“ECONOMIC MAN” AND THE CONSERVATIVE DISTORTION OF ECONOMICS
Behind the basic theory of “supply and demand” and the “hidden hand” of unconscious regulation of the market place, there are some basic assumptions about “human nature”. Indeed, conservative economists postulate a theoretical human being known as “homo economicus” or “economic man”.
Every culture has a mythology, including ancient heroes who embody the virtues and character of their culture. The ancient Hebrew Torah tells of Abraham, Isaac, Joseph – and Adam and Eve for that matter. The Babylonians had Gilgamesh. Homer’s Illiad tells the story of Achilles, Paris, Priam and Helen of Troy. For the Romans it was Romulus and Remus, for the Germans Beowulf, for the English King Arthur. King Arthur, to use the last example, embodied the virtues of the Christian king, while his knights of the round table were models of medieval chivalry. They were the ideal providing an example of gallantry, Christian charity and nobility for ordinary mortals to follow. When the peasants revolted in 1371, we discover that chivalry with respect to serfs really meant the “Christian charity” of the hangman’s noose and the nobility of the “iron maiden”. So much for mythological archetypes.
We of the industrialized modern world are more “sophisticated” than those pre-industrial superstitious simpletons. We don’t personify our mythological heroes. Instead, we create “scientific” abstractions like “economic man. Sorry folks, he’s still a myth. Just like King Arthur, there is a real question as to whether he ever really existed.
If the heroes of chivalry created a brave, noble, charitable and fair model for humanity, “economic man” is a modern archetype straight out of hell. He is a greedy, self-centered, self-indulgent and short-sighted pig. He is an isolated human being with no connection with or feeling for anyone around him, with one central defining characteristic. He seeks to maximize his immediate individual advantage. If King Arthur’s primary stage was the battlefield, economic man’s is the marketplace, where he systematically goes about the business of “buying low and selling dear”. This is the man who ruthlessly exploits weakness in others for his own profit. The society he creates isn’t very sociable. It is more analogous to a pack of hyenas fighting over a carcass. If it’s “a jungle out there”, or a “rat race” if you prefer, you can thank economic man the next time you see him. To find him, just visit you’re local used car lot.
This mythological creature – dare we call him a human being? – is the source of a whole range of observed human conduct, familiar to anyone who ever bought a used car. The first advantage to exploit is knowledge itself. The car dealer knows what he paid for the car. You don’t. He knows what’s wrong with it. You don’t. He knows what your trade-in is worth. You might not. He may know if it’s been in a wreck, but he will never tell you. He might not overtly lie to you – even conservatives can’t quite justify this level of predation. Instead, he will “puff up” its value. He will manipulate every non-rational impulse you have. “Imagine how you’ll look to the ladies in this baby.” What you won’t imagine is how you’ll look riding in the tow truck that’s pulling the piece of shit.
Belief in this mythological creature has had the customary effect. Just like in the days of chivalry, the modern knight of business tries to emulate the ideal of “economic man”. The result is the culture we are all familiar with. Specifically, it accounts for much of the culture that most of us would just as soon do without. Only we don’t think we can, because we’ve convinced ourselves of the validity of the model of “human nature” represented by “economic man”.
Let’s take a brief look at the culture that results from short-term maximization of profits. Beginning with the actors, we see people who perceive themselves in competition with everyone around them. Their goal is to get the “best end of the bargain” in any dealings with you. In the context of an employer and his employee, the employee produces a product with a given market value, which should be more than a subsistence wage paid to him. If it isn’t, you either have serious inefficiency in your production process, or you’re making the wrong product. A subsistence wage may not be all you are paying your employee, but it represents the minimum you have to pay him – unless you are using labor on the “Dachau” plan. After you pay your other overhead, there is a surplus – known as profit. The “maximization” specialist wants it all. He could spread some of it around to the employees who produce the surplus. “Why should I pay more than I have to?” he asks.
