The Problem With [Philanthropy]

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  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    edited January 2
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    again, this is an argument from abstract theory.

    In theory, yeah, money is "a representation of value."

    In actual practice, in the context of a market society that does not provide a base level of living to its populace, that theory breaks down and you have to engage with how it is being used by the populace. And it is regularly used as a method of control and execution of power on the part of those with money.

    It doesn't matter if the intended purpose is some value neutral whatever when that breaks down and changes function the moment you actually put it into the system with human actors who don't give a fuck about the "intended purpose of money"

    You have to engage with actual reality, and not ideal theory!

    It's also worth noting that money (particularly modern day fiat currency) is an organic system grown from thousands of individual legal and economic and political decisions that have shaped it into the thing it is today over centuries. Any theory of money that exists today is an attempt to describe it, not necessarily the true ground principles upon which it actually operates. Economics is full of spherical cows.

    EDIT: That said, I should acknowledge I am bringing my own spherical cows into the pasture.

    Winky on
    Heffling
  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    All of your examples do not require money to be the source of power. It's sort of semantic argument though. Power is exerted by controlling the things a person wants/needs. In a currency economy I can control how much food or goods you can get by controlling how much money you have, but I can also control that in say a barter economy by controlling how much you have to barter with. You give me labor I give you a set amount of goods/services. No money required, yet I can still exert power by changing how much goods/services I provide for a fixed amount of labor. Money is just a medium.

    Those who control access to things people want/need will always have power over other people. That is a fundamental truth.

    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
    shrykeIncenjucarHefflingGnome-Interruptus
  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    Your example is too simplistic though. The wealthy individual can not work all of the farms themselves, they are reliant on labor. As the other farmers decide they want more, they can demand a larger share of the profits (in the form of higher salaries), and the wealthy land owner must pay it, or their land will also be useless.

    I'm not saying being wealthy isn't advantageous. I think everyone would agree that it takes money to make money, and that wealth growth is not linear. But I also don't think it is indentured servitude to work for a salary rather than profits of a company. I think that can be a very successful economic model (as it has been for much of america's history). And I think there are downsides to profit sharing instead of salaries (for example, as feral pointed out, you now share in profits when things are good, and lack of profits when things are bad).

    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
    Gnome-Interruptus
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    again, this is an argument from abstract theory.

    In theory, yeah, money is "a representation of value."

    In actual practice, in the context of a market society that does not provide a base level of living to its populace, that theory breaks down and you have to engage with how it is being used by the populace. And it is regularly used as a method of control and execution of power on the part of those with money.

    It doesn't matter if the intended purpose is some value neutral whatever when that breaks down and changes function the moment you actually put it into the system with human actors who don't give a fuck about the "intended purpose of money"

    You have to engage with actual reality, and not ideal hypotheticals!

    That's why we have this thread to begin with, because billionaires use the power their money affords them to execute power according to their desires without democratic accountability in influencing the course of a shared society!

    I'm not dealing in hypotheticals. This is not abstract theory. Money is a representation of value and means of exchange. That's what it is.

    Your problem is assigning the blame to the wrong thing. Money is used as a means of control, but so are other things, including anything money represents. That's the point. Money isn't needed to do any of these things you are complaining about. It's just an efficient means of representing the
    things that would be used otherwise. That is actual reality.

    HefflingJebus314
  • WhiteZinfandelWhiteZinfandel Registered User regular
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    again, this is an argument from abstract theory.

    In theory, yeah, money is "a representation of value."

    In actual practice, in the context of a market society that does not provide a base level of living to its populace, that theory breaks down and you have to engage with how it is being used by the populace. And it is regularly used as a method of control and execution of power on the part of those with money.

    It doesn't matter if the intended purpose is some value neutral whatever when that breaks down and changes function the moment you actually put it into the system with human actors who don't give a fuck about the "intended purpose of money"

    You have to engage with actual reality, and not ideal hypotheticals!

    That's why we have this thread to begin with, because billionaires use the power their money affords them to execute power according to their desires without democratic accountability in influencing the course of a shared society!

    You're talking around shryke's (actual, real) point: money is only an efficient, standardized marker of value and therefore power and influence. Doing away with the marker doesn't have any effect on the thing it represents. Yes, the wealthiest have disproportionate power in society. So do the most beautiful models. So do the most clever inventors. So do the most persuasive orators.

    shrykeFeralHefflingJebus314
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    Again, this is worth breaking into its own thread, but to quote Banks "Money is a sign of poverty".

    At least in the current system we live in (there are potential ways to have a currency system that avoid these problems), the end result of our money system is to distinguish people who are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not. As a fiat currency, the only way in which the value of money is maintained is through the use of violence (US law ensures that violence will be used to back your right to your own assets, liquid or otherwise, in accordance with the law of the state/country). So in a very real sense the value of a dollar is that you are physically forced to respect it (if you don't, you will fall on the wrong side of the law), and that's fundamentally where it derives its stability and therefore value as a currency from. And, mind you, if you do not have money, you must starve or otherwise be severely limited in your ability to carry out basic life functions. There is no sense in which anyone can opt out from the repercussions of our economic system. Even the land itself is owned, taxed, and must yield interest or else put you deeper into debt.

    What in the hell are you talking about? Fiat currency is only maintained through violence? This is nonsense. Money is not a system to distinguish those are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not, it's a representation of those who have resources and in what quantities, as determined by the value of that money.

    But the basic point, again, is that trying to blame money is just silly. Inequality predates money and would still be around if you eliminated it. Money is not the source of the problems y'all keep harping on about.

  • LanzLanz Registered User regular
    edited January 3
    I don't think we're trying to "blame money" here,

    we're just describing how it's used in American society: a tool, and a useful one. But our society is built up entirely around access to it in order to live your life and not die of starvation or disease in a gutter.

    This is the core of my problem with Heffling's post that sent us on this tangent, that somehow we aren't being compelled to take part in a monetary society. There's nowhere near enough land exists that is free of charge to live on for anyone if this country, if they wanted, to opt out of said monetary society. There's too many people, not enough land and what land there is would require payment for it's use or ownership in order to live free of needing to have money

    This isn't to assign... blame(?) to money, or whatever it is you think we're doing. This is arguing against Heffling's point that somehow we aren't compelled by the interplay of life's necessities and market reality to access nesecessary resources like food, water, medicine or shelter.

    You need money to access those things, you need it to fucking live. That's why it is going to hold power over you.

    Lanz on
    waNkm4k.jpg?1
    Julius
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    edited January 3
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    again, this is an argument from abstract theory.

    In theory, yeah, money is "a representation of value."

    In actual practice, in the context of a market society that does not provide a base level of living to its populace, that theory breaks down and you have to engage with how it is being used by the populace. And it is regularly used as a method of control and execution of power on the part of those with money.

    It doesn't matter if the intended purpose is some value neutral whatever when that breaks down and changes function the moment you actually put it into the system with human actors who don't give a fuck about the "intended purpose of money"

    You have to engage with actual reality, and not ideal hypotheticals!

    That's why we have this thread to begin with, because billionaires use the power their money affords them to execute power according to their desires without democratic accountability in influencing the course of a shared society!

    You're talking around shryke's (actual, real) point: money is only an efficient, standardized marker of value and therefore power and influence. Doing away with the marker doesn't have any effect on the thing it represents. Yes, the wealthiest have disproportionate power in society. So do the most beautiful models. So do the most clever inventors. So do the most persuasive orators.

    And given it is the most basic lever of power in our society, we should focus on what it means when its regular use results in a massively unequal distribution. Money is corrosive of all other values and powers in society because it is the thing that feeds and houses and clothes us.

    Something important about money, as a store of value and means of exchange, all of its properties are determined by law and regulation. There is no aspect of our current system of currency that is a necessary quality of systems of currency. We direct how it can be used, when it will be respected as legal tender, we set central interest rates, we tax it. The idea that "having a medium of exchange didn't cause our problems" is completely trivial. Of course it didn't. It is literally every other aspect and assumption that we have built into money and our system of capital that is the problem. No one here is confusing the symbol with the thing it symbolizes. Our problem is very directly with the thing it symbolizes.

    Edit: A dollar by any other name...

    Winky on
    Taranis
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't think we're "trying to blame money" here

    We're just describing how money is used in actual American society. It is a tool, and a useful one, but our society is built up entirely around access to it in order to live your life and not die of starvation or disease in some gutter somewhere (preferably out of sight, so no one has to be disturbed by your suffering whilst going about their day).

    That was the core of my problem with Heffling's point that somehow we are not compelled to participate in a monetary society. There isn't anywhere near enough land existing free of charge where anyone in this country, if they wanted, could opt out of a monetary society. There's too many people, not enough land, and what land there is would likely require you to pay for it with, you know, money.

    This isn't to assign blame to money or whatever you're thinking we're doing. This is to argue against the idea Heffling presented that somehow we are not compelled by the interplay of the necessities of life and the realities of the market to access the resources to meet those needs to deal with a monetary society.

    And because of that, yeah, money is going to have power and influence over your life, because you fucking need it to live.

    And if money wasn't there, you would still need the stuff it currently represents to live. Money is not the problem. Money is what is used now, but it is not the source of the phenomenon you are talking about.

  • LanzLanz Registered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't think we're "trying to blame money" here

    We're just describing how money is used in actual American society. It is a tool, and a useful one, but our society is built up entirely around access to it in order to live your life and not die of starvation or disease in some gutter somewhere (preferably out of sight, so no one has to be disturbed by your suffering whilst going about their day).

