Democrats & Liberals Archives

Book Review: The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman

The thesis of this book is that computers, cellphones and gadgets of instant communication and processing have boosted global interconnection, people interaction and world collaboration to the point that all of us on the planet are living on the same plane - the world is flat. Because globalization has placed all of us in competition with everyone else on the globe, we must each increase our skills and abilities from just “vanilla” to a beautiful “ice cream sundae” with whipped cream, sauce, nuts and a cherry on top in order to succeed.

Friedman presents a list of world flatteners. It includes digital inventions such as the PC, the browser, application software, the Internet and search engines; the open- source projects whereby programmers worldwide contribute to the development of free programs, such as Apache and Linux; and the new business approaches of outsourcing, offshoring and integrated supply chains.

Friedman is easy to read and easy to understand. He writes so well you are carried into his point of view without realizing it. The whole book is a paean to globalization. Yes, free trade has some drawbacks, he says, but it is inevitable and will increase the standard of living of poor countries as well as that of America. Protection will only isolate us and make us poorer.

Sure, some people will lose jobs, some businesses will lose out. But we can surmount these problems and reach a higher plane of prosperity through wage insurance, more education and more help to those who can't make it.

I agree that globalization may be a force for good, but not as Friedman describes it. The entire book is presented from a Big Business point of view. He describes many, many discussions with CEOs. Where are the labor leaders? Where are the educators, the environmentalists, social scientists, politicians and others whose viewpoints should be considered?

One of the big examples Friedman admiringly presents of world flattening is Wal Mart. He shows how the company uses supply-chain management to become very efficient and to sell at the lowest prices. In the process, wages are cut relentlessly - something he mentions in passing.

Although he does not directly compare Wal Mart with Hewlett Packard, he does describe the latter company as an example of great collaboration between a multinational company and poor people of India. HP went to a small local government called Andhra Pradish, found out what their local needs were, and then built a mobile photo studio powered by a solar panel that the villages use constantly.

Friedman evidently prefers Wal Mart because it has very little "fat." Wal Mart comes to poor villages and lays the law down. It tells them exactly what it wants, how to do it and how much it will pay. The locals can do it or forget about doing business with Wal Mart.

I prefer HP because it is compassionate - has some "fat." HP comes to a village and finds out by talking to the people what their needs and wants are, and then collaborates with them to find a solution that benefits both. This is the type of globalization we need, not the ferocious and vicious type used by Wal Mart.

Wal Mart is the preferred roll model of business and that is why globalization needs regulation. Left to its own devices, Wal Mart will race us all to the bottom. Sooner or later, all wages will go down. It has already started.

To make sure we can compete in this new flat world, Friedman uses the metaphor of the ice cream sundae and tells us that we must work hard with our "plain vanilla" talents and skills by adding whipped cream, sauce, nuts and cherry to become better competitors. Whatever stands in the way of our achieving flatness, or efficiency, he calls fat. Thus, human relations, healthy working conditions, medical and retirment benefits are fat.

He has it backward. Too many sundaes give you too much fat. So much fat, that it may lead to heart disease. You no longer consider workers as people, but as commodities. What Friedman calls "fat" is where the real meat is. After all, what is the purpose of an economy? To improve the life of people.

Friedman goes too far in his discussion of fat, or friction:

"The biggest source of friction, of course, has always been the nation-state, with its clearly defined boundaries and laws. Are national boundaries as source of friction we should want to preserve, or even can preserve, in a flat world? What about legal barriers to the free flow of information, intellectual property, and capital - such as copyrights, worker protections, and minimum wages."

So he is so enamored of globaliztion that he is willing to do without the "friction" of the nation-state. Scary. He is ready to forego the democracy of U.S. for the dictatorship of business!

Everyone ought to read this book to see what forces we will face in the flat world. However, let's make sure that our nation-state - U.S. - is in control, and not Big Business. Let's also make sure that labor and other elements of society have a say on how globalization develops.

Posted by Paul Siegel at October 24, 2005 4:47 PM
Comments
Comment #87708

Paul:
“I agree that globalization may be a force for good, but not as Friedman describes it. The entire book is presented from a Big Business point of view. He describes many, many discussions with CEOs. Where are the labor leaders? Where are the educators, the environmentalists, social scientists, politicians and others whose viewpoints should be considered?”

