M12 – Atwood

“The Alternative to Capitalism” is a direction I’d like to see the world going towards.  I believe in freedom, but an inherent flaw with capitalism is that even if everyone started equally, the system would eventually evolve into a feudal society, which is what we are currently fast approaching.  If all companies were cooperative, it would likely mitigate this flaw in capitalism while maintaining all the benefits.  Plus, why shouldn’t workers be allowed a share in company performance?  I liken it to a house.  Building a house requires hiring workers.  Those workers will earn their wages for the job and move on while the owner contributed only the capital and did very little work.  Yet it is the owner that gets to profit off the earnings that house provides for the life of the house.  Doesn’t seem very fair to me.

That being said, we are at a point in society where money shouldn’t even need to exist.  Before watching the Noam Chomsky video, reading the title only, my mind instantly thought of The Venus Project that was first introduced to me via the documentary: “Zeitgeist: Moving Forward.”  Rejecting all the usual scapegoats for society’s many problems, the film makes a convincing argument that resource ownership and money are the reasons.  We are now advanced enough that, if we simply stopped fighting automation, we could have machines take care of every human need for the entire population.  Humans would no longer have to earn their keep and therefore should be completely in favor of resource sharing.  That is the alternative to capitalism I would like to see.

M9- Atwood

My experience with the Hawthorne effect has been in the form of mostly talk with little implementation. Only once I read this module’s chapter did I know the name for this theory, but I have been exposed to the idea many times before. My first few jobs don’t apply here, so I’m only pulling from the Navy and my current job here. Both have very corporate environments.

What I’ve observed is that management-worker relationship operates in cycles. Management usually cares nothing for their workers and makes all their decisions based on furthering their career. Most workers recognize the bad management, but few recognize the reasons behind it. As time passes suffering under the careerist behavior of management, their productivity wanes. Eventually, management takes notice of the drop in productivity (usually from changing business data because they don’t pay attention to their subordinates). At this point, they will remember back to that 30 minute training session on how to be a good boss and start implementing measures to initiate the Hawthorne effect. This change will last only as long as it doesn’t bore the boss (about a month). It resets worker productivity to their previous max, which is not, by any means, their full potential. Then the cycle starts again.

The most unfortunate part about this, as well as the myriad of other horrible qualities that 99% of my supervisors have had, is that I can’t blame them entirely. They are partially a product of the system. It would be difficult to explain why in this format due to how long it would take, so I won’t. But I have observed nearly everyone I have ever worked with as peers exhibit qualities some of the time that they themselves would claim to hate.

This is why I felt inspired by one particular supervisor in the Navy. I should point out now that my particular job there was especially terrible. Working conditions were such that quick promotions and high bonuses were commonplace. For instance, I had the option to extend my contract by only 2 years and receive an auto-promotion to E5 and a $100k bonus. The job sucks so much that I and about half of everyone else refuses the offer.

This particular supervisor had been in service for about 18 years. He was easily the most senior of all his management counterparts and yet he would frequently voice his disgust with the Navy and the conditions that they maintain to make work-life so intolerable. He would go out of his way to defend us against the BS as much as possible, even breaking regulations to do so. He was often in trouble with his bosses for this. The rule he broke most often was removing himself from the supervisory role and working alongside us if it meant getting the job done faster. He admitted to me once that the people above him did not like him at all. I’m sure talking about workplace politics with your subordinates is also against the rules. It’s fortunate for him (and us) that he built himself into someone who was too valuable to get rid of. If I ever find myself in a management role, he is the only person (out of 20+ bosses) I will be willing to use as a guide, which is kind of sad really.

M8-Atwood

2. As I do quite frequently, I will use my beliefs in classical liberalism to justify my position.  A person’s right to do something stops when it violates the right’s of another.  This assumption is necessary for rights to be equal for everyone.  If this equality does not exist, then rights do not exist, only privileges.  In this case, a company has owners, even corporations.  To use Mark Tushnet’s analogy, the owners of a company have the right to autonomy over their property, just as one would for a house.  Whether or not it would be a good policy to allow guns should depend on the situation.  A logging company in which workers have to commute to an area populated with dangerous animals should allow guns.  A company in a city environment may also justify guns if it is located in a high crime area.  However, if crime is likely to happen on company property, then the company is also obligated to implement measures that would increase safety (no different than minimizing risk for other hazards).  There definitely should be no concern about employees keeping guns on property in regards to employee-sourced violence since the employee can simply choose to ignore policy if they feel the urge to act out.

3. The NRA is wrong simply because they are misusing the Second Amendment, as they often do.  The Constitution, most especially, the Bill of Rights, is intended to limit government behavior in order to maximize liberty.  Employers, not including government agencies, are not part of the government and therefore are not bound by the same rules.  Of course, this is assuming a society in which all interaction is voluntary.  Being an employee of a company is voluntary.  If they don’t like the policies, they can quit.  However, society has devolved to the point were many things are not voluntary, which probably violates one or more of the other rights laid out in the Constitution.  For instance, education is a lawful requirement.  This leads me to answering question 4.

