Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Evaluating Marx on Business Infrastructure

It will be said of Marx, I think, that his biggest flaw was to fail tounderstand that the capitalists could be dealt with like a frog in boilingwater. In many areas, the slow hand of socialism is covering the civilizedworld, and given my concerns about the alternative, I'm not complaining toomuch. Who could have thought that a system, capitalist on the small scale,would end up socialist on the large? If Marx is right, we'll start to seesmall-scale socialism slowly rewriting bits of society's DNA, replacingcorporations with collectives, progressively less capitalistic. Is AAAan example? Perhaps. Of course, the pace of thtis transition is hard to seeon the small scale -- small gains or losses one year are swept away inlarger overall trends, making it very hard to tell if it's going thatdirection or not.. perhaps 'tell' and 'define' become blended, asinstantaneous slope becomes less interesting than the integral, and theintegral's integral. Ahh, reader, I'm not going to cover the entire topicof my subject.. rather, some observations.. Some of the more interestingparts of Marx's writings to me concern the rightness of ways wealth isdistributed from business to its employees. Marx provides us a intermoralframework, designed to compete with a now common 'take it or leave it'framework part of contract theory. I must confess a kneejerk instinct toprefer the capitalist theory, but let's take a look at the other.. Marxclaims that it's typically the most 'base' workers who generate the valuefor a company, and that management and ownership are superfluous, and deservenone of the profits. Marx's intuitions here are generally correct, I think,although he goes too far. For large efforts, some amount of infrastructure isneeded, and said employees perform a needed purpose. However, from Marx'sperspective, we can make two objections, firstly that large infrastructureis unnecessary in post-capitalist societies, and secondly that infrastructureemployees (managers and the like) abuse their power, taking far more than theirshare of power and wealth from the company than is their due by skills andfunction. I'm not certain how to address the first -- it seems possible to methat smaller orders of social arrangement might be less dehumanizing withouta substantial loss of functionality, but it's more an engineering questionthan a theoretical one. The second objection, by contrast, seems to me to befundamentally correct - companies treat non-structural employees as otherresources, to be disposed of when unneeded, or when politics dictate. Itseems unusual to me that managing and hiring/firing/salary issues come inthe same bundle. Do unions do a good job of handling the issues? No.. theyhave little stake in the health of the company, so they can't be the arbitersof these things, although on the surface, the tension between them andmanagement seems to at least impose a cost on dumb management decisions,forging an accidental comprimise that might approximate theoretical bettersolutions. Often these kinds of tensions act to make people behave 'well enough'that, provided the tension remains stable, no better solution is very pressing,as is the current state of the economic structure at large. Having touched onthat, let's look at some businesses that'd do well to be much more communal --coffeeshops. For regular customers of coffeeshops, there are a number of thingsthat make a coffeeshop interesting -- location, cost, quality of coffee, employees, and a number of little things. The last two are particularly ofinterest to us -- coffeeshops that have cool employees are much more enjoyableto visit, and often there are 'little things' about a coffeeshop, usuallydesigned/done by said employees, because they feel they have a stake or personaltie to the business, that make it worthwhile. This is often true of smallrestaurants too. This personal tie is priceless -- it can make or break abusiness, and it cannot be bought or made part of a job description. Individualtouches may have no place in big business, but if that's true, it's a weakness.I would like to see small businesses offer their employees a personal stakein business, perhaps by offering 1% of net profit to each employee, and givingthem real voice in decisions, with long-term people actually being givena part of the business. In the end, it would also be nice to see somesmall businesses and restaurants owned by employee collectives, perhapsreserving some money to fund other collectives elsewhere.

Note that tonight's entry was split over several hours -- I upgraded myserver from RedHat 8 to Fedora 1, and I had to turn off some services andspend some time on that.. but the upgrade went surprisingly easy.

A bad I previously only liked strongly for one song, Eels, has somemusic videos on their site for viewing..And so it looks like I like some of their other stuff... maybe I should godig the CD of theirs I have back out and give the other tracks another listen..The song I liked, BTW, is "Last Stop: This Town", and the strange video from itis on the site too..

This is bizarre and wrong.This is interesting and informative.This is a good rant.This is neat to see online.

Dean has a foreign policy, or the beginnings of one, anyhow.This is good to see. I'd like to see the actual text of the speech though --the details are important. At the end of the article is a blurb about thatgeneral guy talking about foreign policy, suggesting a new cold war againstthe middle east. Dumb.

It's good to know that religious people are above pissing contests, andwould never resort to personal attacks.

I want.


Tags: philosophy, politics, tech

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