Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Inexorable March Towards Freedom, Part 1

I was a communist while I was in business school. Those who've gotten to know me in the years since then might be shocked by that statement (given my current worldview), and those who don't know me might be confused, given that I was a business student while espousing an anti-profit ideology. Well, it didn't make sense, that's true. But I was happy to believe that everybody in the world could live the same way, and in some sort of utopic, ambition-free, hedonistic paradise, if only some people wouldn't be so GREEDY, and SELFISH, and RELIGIOUS. I never really thought too much about how the greedy, selfish, religious people out there could be made to agree with me. Now I know how that's being attempted, but more on that later.

When I was a communist, I didn't believe in profit. Business school taught me how to make one though, even while hiding from me the reason why I OUGHT to make a profit. Because of that, I started my career in business (working for 'big oil', no less) with a big guilt complex. My ideology, and that of roughly half of the general population, instructed me to believe that profit was bad, and that I was exploiting people by demanding one. Thus, I found it easy to be seduced by the ideas floated by the liberal government of the day - higher taxes, gas company collusion probes, environmental accords, recycling cults, welfare programs for the poor, etc.

When I was a communist, I didn't believe in God. My replacement for God was the movement towards organized society, and egalitarianism. As a communist, I felt guilty about Christianity's (the religion of my childhood) impact on the world, because it didn't seem like a fair religion in its dealings with non-believers. It was imperialistic and aggressive - and it had many sins to account for as a result.

A communist has some maxims to live by. Marx was fond of telling his sheep 'from each according to ability, to each according to need'. Others have used variations on 'for the good of society, ahead of the good of the individual.' There are some tools that can be used to leverage these ideas into social change that will theoretically, gradually, win wide social acceptance for the foundations of a communist society. Those are multiculturalism, relativism, and the stigmatization of exploitation.

Multiculturalism and relativism are cousins. Multiculturalism is the idea that cultures are different, but equally important in their contribution to the fabric of a society. Relativism substitutes cultures with ideas, and claims that ideas, in addition to being equally important, are equal in their moral content. Thus, no discrimination should be made between cultures, or between ideas.

Exploitation is the essence of profit. When you make a deal with somebody for an exchange of one type of good with another type of good (ie. your labour for your boss's money), you are out to obtain the maximum advantage that you can for your self. That is exploitation. When you are a boss, and you must find a way to sell a type of good for a profit, you must be seeking to exploit either: a labour pool, and/or a resource pool. This all seems logical. But when exploitation is stigmatized, then the profit motive is stigmatized as well. Thus, the profit motive should not be employed, because it exploits others either directly, or indirectly through the exploitation of resources; which by degrading the environment is detrimental to the greater good.

So, multiculturalism is the lever that was meant to persuade society to believe in the equality of all people. Relativism is the lever that was meant to persuade society to believe that Christianity is no more morally correct than Paganism, or Atheism, or Statism, or any other religion. The stigmatization of the term 'exploitation' is the lever that would try to persuade society to believe that the profit motive was just another way that individuals could act against the greater good.

And for a while, it worked on me, in addition to millions of others in this country, and billions more in other Western nations who had previously thought they'd slayed communism.

To be continued.....


manalogue said...

So you believe there is nothing wrong with exploitation?

You confuse exploitation with reward. Getting objectively paid for a days work in my opinion is reward. As soon as the reward is unfair, which it often is in free markets, employers and business owners exploit workers. These indivuduals' efforts contribute to the success of others, therefore they deserve just payment. Workers are not sacrifices and should be paid accordingly.

Rocketman1200 said...

ah. but exploitation is a two-way street. Workers exploit their employers for the best possible wage they can obtain, and employers exploit their workers for the lowest wage they can pay.

As to being 'objectively' rewarded, who is responsible for setting the levels of compensation if it is neither employer nor employee?

manalogue said...

You really think employers paying an employee is being exploited? In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada a single mother working in a fastfood chain for example is by no means exploiting either the management of the establisment or the franchise which makes millions.

The same can be said when comparing any clothing manufacturer which outsources labour to a "developing country." The labourers sewing your and my gitch are not exploiting the management at the factory nor are they exploiting the franchise.

While I agree that those who start business should be rewarded for their efforts, the monetary gain for these ventures should not come at the expense of the employees. Specifically large multinationals that make millions while paying some employees pennies a day is not fair.

rp said...

But it can still go both ways. You're looking at the "bottom rung" of the ladder, but what about the average employee? Software developers have lots of opportunity in places like Waterloo, so employers have to pay above their worth in order to keep them.
Salesmen can make rockstar salaries if they choose the right industry and know what they're doing.
Side note: I believed in communism too until earlier this year, when a group of delegates from a certain communist country approached my company interested in our product. Later in the meeting, a few of the government officials asked us if we would allow *their own companies* to be resellers; these officials had private businesses running on the side, selling things to the government. The beautiful women hanging off of their arms were somewhat of a distraction, but I still came to realize that these guys are just as crooked as any capitalist; only theirs is a much larger resource pool to exploit.

Rocketman1200 said...

there's no reason why that fastfood worker has to stay in that job. And by the way, the starting wage at Tim Hortons is like 9 bucks now. If you work at a gas station and you're a good employee, you can make more than that. And trust me, the work that you're doing at a burger joint or a gas station is pretty low value. I'd say that the exchange is fair.