Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thomas Friedman and the hangman

David Seaton's News Links
In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. Thomas Friedman - NYT

In older factories and, before them, on the farm, there were opportunities for almost everybody: the bright and the slow, the sociable and the awkward, the people with children and those without. All came to work unskilled, at first, and then slowly learned things, on the job, that made them more valuable. Especially in the mid-20th century, as manufacturing employment was rocketing toward its zenith, mistakes and disadvantages in childhood and adolescence did not foreclose adult opportunity. For most of U.S. history, most people had a slow and steady wind at their back, a combination of economic forces that didn’t make life easy but gave many of us little pushes forward that allowed us to earn a bit more every year. Over a lifetime, it all added up to a better sort of life than the one we were born into. That wind seems to be dying for a lot of Americans. What the country will be like without it is not quite clear. Adam Davidson - The Atlantic
The awkward fact about "average" people, or "average" anything for that matter is that there are so many of them... of "us" really, because most of us are average something, one way or another, intelligence, weight, height, sex appeal, you name it.... Anything that savagely attacks the "average" attacks the majority and the majority, barring massive police state repression and even then, will eventually fight back.
As anger rises, riots on the streets of American cities are inevitable. “Yes, yes, yes,” he says, almost gleefully. The response to the unrest could be more damaging than the violence itself. “It will be an excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order, which, carried to an extreme, could bring about a repressive political system, a society where individual liberty is much more constrained, which would be a break with the tradition of the United States.” George Soros quoted in the Daily Beast 
We are being told that we must be more competitive. What does that mean? Another quote from Tom Friedman's globalist panegyric, this time a paean to China.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. ‘The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,’ the executive said. ‘There’s no American plant that can match that.’ ”
Friedman, of course thinks that this is just great, but I simply do not believe that Americans or Europeans would be willing to endure working conditions like that very long without revolting, except, perhaps, during the struggles of a world war. 
Suddenly Karl Marx of all people is reappearing in "polite" conversation and if you take a look at the following quotes taken at random and out of context and compare them with what you have read in the articles quoted above, you'll easily see why:
  • Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society.
  • Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalists to quell the revolt of specialized labor.
  • The more the division of labor and the application of machinery extend, the more does competition extend among the workers, the more do their wages shrink together.
  • The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.
  • (Free Trade) breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.
So we are moving toward, or have moved to a society where even in developed countries increasingly a tiny minority lives very well and "average" people, by definition the majority, live badly, return to the living and working conditions of the days of Charles Dickens, conditions that took countless years and endless blood to meliorate... and even an "average" student of history will know that under such conditions revolutions happen.
I'm sorry to keep bringing the old boy up, but it was Lenin who said that a capitalist will sell you a rope on Friday that you are going to hang him with on Sunday... just to make a profit on Saturday... he can't help himself. Vladimir Ilych's mummy must be laughing his little wax head off when they turn out the lights in his tomb at night. DS


Ramojus said...

Not to be picky....but the quote regarding the Apple IPhone manufacturing plant in China is not from Friedman but the "How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work" article in the NY Times.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Quoted by Friedman, who took me to read the Apple piece. What I found interesting/irritating is Friedman's enthusiasm.

Ramojus said...

Well you know, "The World Is Flat" and all that....he's a globalist who believes in Walmarts everywhere! Sarcasm alert.

I speculate that Friedman's enthusiasm probably stems from his wife's family, whose father was founder / chairman of General Growth Properties.

cmaukonen said...

Ah yes...Apple the brand PC users love to hate. But they are no different than any other corporation in this country. Not the aberration of corporate America but the very epitome of it.

But a statement made in either the NYC article or one referenced by it where on executive said that American workers would not stand for working in these [China's] conditions.

That statement says a lot. I says the corporate America knows damn well that if the required the same kind of work under the same conditions that the workers here would chase them up a tree and set fire to it.