    That was the core of my problem with Heffling's point that somehow we are not compelled to participate in a monetary society. There isn't anywhere near enough land existing free of charge where anyone in this country, if they wanted, could opt out of a monetary society. There's too many people, not enough land, and what land there is would likely require you to pay for it with, you know, money.

    This isn't to assign blame to money or whatever you're thinking we're doing. This is to argue against the idea Heffling presented that somehow we are not compelled by the interplay of the necessities of life and the realities of the market to access the resources to meet those needs to deal with a monetary society.

    And because of that, yeah, money is going to have power and influence over your life, because you fucking need it to live.

    And if money wasn't there, you would still need the stuff it currently represents to live. Money is not the problem. Money is what is used now, but it is not the source of the phenomenon you are talking about.

    Here was the thing Heffling said:
    There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Their argument was that mone does not have power because "there is nothing that compels you as an individual to participate" in a monetary society.

    Which is... well, bogus. Your need for the necessities of life compel you, because not everyone can somehow, as suggested, go off the grid and opt out of a money-based society. There just aren't the resources to support it thanks to how we've organized the country and awarded ownership of those resources.

    I'm not arguing "MONEY BAD" or whatever it is you've gotten out of this. I'm arguing that in a monetary society, money is power. You can't just opt out of it, not like Heffling was claiming you could.

    waNkm4k.jpg?1
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    Again, this is worth breaking into its own thread, but to quote Banks "Money is a sign of poverty".

    At least in the current system we live in (there are potential ways to have a currency system that avoid these problems), the end result of our money system is to distinguish people who are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not. As a fiat currency, the only way in which the value of money is maintained is through the use of violence (US law ensures that violence will be used to back your right to your own assets, liquid or otherwise, in accordance with the law of the state/country). So in a very real sense the value of a dollar is that you are physically forced to respect it (if you don't, you will fall on the wrong side of the law), and that's fundamentally where it derives its stability and therefore value as a currency from. And, mind you, if you do not have money, you must starve or otherwise be severely limited in your ability to carry out basic life functions. There is no sense in which anyone can opt out from the repercussions of our economic system. Even the land itself is owned, taxed, and must yield interest or else put you deeper into debt.

    What in the hell are you talking about? Fiat currency is only maintained through violence? This is nonsense. Money is not a system to distinguish those are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not, it's a representation of those who have resources and in what quantities, as determined by the value of that money.

    But the basic point, again, is that trying to blame money is just silly. Inequality predates money and would still be around if you eliminated it. Money is not the source of the problems y'all keep harping on about.

    Shryke what stops me from taking these resources you have? What stops me from walking up to a billionaire's home and walking off with his wallet?

  • LanzLanz Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

    Just uh

    outta curiousity on Shryke's thing here

    under a system of employee-ownership and management, how do "Certain individuals" "claim a larger portion of the profits"?

    What is the mechanism through which these "certain individuals" and furthermore, who are they?

    waNkm4k.jpg?1
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't think we're "trying to blame money" here

    We're just describing how money is used in actual American society. It is a tool, and a useful one, but our society is built up entirely around access to it in order to live your life and not die of starvation or disease in some gutter somewhere (preferably out of sight, so no one has to be disturbed by your suffering whilst going about their day).

    That was the core of my problem with Heffling's point that somehow we are not compelled to participate in a monetary society. There isn't anywhere near enough land existing free of charge where anyone in this country, if they wanted, could opt out of a monetary society. There's too many people, not enough land, and what land there is would likely require you to pay for it with, you know, money.

    This isn't to assign blame to money or whatever you're thinking we're doing. This is to argue against the idea Heffling presented that somehow we are not compelled by the interplay of the necessities of life and the realities of the market to access the resources to meet those needs to deal with a monetary society.

    And because of that, yeah, money is going to have power and influence over your life, because you fucking need it to live.

    And if money wasn't there, you would still need the stuff it currently represents to live. Money is not the problem. Money is what is used now, but it is not the source of the phenomenon you are talking about.

    You are using a trivial definition of money.

  • LanzLanz Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't think we're "trying to blame money" here

    We're just describing how money is used in actual American society. It is a tool, and a useful one, but our society is built up entirely around access to it in order to live your life and not die of starvation or disease in some gutter somewhere (preferably out of sight, so no one has to be disturbed by your suffering whilst going about their day).

    That was the core of my problem with Heffling's point that somehow we are not compelled to participate in a monetary society. There isn't anywhere near enough land existing free of charge where anyone in this country, if they wanted, could opt out of a monetary society. There's too many people, not enough land, and what land there is would likely require you to pay for it with, you know, money.

    This isn't to assign blame to money or whatever you're thinking we're doing. This is to argue against the idea Heffling presented that somehow we are not compelled by the interplay of the necessities of life and the realities of the market to access the resources to meet those needs to deal with a monetary society.

    And because of that, yeah, money is going to have power and influence over your life, because you fucking need it to live.

    And if money wasn't there, you would still need the stuff it currently represents to live. Money is not the problem. Money is what is used now, but it is not the source of the phenomenon you are talking about.

    You are using a trivial definition of money.

    I'm still not sure why people think we're arguing against the existence of money, instead of analyzing and critiquing how it functions in a Capitalist society that doesn't meet the basic necessities of life for it's populace and how those power dynamics shake out in practice.


    Like I'm not going into the fucking economics of the future here[/picard voice]

    waNkm4k.jpg?1
    Winky
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

    But you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop. In fact, frequently you don't. Companies don't fire everyone the second profits go down.

    And in so much as that is a thing that can occur, that's not a problem of bad management, not a lack of profit-sharing. They can still fire your ass if profits are down even while you are sharing in those now diminished profits and plenty of companies with a standard salaried employee relationship can simply ride out some bad years without letting anyone go because they know they're prospects will improve in the future. It's fairly independent of having a stake in the profits of the company. Much less so, I would say, in workers having representation in corporate leadership, but I think that's actually often a good idea and Feral says so above too.

  • LanzLanz Registered User regular
    edited January 3
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

    But you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop. In fact, frequently you don't. Companies don't fire everyone the second profits go down.

    And in so much as that is a thing that can occur, that's not a problem of bad management, not a lack of profit-sharing. They can still fire your ass if profits are down even while you are sharing in those now diminished profits and plenty of companies with a standard salaried employee relationship can simply ride out some bad years without letting anyone go because they know they're prospects will improve in the future. It's fairly independent of having a stake in the profits of the company. Much less so, I would say, in workers having representation in corporate leadership, but I think that's actually often a good idea and Feral says so above too.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gopro-predicts-profit-thanks-to-massive-layoffs-2019-02-06

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/21/falling-profit-margins-raise-some-alarm-it-can-be-a-precursor-to-layoffs-and-a-recession.html

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/23/580029629/kimberly-clark-announces-layoffs-along-with-3-3-billion-in-operating-profit

    And there's more than just those.

    Lanz on
    waNkm4k.jpg?1
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    Again, this is worth breaking into its own thread, but to quote Banks "Money is a sign of poverty".

    At least in the current system we live in (there are potential ways to have a currency system that avoid these problems), the end result of our money system is to distinguish people who are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not. As a fiat currency, the only way in which the value of money is maintained is through the use of violence (US law ensures that violence will be used to back your right to your own assets, liquid or otherwise, in accordance with the law of the state/country). So in a very real sense the value of a dollar is that you are physically forced to respect it (if you don't, you will fall on the wrong side of the law), and that's fundamentally where it derives its stability and therefore value as a currency from. And, mind you, if you do not have money, you must starve or otherwise be severely limited in your ability to carry out basic life functions. There is no sense in which anyone can opt out from the repercussions of our economic system. Even the land itself is owned, taxed, and must yield interest or else put you deeper into debt.

    What in the hell are you talking about? Fiat currency is only maintained through violence? This is nonsense. Money is not a system to distinguish those are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not, it's a representation of those who have resources and in what quantities, as determined by the value of that money.

    But the basic point, again, is that trying to blame money is just silly. Inequality predates money and would still be around if you eliminated it. Money is not the source of the problems y'all keep harping on about.

    Shryke what stops me from taking these resources you have? What stops me from walking up to a billionaire's home and walking off with his wallet?

    The same thing that stops you under literally any system.

  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

    But you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop. In fact, frequently you don't. Companies don't fire everyone the second profits go down.

    And in so much as that is a thing that can occur, that's not a problem of bad management, not a lack of profit-sharing. They can still fire your ass if profits are down even while you are sharing in those now diminished profits and plenty of companies with a standard salaried employee relationship can simply ride out some bad years without letting anyone go because they know they're prospects will improve in the future. It's fairly independent of having a stake in the profits of the company. Much less so, I would say, in workers having representation in corporate leadership, but I think that's actually often a good idea and Feral says so above too.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gopro-predicts-profit-thanks-to-massive-layoffs-2019-02-06

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/21/falling-profit-margins-raise-some-alarm-it-can-be-a-precursor-to-layoffs-and-a-recession.html

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/23/580029629/kimberly-clark-announces-layoffs-along-with-3-3-billion-in-operating-profit

    And there's more than just those.

    And nothing there argues against anything I said. That's what you are missing.


    Lanz wrote: »
    Just uh

    outta curiousity on Shryke's thing here

    under a system of employee-ownership and management, how do "Certain individuals" "claim a larger portion of the profits"?

    What is the mechanism through which these "certain individuals" and furthermore, who are they?