Paul, for a truly comprehensive look at this topic, you might want to read: The Corporation : The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan
Also, I highly recommend the dvd of the Canadian documentary that probably should be watched before you read the book:
The Corporation covers all viewpoints by interviewing a lot of famous and not so famous people talking about this subject. Fascinating stuff.
If you can’t find it in your local video store, you can probably get it sent to your home from Netflix — that’s how I was able to see it.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 24, 2005 5:26 PM
Comment #87739

Paul,
For someone who has already read “The Lexus & the Olive Tree,” would you recommend this? I flipped through it, looked similar to Friedman’s earlier book.
Thanks for the recommendation, Adrienne.

I wish someone would ask Miers her opinion about extending the word “person” in the 14th amendment to include corporations. (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad). That was certainly not the intent when the amendment was passed- it was meant to apply to freed slaves…

Posted by: phx8 at October 24, 2005 7:01 PM
Comment #87743

phx8…

Unfortunately, the 14th amendment, while intended for good, changed the preamble to our Constitution to “We the GOVERNMENT, in order to form a more perfect PERPETUAL union…” and changed our form of government from a Republic to a Dictitorial Triumvirate with Absolute Powers.

The 14th amendment, while well intentioned, is the perfect example of “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Posted by: Jim T at October 24, 2005 7:15 PM
Comment #87754

Friedman evidently prefers Wal Mart because it has very little “fat.” Wal Mart comes to poor villages and lays the law down. It tells them exactly what it wants, how to do it and how much it will pay. The locals can do it or forget about doing business with Wal Mart.

My sister over in Northwest Arkansas checked it out for me the last time Wal Mart was brought up on this blog. Guess what party the Waltons are?
They sure aint Republican. So much for the party of compassioin.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 24, 2005 8:10 PM
Comment #87755

Paul:

I have read the book as well. I don’t think he used Walmart as an example of greatness. He used it to illustrate descriptively what “flatness” means. But he also wrote about justice and that a high percentage of employees need public assistance to pay for medical benefits. He compared Walmart to Costco that pays a higher wage.

It is very hard to argue with his premise that the world is getting flatter. It is a reality that must be accepted as it has been happening for thousands of years.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 24, 2005 8:14 PM
Comment #87769

Everyone ought to read this book to see what forces we will face in the flat world. However, let’s make sure that our nation-state - U.S. - is in control, and not Big Business.

osted by Paul Siegel at October 24, 2005 04:47 PM

As one Paul to another, which President was it who said that the business of the USA was business? And is it not true that big business is in control of the USA, and not the other way around? As for globalisation? Ultimately, there is little benefit for people in rich Western countries from globalisation, apart from the superficial one of apparently lower prices. With the race to the bottom in earings, we won’t be able to afford todays prices anyway, so I suppose its a tender mercy. The fact is, if you are not a ruthless materialist, racing to acquire more and more,, but just want to live a dignified life with your family and build a better world than the one you found, you are on the road to extinction. The race for ever growing and meaningless wealth and squandering of the earths resources will be the death of the West. The more you have, the more you want, and the less you appreciate that life is about so much more than just money and materialism.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 24, 2005 9:03 PM
Comment #87770

Unfortunately, the 14th amendment, while intended for good, changed the preamble to our Constitution to “We the GOVERNMENT, in order to form a more perfect PERPETUAL union…” and changed our form of government from a Republic to a Dictitorial Triumvirate with Absolute Powers.

The 14th amendment, while well intentioned, is the perfect example of “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Watch out Jim, your inviting a whole heap of greif. But your right.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 24, 2005 9:12 PM
Comment #87781

Paul in Euroland

The fact is, if you are not a ruthless materialist, racing to acquire more and more,, but just want to live a dignified life with your family and build a better world than the one you found, you are on the road to extinction.

Or salvation if you are in India, or China and now can feed your family because of your new job. Poverty in China is dropping dramitically. The standard of living is increasing in these countries. I would think that might be considered a good thing.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 24, 2005 10:28 PM
Comment #87782

Paul:

Everyone ought to read this book to see what forces we will face in the flat world. However, let’s make sure that our nation-state - U.S. - is in control, and not Big Business.

I don’t want our nationstate in control of India, China, etc, do you??

I would like our “nation state” to set some ground rules. I don’t think Walmart should be allowed to be “in effect” subsidized by their employees needing to seek government aid for medical ins.

I also think we need to beef up programs to help retrain displaced workers.