The answer is productivity. Motivated people produce more than exploited people. More importantly, they produce better products, creating customer satisfaction, generating repeat business. Remember, you don’t stay in business selling one unit to a customer. You stay in business selling to that customer over and over again. In other words, you advance your long-term interests by foregoing the urge to “maximize” in the short-term. But that isn’t what “economic man” does. He wants it all, now. He’s supposed to maximize his position in every transaction, and he considers every transaction in a vacuum. There is no “long-term”, and history – as Henry Ford said – is largely irrelevant.
He pursues the same mindset with his customers. They are likewise, competing interests he must “get the better of”. If his products are shall we say inferior – because they were produced with stultified unmotivated labor – he can work around that. Reality isn’t what’s important at the bargaining table. Perception is what counts. There’s nothing like a little chrome and polish on the outside to hide, at least temporarily, a lack of workmanship on the inside. If you need a little extra help, there is an entire sector of the economy devoted to bullshitting people. You start with your sales force.
These are the paragons of “economic man”. You may be familiar with that feeling you get. You’re talking to one of these “knights of capitalism” – I’ve heard them referred to as “road warriors” – and you have a strange desire to keep your hand on your wallet. They have a look that’s supposed to be a smile, but that isn’t quite what it is. They are friendly and gregarious people, who clearly see you as an object to be manipulated. Did you have some questions about the product, or about customer service, or about the warranty? Don’t worry, the “road warrior” will tell you whatever you want to hear.
He is backed up by that industry unique to capitalism. I refer to advertising and “public relations”. These are the people who specialize in “corporate image”, “merchandising”, “brand identification” – along with all of the traditional methods of advertising. Their job is to make you “feel good” about the product. Consider this example of McDonald’s advertising from thirty or so years ago.
McDonald’s is living proof that you can feed a man a turd, tell him he likes it, and have him believe you. Some years ago, as a part of their marketing efforts to children, they invented a place called “McDonaldland”. “McDonaldland” had a variety of mythical characters – “Mayor McCheese” comes to mind. “McDonaldland” also contained something that was beyond mythical. It was just absurd. Apparently, in “McDonaldland” hamburgers came from a “hamburger patch”. In other words, they’re plants, not animal flesh. I guess the marketing wizards at McDonalds – and you have to hand it to them, they’re good – thought a hamburger patch would make small children “feel good’ about eating hamburgers. It would certainly make them feel better than images of a slaughterhouse.
What is most interesting about the whole “exploit labor, bamboozle the buyer” model of capitalism is that it winds up costing you more. What you don’t spend on better engineering and workmanship, you turn around and spend on advertising and marketing. The people who manufacture images make fortunes, while the people who make the product itself struggle to get by. If “economic man” would invest a little in his production – starting with good pay for good help – he might discover what decades of experience still shows to be the most effective advertising, namely word of mouth advertising – which is free.
The society given us by “economic man” isn’t much of a society at all. It is a mass of competitors jockeying for “bargaining position.” Everyone is trying to “maximize” his position at somebody else’s expense. It isn’t a world where businessmen try to discover what you want and deliver it. They just try to convince you that you really want whatever it is they have. It is a world where the wage earner is kept ignorant, in debt and isolated from his fellows – in order to minimize his bargaining power. It is world of “winners” and “losers”. The winners are a breed of ruthless, mendacious back stabbers, while the “losers” are the chumps who foolishly believe that humans can do better.
Call me a chump, but I can prove that a better culture is possible. First, we need to dispose of “economic man”, and send him off to the museum of cultural history where he belongs. We can put him on display right next to the Aztec kings – the ones who demanded human sacrifice. “Economic man” is just that bad.
For an example of a better hero, click here.
“SOCIABLE MAN” - THE HERO OF LAISSEZ-FAIRE SOCIALISM
If Corporate Capitalism is based on the greedy and self-centered “economic man” of classical economics, a different theoretical myth will need to replace it. Notice here, and in other contexts, that your basic assumptions can create an entire culture. Replace “economic man” with something else, and you change the culture.
