Humans Need to Work
By Dennis Loo (2/6/14)
In Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow she writes:
Work is deemed so fundamental to human existence in many countries around the world that it is regarded as a basic human right. Deprivation of work, particularly among men, is strongly associated with depression and violence. (p. 149)
Capitalism exists based on the logic of "expand or die" (which reminds me of cancer's logic). Because the fundamental source of value is human labor, because making profit means getting away with paying workers as little as possible, and because unemployment must therefore be maintained to keep wages low - if there were full employment wages would rise because there would be no more desperate people willing to work for a pittance in return for a job - this basic human right that Alexander refers to is systematically denied to many. Unemployment is hence not fundamentally due to laziness or fecklessness but the basic workings of capitalism's logic. Even if everyone in the society had graduate degrees such as MDs and Ph.D.s, the occupational structure would remain the same. There would be doctors picking fruit in the fields.
Back when I was a lecturer in Ethnic Studies at the University of Hawaii I invited as a guest lecturer to our class a highly successful Chinese-American capitalist named Hung Wo Ching, who, among other things, founded Aloha Airlines and who was the first non-white (non-haole) person allowed to buy a house in Kahala in the 1960s. During his entertaining talk he said, unprompted, that "I like unemployment." Explaining this he said that without unemployment he would have to pay his workers much more and this would cut into his profits.
How does it make any sense to have an economic system in which a basic human right - the need to work - is deliberately denied to a sizable section of the population? How does it make any sense to have the people in charge overall be those whose privileges rest upon the exploitation of their fellow human beings and the despoiling of the planet? Is that any way to run the planet? Basic human rights and basic human dignity are being sacrificed to the gods of profit. Oxfam recently reported that the 85 richest people in the world have more wealth than the combined wealth of the bottom 3.5 billion people on the planet.
Depressions, recessions, and unemployment are features of capitalism. They do not exist outside of capitalism and they did not exist prior to capitalism's appearance. The depression and violence that Alexander speaks of are also directly related to the deprviation of humans of their right to meaningful work. Depression and violence would not entirely disappear if we abolished a system that denies people of the right to meaningful work, but they would fall precipitously.
This site aims to accomplish two related goals. First, it complements Dennis Loo's book Globalization and the Demolition of Society so that people reading the book can get more deeply into it. (See navigation bar above, labeled "GDS Book Annotations"). We believe that his book is a landmark, providing a solid foundation for politics of a new path. Taking such a path is critical to humanity and the planet's future. As his book's dust jacket states:
[F]ree market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - makes us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Those in charge of our collective fates in government and business personify a heartless system based on profit and plunder. They have been relentlessly instituting profoundly immoral and unjust policies even while they insist that they are doing the opposite. We, on the other hand, stand for and are fighting for a radically different system and set of values than this.
Second, in order to get at the truth and because the ways in which humanity's historic striving for understanding and its capacity to wonder and imagine are very rich and diverse, we seek to reflect that richness and diversity on our site. See "About Us" on navigation bar. We intend to be engaging and compelling, as the best investigative journalism and art are, and relentlessly scientific, rigorous, and direct, as those who cherish the truth are. We believe that we can be both accessible and sophisticated. As Loo lays out in his book,
Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)