    The same way someone claims a larger salary.

  • SleepSleep Registered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    Again, this is worth breaking into its own thread, but to quote Banks "Money is a sign of poverty".

    At least in the current system we live in (there are potential ways to have a currency system that avoid these problems), the end result of our money system is to distinguish people who are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not. As a fiat currency, the only way in which the value of money is maintained is through the use of violence (US law ensures that violence will be used to back your right to your own assets, liquid or otherwise, in accordance with the law of the state/country). So in a very real sense the value of a dollar is that you are physically forced to respect it (if you don't, you will fall on the wrong side of the law), and that's fundamentally where it derives its stability and therefore value as a currency from. And, mind you, if you do not have money, you must starve or otherwise be severely limited in your ability to carry out basic life functions. There is no sense in which anyone can opt out from the repercussions of our economic system. Even the land itself is owned, taxed, and must yield interest or else put you deeper into debt.

    What in the hell are you talking about? Fiat currency is only maintained through violence? This is nonsense. Money is not a system to distinguish those are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not, it's a representation of those who have resources and in what quantities, as determined by the value of that money.

    But the basic point, again, is that trying to blame money is just silly. Inequality predates money and would still be around if you eliminated it. Money is not the source of the problems y'all keep harping on about.

    Shryke what stops me from taking these resources you have? What stops me from walking up to a billionaire's home and walking off with his wallet?

    The same thing that stops you under literally any system.

    Their control of the local governmental apparatus that will do violence upon you for taking their things?

    They are certainly able to come take my money and manipulate the governmental system to ensure I can never stop them from doing it.

    They manipulate that governmental apparatus via their tons of money.

  • LanzLanz Registered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

    But you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop. In fact, frequently you don't. Companies don't fire everyone the second profits go down.

    And in so much as that is a thing that can occur, that's not a problem of bad management, not a lack of profit-sharing. They can still fire your ass if profits are down even while you are sharing in those now diminished profits and plenty of companies with a standard salaried employee relationship can simply ride out some bad years without letting anyone go because they know they're prospects will improve in the future. It's fairly independent of having a stake in the profits of the company. Much less so, I would say, in workers having representation in corporate leadership, but I think that's actually often a good idea and Feral says so above too.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gopro-predicts-profit-thanks-to-massive-layoffs-2019-02-06

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/21/falling-profit-margins-raise-some-alarm-it-can-be-a-precursor-to-layoffs-and-a-recession.html

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/23/580029629/kimberly-clark-announces-layoffs-along-with-3-3-billion-in-operating-profit

    And there's more than just those.

    And nothing there argues against anything I said. That's what you are missing.


    Lanz wrote: »
    Just uh

    outta curiousity on Shryke's thing here

    under a system of employee-ownership and management, how do "Certain individuals" "claim a larger portion of the profits"?

    What is the mechanism through which these "certain individuals" and furthermore, who are they?

    The same way someone claims a larger salary.

    part 1: you said that "you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop"

    Except in a shitton of cases, profit drops are accompanied by mass layoffs. I mean sure, you're accurate that some specific person might not lose their job, but that seems more luck of the draw than what I assume you intended to mean: decoupling the idea that profit losses mean ensuing layoffs


    part 2:
    How? By what Mechanism do they claim the larger salary. Your post seemed to infer that even in a democratized workplace, someone can just award themselves a greater salary like in current, non-democratized workplaces. So my question then is by what mechanism does someone award themselves this greater salary? Why would wages not be regulated within the company via democratic means?

    waNkm4k.jpg?1
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    Again, this is worth breaking into its own thread, but to quote Banks "Money is a sign of poverty".

    At least in the current system we live in (there are potential ways to have a currency system that avoid these problems), the end result of our money system is to distinguish people who are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not. As a fiat currency, the only way in which the value of money is maintained is through the use of violence (US law ensures that violence will be used to back your right to your own assets, liquid or otherwise, in accordance with the law of the state/country). So in a very real sense the value of a dollar is that you are physically forced to respect it (if you don't, you will fall on the wrong side of the law), and that's fundamentally where it derives its stability and therefore value as a currency from. And, mind you, if you do not have money, you must starve or otherwise be severely limited in your ability to carry out basic life functions. There is no sense in which anyone can opt out from the repercussions of our economic system. Even the land itself is owned, taxed, and must yield interest or else put you deeper into debt.

    What in the hell are you talking about? Fiat currency is only maintained through violence? This is nonsense. Money is not a system to distinguish those are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not, it's a representation of those who have resources and in what quantities, as determined by the value of that money.

    But the basic point, again, is that trying to blame money is just silly. Inequality predates money and would still be around if you eliminated it. Money is not the source of the problems y'all keep harping on about.

    Shryke what stops me from taking these resources you have? What stops me from walking up to a billionaire's home and walking off with his wallet?

    The same thing that stops you under literally any system.

    Well, no, not literally any system. It is the law. The force of the state backs the value of the currency and the right of the proprietor. This is true in most countries, but it is not universally or necessarily the case by a long shot. Going any further would get into a big digression, but what I said isn't false. And the larger point is that the state is what holds the power to determine who is the legitimate owner of resources, exclusively. Yet we act as though money holds any value separate from that granted to it by the actions of the state. USD is not in any sense a representation of objective value, it is a representation of who does or does not have the backing of the power of the state. It is a representation of how much we are allowed to have or not have.

  • HefflingHeffling No Pic EverRegistered User regular
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    again, this is an argument from abstract theory.

    In theory, yeah, money is "a representation of value."

    In actual practice, in the context of a market society that does not provide a base level of living to its populace, that theory breaks down and you have to engage with how it is being used by the populace. And it is regularly used as a method of control and execution of power on the part of those with money.

    It doesn't matter if the intended purpose is some value neutral whatever when that breaks down and changes function the moment you actually put it into the system with human actors who don't give a fuck about the "intended purpose of money"

    You have to engage with actual reality, and not ideal hypotheticals!

    That's why we have this thread to begin with, because billionaires use the power their money affords them to execute power according to their desires without democratic accountability in influencing the course of a shared society!

    I thought I made the point pretty clearly that money is a tool, and any tool can be misused to repress another group. I don't think money is unique in that regard.

    If a movement doesn't have someone that can sit down opposite those in a position of power and strike a deal, how can that movement achieve success?
    CelestialBadgershryke
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    Heffling wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    again, this is an argument from abstract theory.

    In theory, yeah, money is "a representation of value."

    In actual practice, in the context of a market society that does not provide a base level of living to its populace, that theory breaks down and you have to engage with how it is being used by the populace. And it is regularly used as a method of control and execution of power on the part of those with money.

    It doesn't matter if the intended purpose is some value neutral whatever when that breaks down and changes function the moment you actually put it into the system with human actors who don't give a fuck about the "intended purpose of money"

    You have to engage with actual reality, and not ideal hypotheticals!

    That's why we have this thread to begin with, because billionaires use the power their money affords them to execute power according to their desires without democratic accountability in influencing the course of a shared society!

    I thought I made the point pretty clearly that money is a tool, and any tool can be misused to repress another group. I don't think money is unique in that regard.

    And? Money is the tool that is being used to repress and control us all right now, just as it has been used in many times and places throughout history.

    No one is saying "ban money". We are saying we need very fundamental changes in how we regulate it, tax it, and/or allow it to be used.

    Taranis
  • HefflingHeffling No Pic EverRegistered User regular
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    It is looking at money in a theoretical sense. In a practical sense, money is controlled by policies and people, and it's those policies and people that drive repression of others, not the money itself. You don't blame the super rich for their super riches, you blame them for the way they use (or don't use) their super riches. Which, I think is a point that Jeffe has been driving at.

    As far as nothing compels you, look at the history of our country. Many early Americans came here with little more than the shirt on their back (and for African Americans, not even that), and yet were able to prosper. In the early colonial days, much of trade was driven by bartering rather than via proxy currency. And while it is difficult, it is possible to live off the land for an individual.

    But you have to bear in mind that an individual that is living off of the land is also choosing not to participate in society. Our society is currently VERY tied up in capitalism, to the point that they are nigh inseparable. Societal success is often directly tied to success as a capitalist.

    I fully agree with your statement that you couldn't currently support a country of 300M+ without a currency. But that doesn't mean we can't aim for a future where a currency isn't required, or at least isn't both one of the main features and one of the main goals of society.

    For an example of a society that exists within the us that is less currency dependent than most, look at the Amish. They aren't free from needing money, but they are much less dependent on it than most. As for places that you can live without cold hard cash, I think everywhere in the US except the deserts in the west had settlers with little or no money nor access to ways to spend that money. You wouldn't enjoy modern luxuries like electricity, but you could do it.

    If a movement doesn't have someone that can sit down opposite those in a position of power and strike a deal, how can that movement achieve success?
  • HefflingHeffling No Pic EverRegistered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    again, this is an argument from abstract theory.

    In theory, yeah, money is "a representation of value."

    In actual practice, in the context of a market society that does not provide a base level of living to its populace, that theory breaks down and you have to engage with how it is being used by the populace. And it is regularly used as a method of control and execution of power on the part of those with money.

    It doesn't matter if the intended purpose is some value neutral whatever when that breaks down and changes function the moment you actually put it into the system with human actors who don't give a fuck about the "intended purpose of money"

    You have to engage with actual reality, and not ideal hypotheticals!

    That's why we have this thread to begin with, because billionaires use the power their money affords them to execute power according to their desires without democratic accountability in influencing the course of a shared society!

