Work is a treadmill, and the speed doubles every ten years

April 28, 2008 § 49 Comments

Lydia has an interesting post up about the seeming oddity in corporate life, in which with few exceptions every employee in a large firm is required to have a ‘development plan’. At most large corporations, at least in the white collar world, you (and sometimes your supervisor) are penalized if you don’t change jobs often enough.

I don’t think this is a result of a distortion of market forces and capitalism though: I think it is intrinsic. I’ve argued before that I think that PC tyranny has been adopted by corporations because it is profitable to do so, and I think a similar observation applies here. I made the following comment in the thread:

You can’t think of a company as a ‘fixed’ entity like a car, or even like a cow (a “cash cow” company will get a low market value even if it has high profits, while a growth company will get high market value even with relatively low [current] profits). It is a false analogy. Every ‘human resource’ in the company is an asset, and assets that do not appreciate in value over time actually lose money for the company when measured against inflation; so they have to be gotten rid of. Just because they store some value ‘in place’ doesn’t mean they are worth keeping around: storing value ‘in place’ is money in a mattress, worth far less than productive, growing capital. (The only time this ceases to be the case is when economic hard times hit. Then everyone wants to store value and doesn’t care if it is growing as much as that it isn’t losing value. Usually cash is the hedge against downturns though, since cash is far more flexible than less fungible human-units. PC tyranny helps with the fungibility of the human-units though).

An engineer who does the same job for forty years is a dead asset. We have to keep putting money into him, usually increasing amounts over time, and get some marginal benefit from his increased experience but no true upgrade in his productivity which translates to the bottom line. Rather he needs to be constantly thinking about how to obsolete himself, replace himself with machines and cheaper less skilled labor so he can move up to the next thing. Upward mobility pressure on employees is not pointless. Growth-oriented ambitious people will do well in an environment of continual upward pressure. People who enjoy what they do and want to do it for the rest of their careers and live like human beings may be made miserable by that situation, but they aren’t the ones who will contribute large leaps of growth to the business anyway, so they don’t matter. It is more profitable to get rid of them and staff with the other kind of people.

Step back for a second and think about the logic of earning profits from capital. If you invest your money and earn 10% simple non-compounding interest, your money doubles in ten years. At the end of that ten years you can invest it again and earn twice as much for the next ten years. The same asset now has to be twice as productive. This upward pressure applies to all investment assets, and employees are investment assets: it costs money to acquire them and keep them around just like anything else. It is true that many assets depreciate — lose value over time. Obviously a company in the business of making money (which is reflected in share prices) wants all of its assets to depreciate in real terms as little as possible, and to appreciate in value if possible.

So an employee who produces X today had better produce 2X ten years from now, just to keep up. Why, you ask? Because they can. And if they can’t, someone else will replace them. Every asset in a company has this upward bias against depreciation and in favor of appreciation.

The reason PC tyranny and continual upward pressure are features of modern capitalism is not because they are irrational liberal prejudices or mere tastes. The reason they are features of modern capitalism is because they are profitable, at least in the time frames that matter to modern capitalism. PC tyranny improves workforce liquidity; continual upward pressure improves workforce value. This is how capitalism-qua-capitalism ideally should work, and does work absent adult supervision. That this results in an inhuman nihilistic existence for the actual human beings involved isn’t something that enters into the ‘logic’ of it.

I think it is wrong to take an idealistic view of capitalism, either in the positive or in the negative. Capitalism is not an angel, and it isn’t a devil. It is more like a Golem, and we should beware the lesson of Eliyahu of Chelm.

(Cross-posted to What’s Wrong With the World)

Broadband NFP

April 24, 2008 § 4 Comments

“But if, according to a rational and just judgement, there are no similar grave reasons of a personal nature or deriving from external circumstances, then the determination to avoid habitually the fecundity of the union while at the same time to continue fully satisfying their sensuality, can be derived only from a false appreciation of life and from reasons having nothing to do with proper ethical laws.” – Pius XII, Apostolate of the Midwife

“Therefore, in our late allocution on conjugal morality, We affirmed the legitimacy, and at the same time, the limits — in truth very wide — of a regulation of offspring, which, unlike so-called ‘birth control,’ is compatible with the law of God.” – Pius XII, Morality in Marriage (emphasis mine), from Papal Pronouncements on Marriage and the Family, Werth and Mihanovich, 1955

So I was wrong, and there is some Magisterial support for the notion that the scope of the moral license to practice NFP is wide. There you go.

Is the Law of Gravity Objective?

April 15, 2008 § 78 Comments

There is an interesting post and discussion about NFP on the blog Vox Nova. One of the things that came up is that in order for NFP to be morally licit, the reasons for using it as a means to avoid or limit pregnancy must be at least ‘serious’ or ‘grave’, depending upon which Magisterial documents are cited. Now clearly in most cases we don’t know, and probably don’t want to know unless knowing can permit us to be helpful in some way, a particular couple’s reasons for using NFP to avoid pregnancy. But it seems to me that a general lack of knowledge about some particular couple’s reasons (unless they tell us) doesn’t imply that it is impossible to discuss what does and does not constitute grave or serious reasons. It seems to me that the gravity of various reasons for avoiding pregnancy is a matter of objective fact.

Spooky Intentions at a Distance

April 10, 2008 § 30 Comments

The discussion referenced in the previous post brings to mind the following:

Proposition: There is no such thing as remote formal cooperation with evil.