4. Since education is an involuntary interaction from the perspective of students, I would consider it a violation of the Second Amendment to not allow students to carry guns.  The same does not apply for the teachers due to the already mentioned concept of voluntary employment.  However, it would be good policy to allow teachers to carry due to the fact that the increased risk of gun violence from teachers is minimal compared to the risk of students already carrying.  The presence of guns in school cannot violate a right to a safe learning environment because the right to safety does not exist within the confines of liberty.  The concept of safety has such broad coverage that making it a right would inevitably violate everyone’s rights to everything.  Simply leaving the house is less safe than staying home, after all.  I should close this paragraph with a potential necessary clarification.  I am suggesting that students have the right to bear arms in school only in the context of forced education, since the government is involved.  Ideally, everything would be voluntary including school, which would make for only private schools.  In such cases, just like my argument for company autonomy in #2, schools would be free to establish a ban on guns just as students could choose to boycott the school whose policies they disagree with.

M7-Atwood

The only circumstances in which beneficiaries should pay for anything is in the case of active actions that lead to the benefit.  In the context of environment, an active action is any action set to improve the environment for human living.  A passive action is any action that prevents environmental deterioration.  I can think of only a few things that would be considered active, such as eliminating mosquitoes from existence.  Other than a few exceptions, the environment used to be perfect for us (say around 100,000 years ago).

The development of humans has led to many situations where a small minority of people can destroy the habitat for everyone else.  To me, this represents a violation of one’s natural rights, especially since the effects can last long enough to impact many generations, most of whom aren’t even existing yet.  Since these short-term thinking profiteers are not participating in the passive actions that prevent environmental decay, the rest of the world is now forced to have to consider solutions to reverse the effects.

Solutions, such as adoption of solar and wind power are not to be considered active actions to be paid for by the beneficiaries.  Proof of this is found when imagining the use of these solutions 100,000 years ago.  Not only would a wind farm be unnecessary but it would even be considered bad for the environment given the near-perfect environmental conditions of the time.  Instead, these solutions are just consequences of selfish historical events, such as the Haber process that allowed the 20th century population boom.  It is a widely accepted notion that people be held accountable for their actions, which would include the consequence of reversing the damage.  The word restitution comes to mind and is very appropriate considering that the environment is the only human need that transcends human lifespan and should therefore be considered collectively owned.

M5-Atwood

1. The most alarming part for me was the realization that corporations are legally required to put it’s own interests first, which translates to putting the interests of the owners first. This makes sense in the context of a corporation being a legal person. If someone is trying to escape liability by transferring it to a group (the corporation), leaving them basically off the hook if the company fails, then it makes sense that there be a law that dictates that the decisions these people make benefits the group. Otherwise, it opens up the scenario where individual owners don’t have to consider the risk to the corporation when making decisions. What makes this legal requirement alarming is the fact that it backfires. While a legal person, yes, a corporation has more power and influence than an actual person, giving them power to overcome limits in what could otherwise be a balanced “ecosystem.” It has evolved to the point of being massively destructive.

A) Labeling a corporation as a legal person is taking it too far, since this gives them the same rights as a person. As explained above, a corporation should be given some sort of special status to force the owners to think about the group and not just themselves. However, it is clear that they have the advantage of strength in numbers (wealth, lobbyists, lawyers, etc.). No other actual person is capable of this much power. Even individual billionaires are less powerful than corporations.

B) This quote ties into the the very reason of a corporation’s advantages, implied from above. A corporation is a group of people that are attempting to transfer the risk of owning a business to a group away from themselves. If found of any wrongdoing, it is the corporation that must pay, not the owners. You can’t send a corporation to jail; you can only fine them. Since the individual owners are usually doing what is legally required of them, acting in the interest of the corporation, they are free from prosecution as well. Any fine that the corporation is issued is sometimes less than the money they saved doing whatever it is they were fined for and is always low enough to not put the corporation’s future at risk. If someone wanted to take down a corporation in the most extreme way possible, say the assassination of the 100 largest owners, then new people would take their place and the corporation would continue on. This makes corporations much more protected than normal people, which is rather unfair given that they are supposed to be equals based on the definition of a legal person.

C) First, there needs to be a separation between what is moral and what is legal. If it is in fact legal to falsify news, then a nation that has so many other laws governing morality should have no problem agreeing on a law to prevent false news. Morally, I’m torn between having the right to correct information and not having the right to someone else’s services. News reporting is a service that requires someone to work and contribute their time. Most people should agree that one cannot be required to provide this service. Even if compensated, if they’re being forced to provide it, then they are slaves. This essentially gives them the right to provide that service however they want. However, if society had to choose between false news and no news, we’d probably be better off with no news. Also, people should be considered to have the right to be free from manipulation (which is just a mild form of slavery). So to stick with the libertarian context I used when describing forced service, I can also say that a person should be able to do anything that doesn’t violate the rights of others. If freedom from manipulation is considered a right, then a news provider would not have the right to report anything else other than unbiased factual information. That provider would then have to choose between providing the news within those limitations or not providing the news at all.