Which is a problem for a number of different reasons. A bad as the culture created by “economic man” is, the conservative can colorably claim that his theoretical model is based on observation. Indeed, individuals do seek to maximize their power. Furthermore, “collectivists” do exist who propose that individuals simply sacrifice their interests in favor of those of society at large. The results are a different kind of ugly from the capitalist culture. I believe Stalin called his model the “new Soviet man”. We know too well what that led to.
The other problem is the apparent success of capitalism in at least providing material prosperity – for most people in the industrialized nations, anyway. Whatever problems we have with car dealers, we like our cars. We like our electric appliances. We like our big screen televisions. We just don’t like what we have to go through to get them. And many of us don’t like the apparent requirement that for some of us to bust hump to get these things, somebody else has to do without. A lot of other people, in fact. Some of us wonder – I know I do – whether a billion people worldwide who are malnourished is the best we can do.
Finally, whatever the downside of all of this cutthroat capitalist competition, most of us appreciate the value of a little healthy competition. The competition of “economic man” is a sort of society-wide “free for all”. Its like a “tuff” man competition, where you put twenty guys in a ring, and the winner is the last man standing. But that isn’t the only model of competitive exercise is it. In fact, its rare. Consider football.
Football is a rough game. That’s all there is to it. [Yes, I like football.] But there are rules. The twenty-two players don’t break out the chains and knives while they’re on the field. You can’t block somebody in the back. You can’t hit someone out of bounds. You can’t cut a kicker’s legs out from under him. If you’re an offensive lineman, you can block a defender, but you can’t hold him. All of these rules are designed to balance the competition and to keep it reasonably safe. On this last score, you will notice something really interesting about professional football players. They like to play football. They like the contact. They like the hits. But if a player is down – as in not getting up – the mood among players on both teams changes in a hurry. They’re not out there to get hurt – at least not seriously. Everybody understands that it’s a game, and if the game is to continue, as close to everybody as possible needs to be healthy to play again next week. It seems that repeat business even applies to professional football.
But there’s even more to it than that. Football isn’t a competition between twenty-two isolated individuals. It is a contest between two teams. However hard fought the competition, teammates don’t compete among themselves. They work together. In fact, offensive and defensive schemes – blocking assignments, passing lanes, “zone blitzes” and a hundred other concepts – are amazingly sophisticated. The stereotype of the big dumb football jock is grossly inaccurate. Professional football players are smart people. They have to be to function within the complex and sophisticated systems used to play the game. The need for motivation requires a level of respect for every player – no matter what he does. Just let some “prima donna” quarterback humiliate and abuse his offensive linemen. He’ll find out in a hurry the wages of de-motivating his workforce, when those linemen let an opposing linebacker blindside him while he’s standing in the pocket.
Here we begin to see the source of the error in the creation of “economic man”. “Economic man” theorizes that individuals maximize their own interests – and stops there. The theory doesn’t bother with looking at different ways individuals might go about doing that. The “field of play” is the bargaining table – kind of like a boxing ring – where two people’s interests are at odds. The bargaining process is isolated in time, and it is a “zero-sum” game.
But that isn’t real life, is it? In fact, “economic man” overlooks what is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of human nature. Human beings are social creatures. In fact, society itself is our unique evolutionary strategy for survival. Going right back to the hunting parties of hunter-gatherers, team work is what has made us the dominant creature on earth. Using our minds to solve problems, our hands to build tools, and each other working together, there is no environment on earth where we can’t survive. There is no predator in the forest, who doesn’t run from us if he can. From the tropics to the poles to Mount Everest to the Challenger Deep to the moon, we have been everywhere there is to go – and come back to tell about it.
Here we see the underlying fact of human nature that the rapacious “economic man” overlooks. His very production facility is an exercise in social organization. His sales force is a social organization. The advertising agency he uses is a social organization. The concepts that create his “playing field” – property rights, paper money, the concept of “capital” itself – are social conventions, invented by human beings to organize production and distribution. Individual power doesn’t come from the isolation and atomization of individuals. It comes from organization and integration of them.
