The American educational system is turning out technicians, not broadly educated, adaptable, thinking citizens. Much of this can be laid at the feet of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his concept of Scientific Management. It was an idea that was adopted by such disparate organizations as the Harvard Business School, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany. It is a system that emphasizes efficiency at the cost of creativity, imagination, morality or any other form of positive societal values.
It is also a system that is absolutely contrary to the ideals of the Founders and Framers of our nation, requiring as it does a complete submission of our individuality in the name of efficiency and profit. (For more on this, I would suggest reading John Ralston Saul's Voltaire's Bastards , an excoriation of the technocracy, including its responsibility for Vietnam and other disasters. If you want to really scare yourself, read the first few chapters of L. Fletcher Prouty's JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy at the same time, and see the two authors' premises heterodyne into a grotesque whole that explains much of what is wrong with our country today.) Karl Marx predicted this dehumanization of workers in his writings, done in the name of profit.
What Marx referred to in some places in his writing as "political economy," I will refer to in the following paragraph as " the economics of laissez-faire capitalism." I do this in order to differentiate it from the broader term "economics," which British economist Alfred Marshall coined in 1888 to replace the term "political economy," which had been in use up until that time. This is one of the most difficult problems that Marx deals with in his writings: The creation of a group of "robber baron" capitalists by the new industrial age, and the reduction of their workers to the role of serfs:
"We have started out from the premises of [the economics of laissez-faire capitalism -- RJG]. We have accepted its language and its laws. We presupposed private property; the separation of labor, capital, and land, and likewise of wages, profit, and capital; the division of labor; competition; the conception of exchange value, etc. From [the economics of laissez-faire capitalism -- RJG] itself, using its own words, we have shown that the worker sinks to the level of a commodity, and moreover the most wretched commodity of all; that the misery of the worker is in inverse proportion to the power and volume of his production; that the necessary consequence of competition is the accumulation of capital in a few hands and hence the restoration of monopoly in a more terrible form; and that, finally, the distinction between capitalist and landlord, between agricultural worker and industrial worker, disappears and the whole of society must split into the two classes of property owners and propertyless workers." (Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts , "Human Requirements and the Division of Labor;" p. 48, 1844.)
So what's to be done?
First of all, Marx's "dictatorship of the proletariat" is to me a self-defeating idea. Replacing one dictatorship (that of the industrial robber barons) with another dictatorship (that of the proletariat) to me defies all logic. On the other hand, the idea of workers having a say (other than walking off the job) at their place of employment is an idea whose time has come. Whether you look at Germany's success with her largest corporations (2000+ employees) requiring one-half of their board of directors being drawn from their company's workers, or co-operatives like the highly successful Mondragon Group of Spain that is owned, run, and its dividends shared by the employee-owners; the hierarchical corporate system of robber baron owners and working serfs of men such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie, are as outdated as spats and whale-bone corsets. Until American industry and commerce begins to look at its workers as positive assets, and not liabilities, or a cost of doing business, they will continue to make the fundamental error of thinking of people as things. And that, as I first stated in my August 5, 2009 OpEdNews article, The Hope for Audacity , is where, in my opinion, human evil begins.
Second, we must decide which economic class will provide the foundation for our nation, and then provide a political and economic system that insures the dominance of that class. As I stated above, Karl Marx believed that the proletariat, or working poor, should form the dominant, and after the revolution, only class in his "classless" system. I disagree. Pulling everyone down to the lowest common denominator to make a society "classless" demonstrates a lack of ambition and empathy on Marx's part for the very people he says that he is trying to help. We have also seen the definitions of the classes change in the last two centuries, at least in terms of economic power and stability. Factory and other workers in the Western democracies have enjoyed a level of economic comfort that exceeds Marx's "bourgeois" many times over. No, the answer to the problem of class warfare is the permanent expansion of the middle class to eighty-plus percent of the nation's population.
I put forward Aristotle's idea of a constitutionally limited government, dominated by a large and well-informed middle class in my March 12, 2011 article The Ghost of Ancient Hellas . To quote Aristotle (Politics , Book IV, Chapter 11; translated by Benjamin Jowett ;) "The [middle class dominance--RJG] of [constitutionally limited -- RJG] states is clearly best, for no other is free from faction; and where the middle class is large, there are least likely to be factions and dissensions." We have seen that as the middle class has been declining in America over the last thirty years, strident factionalism in our politics has clearly been on the rise. Our nation must relearn that compromise is not surrender: As conservative godfather Edmund Burke stated in his Speech on Conciliation with America (March 22, 1775), "All government--indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act--is founded on compromise and barter."
Aristotle continues his assessment of a constitutionally limited government, dominated by a vibrant and well-informed middle class:
"Thus it is manifest [readily apparent--RJG] that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is large, and stronger if possible than both the other classes [poor or rich--RJG], or at any rate than either singly; for the addition of the middle class turns the scale, and prevents either of the extremes from being dominant " The reason [for failure of these states when established--RJG] is that the middle class is seldom numerous in them, and whichever party, whether the rich or the common people [poor], transgresses the mean and predominates, draws the constitution its own way, and thus arises either oligarchy or democracy [mob rule--RJG]." (Aristotle , Politics , Book IV, Chapter 11; translated by Benjamin Jowett.)
So how do we establish and maintain this predominance of the middle class. I believe that we were given most of that answer nearly seventy years ago by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
President Roosevelt spelled out his vision for the future of America on January 11, 1944, in his Annual Message to Congress. It was not a vision of empire, but like George Washington's a vision of honest friendship with all of the nations of the world who were willing to accept it. It was not a vision of plutocrats dominating America, as they had twice in FDR's lifetime, but a vision where his Second Economic Bill of Rights would bring us closer to the realization of Jefferson's pronouncement, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal..." The essential points of this Second Bill of Rights were to provide:
useful and remunerative employment, together with the potential to find an avocation and not simply a job;
wages that provide adequate food, clothing, opportunity for recreation, and decent shelter for themselves and their families;
adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
protection from unfair competition and monopolistic practices at home and abroad, for every business in America, large and small;