Another week with a plethora of items indicating that something is wrong with the world, somewhere and somehow, but nobody seems able to pinpoint what or how to solve it, at least not without the Just Third Way, which doesn’t seem to fit into most people’s paradigms. From “the JTW Perspective,” however, what to do about these situations becomes obvious:
• Bernie Sanders and Ownership? It might sound good at first hearing, “but.” According to the e-newsletter of the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO), Senator Sanders is proposing two measures to help spread employee ownership. As the NCEO reported, “Sen. Sanders is working on a new proposal under which large businesses would make mandatory contributions of stock to worker-controlled funds, which would pay annual dividends to workers. The mandatory ownership fund echoes a similar proposal by the UK Labour Party. Sanders is also planning to propose that some corporations be required to provide board seats to workers, and on June 5 he attended the Walmart shareholder meeting to argue that the company should provide board seats to hourly workers.” We see a problem with the “mandatory contribution” proposal, in that it destroys private property in order to create private property. If owners can be forced to contribute what they own to be controlled by others, did they really own in the first place? And if the new owners only own because others were forced to give up ownership, what is to stop the authorities from taking ownership from them, as well? About the requirement to provide board seats to workers, yes, but without specifics, all we can give is a cautious “It sounds like a good idea, but what do you mean by it? Is it a board seat the way the worker ownership you propose is real ownership?”
• Stock Giveaways? In the same issue of the NCEO Bulletin, there was a story about Mark Cuban, an entrepreneur who has appeared on Shark Tank, who says employers should give (our emphasis) stock to workers. No, a giveaway is a gift. Companies should sell stock to workers, to be paid for out of future profits Everyone has a natural right to be an owner. There is no natural right to receive gifts.
|"Do you want fries with that?"|
• RoboMac. According to today’s Wall Street Journal, “McDonald’s Corp. is designing voice-activated drive-throughs and robotic deep fryers as the burger giant works to streamline its menu and operations to speed up service.” (Wall Street Journal, “To Speed Up, McDonald’s Enlists Robots,” 06/21/19, B-3.) Somewhat deeper in the article is the mention of the movement to raise the minimum wage, which might actually be the primary motive for automation. As Jean-Baptiste Say noted over two centuries ago, no businessman is going to purchase machinery unless it can do something less expansively than labor — and raising the minimum wage provides a tremendous incentive to replace human workers with robots. Of course, thinking it through, one realizes what the late Walter Reuther recognized as the chief problem underlying the replacement of human beings with robots. Reuther toured a Ford plant that had become largely automated and was twitted by the Ford executive giving him the tour, “You’ll have a hard time collecting union dues from those machines, Walter.” Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers, responded instantly, “You’ll have an even harder time selling them automobiles.” Of course, Louis O. Kelso gave the solution in a 1964 interview in Life magazine, “If the Machine Wants Our Job, Let’s Buy It.” If workers owned the machines that were putting them out of work, it wouldn’t matter, because the income generated by the machines would go to the workers who would spend it on consumption.
|Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.|
• Fed Wants Lower Interest Rates. The only word that pops into our head on this one is . . . why? Why is the Fed setting interest rates in a presumably free market economy? Why do they think manipulating the cost of something or setting prices does anything good? Why do they think that any monetary policy other than providing a stable (stop laughing), uniform, elastic, and asset-backed (again, please keep your laughter to a minimum; people are trying to sleep) reserve currency and enforcing contracts is going to do anything other than cause chaos? Why do they keep confusing speculative gains on Wall Street with economic growth? Why do they think they need inflation? Why don’t they listen to the common sense of Capital Homesteading?
• Dependency Forced on Somalia. In the Washington Post of 06/18/19, A-13, “U.S. is Pouring Millions Into Somalia Despite Concerns Over Aid Dependency” raises concerns about making a country (and, presumably, its people) dependent on foreign aid for subsistence. Frankly, this is also U.S. domestic policy in which, instead of instituting a Capital Homesteading program to make people (and countries) productive and so able to help themselves, all the focus is on providing government assistance for the basics of life. There clearly needs to be a reorientation, both domestically and internationally.
|"The purpose of production is consumption."|
• Higher Education in Question. We received Warren Treadgold’s The University We Need (2019) and Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education (2018). Both question not merely the utility of higher education, but its quality and even meaning. They make an interesting case for returning education to its primary purpose of . . . educating.
• Investors Buying Homes. This is another rather equivocal concept: investing in homes. If it’s your primary dwelling, it’s not really an investment except in broad terms, as you have to live somewhere. If it’s rental property it’s a true investment, but not really a home except for somebody else. What these so-called investors are doing is really speculating, as an article in today’s Wall Street Journal makes clear: “Investors Buy Homes at Unparalleled Rate (06/21/19, A-1, A-2). This drives home Adam Smith’s first principle of economics from The Wealth of Nations: “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production.”
• Shop online and support CESJ’s work! Did you know that by making your purchases through the Amazon Smile program, Amazon will make a contribution to CESJ? Here’s how: First, go to https://smile.amazon.com/. Next, sign in to your Amazon account. (If you don’t have an account with Amazon, you can create one by clicking on the tiny little link below the “Sign in using our secure server” button.) Once you have signed into your account, you need to select CESJ as your charity — and you have to be careful to do it exactly this way: in the space provided for “Or select your own charitable organization” type “Center for Economic and Social Justice Arlington.” If you type anything else, you will either get no results or more than you want to sift through. Once you’ve typed (or copied and pasted) “Center for Economic and Social Justice Arlington” into the space provided, hit “Select” — and you will be taken to the Amazon shopping site, all ready to go.
• Blog Readership. We have had visitors from 31 different countries and 45 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, India, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “The Four Faces of Socialism: Philanthropy,” “Christianity and Democracy,” “Social Justice IV: The Characteristics of Social Justice,” “The Four Faces of Socialism: The Essence of Socialism,” and “News from the Network, Vol. 12, No. 24.”
Those are the happenings for this week, at least those that we know about. If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we’ll see that it gets into the next “issue.” If you have a short (250-400 word) comment on a specific posting, please enter your comments in the blog — do not send them to us to post for you. All comments are moderated, so we’ll see it before it goes up.