This simple recognition changes our very conception of the “bargaining table”. For one thing, it introduces time into the equation. It also transforms the very process. Instead of trying to “get all I can” in exchange for as little as I can give in return – viewing the transaction as a one time “score” – I now see that what I am doing at the bargaining table is establishing a social connection. I’m looking for help. I’m looking to see if you’ve got something I need, and I’m offering something you need in return. Most commercial relationships are not “one shot deals”. You don’t buy one week’s worth of groceries from the local market. You buy fifty-two weeks worth. In fact, you probably have established business relationships with dozens of different businesses. Just let them give the impression that they don’t care if you come back, and you won’t. Any good retailer knows the value of good service and providing a little extra value. That’s what builds loyalty. A locally owned retailer knows what his customers want, and keeps it in stock. He knows their names. He knows their wives and husbands. He gives “goodies” to their children.
What we see in the new expanded model of the bargaining table is the “win-win” negotiation. Once we accept that social organization empowers, rather than limits our power, we begin to see a whole range of possibilities for maximizing our individual position through other people, and not at their expense. In fact, the whole “win-lose” conception of “economic man” presupposes the existence of other people supplying necessary goods and services. You can’t be a truly “independent” human being, unless you want to move into the woods and live like Ted Kozinski. Individual freedom is always relative and dependent on the social context that provides you with options and opportunities for the exercise of that freedom. Ted Kozinski had few connections to the larger society. He also had many fewer options. To say the he was “freer” than you are is to take a rather narrow view of freedom.
This suggests a truly transforming view of the nature of individuals and society. Social organization is the “environment’ within which you exercise your individual freedom. This places some limitations on that freedom – since social organizations has certain fundamental requirements. On the other hand, social organization itself is frequently a voluntary business. You don’t have to do business with anybody in particular. You don’t have to go into business with people you don’t like. You don’t have to form a labor union, if you don’t think you need one. You will always look after your own interests, but you will begin to see that associating with other people is a very useful way to do that. As for “government” and other large scale institutions, they provide certain infrastructure for the whole social fabric to function at all. If you want to open a gas station convenience store, you might find your business will do better if there are some roads, some people with cars, social respect for your property rights, and a stable currency for exchange. These things don’t just happen. They have to be created, managed and maintained – and somebody has to get paid to do it.
Welcome to the world of “sociable man”. Just like “economic man” he is primarily concerned with advancing his own position. But he understands that his position is created with the assistance of other people, and that he can do a lot better for himself by taking into account the legitimate interests of the people around him. Let’s look at how that transforms the workplace. “Economic man” actually creates a problem for himself, when it comes to organizing production. In order to achieve the kind of coordination and integration of effort required in the modern high-tech industrial workplace, he needs continuity in his workforce. He can’t deal with his workforce on a “one shot” basis – taking maximum advantage of them over the short term.
But that’s what his model of “human nature” tells him he’s supposed to do. He is faced with the unpleasant task of establishing a long-term relationship based on short-term exploitation of bargaining weakness. In other words, he has to make your bargaining weakness a permanent condition, so that can exploit that weakness over time. Because he doesn’t recognize a more productive long-term relationship – maximizing the position of both sides to the exchange – he finds himself mired in the eternal frustration so many “hard nosed” businessmen find themselves in. They perpetually grumble and moan about their “lazy”, “shiftless” and “unmotivated” workforce, but they are unwilling to pay for better help. They want something that is really unreasonable when you think about it. They want good work for low pay. They want what they are so quick to see in others. They want the ultimate “good deal” for “economic man”. They want something for nothing.
You should recognize the tactics of maintaining bargaining weakness. Poverty and the debt treadmill are the primary tools. Add to that an emerging two-tiered educational system. Then consider such environmental problems as over development as hungry competitors fan out over the countryside looking for “opportunities” to get ahead in the rat race. The ultimate cost is the systematic disintegration of society itself – all to maintain the power and privilege of “economic man”.
But there is good news in all of this gloom.
It seems that “economic man” turns out to be a dysfunctional man. He creates massive problems that he can’t solve. Eventually – as in now – he finds himself in a position of having to stand in the path of natural social evolution and human nature itself – in order to maintain his position. In other words, his position becomes unsustainable.