I would agree with you that government has a role, but I would not want the government “in control”. That would be in opposition to free trade.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 24, 2005 10:32 PM
Comment #87790

Paul,

Yes that does sound like a scary mentality to have, especially considering the irony of his backwards sundae - fat analogy. ;-)

Before we bought our “new” minivan, my husband and I had a bumper sticker we very much appreciated. “Think Globally, Buy Locally” is what it said, and I still think that’s a good way to look at things.

Concerning HP. Recently my HP printer broke down and I called the service number to discuss repairs. The man who answered the phone was obviously Indian and though he spoke English, his accent was thick and he didn’t seem to have a good understanding of the techno jargon I’m used to using. In the end we found it very difficult to communicate and I decided it was better to replace the printer then paying to try to fix it over the telephone (plus there was no way I could get that darned spring back in place properly by myself). In the end we ended up buying another HP, this time with the printer cartridges enclosed so my kids couldn’t play with them (at least not so easily). And while my conversation with the man in India was rather frustrating for both of us (and just think, he has to do that on a daily basis! oy!), I’m happy with my new HP printer, especially since it automatically prints in reverse order, so the last page comes out first. And now, I’m even more happy knowing that HP is a company that is reponsible to its employees abroad.

Thank you for the informative article, Paul!

Posted by: Stephanie at October 24, 2005 11:34 PM
Comment #87791

There are big and rather obvious problems with this contrast between a foreign manufacturing firm and a domestic retailer.

Case in point: I own two HP printers. I bought them both at Walmart.

Posted by: sanger at October 24, 2005 11:45 PM
Comment #87792

Craig & Paul,

Craig said:

“Or salvation if you are in India, or China and now can feed your family because of your new job. Poverty in China is dropping dramitically. The standard of living is increasing in these countries. I would think that might be considered a good thing.”

This is just my opinion, but I would say that globalization benefits everyone, but not equally. While we in the West do suffer some initially economic hardships as the wave of globalization hits, because we already are a “richer” nation the impact is not as drastic as those places that globalization benefits. It’s hard for me to be against globalization on the basis that it will lower the standard of living in America (or, for you Paul, France), when you can compare the standard of living in America (and France) to that of the other countries that it will help and see just how much better we have it here. There’s really no comparison.

Now, the thing we’ve got to watch for is that the people on the bottom economic rung in our own countries don’t take the brunt force of globalization square in the nose. Spread out the impact, and nobody here will feel it too badly, whereas many people there will feel the benefits dramatically.

Now, as for our benefits, not only do we benefit from the sharing of our cultures and our knowledge (imo things that cannot be valued by monetary means, but should be celebrated as more important than cash), but we also get the comfort of knowing that eventually these countries which we’ve been donating to both federally and privately for decades will soon (assuming globalization works as it should) be self-reliant and thus we won’t have to pour vast amounts of money into aid projects anymore. Also, we will be able to share our knowledge of democracy and freedom more freely to those citizens of foreign countries who don’t know or understand such things (China comes to mind here) so that horrid practices like men being beaten for protesting against pollution and girls being sold into sexual slavery will be more easy for us as an international community to irradicate.

Considering the vast personal (as per new knowledge), social (as per better standards of living for the majority of humanity), and economic (more equal distribution of wealth throughout the world) benefits of globalization, I personally don’t have any inclination to fight it. The troublesome thing is for the conscientious people-minded people to find ways to shape it so it actually fulfills its potential to benefit humanity, instead of being a way for corrupt corporations to better screw over a larger number of people. Thus, companies like HP deserve our support and encouragement, whereas companies like WalMart need to be put in their place for choosing to take this opportunity to exploit everyone.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 24, 2005 11:56 PM
Comment #87793

sanger,

“Case in point: I own two HP printers. I bought them both at Walmart.”

Point taken…but, that was also your choice.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 24, 2005 11:59 PM
Comment #87795

Stephanie:

I don’t think it helps much to fight globalization, since it would be like fighting the ocean with sand castles. I does help to channel it.

What are we to do for a worker age 55 whose career is gone, and feels too old to start over, but isn’t ready to retire? As a country we need to have an answer.

As mentioned before. What do we do with countries like Walmart that have such low wages and medical care that the taxpayers end up paying for a good percentage of their medical?

What do we do with high oil prices because of developing countries?

These questions I hope require thoughtful answers. I wouldn’t try to stop the process. I would however support working with others to help find answers to some of the problems it creates.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 25, 2005 12:17 AM
Comment #87800

Stephanie, Paul compared two companies by saying that one (HP) arrives in a poor village and tries to provide them with their needs while the other (Walmart) arrives in a village and lays down the law.

