created by these visionaries, and all the political power that goes with it, passes on to this ownership class, even if the talent and vision doesn't.

We have enormous political power in the hands of an idle wealthy class, and unremarkable corporate managers.

b) And this entrenched, vast inequality of wealth and power cannot fail to have a negative effect on our democratic political system.

2. The fly-in-the-ointment: Yes, democratic processes in the workplace will be messier than the cleanliness of corporate dictatorship or owner-dictatorships. But that's the case as well with political democracy.

But political democracy tends to work better than other systems because it prevents a tiny elite of leaders from acting as if they know better what is in everyone's best interests.

Political democracy produces superior results despite its messiness, so will economic democracy.

Regarding massive debt from governments trying to make the electorate happy: It didn't happen that way. It is inarguable that the massive debt accrued during the early 1980s and early 1990s was the result of the insane anti-inflation policies of Western central banks.

Massively expensive recessions were engineered by high-interest rates that were meant to flatten the economy and (in the words of a pleasant economics proff who wrote for the C.D. Howe Institute) "break" workers' spirits and make them think twice about striking for higher pay.

I've yet to read a convincing coherent rebuttal to Linda McQuaig's popular "Shooting the Hippo."

Re: The government running everything when it can't. - I agree with you. That's why under this scenario, the government doesn't run everything.

It helps to democratically plan when necessary, but more decision-making is carried out democratically at the firm or industry level.

This isn't about expropriation or nationalization, so that concern shouldn't even enter into this.

3. The loss of power of owners over their enterprises:

To the extent that fewer and fewer businesses are run by owner-operator visionaries, these concerns are not as significant, but even in such cases, consider this:

When a visionary hires a human being, that visionary has renounced the right to have everything his or her own way.

Hiring an employee for a subordinate position doesn't mean that that employee has to renounce their right to free speech, or to accept whatever the boss dishes out.

You'll say: "They don't, they can quit." But I find this unsatisfying.

An employee who quits must then go and find another dictatorial workplace to sign-up with and hope for better times from the master.

And this position of dependence, of supplication, is itself a vestige of the illegitimate inequality of the feudal era and of the fact that others have bought the planet in generations past.

In Canada, it is still not that hopeless a position to be in, a wage labourer, but it's getting worse, and if capitalists' inclinations are not resisted, it will get far, far worse.

As a practical matter, we should have Guaranteed Annual Incomes, a viable public sector, providing plenty of jobs when the private sector isn't up to the job, but also, a society-wide appreciation of the right of people to meaningfull employment, and that therefore, someone cannot be fired or laid-off just so that someone to maximize their personal profit (some shareholder somewhere), or for disagreeing with the boss about the way something is done.

I'm not saying that owners must turn over all decision making to their employees. At present, it's the owner's name on the loans, it was the owner's idea and risk that built a business, and many people just aren't personally capable of running a business.

But they should not just be regarded as disposable resources for employers (good, bad, or mediocre).

Ah, .... this will have to do for now.