Economics on the small scale

Sunday, March 26, 2006

You are not as financially secure as you think you are, Parts I and II



From Just a Bump in the Beltway, quoting Louise Uchitelle:
JO GOODRUM, a thin, energetic woman older than her audience of aircraft mechanics — old enough, perhaps, to be their mother — got their attention with a single, unexpected sentence, which she inserted early in her presentation. Her husband, she said, had been laid off six times since the late 1980's. And yet here she was, standing before them, in one piece, cheerful, apparently O.K., giving survival instructions to the mechanics, who would be laid off themselves in 10 days.
Melanie adds:
Nearly all of the pernicious myths about the meaning of work are deconstructed in this column. The idea that a job which offers a reasonable amount of dignity at a living wage is somehow a gift that has to be earned by personal virtue is quintessentially American and perverse. It should be seen as a human right.

I think Melanie does not go far enough. The purpose of civilization is to ensure mutual survival by co-operation. If you are denied the ability to work to provide for yourself and your family, then society is corrupt and it has no legitimacy for you. Instead of benefiting from society, you are in competition with it for your survival.

If you want a modern parable, think about the movie Office Space. The company's (upper-class) management is obviously exploiting its workers. Facing lay-off pressure, the cocky (middle-class) programmers finally act on their frustration and try to steal back from the company but are soon guilt-racked and panicky. In the end, the company gets torched by someone the management held in such complete contempt they moved his cubicle to an unlit basement with the mice and cockroaches and then simply stopped paying him.

Don't look now, but our government may finally be pushing our Miltons too far:

(spotted via Steve's News Blog)

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