Saturday, April 26, 2008

Economic individualism is a luxury for rich countries

Countries with little or no constraints on their economic activity due to being subsidized by third world countries supplying cheap goods can afford to indulge in economic and work arrangements that are less collective than poorer countries. The notion of "Right to work" laws and the support that mostly rich people have stirred up for them in working class communities would be discredited if the situation that people found themselves in required collaboration with others in order to ensure survival and a decent living. The other side of it is that keeping people divided on the job and resisting cooperation between people in work probably leads to greater inefficiency, inefficiency that's balanced out by the greater profits that companies without a more cooperative structure, which could demand higher wages in general and also the formation of unions, earn. But it's still sacrificing the very thing that businesses are supposed to be pursuing, efficiency and productivity. In a truly competitive situation companies that compromised a little bit , sacrificed absolute profits in the hope of making more money through selling a better product, companies that purposely sabotaged themselves in order to make more money would be the losers. The U.S. is in a situation where it can afford to do this sort of thing because of its prominence in the world economy, but that situation can't last long. The economic downturn we're in may signal the end of the U.S.' free economic lunch and the entry of the country into a truly competitive marketplace where the rules aren't fixed in its favor.

*on edit: I should clarify that I mean competition between economies at similar levels of development. There are plenty of economies out there that are less developed than that of the U.S. that do pretty well with being pretty exploitative. While the sorts of pressures I talked about may be present there they probably aren't to the same extent as in the U.S. While they surely can benefit from these sorts of things, and really should fight for them to be implemented through trade unions and social movements, in the U.S. there's no way to avoid confronting the problem unless we want to go back to the sort of industrialism present in the early part of the 20th century, which most people are glad we moved away from.

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