Workers

There is only one class of people who are absolutely essential to the operation of any enterprise, and that is the workers. Workers do all of the actual adding of value that is the underlying function of all businesses. All the other functions, management, sales, marketing and ownership are simply supportive of the activities of the workers, and while often useful (though in my observation less often than one might think) are not in fact essential to the process. A group of workers could get together and run a business completely by themselves. Sole proprietors do it all the time. If management is thought to be useful, the workers could hire a manager who would be their employee. As for the ownership, they are the very least useful to the orderly and profitable running of a business. In fact, far from contributing to the success of the business, they do the exact opposite, they drain it of money. Whatever your feelings about their right to do so, this is unquestionably what they do, and if they magically disappeared tomorrow, everyone else involved in the business would be better off. 

I should probably digress briefly to make the point that many owners are also managers, and in their role as managers of course they may well provide value, but in their role as owners they provide none.

If on the other hand the workers all over the world magically disappeared tomorrow, the businesses would be brought to a standstill. The owners, managers, salespeople could not function. The would have nothing to own, manage or sell. This realization terrifies those at the top. They are totally dependent upon the workers, and their whole existence depends on the workers not realizing this. They have us bamboozled into thinking that if they ceased their activities all the nice things we have would disappear. No more cars, televisions, computers or smart phones. It seems to me that this seriously underestimates the resourcefulness of the American people. First of all if they stopped making new cars people would make existing ones last much longer (look at Cuba for an example of this) and secondly people would set up small businesses building cars. These already exist and would proliferate. 

The rapid decline of the corporate system would no doubt cause widespread disruption. This is true of all large scale change. We would no doubt have to adapt to severely changed circumstances, at least in the short term, but we are a very smart people. We have just lost faith in our common power. We used to think that as a nation we could do anything, and we dared great things, like connecting two oceans together with a canal, or putting men on the moon and robots on Mars. We could debate whether or not such activities are useful, but nobody can deny that they were truly impressive feats. Yet we think that without the protective cradle of the corporate culture we would be helpless. 

The truth is that we need a certain amount of struggle to be happy. Many people who lived through World War II said later that the war years were the time they felt most alive in their life. As always it is a matter of balance. Too much struggle makes you miserable and robs you of hope, which is essential to life. But too little struggle is equally harmful, and I believe that this is one of the challenges our culture has been dealing with. 

So we should not fear change or even some reduction in our circumstances. We certainly lead an incredibly wasteful way of life and could reduce our consumption by a large percentage and probably find ourselves happier.  We can rediscover the joys of helping each other out, of banding together to fend for ourselves. The great heroic individual, walking alone in the world, does not exist. Yes, each of us is an individual, and we lead autonomous lives, but we live them in the context of the other individuals around us who together form something larger that we call society.  We are social creatures and we need to rediscover that too, and start acting appropriately in that capacity.

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