Hey BLM/AntiFa: What About the Workers?
Notice something about the BLM/AntiFa rioting? Nobody seems to be very concerned about the workers. And yet, here we are at Labor Day, when all good progressive souls, for whom Kindness Is Everything, ought to be thinking of nothing else.
Yeah, I know, as a good liberal lady was telling me the other day: Given the obscene inequality of today’s capitalism it is time to do something.
Yes. But compared to what? Compared to the Fabulous Fifties when unionized white autoworkers and steelworkers were doing great, until they weren’t? A decade when blacks and women were, well… And whatabout gays! How Fabulous were the Fifties for them?
Whatabout the Thirties! Back then progressive Democrats were putting their pedal to the metal to help the workers, and nothing worked until they took their foot off the pedal and let Henry J. Kaiser build Liberty ships without much gubmint supervision.
May I propose a universal principle here? Governments and politicians and activists and nice liberal ladies Have No Clue how to help the workers.
And the reason is simple. You can propose all kinds of pro-labor legislation and unions and benefits and Diversity and Inclusion, and we’ll assume that the union leaders and government tax-gatherers and race-card players don’t loot the businesses right off the bat. But what happens to the workers when the next technological revolution comes along and the workers find themselves working for a corporation that is on the skids?
Exactly. Because the union leaders and politicians and activists Have No Clue what to do other than tax and bully and regulate.
And this is not new. I am struggling through Thomas More’s Utopia published around 1530 and what is he complaining about? He is complaining, already, about enclosures, the conversion of common land into sheep pasture. The editors thoughtfully include a list of important events, including the 1495 act passed by the English Parliament to Do Something about vagabonds and beggars.
Do you see what I see? Already, by 1500, the old feudal order was breaking up, the landholders were kicking the surplus peasants off the land, and Parliament Had No Clue what to do about it. Except pass the first Poor Law a century later in 1597.
The fact is that peasants in England were getting thrown off the land and were starving right up until 1830 when they finally found jobs in those dark satanic mills.
Right now, the Chinese are going through all this in 50 years instead of 500 years. In Factory Girls, Chinese-American WSJ reporter Leslie T. Chang takes us into the lives of teenage girls in the mid-2000s in Dongguan, just up the road from Hong Hong. These girls just off the farm are the workers assembling handbags and clothing and plastic knickknacks that we buy at Walmart. And they are sending money home to their parents in their home village.
The factory girls are thriving, despite the fact that there are no unions, no benefits, no help from the government when their employer doesn’t pay them. When they change jobs, they probably leave a month’s wages behind them. And when their smartphone gets stolen, they lose all their contacts in the big city. Consuming self-help books by the bushel, they are the most radical individualists in the world: “You can only rely on yourself.” And they are just off the farm.
Back in the 1930s we were promised that social insurance and labor legislation would protect the workers. Today social insurance programs are breaking the budget and unionized teachers don’t want to work.
In the 1980s, the Reagan economy opened opportunities for a new generation, but also hollowed out the Rust Belt.
Now Trump is promoting an economic nationalism that is raising wages for the lower-paid workers, for now.
I am here to say that Nobody Knows Nothing. Not Thomas More back in 1530, not the educated Youth of the 19th century that imagined the industrial era a replay of feudalism, not the regulatory experts, not the New Deal liberals, not the globalists, not the nationalists, not the Wokies.
When disaster strikes we can, like the Cajun Navy, sweep in and help out, for a moment or for a season.
But solve the problem? In my view the problem is usually a cock-up on the ruling-class front. In the 1500s it was probably the nobles “improving” their estates and kicking peasants off the land so they could strut their stuff as courtiers. In the unionizing 1870s it was probably the post-Civil War deflation. In the 1930s it was probably the fault of the Federal Reserve failing to act as lender of last resort after the Crash of 1929. In 2008 it was probably the fault of the Federal Reserve -- Ben, oh Ben -- failing to act as lender of last resort for Lehman Brothers.
But what do nice liberal ladies or brave Antifa street warriors know of all that? Let alone care about the workers.