    I thought I made the point pretty clearly that money is a tool, and any tool can be misused to repress another group. I don't think money is unique in that regard.

    And? Money is the tool that is being used to repress and control us all right now, just as it has been used in many times and places throughout history.

    No one is saying "ban money". We are saying we need very fundamental changes in how we regulate it, tax it, and/or allow it to be used.

    I agree. I have explicitly endorsed Warrens proposal of taxing the super rich based on their wealth.

    If a movement doesn't have someone that can sit down opposite those in a position of power and strike a deal, how can that movement achieve success?
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    There are important questions we should ask too like "should this single currency be legally recognized as fungible with as many aspects of our lives as it currently is?" (are there uses of money that should be limited like campaign contributions, or purchases that should not be recognized as legally valid, or things that should be taken entirely off the private market like health care?) or "should interest rates always be positive? should we really be assuming constant positive growth? should we allow certain types of debt at all and/or change the ways in which we do debt forgiveness?"

  • daveNYCdaveNYC Why universe hate Waspinator? Registered User regular
    Feral wrote: »
    daveNYC wrote: »
    I think the things that earn someone over $100mm annually are capital gains- nobody has a salary that high

    There’s likely a lot that could be done with capital gains across all income levels...

    Just tax them as regular income.

    BTW, the optimal tax rate for capital gains is zero... or at least, very very low. There are two major economic models that independently came to this conclusion, using two different methodologies: Atkinson-Stiglitz and Chamley-Judd. (I won't pretend to understand the math behind them, but they are widely accepted for what they are - conclusions based on abstract modeling.)

    Any taxes on capital gains are eventually passed down to labor, and they impact labor either in the form of lower pay, or lower employment, or some combination of both.

    However, there are two enormous caveats to that.

    First, it assumes that corporations want to maximize their profit along arbitrarily-long time-frames. Since we a trend of C-level executives getting hired, maximizing their short-term stock payouts, and then jumping ship, that assumption isn't airtight.

    Second, it assumes we can properly tell the difference between capital gains income and personal labor income. We are terrible at enforcing that difference. Giving a CEO a $1 salary and $2m/yr of stock options, and then letting him pay the capital gains tax rate when he executes those stock options, is blatantly a tax avoidance strategy that should be illegal. (In many countries, it is illegal.) Or, at the very least, we identify it as what it obviously is and tax it as personal income.

    The problem is that using the capital gains tax rate as an anti-tax-shelter bludgeon by taxing it all capital gains as personal income is likely to have unintended side effects that disproportionately impact working people.

    Conversely, taxing all capital gains at the lower capital gains rate seems to be disproportionately benefiting wealthy people.

    The wiki article on the subject offers a number of counterarguments to the idea that a zero capital gains tax is optimal.

    Shut up, Mr. Burton! You were not brought upon this world to get it!
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    edited January 3
    The problem is that if you look at the very basics of the system the math does not work out in a way that doesn't just put people with debt deeper into more debt and make people with money more money. The dream of people working for their flat, slowly increasing wages until they hit neutral and then go from possessing debt into possessing assets which they then retire off of is a complete and utter lie. Over half of Americans don't even have access to a 401k, much less any real money in it. The majority of all Americans have more debt than assets, meaning they own less than nothing, and the very same interest that is doing wonders for wealthy investors is eating the bottom half of Americans alive. Their situation only gets worse; they make the same wages their entire life and are lucky to crawl out of their debt holes necessary to simply exist in society, and god forbid something unaccounted for happens (you know, like the sort of things that happen constantly to everyone all the time? medical bills, car troubles, damage to their belongings, unforeseen problems, sudden unemployment), meaning they have to take on more debt, and since they already have debt this new debt will have to be at worse interest rates than they had to begin with. Lending, as it stands, is a fundamentally unjust and exploitative system, it's built into the entire concept of interest.
    That is the conclusion of a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which examined debt through the generations. It found that 8 in 10 Americans are in debt in some fashion, most often because of a mortgage. And that debt is not limited to young people starting out life: increasingly, people are carrying debt into retirement.

    For many Americans, their debt is a burden, but others view it as a necessity. Some 69 percent of the survey respondents indicated that while nonmortgage debt was a necessity for them, they preferred not to have it—but 68 percent said loans and credit cards had enabled them to make purchases or investments that expanded their opportunities. And in fact, Pew found that higher-income people with more assets tended to have more debt, but even so, they had healthier balance sheets than low-income, low-debt respondents.

    “Americans have a love-hate relationship with debt. They know they need debt, but they don’t actually want it,” said Diana Elliott, research manager for financial security and mobility at Pew.
    https://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/29/eight-in-10-americans-are-in-debt.html
    Age 36 to 44
    Almost 87% of families are in debt with the average in December 2018 being $135,768. The majority of it is mortgage debt since this is the time when most people settle into a permanent home and start a family. The median housing debt is $93,700, and almost 50% carry credit card debt of $2,500.

    Age 45 to 54
    The middle-age trends remain steady, though fewer hold student loan debt. Most entered the workforce before the Great Recession did not have to depend on financing as much as younger age groups.

    Age 55 to 64
    About 77% of families in this age bracket are still in debt but the median household debt has dropped to $69,000. Mortgages and student loans get paid off and people focus more on saving for retirement.
    https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/demographics/

    77% of people are still in debt when they reach retirement age!

    Debt is a broken system.

    EDIT: People are effectively born into debt, requiring student loans to get paying jobs, requiring mortgages to get homes, requiring medical debt to pay off medical bills, requiring auto loans to get transportation. Every aspect of surviving in society, down to the very act of existing in a space, requires taking on debt to people who already have assets. If you do not have wealthy people in your life who support you, this is going to be your entire life.

    Winky on
    Incenjucardispatch.oHeffling
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

    But you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop. In fact, frequently you don't. Companies don't fire everyone the second profits go down.

    And in so much as that is a thing that can occur, that's not a problem of bad management, not a lack of profit-sharing. They can still fire your ass if profits are down even while you are sharing in those now diminished profits and plenty of companies with a standard salaried employee relationship can simply ride out some bad years without letting anyone go because they know they're prospects will improve in the future. It's fairly independent of having a stake in the profits of the company. Much less so, I would say, in workers having representation in corporate leadership, but I think that's actually often a good idea and Feral says so above too.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gopro-predicts-profit-thanks-to-massive-layoffs-2019-02-06

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/21/falling-profit-margins-raise-some-alarm-it-can-be-a-precursor-to-layoffs-and-a-recession.html

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/23/580029629/kimberly-clark-announces-layoffs-along-with-3-3-billion-in-operating-profit

    And there's more than just those.

    And nothing there argues against anything I said. That's what you are missing.


    Lanz wrote: »
    Just uh

    outta curiousity on Shryke's thing here

    under a system of employee-ownership and management, how do "Certain individuals" "claim a larger portion of the profits"?

    What is the mechanism through which these "certain individuals" and furthermore, who are they?

    The same way someone claims a larger salary.

    part 1: you said that "you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop"

    Except in a shitton of cases, profit drops are accompanied by mass layoffs. I mean sure, you're accurate that some specific person might not lose their job, but that seems more luck of the draw than what I assume you intended to mean: decoupling the idea that profit losses mean ensuing layoffs

    And in a ton of cases they aren't. In those links most of the workforce is not losing their jobs. Hell, in your last link they are still making profits and doing layoffs. Your argument was "with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what". Not even your own links demonstrate this. It is simply just not true. Your job security is linked in some way to your company's performance but it is nothing like a direct line or anything close to what it would be under profit sharing.

    part 2:
    How? By what Mechanism do they claim the larger salary. Your post seemed to infer that even in a democratized workplace, someone can just award themselves a greater salary like in current, non-democratized workplaces. So my question then is by what mechanism does someone award themselves this greater salary? Why would wages not be regulated within the company via democratic means?

    By negotiating for a bigger cut of the pie, same as with a salary now. These are not foreign concepts.

  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    I think one method for what it would look like is that you would have federal business regulations that stipulate that a business must form a charter that allows for some kind of employee democracy regarding how the businesses is run. I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves. A fully equal collective that has no hierarchical structure and features equal pay among all employees, like the Dead Cells development studio? Sure!

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

    But you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop. In fact, frequently you don't. Companies don't fire everyone the second profits go down.

    And in so much as that is a thing that can occur, that's not a problem of bad management, not a lack of profit-sharing. They can still fire your ass if profits are down even while you are sharing in those now diminished profits and plenty of companies with a standard salaried employee relationship can simply ride out some bad years without letting anyone go because they know they're prospects will improve in the future. It's fairly independent of having a stake in the profits of the company. Much less so, I would say, in workers having representation in corporate leadership, but I think that's actually often a good idea and Feral says so above too.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gopro-predicts-profit-thanks-to-massive-layoffs-2019-02-06

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/21/falling-profit-margins-raise-some-alarm-it-can-be-a-precursor-to-layoffs-and-a-recession.html

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/23/580029629/kimberly-clark-announces-layoffs-along-with-3-3-billion-in-operating-profit

    And there's more than just those.

    And nothing there argues against anything I said. That's what you are missing.


    Lanz wrote: »
    Just uh

    outta curiousity on Shryke's thing here

    under a system of employee-ownership and management, how do "Certain individuals" "claim a larger portion of the profits"?

    What is the mechanism through which these "certain individuals" and furthermore, who are they?