I disagree with that proposition, and I think the Magisterium does too. That proposition though appears to be an implication of the post where Mike says:

Let’s assume what I’ve already conceded: that what brought about Terri Schaivo’s death was an act of murder. Let’s even assume, for argument’s sake, that writers who influenced others to disagree with that judgment thereby “cooperated” in some remote fashion with Terri’s death. Does this mean that any such person is actually guilty of murder by “formal cooperation?” Clearly not.

Note: I agree that the stated criteria are not sufficient in themselves. Continuing:

It depends on the influence they intended to have, the influence they actually had, the degree of their own culpability for their rejecting the moral truth in this matter, and the degree of others’ culpability in sharing that error without having themselves done the actual deed.

Whether the cooperation was formal or not depends on none of those things, as far as I know. It depends only on whether the cooperator intended that the act of pulling Terri’s tube be carried out by someone.

Now if someone wants to quibble and say that formal cooperation with murder isn’t murder by formal cooperation, I’m fine with that. But what we are talking about is formal cooperation with a murder.

Of course Mike’s passage might mean multiple things. But if I take it to be an assertion that remote formal cooperation in a murder is impossible, or to be premised on such an assertion, then I disagree. Formal cooperation is when I (the acting subject) intend for an objectively evil act to be done, and I cooperate with it in any way — however remote. That my cooperation is remote, or that I disagree that the act in question is immoral, does not take the ‘formal’ out of my cooperation. And – the bit that generates the controversy – it is always wrong to formally cooperate with evil, period. Appeals to subjective culpability are a sidetrack from the subject of the nature of formal cooperation. As Pope John Paul II wrote,

It is never acceptable to confuse a “subjective” error about moral good with the “objective” truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience. It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good.

Mike’s post taking my own post to task is potentially multivocal. I can interpret it in such a way that I agree with its criticisms, though in that case the position which it criticizes is not my position. Specifically, it is not formal cooperation (and we went into this in the discussion attached to my post) unless the person actually supported that Terri’s tube actually be pulled.

But of course a lot of people, including bloggers, did will that Michael Schiavo be “left alone” and that Terri’s tube in fact get pulled. All of these formally cooperated with her murder. Some made this willing more explicit than others, of course, but what is morally pertinent is whether the blogger in question in fact supported the act of pulling Terri’s tube, not the details of how that blogger advocated on behalf of that act.

The point to the post under criticism is merely that an appeal to the remoteness of the cooperation in question does not take the cooperation out of the ‘formal’ genus; and an appeal to disagreement about whether killing Terri was or was not understood to be immoral does not take the cooperation out of the ‘formal’ genus. Someone who supported the removal of Terri’s tube and did anything whatsoever, however remote, to cooperate with that removal, formally cooperated with her murder.

I Report, You Decide

April 10, 2008 § 4 Comments

Apparently my blog is infested with “Right wing moralism”.

The Enemy in the Mirror

April 7, 2008 § 2 Comments

In a blog entry at Turnabout Jim Kalb comments:

The author’s conclusion is that we need some tribalism, fanaticism and law of the jungle of our own, just enough to maintain our ability to put individual self-interest first. It’s the classic neoconservative version of the culture war: liberalism does itself in, so let’s stick some traditional discipline into it and justify the discipline by pointing out that it’ll put the system of everybody doing what he feels like doing on a more reliable footing.

That is an interesting and concise way to put the matter. What really struck me about this way of putting it is how strikingly similar neoconservatism is to its arch-nemesis, communism. Communism saw the death of the free and equal superman in the feudalistic industrialized capitalism which arose from classical liberalism. In order to combat this, communism – as a tactical thing – adopted watered down versions of traditionally conservative or anti-liberal political positions, rejecting (for example) absolute property-based individualism as itself destructive of the liberal programme.

One might even suggest that, since every species of liberalism (communism, neoconservatism, feminism, etc) is inherently self-destructive, each species must adopt unprincipled exceptions to the political freedom and equality of the new man, self-created through reason and will.

But if it is true that liberalism-qua-liberalism sets itself against reason and nature then all such attempts to ‘moderate’ liberalism will ultimately fail. Perhaps the problem isn’t that liberalism can’t survive without regular homeopathic injections of traditionalism/tribalism/communitarianism. Perhaps the problem is that disease is being confused with health.

(Cross-posted at W4)

In Heaven there is no Beer

April 4, 2008 § 4 Comments

Question: Whether irony[*] has a place in the Kingdom of God?

Objection 1: It would seem that irony has no place in the Kingdom of God. Irony is possible only when there is a history of privation. Furthermore, two of the purposes of irony are derision and mockery; clearly derision and mockery have no place in the Kingdom of God.

On the Contrary: “His blood be on us and on our children.”

I answer that: In the Kingdom of God there is no imperfection; therefore that which was imperfect is remade into perfection for entry into the Kingdom of God. Existence in the Kingdom of God implies perfection, but does not imply a history of perfection alone.

Reply to Objection 1: We are not perfect, and yet we hope to enter the Kingdom of God. Therefore things which enter the Kingdom of God do not cease to be, but are perfected. Furthermore, life without jest and beer is less perfect than life with them. In Heaven there is no Milwaukee’s Best.

[*] For the purposes of this post, we define irony as speaking in such a way as to imply the contrary of what one says, often for the purpose of derision, mockery, or jest.

(Cross-posted at What’s Wrong With the World)

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