Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Overhaul LONG Overdue: American Labor Law

I was struck recently by an economist’s observation that even the safest investing era actually brings on reckless loans because bankers feel safer – meaning that all times require the most stringent reining in of financial misbehavior.

At the same time I was reading Blustein’s 2003 book The Chastening which depicts the need to get the “electronic herd” to stop unnecessarily destabilizing economies (I would simply switch to paying interest-only when the herd runs on short-term loans as long as the debtor is otherwise pristine like Korea – instead of exorbitant bail-outs: cheaper and everybody gets what they really want; why not?).

I was also reading Greenhouse’s 2008 book The Squeeze which depicts the horrendous across the board shake down of American labor and I wondered: Why, if progressive geeks (pro and amateur) understand the need to – endlessly -- design and redesign checks and balances into the financial structures which everyone’s long term prosperity depends on; why oh why don’t they understand the equally critical need to – endlessly -- design and redesign checks and balances into the labor market which at least 90% of everyone’s day to day human existence and day in day out prosperity depend on?

The structure of the American (not European) labor market is at least 35 years overdue for a top to bottom overhaul. It could even be argued that the checks and balances built in decades ago were not that fundamentally adequate of and by themselves – but were helped along by several lucky breaks: the great compression, WWII’s restriction on higher wages leading firms to offer health and pension benefits to attract employees (unfortunately we know what private benefits are worth today), no foreign competition, all combined with decades of continuous high productivity gains (as long as everybody is making money the pressure from the top on the bottom tends to stay off in my life’s observations).

By 1973, productivity gains finally tailed off (and stayed off for 22 years) while the winners and losers post Depression and WWII had sorted themselves: the pressure was on – and by now is full on (Greenhouse’s squeeze).

I was struck recently how – in an attempt to grow prosperity in the poorest third-world economies (whose politics we know little of), progressive economists display monumental creativity, mixing dozens of interacting factors with current studies and historical perspectives –- but how – to rescue ever more underpaid labor in the world's richest economy (whose politics and common knowledge we know all about), it is impossible to get the best progressive minds to pick up off the ground and proselytize the simple, straightforward force multiplier used successfully on every continent (including French Canada, N.A.) to stave off the labor impoverishing race to the bottom: namely, sector-wide labor agreements.

There is clearly a motivational obstacle here, not an intellectual problem (the economic answer seems unbeatable). I tried a tricky run at it here: postulating that (boy) intellectuals are forever trapped “hunt-on” mode and unable to suggest changes in operation that don’t fit in with how all the other “hunters” are operating at the moment (boy synchronization instinct?). More simply (Occam’s Razor) if progressive economists were fully aware what political and social obstacles they might confront in a poor Third World culture, they might not feel free to work their equations in a perfectly abstract economic mode (which is where every analysis should begin).

If it helps (the boys) my efforts to bring the advantages of sector-wide labor agreements to the attention of Americans far and wide may have – or may eventually have – some people around the nation talking up the possibility (abstractly the idea sells itself [unless you know too much]). Here is line I just happened onto on an Obama web site which is encouraging me to redouble my efforts (email all college newspapers, fax all unions? – I’m sitting around on disability; nothing else to do): He doesn't propose a single-payer health care system or sector-wide labor agreements, making America the last to simply consider what is old everywhere else.” (By David from Las Cruces, NM - Jan 21st, 2008 at 12:21 am EST -- second “fat” paragraph from bottom).

See (American boy geeks), other people are talking about it; now, you can too (without disorganizing the "hunt”).

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