    The same way someone claims a larger salary.

    part 1: you said that "you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop"

    Except in a shitton of cases, profit drops are accompanied by mass layoffs. I mean sure, you're accurate that some specific person might not lose their job, but that seems more luck of the draw than what I assume you intended to mean: decoupling the idea that profit losses mean ensuing layoffs

    And in a ton of cases they aren't. In those links most of the workforce is not losing their jobs. Hell, in your last link they are still making profits and doing layoffs. Your argument was "with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what". Not even your own links demonstrate this. It is simply just not true. Your job security is linked in some way to your company's performance but it is nothing like a direct line or anything close to what it would be under profit sharing.

    part 2:
    How? By what Mechanism do they claim the larger salary. Your post seemed to infer that even in a democratized workplace, someone can just award themselves a greater salary like in current, non-democratized workplaces. So my question then is by what mechanism does someone award themselves this greater salary? Why would wages not be regulated within the company via democratic means?

    By negotiating for a bigger cut of the pie, same as with a salary now. These are not foreign concepts.

    A company is a profit-seeking entity, if they are suffering in profits they will make the calculations necessary to determine what staff has to be cut, you are completely naive if you think that the poor performance of your company won't always have a necessary massive influence on your job security, and it will be leadership who will unanimously be making these decisions without any of your involvement in the decision-making process. When layoffs happen during increasing profits it is because layoffs were made in order to ensure that profits do not fall.

    Here, from 2010 (during the financial crisis):
    By most measures, Harley-Davidson has been having a rough ride.

    Motorcycle sales are falling in 2010, as they have for each of the last three years. The company does not expect a turnaround anytime soon.

    But despite that drought, Harley’s profits are rising — soaring, in fact. Last week, Harley reported a $71 million profit in the second quarter, more than triple what it earned a year ago.

    This seeming contradiction — falling sales and rising profits — is one reason the mood on Wall Street is so much more buoyant than in households, where pessimism runs deep and joblessness shows few signs of easing.

    Many companies are focusing on cost-cutting to keep profits growing, but the benefits are mostly going to shareholders instead of the broader economy, as management conserves cash rather than bolstering hiring and production. Harley, for example, has announced plans to cut 1,400 to 1,600 more jobs by the end of next year. That is on top of 2,000 job cuts last year — more than a fifth of its work force.

    As companies this month report earnings for the second quarter, news of healthy profits has helped the stock market — the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is up 7 percent for July — but the source of those gains raises deep questions about the sustainability of the growth, as well as the fate of more than 14 million unemployed workers hoping to rejoin the work force as the economy recovers.

    “Because of high unemployment, management is using its leverage to get more hours out of workers,” said Robert C. Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the former president of Fidelity Investments. “What’s worrisome is that American business has gotten used to being a lot leaner, and it could take a while before they start hiring again.”

    And some of those businesses, including Harley-Davidson, are preparing for a future where they can prosper even if sales do not recover. Harley’s goal is to permanently be in a position to generate strong profits on a lower revenue base.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/26/business/economy/26earnings.html
    KEY FINDINGS

    · In general, job tenure in the United States has shortened significantly over recent decades, particularly
    for relatively older male workers.

    · Stock prices, which used to react negatively to job loss announcements, began to react less negatively in
    the recent past, and now tend to react slightly positively.

    · CEO pay is correlated with layoffs, but, when company size is controlled for, there is no relationship
    between CEO pay and layoffs.

    · Laid-off workers are less well off than in the past, in terms of subsequent wages, reemployment, and
    health.

    · While there are some alternatives to layoffs, firms tend not to use them.
    https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1016&context=cahrs_researchlink

    If the profits suffer, the company begins doing lay-offs. If you cannot increase revenue, you cut costs. Labor is a cost.

    IncenjucarHefflingTaranis
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    edited January 3
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    Again, this is worth breaking into its own thread, but to quote Banks "Money is a sign of poverty".

    At least in the current system we live in (there are potential ways to have a currency system that avoid these problems), the end result of our money system is to distinguish people who are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not. As a fiat currency, the only way in which the value of money is maintained is through the use of violence (US law ensures that violence will be used to back your right to your own assets, liquid or otherwise, in accordance with the law of the state/country). So in a very real sense the value of a dollar is that you are physically forced to respect it (if you don't, you will fall on the wrong side of the law), and that's fundamentally where it derives its stability and therefore value as a currency from. And, mind you, if you do not have money, you must starve or otherwise be severely limited in your ability to carry out basic life functions. There is no sense in which anyone can opt out from the repercussions of our economic system. Even the land itself is owned, taxed, and must yield interest or else put you deeper into debt.

    What in the hell are you talking about? Fiat currency is only maintained through violence? This is nonsense. Money is not a system to distinguish those are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not, it's a representation of those who have resources and in what quantities, as determined by the value of that money.

    But the basic point, again, is that trying to blame money is just silly. Inequality predates money and would still be around if you eliminated it. Money is not the source of the problems y'all keep harping on about.

    Shryke what stops me from taking these resources you have? What stops me from walking up to a billionaire's home and walking off with his wallet?

    The same thing that stops you under literally any system.

    Well, no, not literally any system. It is the law. The force of the state backs the value of the currency and the right of the proprietor. This is true in most countries, but it is not universally or necessarily the case by a long shot. Going any further would get into a big digression, but what I said isn't false. And the larger point is that the state is what holds the power to determine who is the legitimate owner of resources, exclusively. Yet we act as though money holds any value separate from that granted to it by the actions of the state. USD is not in any sense a representation of objective value, it is a representation of who does or does not have the backing of the power of the state. It is a representation of how much we are allowed to have or not have.

    Yes, what stops you from taking other people's shit is the law. Not money, not currency, the law. Same as under any other system. You can't steal his money any more then you can steal his clothes or his food or his anything.

    Robbery as a crime predates fiat currency by a LONG ass time dude. Shit, depending on how you want to define both money and laws, "don't steal" predates the existence of money. It's almost like they are two completely separate ideas. And money as a concept predates fiat currency and government regulation on it's use. One of the key points of money as a human invention is as an efficient means of exchange, which is a thing that happens even before the state.

    You can't steal someone's money because you can't steal their stuff period. Money or otherwise.

    shryke on
    HefflingGnome-Interruptus
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    edited January 3
    Note: in these cases labor is suffering at the expense of shareholders who are doing fine.

    You are never in a worse position when you have equity and salary as opposed to salary alone; you can even take a salary cut and being doing better financially because the company's profits are performing better. Equity is good.

    I would also strongly argue that companies have a strong interest in their own employees having equity, if the goal is the survival of the company and not returns to shareholders. Employee owned co-ops are over 30% less likely to fail than other kinds of businesses in their same industries.

    Winky on
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    edited January 3
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    Again, this is worth breaking into its own thread, but to quote Banks "Money is a sign of poverty".

    At least in the current system we live in (there are potential ways to have a currency system that avoid these problems), the end result of our money system is to distinguish people who are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not. As a fiat currency, the only way in which the value of money is maintained is through the use of violence (US law ensures that violence will be used to back your right to your own assets, liquid or otherwise, in accordance with the law of the state/country). So in a very real sense the value of a dollar is that you are physically forced to respect it (if you don't, you will fall on the wrong side of the law), and that's fundamentally where it derives its stability and therefore value as a currency from. And, mind you, if you do not have money, you must starve or otherwise be severely limited in your ability to carry out basic life functions. There is no sense in which anyone can opt out from the repercussions of our economic system. Even the land itself is owned, taxed, and must yield interest or else put you deeper into debt.

    What in the hell are you talking about? Fiat currency is only maintained through violence? This is nonsense. Money is not a system to distinguish those are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not, it's a representation of those who have resources and in what quantities, as determined by the value of that money.

    But the basic point, again, is that trying to blame money is just silly. Inequality predates money and would still be around if you eliminated it. Money is not the source of the problems y'all keep harping on about.

    Shryke what stops me from taking these resources you have? What stops me from walking up to a billionaire's home and walking off with his wallet?

    The same thing that stops you under literally any system.

    Well, no, not literally any system. It is the law. The force of the state backs the value of the currency and the right of the proprietor. This is true in most countries, but it is not universally or necessarily the case by a long shot. Going any further would get into a big digression, but what I said isn't false. And the larger point is that the state is what holds the power to determine who is the legitimate owner of resources, exclusively. Yet we act as though money holds any value separate from that granted to it by the actions of the state. USD is not in any sense a representation of objective value, it is a representation of who does or does not have the backing of the power of the state. It is a representation of how much we are allowed to have or not have.

    Yes, what stops you from taking other people's shit is the law. Not money, not currency, the law. Same as under any other system. You can't steal his money any more then you can steal his clothes or his food or his anything.

    Robbery as a crime predates fiat currency by a LONG ass time dude. Shit, depending on how you want to define both money and laws, "don't steal" predates the existence of money. It's almost like they are two completely separate ideas. And money as a concept predates fiat currency and government regulation on it's use. One of the key points of money as a human invention is as an efficient means of exchange, which is a thing that happens even before the state.

    You can't steal someone's money because you can't steal their stuff period. Money or otherwise.

    You are almost completely, entirely missing the point. I was talking explicitly about fiat currency, now, in this system. I am not talking about the vague concept of money.

    I mean, I also have problems with the entire concept of legal property (as opposed to possession) itself, but again that's a discussion that deserves its entire own thread and discussion.

