Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Tue Dec 16 20:37:45 2003
Evaluating Marx on Business Infrastructure

It will be said of Marx, I think, that his biggest flaw was to fail to understand that the capitalists could be dealt with like a frog in boiling water. In many areas, the slow hand of socialism is covering the civilized world, and given my concerns about the alternative, I'm not complaining too much. 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 see small-scale socialism slowly rewriting bits of society's DNA, replacing corporations with collectives, progressively less capitalistic. Is AAA an example? Perhaps. Of course, the pace of thtis transition is hard to see on the small scale -- small gains or losses one year are swept away in larger overall trends, making it very hard to tell if it's going that direction or not.. perhaps 'tell' and 'define' become blended, as instantaneous slope becomes less interesting than the integral, and the integral's integral. Ahh, reader, I'm not going to cover the entire topic of my subject.. rather, some observations.. Some of the more interesting parts of Marx's writings to me concern the rightness of ways wealth is distributed from business to its employees. Marx provides us a intermoral framework, designed to compete with a now common 'take it or leave it' framework part of contract theory. I must confess a kneejerk instinct to prefer the capitalist theory, but let's take a look at the other.. Marx claims that it's typically the most 'base' workers who generate the value for a company, and that management and ownership are superfluous, and deserve none of the profits. Marx's intuitions here are generally correct, I think, although he goes too far. For large efforts, some amount of infrastructure is needed, and said employees perform a needed purpose. However, from Marx's perspective, we can make two objections, firstly that large infrastructure is unnecessary in post-capitalist societies, and secondly that infrastructure employees (managers and the like) abuse their power, taking far more than their share of power and wealth from the company than is their due by skills and function. I'm not certain how to address the first -- it seems possible to me that smaller orders of social arrangement might be less dehumanizing without a substantial loss of functionality, but it's more an engineering question than a theoretical one. The second objection, by contrast, seems to me to be fundamentally correct - companies treat non-structural employees as other resources, to be disposed of when unneeded, or when politics dictate. It seems unusual to me that managing and hiring/firing/salary issues come in the same bundle. Do unions do a good job of handling the issues? No.. they have little stake in the health of the company, so they can't be the arbiters of these things, although on the surface, the tension between them and management seems to at least impose a cost on dumb management decisions, forging an accidental comprimise that might approximate theoretical better solutions. 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 on that, 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 things that make a coffeeshop interesting -- location, cost, quality of coffee, employees, and a number of little things. The last two are particularly of interest to us -- coffeeshops that have cool employees are much more enjoyable to visit, and often there are 'little things' about a coffeeshop, usually designed/done by said employees, because they feel they have a stake or personal tie to the business, that make it worthwhile. This is often true of small restaurants too. This personal tie is priceless -- it can make or break a business, and it cannot be bought or made part of a job description. Individual touches 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 stake in business, perhaps by offering 1% of net profit to each employee, and giving them real voice in decisions, with long-term people actually being given a part of the business. In the end, it would also be nice to see some small businesses and restaurants owned by employee collectives, perhaps reserving some money to fund other collectives elsewhere.

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

A bad I previously only liked strongly for one song, Eels, has some music videos on their site for viewing.. And so it looks like I like some of their other stuff... maybe I should go dig 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 it is 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 that general guy talking about foreign policy, suggesting a new cold war against the middle east. Dumb.

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

I want.