The Godly Algorithm (95: The Slaveholder Persuasion)

The Slaveholder Persuasion

Do you know what’s keeping the concept of slavery very much alive in the twenty-first century? Sweatshops, gas marts, Walmarts, whorehouses, on-demand contract workers, “minimum” wage, and that corporate imperative: Cut Costs! Capitalism is the system;  corporations are the vehicles that sustain it—them and a persistent slaveholder mentality.

                                                                                    Elmore Bland, Logician

 

The trend

The mechanisms that served for so long to give us the good life—fondly called the American Way of Life—have grown out of control and are now in process of destroying our good life. For many young Americans today the good life passed before they were born—they’ve never known it. Utterly distracted by social media, they don’t realize they’ve missed something important. They—and we—all need a fresh perspective on the worsening realities of our modern American economy and all that it influences.

 

Why is it that we now have problems we didn’t have from 1945 to 1980, such as

  • below-subsistence paychecks across every sector of American commerce;
  • growing reactionary and potentially revolutionary anger against working-class wage stagnation—and actual wage decline relative to our growing economy—along with increasingly extreme income inequality for forty long years now;

 

  • continuing export of formerly good-paying American jobs to foreign nations;
  • steady shrinking of the American middle class for the past forty years;

 

  • an unprecedented new and fast-growing socioeconomic underclass of uneducated poor young people, not to mention college graduates who can’t find decent jobs;
  • expanding poverty at all ages;

 

  • a socially isolated super-rich few percent who now own substantially more than half of all American wealth;
  • the deliberate, intentional political dividing of ordinary good Americans from other ordinary good Americans, setting them against each other by manipulating political hot issues such as religion, abortion, gun control and immigration;

 

  • and credible danger to American democracy in consequence of all the above?

 

Capitalism is the system and corporations are its vehicles. We have these problems primarily because so many corporations have grown out of control and the people who run the corporations are unchecked by any civic discipline. But something much deeper than out-of-control corporations is at work in this dismal undoing of the American dream. That something is a sad commentary on human nature—or at least the nature of certain humans who, serving themselves vigorously, give their days and their scheming over to an endless quest for great wealth and great power.

 

            …And the Great Spirit asked: What have you brought me?

 

Natural incentives of corporations

We begin by juxtaposing our modern American-but-internationalized global economy onto an unbroken historical background of slavery and the mindset that assumes it…

 

Imagine you are the head of a corporation. The main thing your board and stockholders expect of you is to increase profits. The stockholders don’t particularly care what you sell or how you go about increasing profits, they simply know they invested their money in your corporation with expectation that the investment will make them more money in the form of hefty dividends. The expectation is reasonable—they know it’s the reason your corporation exists, i.e., to produce profits, the more the better. From a corporate point of view, all else is incidental. That’s why corporations are brought into existence. For profit.

 

You have two principal ways to increase profits:  either 1) sell more of whatever your corporation sells, or 2) reduce your costs. Most profit-increasing devices are variations of these two, and the distinction between them is important. You can increase profits either by raising the appeal of your products to prospective buyers, or by intensifying your advertising and marketing to persuade people who might not otherwise have bought your stuff at all. You can most easily cut costs by cutting payroll—it’s usually much harder to cut the cost of the materials required to make our products. Payroll is most easily reduced by eliminating jobs—whole salaries—and leaning on the remaining workers to produce more to make up the difference. Long experience has taught you this latter can be pushed to wretched extremes before the workers finally rise up and unite behind the barricades.

 

Congratulations:  big cost cut, instant profit increase. Never mind that the workers you let go had all been with the corporation twenty years, were loyal, and looking forward to retirement. Too bad. You did what you had to do to increase profits, that’s why you’re in business, right? If you didn’t, they’d be dissed anyway by the next owner who’s secretly angling to buy out your corporation before the end of this year. And besides, employee wages and fringe benefits are virtually always the single biggest cost of doing business, so they’re right up there, real prominent, when the corporate heads go looking for places to cut costs, as they constantly do. Cutting costs is money in the bank—and CEO salaries.

 

The Godly Algorithm’s hands-off policy makes no exceptions. Economics is up to us.

 

Increase profits at any cost

Pay attention to those first glimmerings of understanding on why corporations born and chartered in the United States, still selling most of their products in the United States, have sent so many of our good-paying jobs away from the United States to foreign nations where very low wages are the norm. Instead of paying you $35 an hour plus a set-aside for retirement benefits, which you diligently worked your way up to over twenty-six years, the corporation can now pay $2 an hour and no benefits at all to an industrious foreign worker who is oh-so happy to get the $2 and no complaints because it represents a lifestyle improvement in his or her poor country. Big cost cut, instant profit increase.

 

Your job has been “outsourced,” as they say. Sorry, too bad, that. After the corporate heads have done this maneuver so many times that all the good-paying jobs have been shipped overseas—and the CEOs and CFOs have been paid millions in congratulatory bonuses for their great and clever success at increasing profits by cutting costs—what jobs then are left in the USA to sustain American workers, or send their kids to college?

 

Well, we no longer make our own furniture, our own shoes, our own clothes or upholstery fabrics, our own electronics, hardly even any of our own steel much less our own cars or pots and pans made with steel. And so we have to import all these life necessities—plus half our food—from the foreign countries where they are now made, at great profit to gigantic corporations. Nobody truly wins but the corporations. True, there’s more variety on the shelves at the supermarket—but so what?—by any stretch, do you actually “need” all those brands of the same item?

 

The Godly Algorithm’s hands-off policy makes no exceptions. Economics is up to us.

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