Americans think they live in a democracy. But their workplaces are small tyrannies.
V ZDA se je v zadnjih (skoraj) štirih desetletjih neoliberalizma zgodila velika privatizacija vladnih aktivnosti in pooblastil. Ki je za seboj seveda potegnila tudi celoten spekter zlorab teh pooblastil s strani zasebnih interesov.Najbolj očiten primer je bila privatizacija zaporov oziroma lepše rečeno – javno – zasebno partnerstvo na področju izvajanja zapornih kazni. S tem, ko so zapori postali zasebna pridobitna dejavnost, so se seveda ustrezno spremenile tudi spodbude glede metod kaznovanja in trajanja zapornih kazni. Medtem ko je v javnih zaporih javnemu upravitelju načeloma v interesu, da zaporniki čim prej odslužijo svoje kazni (tudi predčasno), saj s tem zmanjšajo stroške za proračun, pa imajo zasebni izvajalci povsem nasprotne interese. Vsak zapornik zanje pomeni “klienta”, s katerim lahko zaslužijo, in čim dlje ostane v zaporu, tem dlje časa lahko z njim služijo. Zato so predčasni izpusti bolj redki, metode, kako to doseči, pa ustrezno motivirane.
Medtem pa se je na trgu dela vsled privatizacija vladnih pooblastil zgodil prehod nazaj na zgodnji kapitalizem. Na tisti brezpravni iz prve polovice 19. stoletja, ki je pripeljal do številnih – krvavo zatrtih – delavskih uporov ter do Marxove kritike in Marx-Engelsovega komunističnega manifesta. Danes imajo šefi v ameriških korporacijah zelo podobna pooblastila kot pred dvesto leti, zaposleni pa približno enako malo pravic. Še huje, razmere je mogoče primerjati celo s tistimi iz časa fevdalizma, saj velika podjetja monopolizirajo posamezne dejavnosti, s tem pa tudi zaposlene, ki jim – ob slabih pogojih dela – onemogočajo “izstop” (nimajo kam, hkrati imajo mnogi konkurenčne klavzule). Poročila o “delovnih režimih” in šikaniranjih iz številnih najuglednješih korporacij, kot so Amazon, Walmart, Apple ali tudi Google, so grozljiva. Ker se je vladna regulacija delovnih razmerij močno umaknila, so prazen prostor zasedle korporacije (kot nekdanji fevdalci ali veliki industrialci) in vsaka zase izvaja tiranijo nad zposlenimi, ki se včasih le nominalno razlikuje od tiste v nemških koncentracijskih taboriščih ali na Kitajskem.
Preberite spodaj odličen članek iz Voxa. Če je to smer sodobne demokracije po zahodno, je mene zelo strah za bodočnost mojih otrok. Stvari so šle v zelo napačno smer.
Consider some facts about how American employers control their workers. Amazon prohibits employees from exchanging casual remarks while on duty, calling this “time theft.” Apple inspects the personal belongings of its retail workers, some of whom lose up to a half-hour of unpaid time every day as they wait in line to be searched. Tyson prevents its poultry workers from using the bathroom. Some have been forced to urinate on themselves while their supervisors mock them.
About half of US employees have been subject to suspicionless drug screening by their employers. Millions are pressured by their employers to support particular political causes or candidates. Soon employers will be empowered to withhold contraception coverage from their employees’ health insurance. They already have the right to penalize workers for failure to exercise and diet, by charging them higher health insurance premiums.
How should we understand these sweeping powers that employers have to regulate their employees’ lives, both on and off duty? Most people don’t use the term in this context, but wherever some have the authority to issue orders to others, backed by sanctions, in some domain of life, that authority is a government.
We usually assume that “government” refers to state authorities. Yet the state is only one kind of government. Every organization needs some way to govern itself — to designate who has authority to make decisions concerning its affairs, what their powers are, and what consequences they may mete out to those beneath them in the organizational chart who fail to do their part in carrying out the organization’s decisions.
Managers in private firms can impose, for almost any reason, sanctions including job loss, demotion, pay cuts, worse hours, worse conditions, and harassment. The top managers of firms are therefore the heads of little governments, who rule their workers while they are at work — and often even when they are off duty.
American public discourse doesn’t give us helpful ways to talk about the dictatorial rule of employers. Instead, we talk as if workers aren’t ruled by their bosses. We are told that unregulated markets make us free, and that the only threat to our liberties is the state. We are told that in the market, all transactions are voluntary. We are told that since workers freely enter and exit the labor contract, they are perfectly free under it. We prize our skepticism about “government,” without extending our critique to workplace dictatorship.
In the 18th century, Adam Smith was the greatest advocate for the view that replacing monopolies, primogeniture, entail, and involuntary servitude with free markets would enable laborers to work on their own behalf. His key assumption was that incentives were more powerful than economies of scale. When workers get to keep all of the fruits of their labor, as they do when self-employed, they will work much harder and more efficiently than if they are employed by a master, who takes a cut of what they produce. Indolent aristocratic landowners can’t compete with yeoman farmers without laws preventing land sales. Free markets in land, labor, and commerce will therefore lead to the triumph of the most efficient producer, the self-employed worker, and the demise of the idle, stupid, rent-seeking rentier.
Smith and his contemporaries looked across the Atlantic and saw that America appeared to be realizing these hopes — although only for white men. The great majority of the free population in the Revolutionary period was self-employed, as either a yeoman farmer or an independent artisan or merchant.
In the United States, Thomas Paine was the great promoter of this vision. Indeed, his views on political economy sound as if they could have been ripped out of the GOP Freedom Caucus playbook. Paine argued that individuals can solve nearly all of their problems on their own, without state meddling. A good government does nothing more than secure individuals in “peace and safety” in the free pursuit of their occupations, with the lowest possible tax burden. Taxation is theft. People living off government pay are social parasites. Government is the chief cause of poverty. Paine was a lifelong advocate of commerce, free trade, and free markets. He called for hard money and fiscal responsibility.
The Industrial Revolution, however — well underway by Lincoln’s time — ultimately dashed the hopes of joining free markets with independent labor in a society of equals. Smith’s prediction — that economies of scale would be less important than the incentive effects of enabling workers to reap all the fruits of their labor — was defeated by industrial technologies that required massive accumulations of capital. The US, with its access to territories seized from Native Americans, was able to stave off the bankruptcy of self-employed farmers and other small proprietors for far longer than Europe. But industrialization, population growth, the closure of the frontier, and railroad monopolies doomed the sole proprietorship to the margins of the economy, even in North America.
The Smith-Paine-Lincoln libertarian vision was rendered largely irrelevant by industrialization, which created a new model of wage labor, with large companies taking the place of large landowners. Yet strangely, many people persist in using Smith’s and Paine’s rhetoric to describe the world we live in today. We are told that our choice is between free markets and state control — but most adults live their working lives under a third thing entirely: private government. A vision of what egalitarians hoped market society would deliver before the Industrial Revolution — a world without private workplace government, with producers interacting only through markets and the state — has been blindly carried over to the modern economy by libertarians and their pro-business fellow travelers.