    Winky on
  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    edited January 3
    I also think there is a way more fundamental issue with non-employee shareholders and the stock market, which is that it makes it so that a company's ownership are completely divorced in any way from the consequences of that company's actions. If the employee is the owner, then they own the consequences of the company's own actions fully and might pursue other interests over profits (like ensuring that their company performs ethical actions in line with their own ethical beliefs). When the faceless shareholder is the owner, the only thing that can possibly matter is profits; there cannot be an ethical concern and as a shareholder making decisions based upon moral rather than profit motives is almost entirely nonexistent.

    Winky on
    Incenjucar
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    ...

    Silicon Valley has been experimenting with flat structures for decades. For every team like Motion Twin, there are a Zappos (where flat structure is floundering), or Medium (where it was abandoned), or GitHub (where it imploded due to the organization's inability to police its own members' bad behavior).

    Medium's blog post on why they abandoned it is telling: https://blog.medium.com/management-and-organization-at-medium-2228cc9d93e9
    Our experience was that it was difficult to coordinate efforts at scale. In the purest expression of Holacracy, every team has a goal and works autonomously to deliver the best path to serve that goal. But for larger initiatives, which require coordination across functions, it can be time-consuming and divisive to gain alignment.

    In the US, worker-managed co-ops tend to be small: 300 employees or less. (To be fair, most businesses are small - the number of sole-proprietorship one-person businesses drags the mean way down.) But worker-managed co-ops seem to cap out at a few hundred... or a couple thousand if you're lucky. This co-op-friendly FoCo article focuses on employee ownership, not employee management, but it mentions one of the problems with scale.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40572926/more-u-s-businesses-are-becoming-worker-co-ops-heres-why
    The factors that determine if a business is eligible for transition to a cooperative vary by circumstance, but there are some rough criteria. Generally, coops tend to form from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees, and no more than a few hundred (though there are exceptions–Cooperative Home Care Associates in New York is the country’s largest worker-owned cooperative and employs nearly 2,000 workers). The relatively manageable size ensures that each employee can purchase a share of the company that’s large enough to be meaningful, but not so expensive as to be prohibitive. Longevity in the community is also a benefit. Businesses like A Child’s Place that have a long tenure in a specific neighborhood and meet a social and emotional need often make the most sense to organize as a cooperative, as employee ownership guarantees that company culture holds steady even in times of transition.

    Maybe that's a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's better for workers in general for firms to be smaller. But I don't think we can conclusively say that.

    There's an essay written by second-wave feminist Joreen Freeman about her experiences with flat organizational structures, specifically in feminist activism, where she identifies (from her own observations) what makes flat organizations work and what doesn't. It's not a scientific study, but I find it convincing (and it is compatible with some of the social science I've read on the subject). It's called The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Here's what makes them work, in her view:
    1) It is task oriented. Its function is very narrow and very specific, like putting on a conference or putting out a newspaper. It is the task that basically structures the group. The task determines what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. It provides a guide by which people can judge their actions and make plans for future activity.

    2) It is relatively small and homogeneous. Homogeneity is necessary to insure that participants have a "common language" for interaction. People from widely different backgrounds may provide richness to a consciousness-raising group where each can learn from the others' experience, but too great a diversity among members of a task-oriented group means only that they continually misunderstand each other. Such diverse people interpret words and actions differently. They have different expectations about each other's behavior and judge the results according to different criteria. If everyone knows everyone else well enough to understand the nuances, these can be accommodated. Usually, they only lead to confusion and endless hours spent straightening out conflicts no one ever thought would arise.

    3) There is a high degree of communication. Information must be passed on to everyone, opinions checked, work divided up, and participation assured in the relevant decisions. This is only possible if the group is small and people practically live together for the most crucial phases of the task. Needless to say, the number of interactions necessary to involve everybody increases geometrically with the number of participants. This inevitably limits group participants to about five, or excludes some from some of the decisions. Successful groups can be as large as 10 or 15, but only when they are in fact composed of several smaller subgroups which perform specific parts of the task, and whose members overlap with each other so that knowledge of what the different subgroups are doing can be passed around easily.

    4) There is a low degree of skill specialization. Not everyone has to be able to do everything, but everything must be able to be done by more than one person. Thus no one is indispensable. To a certain extent, people become interchangeable parts.

    While these conditions can occur serendipitously in small groups, this is not possible in large ones.

    ...
    Lanz wrote: »
    A hierarchical organization wherein employees elect their bosses and a council to chart the course of the company, with term lengths and recall ability? Go for it. At the end of the day, the key is to allow for worker self-determination, and there are multiple forms and levels of democratic methods to achieve that end.

    I'm more sympathetic to this. I'm not a fan of direct democracy at all. I do not believe it is a valid purpose of democracy to execute the will of the people. I am sympathetic to representative democracy - giving the people affected by leadership the ability to choose their leadership.

    But I'd like to contrast two statements against each other:
    Lanz wrote: »
    I don't want to prescribe any one specific form since I don't think there's necessarily going to be any kind of one size fits all "best democracy" implementation, so it's best to leave that to the employees forming the company to structure that themselves.
    Lanz wrote: »
    As for those who won't shift, in the long term, provided you have a state or federal legislation that requires employee ownership of their places of work, I would imagine the same thing happens to any other business that runs afoul of various regulations: fines, loss of licensing from the state corporate commission, etc. Loss of license to operate as a business would probably be better for larger companies that could potentially just weather fine after fine.

    The law, as they say, is a blunt instrument. If you want to use legislation or regulation to enforce democratic corporate structures, you have to be very specific about what that looks like, and accept that the gavel will smack down some businesses that are democratic but don't fit the narrow model defined by law. (Or the law can be vague, and therefore toothless.)

    Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had a while back with a socialist who was a fan of Elinor Ostrom. I think Ostrom's work is fascinating. She also supports a multiplicity of approaches and diversity of bottom-up organizational structures.

    But what if the workers don't want what you're offering?

    In these discussions we often conflate employee-managed businesses with employee-owned businesses. I'm guilty of it, too. I was being sloppy in my language earlier in the thread.

    In the US, we have a number of ways to turn employees into investors, like profit-sharing, or employee stock purchase programs. These may or may not come with the ability to vote on leadership.

    To contrast, we can easily imagine a world in which labor is unionized by default, and union leaders have seats on the board of executives. (Similar to the corporate structure that exists in many EU companies.) In these cases, labor doesn't (necessarily) have an ownership stake (though they might, employee stock purchase programs are incentivized in a lot of EU countries).

    Giving employees a representative in corporate leadership (who can be voted in or out and actually has some authority) makes sense to me.

    But I may or may not want to own a piece of my business. I sometimes get job offers where I get a slightly lower regular salary in exchange for stock ownership or profit sharing and I will usually (though not always) turn them down. Why? Because I want my compensation to be stable. In almost every case, I'd rather be laid off (and collect unemployment) than take a drastic compensation cut during a downturn.

    Socializing ownership necessarily implies socializing risk. I can anticipate a likely retort: "yeah, but we socialize risk now, your company can fire you for any reason or no reason at all." I agree with that - but I'm not arguing for the status quo (in the US). The current American model of capitalism sucks! But I support broad social welfare structures that mitigate that risk, regardless of the way businesses are structured - unemployment insurance, UBI, etc.

    Similarly, upthread you had trouble accepting that somebody just wants to be a "tool" or a "cog in the machine." I wouldn't use those terms, exactly, but I don't really need to feel a strong personal attachment to my job. It's just something I can do to eat and pay rent. It doesn't need to be meaningful.

    The idea of having representation in corporate leadership to cut down on abuse, overwork, bad conditions, etc. very much appeals to me, and I'm totally with you on that.

    But I don't really want to co-own my workplace (in an investment/profit-sharing sense). That doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. It doesn't particularly bother me that somebody else profits off of my labor. I am perfectly comfortable with the basic capitalist relationship: I'll give the investor my labor, the investor gives me a salary, and skims any profits off the top. I'm not comfortable with the investor class and their representatives in management treating labor like indentured servants, but I don't think we need to up-end the whole system to ameliorate that.

    I really appreciate this post and agree with most everything you have to say except the final point, which I think is an important part of why the system is fundamentally broken. The problem relationship is that when you are working for a flat market wage rather than receiving a proportion of profits, you are building the structure that funnels money upward. Proudhon breaks it down in a sort of simplified illustrative example which I quite liked (which I paraphrase here):

    You have a group of farmers who have struck out into the frontier and staked a claim on equally divided land, with each plot capable of yielding many times the food necessary to feed a single farmer given that it is worked for the entire year. One farmer has been blessed by having been wealthy beforehand, and has brought copious amounts of food with him, the rest of the farmers had little food to bring with them and begin to starve while they try to work their fields for the harvest. The wealthy farmer, in his generosity, offers the other farmers a deal: come work my land for me instead of your own and I will feed you while you work. The farmers labor on his farm, and have enough to eat, but little left over, and when the job is done and harvest time comes they haven't been able to use any of their labor on working their own fields so they're all barren, and with no claim to the (literal) fruits of their own labor they will starve (having already eaten their wages in the course of laboring for a year).

    What are the farmers going to do? The wealthy farmer, having the whole harvest of all the other farmer's work available to him, gives all the other farmers another deal: I'll give you a portion of my land's harvest if you sell me your own land, which is useless to you now as it was never plowed. Faced again with starvation, the other farmers have no choice but to take the deal. And now with no land of their own to work, when spring comes again they have no other option for obtaining sustenance but to work the land that was once theirs but now belongs to the rich man in return for the wages the man offers, these wages being significantly less than the harvest that they produce for the rich man on his land that would've been theirs.