Leaving aside the idea that Walmart would actually open a store in a poor Indian village (I have heard of metaphor so I’ll give Paul a pass on this one), let me ask you something. Do Hewlett and Packard sound like Indian names to you?

The fact that a company like HP who has its corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, CA is looking for cheap labor in the first place in poor Indian villages does not make them somehow more progressive than Wal Mart.

They are watching their bottom line, just like WalMart, who is their NUMBER ONE retail outlet in the US—lets not delude ourselves about any altruistic motives here. Credit—as well as blame—for whatever HP does for poor Indian villagers, or for you and me, also belongs to Walmart.


Posted by: sanger at October 25, 2005 12:51 AM
Comment #87821
Guess what party the Waltons are? They sure aint Republican.

Ron, if that’s true — and it’s not — they sure have an odd way of showing the love.

Republican candidates are the big winners in this year’s election. They received about 85% of the company’s contributions, including those of its political action committee, employees and children of founder Sam Walton.
Posted by: American Pundit at October 25, 2005 8:09 AM
Comment #87823

Or salvation if you are in India, or China and now can feed your family because of your new job. Poverty in China is dropping dramitically. The standard of living is increasing in these countries. I would think that might be considered a good thing.

Craig
Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 24, 2005 10:28 PM

Craig, I wish no ill to the peoples of China or India or indeed any other nation. The fact is however, if manufacturing goes to wherever labour costs are lowest, livlihoods will be lost in the West. This is a process already long under way. With the growing development of these formerly piss poor countries, they are investing rapidly in education. The whole rationale of Glabalisation is that we Western countries move up the value chain of commerce, specifically into the knowledge and information industries. But the fact is that the Chinese, the Indians and the Pakistanis, for example, are also doing this. We have already ceded much of our manufacturing to their offshore factories. Indeed, I know that many Western companies employ Pakistani programmers and engineers, based in Pakistan, at Pakistani rates, to carry on their operations. What we are seeing is the rise of international corporations, whose only priority is to maximise their profits, no matter what the social, environmental or economic costs to any particular country. This has to cause massive economic dislocation to even the educated technocrats and specialists across the Western world. We will lose not only our manufacturing industries, but also much of our information industries. Of course many in China and India etc will benefit, but it will be at the cost of growing poverty in our countries. The gap between the richest and the average will only widen into a n unbridgeable gap. It will decimate the middle classes, and we will end up with the super rich, and the untermensch. Welcome to the brave new world.

Stephanie, just a small point. I am not actually in France, tho at this moment I wish I were in my little place in the Var in Provence. I might just get there over Christmas. I’m a little further north and west, a misty emerald land of sprites and Leprechauns, poets and pretenders on the edge of the (old) World.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 25, 2005 8:12 AM
Comment #87830

What Friedman didn’t cover in his book, probably because he had not yet thought through all the consequences, is a significant emmigration from western societies in the near future. If globalization is raising living standards in 3rd world nations and providing a tax base to their governments to greatly increase infrastructure spending and building, all while maintaining a cost of living significantly lower than in western societies, the upper middle class will become targets of advertising and offers by governments, corporations, tourist industries, etc. to lure the upper middle class in western societies to emigrate to their countries for retirement and easy living based on considerably lower costs of living in their countries as costs of living are rising in western societies for retirement basics like food, shelter, health care and housing.

Folks in western socieities with strong family roots or strong patriotic ties or fears of foreigners of course will not emigrate. But that still leaves what will be a growing number tempted to take their retirement funds where they might actually last till the end of their life.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 25, 2005 8:59 AM
Comment #87844
What are we to do for a worker age 55 whose career is gone, and feels too old to start over, but isn’t ready to retire? As a country we need to have an answer.

Why? Please point me to the rule that says that we as a country are responsible for someone who “feels too old to start over”. If they are really not ready to retire (which they will not be at that age unless they have done some great planning) then it is up to them to find a new job. Period.

I have seen many people around this age “start over” just fine. Many in fact have done just as well or better in their new career because of their life knowledge from their previous work experience. But they must be willing and able. Most people are able, much less are willing to make that change.

I will grant you that at that age it is tougher to do than at a younger age, but not impossible. It may require additional learning but I’m not aware that at 55 a persons ability to learn has gone away. It will probably entail a pay cut but then most career changes do (regardless of age).

My words may sound cold to some but honestly statments like this bother me because it seems to assume that people this age are incapable of making these changes on their own. Which is untrue and just seems insulting to people that age that have already or will make that change on their own. