A new feudalism

The elites have treated working people like so many disposable grains of sand as long as there have been elites. During the “Golden age” the dominant industrialists developed great fortunes on the backs of immigrant labor. People worked under difficult conditions and did the actual work that those fortunes were made on. Yet they received little or no share of the proceeds, as little as the bosses could get away with. With no regard to the actual needs of their workers these titans scooped up the lion’s share for themselves, leaving only the scraps for everyone else to fight over. They had discovered from the feudal lords of medieval Europe that people who are held at or near to poverty are far less likely to make trouble.

Today is not that different. Fighting among ourselves to be hired into a job that will barely pay the rent is a humiliating experience. In addition to the fear of not being able to feed ourselves or our family is the crushing debt burden, made all too common with easy access to credit.

The issue is the same now as it was then. There is plenty to go around, enough for everyone to benefit. The problem is in the distribution. The industrialist will insist that he deserves to be rewarded and he should. He marshaled the capital, gathered the resources and found a way to create profit by feeding the market. No reasonable person would argue with that but it is important to remember that the industrialist is in a partnership with other elements of society, whether he likes it or not. Without workers to operate the shop there would be no reason to turn on the lights. Certainly the man who can create the shop has different job skills than those workers who will now turn his dream to reality. The third leg to the stool is the customer. Regardless of the vision of the owner, regardless of the efforts of the workers, if the customer does not buy the product there is no profit, there are no jobs.

What we find is that contrary to the owner’s desire, it is not he who creates jobs. He certainly creates the place where the jobs are housed but it the customer who creates the jobs by their purchase of the product. Now here is the best part. By coincidence the customer is also the worker.

There was a time in America when employers recognized this relationship. Henry Ford spoke up at length over the need to pay his employees a living wage so that they could afford to buy his cars. Needless to say this earned him the enmity of his fellow industrialists who shuddered at the thought of such an idea entering the heads of their own workers. Today we are told that we should be grateful for demeaning work that gains for us a tiny fraction, a pauper’s share of the actual profit being created by our labor. There is plenty to go around; the distribution of the rewards is the issue.

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