M4 – Atwood

As Powell’s article explains in simple enough language, the sweatshop issue is a matter of economics.  If not for other factors, an economics issue is neutral and devoid of any moral code.  With the way the world currently works, employers need to attract workers with sufficiently high wages in order to operate their business, but cannot pay too much or they risk losing the incentive to keep operating.  Sweatshops appear to be the best option for people living in impoverished areas.  So long as we keep the argument confined to economics, this employer-employee relationship is mutually beneficial and cannot possible be wrong.

The problems with sweatshops arise when considering factors outside of this relationship.  It is exactly because of sweatshops being the best option for workers that indicates that they aren’t really free.  The choice was made for them by a network of institutionalized systems.  Employers in these situations are therefore obligated to take at least partial responsibility for their workers’ well-being.  This starts with human rights.  Namely, the right to unionize.  Unions represent the only free market solution for the powerless (workers) to force change from the powerful (owners).  Anything else is government interference.  So any argument in favor of sweatshops that have to do with free market philosophy must also claim that companies cannot stop workers from unionizing.

Yet, that is exactly what happens in sweatshops.  Companies are allowed to penalize workers for even attempting to unionize.  This can be considered the root cause for most of the human rights and environmental rights issues.  The ability for workers to unionize would eventually lead to safer, cleaner conditions, something that an ethical company should already provide since it falls under a human rights issue.  As implied earlier, the freedom of the workers to not work in such conditions is non-existent because of the established systems.  So human rights do fall under company responsibility.  If workers could unionize, they might be able to work shorter hours, which would give them the time to be more environmentally proactive outside of work.  Child labor could be eliminated, which would allow children the time to go to school.  Education is one of the single most important contributors to the development of a society.  Children being occupied in the sweatshops only perpetuates the wage slavery the country is subjected to because the lack of education will ensure the continuation of conditions that force people to “choose” sweatshops as their best career path.

http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/Consumer-Products/Sweatshops.html

Despite all this, conglomerates are not obligated to do anything.  When it comes to ethics, what a person should or should not do is a matter of philosophy.  Factually, companies must only provide good working conditions and implement environmental protection practices in countries with such regulations, such as America.  Factually, in a free market society, companies have the freedom to choose a place of business that saves them as much money as possible.  There’s no difference in morality between a firm moving to a right-to-work state with less taxes and moving to an even less regulated country.  Any argument that claims companies are obligated to self-regulation will stem from “natural rights.”  Using this phrase is the only way to make morality transcend a nation’s borders.  But even natural rights exist only because certain universally-accepted philosophies say so.

M2 – Atwood

I would imagine that egoism is not a very popular morality.  Even most who practice it will likely claim a more altruistic morality to keep from being a social outcast.  I will gladly admit it and can use a pretty major life event to demonstrate why it shouldn’t be considered evil by conventional standards.

I was in the Navy and the only reason I’m not still there is because I cheated on one of the monthly exams my particular job has included.  The non-egoist would probably point towards egoism as the reason that I chose to cheat, thereby proving why egoism is an inferior theory.  However, I now find myself ineligible for the one benefit I joined for, the GI Bill.  It was in my best interest to not do what I did, because now I face the same fear that most other students face: debt.

From this I can see that a true egoist can vary in their actions based on one main factor: their ability to look at the long term.  Either pathway would have been technically a selfish decision, since the reasons that I joined were selfish.  However, losing sight of the long term actually made me slightly less selfish since I now stand to gain less overall.  This is but one example of how egoism can inadvertently benefit others when practiced properly (or in this case, protect others from harm).  My decision certainly would have harmed others since the military has a tendency to attack individual problems with permanent measures that make life harder for others.

M1 – Atwood

Ethics is likely ingrained in us to some degree.  Our instinct for survival is what drives our actions and most people seem to be biologically programmed to have positive or negative feelings based on choices we make.  This is especially true because of how humans evolved to rely on social interaction for survival.  This is why it seems like common sense that murder, for instance, is wrong.

As human collectives eventually became more advanced, giving rise to civilization, the list of actions one could do to hurt someone else became longer.  The more advanced we are, the longer that list becomes.

When it comes to basic ethics, most people can inherit an instinct for them.  When it comes to ethical dilemmas that exist due only to our progress, we must be taught.  For instance, a person is not born with an instinct to protect the environment.  The source of this level of ethics is going to come from parents more than likely, but their guidance can be traced all the way back to any number of collectives formed long ago.  This could be religion, nations, tribes, etc.  At some point, people collectively decided that society will operate best following a certain code of ethics.  From there, our definition of what is ethical can change based on changing values as time progresses.