He is in that position, right now. He has painted himself into a corner, such that the very “business oriented” philosophy he professes to believe, now threatens his survival. We’re almost to the end of his misrule – which means we’re almost to the end of the main line of this site.
Click here, and I’ll wrap it up.
THE ENDGAME OF CORPORATE CAPITALISM
Any conservative will tell you all you want to know about the ruthlessness of the Soviet system. He can recite any number of horrors associated with communism – which he would love to impute to anyone on the left. Unfortunately for the conservatives, those horrors are the very same kind he would inflict on you. The Warsaw Pact countries suffered massive environmental destruction under communism – because they practiced the kind of non-regulation conservatives advocate. Stalin used starvation as a weapon against unruly ethnic minorities – kind of like the use the conservative makes of poverty and ignorance. The fabled Gulag, where Soviet citizens were sent for years at a time for even minor infractions is highly reminiscent of an American prison system that holds 2 million inmates as of this writing – a higher percentage of the population than any other country on earth.
The efficiency and ruthlessness of the Soviet police state cannot be denied. What also cannot be denied is the way the police state ended. It was almost bloodless. Overnight, the KGB pretty much packed up and went home. Just like that, it was over. So it is with unsustainable systems. Eventually, even the oppressor realizes the corner he’s painted himself into. So it will be for the rule of ‘’economic man”.
Based as it is on a theoretical “first man”, conservative economics dresses itself up as the “natural order”. As we have seen, “economic man” does indeed create the “rat race” as its natural order. Unfortunately, it is based on a faulty assumption about the true nature of the “first man”. He is not “economic man” he is “sociable man”. He is not a lone warrior fighting to the economic death in a cosmic barroom free-for-all. He is a man of peace, who prefers to advance his position with a little help from his friends. He is compassionate, he is generous, he is fair and he is tough when has to be – which isn’t very often. He works hard, when he has to, but he’d rather work smart. In fact, he’d rather not work at all – at least not for somebody else. While he doesn’t mind hiring himself when he has to, he expects a fair days pay in exchange for a fair days work. When he’s doing the hiring, he doesn’t think you owe him your labor, your intelligence or your life. So he is prepared to make it worth your while to help him out. He wants to see everybody prosper, not just him.
“Economic man” far from building a world on the basis of “human nature” builds it on a subset of selective attributes of human nature. Those selective attributes are greed and fear. In fact, he has his hands full suppressing the natural human instinct for social organization. Consider organized labor.
“Economic man” hates organized labor. In the 1700’s and 1800’s he finds himself presented with the dirty, ignorant and desperately poor refuse of the decay of feudalism. They are ripe for exploitation and oppression. He promptly creates “sweat shops”. He puts children to work in them. He works people 16 hours a day seven days a week, in exchange for pay that barely keeps them alive. He puts them to work using machines with no guards on sharp edges, no emergency cut-offs, no “lock out, tag out’ systems, no ventilation for harmful dust and toxic vapors. When some of them lose arms and legs, or succumb to industrial illnesses, they are tossed out in the cold to fend for themselves – with no means to do so. The people subjected to this hell straight out of Charles Dickens, did what human beings have always done when their survival is threatened. They pulled together. They organized.
It’s called human nature, conservatives. You remember “human nature” don’t you? How many conservatives have you heard extolling capitalism for its ability to harness greed and other “natural” human failings as an engine of prosperity – at least for some people. Well, labor discovered an even more basic human solution to the problem of survival, namely social organization. They realized the same thing the conservatives did. Their social degradation was the product of a gross imbalance in their bargaining power. They were isolated individuals bargaining against “organized capital”, also known as corporations. They organized to correct the imbalance of their position – a perfectly natural and human thing to do.
The conservatives fought them “tooth and nail”. The bloody history of organized labor – Hay market square, the legal murder of Joe Hill, the “dirty war” in Argentina, the Salvadoran “death squads” – are all examples of the ruthless efforts of conservatives to stop poor wage earners from organizing. It seems that “economic man” doesn’t have much use for inconvenient human nature.
