Transactional Morality

The gods of our economy only care about you for one thing and one thing only – that you pay your bills on time and that you have as many bills as you can possibly sustain. There is only one moral law – transact business. Greed is good because it promotes commerce.

I don’t have a problem with this model. However, the problem is that greed is only good at the transactional level, where the middle class feeds itself to gain more and more. Incremental growth leads to larger houses, nicer cars, etc. It’s the essence of the American dream. Work hard. Live well. Retire and relax with a job well done. Greed is not good, however, outside this model.

You cannot have a functioning economy without a strong middle class. You cannot have a strong middle class with below average wages. Easy credit has been the temporary answer to this problem for a long time now. The economy, however, will crumble if real wages are not increased.

Corporations have no problem feeding the mouths of CEOs. There is no question that publicly traded companies have a moral mandate to provide return on the investment of their shareholders. However, how much is enough? Whatever happened to putting some of the profit back into the company? Whatever happened to the idea that human capital is worth investing in?

There is a myth in America that the big money only goes to the college educated and that the more you know you more you get paid. Our education system is a powerful political force and that is the message that is relayed. However, more and more people are drowning in college loan debts. More and more people are unable to get jobs that reflect the skills and knowledge they gained in college.

Why is this? Is it simply that college graduates don’t want to work? Transitioning out of the education system and into the ‘real world’ has become harder and harder due to one thing: low wages. Why are salaries so low that no one can pay for cars and pay for houses without owing the bank? Where is the freedom in the American system when everyone is a wage slave to the banking system?

The banks are not the only culprit. There is a disconnect between the real value of college education and the skills actually needed in the economy. Do we really need thousands of people who have read Plato? Or do we need thousands of people who know how to fix a carburetor?

The Capitalist system works when it is not focused on increasing the wealth of the already wealthy. If the CEO of a company is working hard to buy his or her third house and people who work for the company cannot afford to buy even one, there is a big problem. Not just for the company. It’s unhealthy for the economy as a whole.

Companies control how much a person is paid. The idea that hard work gets you more money may be true in a general sense. However, ultimately it is the company that sets the rules that govern the nexus between hard work and more pay. If it is set so that the worker can only make but so much, what is the real incentive?

Elitism governs our economy and the rich competing against themselves to see who can be more rich is another fundamental problem. Nothing seems enough when you are constantly working up a never-ending ladder to see who gets to be King of the Moon.

If there are caps on how much an ordinary person can make (i.e. the ‘minimum’ wage – which really translates to the maximum wage a company is required to pay you) then there should also be caps on how much CEOs can make. What do these jerks do anyway? My guess is that companies would keep going without them if they all simply disappeared. I know that notion will disappoint all the accolytes of the great ones who idolize these morons and who worship at the feet of their masters hoping one day to be in their shoes. My advice: grow a pair.

Experts will know I come at this topic from a naïve standpoint and the above analysis is grossly simplified in many ways. However, I think the point that supply and demand favors workers when labor is in short supply is a true statement. Yet companies have continually tried everything but raising pay of the average worker to address the problem. Blaming workers for being lazy, inefficient, poorly educated, or whatever doesn’t cut it. A good company should be able to take any worker and motivate them into becoming an asset. Any company who can’t do that is not trying hard enough and really, ultimately, is only a giant leech on America’s gracious Capitalist teat.

Companies want cheap labor because they have made a strategic error. A company who does not invest in its people (i.e. the workers) will ultimately cease to exist. Payroll is seen as an ‘administrative cost’ (a bad thing) rather than a reinvestment in the company. As long as that rotten attitude towards the people of the company exists, the company will deteriorate from the inside out.

Pay people more and more money goes into the hands of the people who can buy more products. More products (like food) make people happy. Happy people make happier employees. But, companies will be quick to say – we don’t care if our employees are happy. That isn’t our responsibility. Yet if companies don’t care about their employees, why should employees care about the company? And if they aren’t getting what they need out of the company, where is the incentive to work harder? Where is the incentive to innovate? Nowhere.

American companies are biting the big one because they are led by incompetent ego maniacs who had one good idea and let it go to his or her head. Without the people to implement the plan, there is no plan.

Yes, business is a hard business. You have to make tough decisions. There really isn’t enough money to pay for the Board of Director’s country club fees and pay workers enough to live on. There really isn’t enough money for the CEO to buy that third house and allow Sally in accounting at the home office in Lincoln, Nebraska to afford her own home. No, sometimes you have to make tough decisions. Screw Sally. Let’s all buy some hookers. Now those girls really know how to work.

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