    The initial inequality of the situation is necessarily exacerbated. The workers could not improve their situation by demanding a higher wage (assume that the rich man really did pay them all the highest wages he could afford, initially), it is explicitly because they do not have any right to the profit of their own labor (labor that could not have happened without them) but no room to negotiate for a portion of the profit (they will starve if they do not take their wages), the person who will benefit by the greatest portion will always be the rich owner, and his wealth will always increase in such a way that puts him in a better position to make a claim to a larger portion of the wealth than any of the workers over time, inequality will only ever get worse without workers having a necessary claim on the profits of their own labor.

    But Feral's point is he doesn't want a share of the profits. It's unstable and fundamentally he doesn't have an interest in that side of the equation. Work is just something you exchange your labour for in return for the resources you need to live your life how you want.

    And it's not like certain individuals can't just claim a larger portion of the profits and thus the rich get richer anyway. Profit-sharing doesn't change that relationship.

    This argument doesn't make any sense, with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what. This state of affairs benefits the owner over you every single time. As a shareholder you already aren't liable for the company's debt. The notion of negotiating salary cut in return for equity is already part of the problem; the employee should be entitled to equity by default.

    Also profit-sharing absolutely does change that relationship depending on how you split the profit.

    All of these criticisms assume poor implementations of the premise with no reason to believe that good implementations are any less possible. And many good implementations already actually exist and are successfully doing business!

    But you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop. In fact, frequently you don't. Companies don't fire everyone the second profits go down.

    And in so much as that is a thing that can occur, that's not a problem of bad management, not a lack of profit-sharing. They can still fire your ass if profits are down even while you are sharing in those now diminished profits and plenty of companies with a standard salaried employee relationship can simply ride out some bad years without letting anyone go because they know they're prospects will improve in the future. It's fairly independent of having a stake in the profits of the company. Much less so, I would say, in workers having representation in corporate leadership, but I think that's actually often a good idea and Feral says so above too.

    https://www.marketwatch.com/story/gopro-predicts-profit-thanks-to-massive-layoffs-2019-02-06

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/21/falling-profit-margins-raise-some-alarm-it-can-be-a-precursor-to-layoffs-and-a-recession.html

    https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/23/580029629/kimberly-clark-announces-layoffs-along-with-3-3-billion-in-operating-profit

    And there's more than just those.

    And nothing there argues against anything I said. That's what you are missing.


    Lanz wrote: »
    Just uh

    outta curiousity on Shryke's thing here

    under a system of employee-ownership and management, how do "Certain individuals" "claim a larger portion of the profits"?

    What is the mechanism through which these "certain individuals" and furthermore, who are they?

    The same way someone claims a larger salary.

    part 1: you said that "you don't necessarily lose your job if company profits drop"

    Except in a shitton of cases, profit drops are accompanied by mass layoffs. I mean sure, you're accurate that some specific person might not lose their job, but that seems more luck of the draw than what I assume you intended to mean: decoupling the idea that profit losses mean ensuing layoffs

    And in a ton of cases they aren't. In those links most of the workforce is not losing their jobs. Hell, in your last link they are still making profits and doing layoffs. Your argument was "with the system as it stands if the company profits drop you simply lose your job. Your salary is tied to company performance no matter what". Not even your own links demonstrate this. It is simply just not true. Your job security is linked in some way to your company's performance but it is nothing like a direct line or anything close to what it would be under profit sharing.

    part 2:
    How? By what Mechanism do they claim the larger salary. Your post seemed to infer that even in a democratized workplace, someone can just award themselves a greater salary like in current, non-democratized workplaces. So my question then is by what mechanism does someone award themselves this greater salary? Why would wages not be regulated within the company via democratic means?

    By negotiating for a bigger cut of the pie, same as with a salary now. These are not foreign concepts.

    A company is a profit-seeking entity, if they are suffering in profits they will make the calculations necessary to determine what staff has to be cut, you are completely naive if you think that the poor performance of your company won't always have a necessary massive influence on your job security, and it will be leadership who will unanimously be making these decisions without any of your involvement in the decision-making process. When layoffs happen during increasing profits it is because layoffs were made in order to ensure that profits do not fall.

    Here, from 2010 (during the financial crisis):
    By most measures, Harley-Davidson has been having a rough ride.

    Motorcycle sales are falling in 2010, as they have for each of the last three years. The company does not expect a turnaround anytime soon.

    But despite that drought, Harley’s profits are rising — soaring, in fact. Last week, Harley reported a $71 million profit in the second quarter, more than triple what it earned a year ago.

    This seeming contradiction — falling sales and rising profits — is one reason the mood on Wall Street is so much more buoyant than in households, where pessimism runs deep and joblessness shows few signs of easing.

    Many companies are focusing on cost-cutting to keep profits growing, but the benefits are mostly going to shareholders instead of the broader economy, as management conserves cash rather than bolstering hiring and production. Harley, for example, has announced plans to cut 1,400 to 1,600 more jobs by the end of next year. That is on top of 2,000 job cuts last year — more than a fifth of its work force.

    As companies this month report earnings for the second quarter, news of healthy profits has helped the stock market — the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is up 7 percent for July — but the source of those gains raises deep questions about the sustainability of the growth, as well as the fate of more than 14 million unemployed workers hoping to rejoin the work force as the economy recovers.

    “Because of high unemployment, management is using its leverage to get more hours out of workers,” said Robert C. Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the former president of Fidelity Investments. “What’s worrisome is that American business has gotten used to being a lot leaner, and it could take a while before they start hiring again.”

    And some of those businesses, including Harley-Davidson, are preparing for a future where they can prosper even if sales do not recover. Harley’s goal is to permanently be in a position to generate strong profits on a lower revenue base.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/26/business/economy/26earnings.html
    KEY FINDINGS

    · In general, job tenure in the United States has shortened significantly over recent decades, particularly
    for relatively older male workers.

    · Stock prices, which used to react negatively to job loss announcements, began to react less negatively in
    the recent past, and now tend to react slightly positively.

    · CEO pay is correlated with layoffs, but, when company size is controlled for, there is no relationship
    between CEO pay and layoffs.

    · Laid-off workers are less well off than in the past, in terms of subsequent wages, reemployment, and
    health.

    · While there are some alternatives to layoffs, firms tend not to use them.
    https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1016&context=cahrs_researchlink

    If the profits suffer, the company begins doing lay-offs. If you cannot increase revenue, you cut costs. Labor is a cost.

    It's not directly tied to it though. Even your links talk about numbers that are large but are nowhere near even 50%. Because as a salaried worker, your compensation is still not directly linked to the profits of your company. If you are laying off 1/5th of your workforce, that means 4/5ths of your workforce are still working. Because their compensation is not tied directly to the health of the company. There's an indirect long-term relationship between your job and the health of the company (even absent layoffs because companies fail sometimes and then there is no job to have) but it's nothing like profit sharing and it's nothing close to "if profits go down, you lose your job". Under the example above, 80% odds are you don't lose your job.


    For the overall argument though, the key findings are basically underlying the entire point I was making. What we are seeing is a shift in how corporations are run. This isn't an issue of profit-sharing or a lack thereof, it's an issue of changes in management incentives. Mostly, as I understand it, due to changes in the 80s over how much control shareholders have. Hell, they even point out in the last point there that it seems like layoffs are used even over other better options. This strongly suggests that the problem is simply that businesses don't have any considerations for their workers. As I said earlier: "I would say the goal is more to invest whoever is actually in charge in the welfare of the company as a whole. Or to divorce people's welfare from the welfare of the place they work. You've got to do one or the other. Or both." This is an issue that is completely separate from profit-sharing and you don't need one to have the other.

    HefflingJebus314Gnome-Interruptus
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    shryke wrote: »
    Lanz wrote: »
    Heffling wrote: »
    Money is a single unit value we assign to materials and/or time spent, and is meant to be an intermediary to allow for the smooth functioning of things like trade. Like any single unit value representing a complex system, it can be perverted. But money isn't a "method of controlling the behavior of others." There is nothing that you compels you as an individual to participate in the exchange of money for goods and services, and there are people in the US who disavow entirely the use of money and instead live off the land and barter for the things they cannot make themselves. That's not to say it is easy, but it is possible to live a life free from money. It is up the the individual to make that choice.

    Money itself is just a unit of value. A dollar represents X amount of time from one profession, Y amount of time from another profession, or Z amount of material goods. It means I can buy an apple for $0.50 or a large industrial valve for $10,000, and could exchange 20,000 of my apples for one industrial valve without having to find an industrial valve manufacturer that wants 20,000 apples.

    Money can certainly be abused to control others, as is often done with the poor and minorities. But the problem in these cases isn't money, it's the society that represses them. And there are other systemic issues that need to be addressed as well, such as biased laws, a biased police and legal system, racism, etc. Money is just a tool.

    This feels like it's looking at money from a theoretical/intended perspective and not how it is regularly utilized in practice.

    Like money is totally a method by which control and power is exerted, in practice. It doesn't matter that it wasn't what it was meant for, people went and did it anyway, and it's the practical existing use that you need to be concerned about.

    Also I regarding "nothing that compels you" about using money for goods and services: People need to eat, people need shelter. Those things cost money in American society and thanks to, you know, the whole "literally founded as a colony that became an expanding settler nation" thing, there's not a lot of places in America where you could somehow go off the grid, live off the land, etc. even if you had the skills and knowledge about how to survive in the wilds.

