Saturday, May 7, 2005

The great contradiction

We have political democracy. We demand that our representatives answer to us and reflect our goals and desires. If we had no say in decisions being made about our lives, we would revolt and overthrow the government.

We did just that 229 years ago.

We have economic totalitarianism. Our bosses demand that we answer to them and reflect their goals and desires. We have no say in decisions being made about our lives, but we do not revolt and overthrow the management.

What is the difference between government and economics? Why is democracy desirable for politics but totalitarianism "desirable" for economics? Anyone who truly supports democracy would recognize that democracy in the workplace is just as important as democracy in the government. We want government of, for, and by the people, but for some reason we reject an economy of, for, and by the people. Instead, we accept an economy ruled by people who were appointed for their roles, not elected. Power is distributed from above, not below.

The economy plays as large a role in our lives as government, and yet it is treated as if it is something entirely distinct. It would be "wrong" to require workplace democracy because that would "interfere" with "private" matters. But the idea of a "private sector" is utterly bogus, because all companies employ the public and sell to the public. The actions of companies are inextricably linked to the economy as a whole and everyone who participates in it.

The simplest means of enacting some modicum of economic democracy would be granting the political right of recall to employees. If bosses are not acting in the best interests of the people they manage, they should be able to be fired by those people, rather than only by whoever is superior to them on the basis of the profit they make for the company. In a truly democratic economy, the employees would select their bosses, either from their own ranks or through consultation in hiring.

I don't expect to see either of these occur in my lifetime, outside of a handful of individual progressive companies.


1 comment:

  1. I read the first paragraph but have to run, I can't wait to read the rest.. Looks good.