As the decades passed, ordinary wage earning citizens gradually improved their position – eventually securing a measure of political power. They converted this power into improvements in their living standards. Isn’t that what Thomas Jefferson said governments were “instituted among men” to do? Don’t tell the conservatives. They have opposed every reform proposed by the ordinary wage earner. It is a long list. The conservatives opposed child labor laws, the eight hour work day, the minimum wage, social security, the National Labor Relations Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, FHA mortgages, educational grants and loans, medicare, Job Corps, Head Start and many others besides. The conservative points to these reforms – after the fact – as proof of the “success” of capitalism. This is just another example of the mendacity of “economic man”. Before each of these reforms, they were roundly condemned by the conservative as “creeping socialism”.
Let me suggest a tactic for those of you on the left who are disgusted with the manipulative deceits of “economic man”. Tell the conservatives they were right all along. Child labor laws, the eight hour work day, social security and all the rest were “creeping socialism”, after all. They aren’t capitalism, at all. They undermine capitalism. Admit it – and box them right into a corner they can’t get out of. Use their own hyperbole against them. Tell them that the capitalism of “economic man” can’t properly function if wage earners organize and have a measure of political clout. The greed based system of exploitation, oppression and environmental destruction requires that wage earners be isolated from each other, alienated from the institutions and government that rule them, and as desperately poor as the system can make them. Confess all to the greedheads of corporate capitalism.
Don’t let them off the hook. They said those reforms were “socialism”. Well they were right. And just look at how successful this “creeping socialism” was. Look at how many unionized workers earn middle class wages. Look at how many non-unionized workers earn tolerable livings – thanks to the threat of unionization. Look at how many conservative Republicans live in houses financed with FHA mortgages. Look at how many Republican farmers benefit from agricultural subsidies and price supports. As Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, Trent Lott and the rest of the corporate fascists set about undoing all of this “socialism”, ask them how they plan to disempower labor, eliminate the social safety net, relax environmental regulations and create a society that is more prosperous than the Dickensian hell it was the last time we did things that way.
Now, they’re on the ropes. Move in for the knock out.
Be careful, now. “Economic man” still has some fight left him.
It seems that all of this “creeping socialism” of the “welfare state” has some drawbacks. It’s tax heavy for one thing. No one likes to pay taxes, conservatives. I damn sure don’t. It also requires heavy regulation. In the case of environmental regulation, we are talking about occasionally burdensome regulations. Lawn mowers in California require “spark” suppressors. Where I live, every vehicle has to meet rigid emissions controls – controls that impose a great cost on the most disadvantaged who tend to drive old cars.
The conservatives advance “free market” solutions to these problems. Don’t shrink from that suggestion. Yes, it’s a trick by the conservatives, but you can turn it around on them. In fact, “economic man” has just handed you the stake to drive through his heart.
You see, “free enterprise” isn’t capitalism. Capitalism is a distortion of “free enterprise”. It creates a selective “free market” – and systematically deprives the wage earner with any resources to meaningfully participate in that market place. It is true that “free market” ideology is used to justify the exploitation of labor. But that is only possible by artificially depressing the bargaining position of the wage earner. When the wage earner has the economic, social and political muscle to even things up, he does quite nicely, thank you very much. Maybe we can use a little free market initiative to get “economic man” off his back.
The conservatives were smiling. Now they’re getting nervous. Bend over conservatives, and take it like an “economic man”.
You see, we’re right back where we started – way up at the top of this web site. We’re back to renewable energy. Renewable energy will be the next major culture changing industry to emerge. Individual citizens – including conservative – will become independent energy producers. They will do so, because that is the only feasible way to make use of renewable energy. It simply has to be de-centralized – unless you want to dedicate the State of Nevada to solar panels. This will remove a huge component of the monthly expense for wage earners. Meanwhile, its ripple effects will boost investment capital held by those same wage earners, and drive down interest rates, resulting in further savings to the wage earner.