    Which also like, how do you do that without money? What areas of the US are there where you don't have to have money to live a detached, wilderness lifestyle? And on top of which, there certainly isn't enough of it to support that for everyone in a nation of over three hundred million people.

    The system as it stands compels you to participate in money-based commerce, because we have by and large made it impossible to live outside of it at anything resembling societal scales, because we generally like living in cities or rural communities where most if not all the land belongs to someone or another (we really like the whole "land ownership" thing in America), be they individual, corporation or state entity.

    To say that nothing compels you to participate seems like a really, really ludicrous prospect for the practical lives of most of the people living in America. We might as well talk about bootstrapping your way up to billionaire status so you too can be a philanthropist.

    Heffling is more pointing out that money is not "a method for controlling the behaviour of others", it's a representation of value. It's purpose is not to control others and you don't need it to control others. It's only representing many of the things that you can use to do that and absent money you would just use those things directly and use a different representation. Societies without money are not societies without the ability to use power of one form or another to influence and control others. Seeing money itself, as a tool, as the problem is not really accurate.

    Again, this is worth breaking into its own thread, but to quote Banks "Money is a sign of poverty".

    At least in the current system we live in (there are potential ways to have a currency system that avoid these problems), the end result of our money system is to distinguish people who are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not. As a fiat currency, the only way in which the value of money is maintained is through the use of violence (US law ensures that violence will be used to back your right to your own assets, liquid or otherwise, in accordance with the law of the state/country). So in a very real sense the value of a dollar is that you are physically forced to respect it (if you don't, you will fall on the wrong side of the law), and that's fundamentally where it derives its stability and therefore value as a currency from. And, mind you, if you do not have money, you must starve or otherwise be severely limited in your ability to carry out basic life functions. There is no sense in which anyone can opt out from the repercussions of our economic system. Even the land itself is owned, taxed, and must yield interest or else put you deeper into debt.

    What in the hell are you talking about? Fiat currency is only maintained through violence? This is nonsense. Money is not a system to distinguish those are allowed to have resources as opposed to those who are not, it's a representation of those who have resources and in what quantities, as determined by the value of that money.

    But the basic point, again, is that trying to blame money is just silly. Inequality predates money and would still be around if you eliminated it. Money is not the source of the problems y'all keep harping on about.

    Shryke what stops me from taking these resources you have? What stops me from walking up to a billionaire's home and walking off with his wallet?

    The same thing that stops you under literally any system.

    Well, no, not literally any system. It is the law. The force of the state backs the value of the currency and the right of the proprietor. This is true in most countries, but it is not universally or necessarily the case by a long shot. Going any further would get into a big digression, but what I said isn't false. And the larger point is that the state is what holds the power to determine who is the legitimate owner of resources, exclusively. Yet we act as though money holds any value separate from that granted to it by the actions of the state. USD is not in any sense a representation of objective value, it is a representation of who does or does not have the backing of the power of the state. It is a representation of how much we are allowed to have or not have.

    Yes, what stops you from taking other people's shit is the law. Not money, not currency, the law. Same as under any other system. You can't steal his money any more then you can steal his clothes or his food or his anything.

    Robbery as a crime predates fiat currency by a LONG ass time dude. Shit, depending on how you want to define both money and laws, "don't steal" predates the existence of money. It's almost like they are two completely separate ideas. And money as a concept predates fiat currency and government regulation on it's use. One of the key points of money as a human invention is as an efficient means of exchange, which is a thing that happens even before the state.

    You can't steal someone's money because you can't steal their stuff period. Money or otherwise.

    You are almost completely, entirely missing the point. I was talking explicitly about fiat currency, now, in this system. I am not talking about the vague concept of money.

    I mean, I also have problems with the entire concept of legal property (as opposed to possession) itself, but again that's a discussion that deserves its entire own thread and discussion.

    If you are just talking about fiat currency your point makes even less sense. The idea of government enforced legal tender predates fiat currency dude. There's a huge famous speech over arguments about it and everything. That currency was backed the same way the current system is. I'm not sure what makes you think this is someone a fiat currency thing other then you've been reading some weird shit that has given you a very strange idea of how fiat currency works.

    As a note, since I guess this seems to be something else that is confused here, the actual value of fiat currency is not backed by government violence. It's value is influenced by government central bank policy and general views by others on the stability of the government backing the currency. You cannot in any reasonable way force people to believe that your money is worth X by the barrel of a gun.

    Gnome-Interruptus
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Winky wrote: »
    Note: in these cases labor is suffering at the expense of shareholders who are doing fine.

    You are never in a worse position when you have equity and salary as opposed to salary alone; you can even take a salary cut and being doing better financially because the company's profits are performing better. Equity is good.

    I would also strongly argue that companies have a strong interest in their own employees having equity, if the goal is the survival of the company and not returns to shareholders. Employee owned co-ops are over 30% less likely to fail than other kinds of businesses in their same industries.

    Unless your equity loses value.

  • WinkyWinky rRegistered User regular
    shryke wrote: »
    Winky wrote: »
    snip

    A company is a profit-seeking entity, if they are suffering in profits they will make the calculations necessary to determine what staff has to be cut, you are completely naive if you think that the poor performance of your company won't always have a necessary massive influence on your job security, and it will be leadership who will unanimously be making these decisions without any of your involvement in the decision-making process. When layoffs happen during increasing profits it is because layoffs were made in order to ensure that profits do not fall.

    Here, from 2010 (during the financial crisis):
    By most measures, Harley-Davidson has been having a rough ride.

    Motorcycle sales are falling in 2010, as they have for each of the last three years. The company does not expect a turnaround anytime soon.

    But despite that drought, Harley’s profits are rising — soaring, in fact. Last week, Harley reported a $71 million profit in the second quarter, more than triple what it earned a year ago.

    This seeming contradiction — falling sales and rising profits — is one reason the mood on Wall Street is so much more buoyant than in households, where pessimism runs deep and joblessness shows few signs of easing.

    Many companies are focusing on cost-cutting to keep profits growing, but the benefits are mostly going to shareholders instead of the broader economy, as management conserves cash rather than bolstering hiring and production. Harley, for example, has announced plans to cut 1,400 to 1,600 more jobs by the end of next year. That is on top of 2,000 job cuts last year — more than a fifth of its work force.

    As companies this month report earnings for the second quarter, news of healthy profits has helped the stock market — the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is up 7 percent for July — but the source of those gains raises deep questions about the sustainability of the growth, as well as the fate of more than 14 million unemployed workers hoping to rejoin the work force as the economy recovers.

    “Because of high unemployment, management is using its leverage to get more hours out of workers,” said Robert C. Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the former president of Fidelity Investments. “What’s worrisome is that American business has gotten used to being a lot leaner, and it could take a while before they start hiring again.”

    And some of those businesses, including Harley-Davidson, are preparing for a future where they can prosper even if sales do not recover. Harley’s goal is to permanently be in a position to generate strong profits on a lower revenue base.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/26/business/economy/26earnings.html
    KEY FINDINGS

    · In general, job tenure in the United States has shortened significantly over recent decades, particularly
    for relatively older male workers.

    · Stock prices, which used to react negatively to job loss announcements, began to react less negatively in
    the recent past, and now tend to react slightly positively.

    · CEO pay is correlated with layoffs, but, when company size is controlled for, there is no relationship
    between CEO pay and layoffs.

    · Laid-off workers are less well off than in the past, in terms of subsequent wages, reemployment, and
    health.

    · While there are some alternatives to layoffs, firms tend not to use them.
    https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1016&context=cahrs_researchlink

    If the profits suffer, the company begins doing lay-offs. If you cannot increase revenue, you cut costs. Labor is a cost.

    It's not directly tied to it though. Even your links talk about numbers that are large but are nowhere near even 50%. Because as a salaried worker, your compensation is still not directly linked to the profits of your company. If you are laying off 1/5th of your workforce, that means 4/5ths of your workforce are still working. Because their compensation is not tied directly to the health of the company. There's an indirect long-term relationship between your job and the health of the company (even absent layoffs because companies fail sometimes and then there is no job to have) but it's nothing like profit sharing and it's nothing close to "if profits go down, you lose your job". Under the example above, 80% odds are you don't lose your job.


    For the overall argument though, the key findings are basically underlying the entire point I was making. What we are seeing is a shift in how corporations are run. This isn't an issue of profit-sharing or a lack thereof, it's an issue of changes in management incentives. Mostly, as I understand it, due to changes in the 80s over how much control shareholders have. Hell, they even point out in the last point there that it seems like layoffs are used even over other better options. This strongly suggests that the problem is simply that businesses don't have any considerations for their workers. As I said earlier: "I would say the goal is more to invest whoever is actually in charge in the welfare of the company as a whole. Or to divorce people's welfare from the welfare of the place they work. You've got to do one or the other. Or both." This is an issue that is completely separate from profit-sharing and you don't need one to have the other.

    Important question: if the shareholders and the employees were the same people, do you think we would see fewer layoffs? If employees were owners, do you think the company would find it beneficial to make decisions that benefited the employees?

    I think perhaps there is confusion here in that we're referring to direct profit-sharing, but the implementation of employee ownership could be very diverse. It doesn't just have to involve something like a cut of profit or dividends. Equity can take many forms, usually voting rights and equity are related. What is important, though, is that the company be structured such that it is beholden to the employees (or, in some instances, the customer) and not outside shareholders.

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