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By What Means Have Income and Wealth Steadily Been Transferred to the Rich?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Richard Clark     Permalink
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This transfer has mainly occurred by way of employers making sure that the profits and benefits of ever greater worker productivity (which advancing machinery and technology steadily provide) is rarely if ever shared with workers in the form of a reduced workweek and/or a higher hourly wage. Instead, this ongoing stream of newly created wealth is continually directed upward into their elite pockets.

Bertrand Russell provided the key to our topic question's answer way back in 1931 when he argued as follows:

* Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins -- they make as many pins as the world needs, working eight hours a day.

* Someone then makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins as before.

* But the world does not need twice as many pins -- pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price.

* In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacture of the pins would take to working four hours instead of eight each day, and everything else would go on as before.

* But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. (It would also represent a dereliction of 'duty' on the part of company owners, who can and do profit greatly by firing half their work force, in a situation like this, and essentially keeping those cancelled payments to workers for themselves and their companies' stockholders.)

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* So, unless half of these employees are fired quickly, they will still work eight hours each day, there will be too many pins, some employers will go bankrupt, and half the men previously involved in making pins will eventually be thrown out of work.

* Then, in the end, there will be just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way it is ensured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness.

* Can anything more insane be imagined?


More recently, Thom Hartmann added this supplementary explanation, here slightly edited and abridged:

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Ever since Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 striking air traffic controllers back on August 5th, 1981, and appointed labor-hostile Raymond Donovan as the first anti-labor Secretary of Labor in our nation's history, there's been a War on Workers in America. While worker productivity has skyrocketed since Reagan stepped foot inside the White House, wages have remained stagnant.

And the remnants of Reagan's ongoing War on Workers have been so successful -- even during Democratic administrations -- that it's not just keeping wages flat, it's even starting to erode them. Since 2000, as worker productivity continued to grow, average worker take-home pay has been in a steady freefall, while pay for executives and CEO's has soared off the charts. For the financial elite, the War on Workers has been a huge success.

But while this War has been steadily eating away at the income of working-class Americans, its ultimate goal seems to be to turn America's activist working middle-class into a dispirited, disheartened, and disempowered working-poor-class.

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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