Meanwhile, improvements in the durability and quality of products will lengthen the buying cycle, further saving the wage earner. Soon, he will escape from the “debt treadmill”, establishing real economic independence – and the bargaining power that goes with it. Now, he can sit down at the bargaining table with the corporate capitalist and win real improvements in his wages, hours and working conditions. Eventually, he will take his newly earned pile of cash, and his technological sophistication and build his own business in micro-manufacturing or any number of other emerging “cottage industries”. He will do this in an economic environment that will require him to build partnerships with his work force. Work place democracy – naturally evolving in a free market environment – will become the order of the day.
All of these improvements in his bargaining position will take place in an industrial world less and less dependent on fossil fuels. In other words, the world is going to get cleaner. The new culture of durability will create a culture of self-sufficiency, making better use of existing resources. People with a new perception of the new theoretical “first human” – sociable man – will see human beings as assets to be developed, not pack animals to be exploited. This will create a world that places a premium on education – both general education and specialized training. When people are viewed as assets – as potential partners in the prosperity of society – poverty and ignorance will finally be seen for the colossal waste of human potential that they are. We will stop fearing the natural power of the wage earner who keeps everything working – yes conservatives, it is the wage earner who has the natural edge in the market place. We will get off his back, and let him – as Ronald Reagan, of all people said – “do what you do so well.” Only it isn’t the government we will be getting off his back. It is the power company, the bank and the entire corporate capitalist power structure.
The beauty of it is, free enterprise – with just a smidgen of government socialism, like subsidizing research and development into alternative energy [and that isn’t really necessary, it just speeds things up a bit] – will do the work. The wage earner will take care of himself – just like the conservatives claim to want.
How about it conservatives. Still like the “free market”?
In fact, we should finally see that the “free market” economy isn’t the natural product of greed and rapaciousness. It is the natural product of something much more fundamental. The “free market” is just a specialized application of that most natural human activity called social organization. As such, a business is nothing more than a specialized social organization for the production and distribution of goods and services. “Free enterprise” includes not just the freedom to organize a business organization, but the freedom to organize any other kind of organization – on any terms the participants wish to agree to. “Free enterprise” includes the organization of labor into unions – when they are necessary. It also includes the organization of labor into genuine workplace democracy. It implies having the basic resources and economic muscle to meaningfully bargain at a level negotiating table. Finally, it means grassroots political organization in a functioning democracy – where the government is recognized as having the legitimate power to build whatever economic and social infrastructure is necessary for broad-based prosperity. What government has no obligation to do is the one thing conservatives allow it to do. Government has no obligation to tilt the scales in favor of the already powerful. As prosperity and meaningful liberty take hold, jails, prisons, police forces and armies will give way to schools, transportation infrastructure, support for new clean industry and other useful public services designed to do things for people instead of doing things to them. Even the need for those services will diminish over time, as will the need for centralized political power.
There is nothing the conservatives can do to stop it. What are they going to do, outlaw residential power generation? Mandate that products not be designed to last too long? Place a ceiling on the level of technological sophistication in manufacturing? Prohibit “micro-breweries” and other micro-manufacturing? The only real weapon they have is manipulating interest rates and structural unemployment. But you’re on to them now, and you can vote. In fact, you can box them in on this issue. Just pick up the torch for a couple of conservative causes. Balance the budget, and pay down the national debt. This will help finance tax cuts. You conservatives want tax cuts, don’t you? Pay down the national debt, and 250 billion dollars are available for them. What’s the conservative going to say to that, “lets keep paying 250 billion dollars a year to rich people?” That’s exactly what he wants to do, but he’s got more sense than to say it out loud.
Soon, there will be nowhere the conservative corporate power structure can hide. They will get off your back, or you will soon have the power to throw them off – creating a new world of freedom, equality, democracy and environmental sustainability.
Ultimately, this new world results from recognizing a new and more accurate model of “human nature” that I call “sociable man.” As for “economic man”, he is dying. He may die hard – Hitler didn’t quit until the Russians were eating lunch in the Reichstag. His death throes may be violent. But die, he will. In fact, “economic man” is on life support, as we speak.
Beginning with individual renewable energy, let’s pull the plug on the greedy old bastard.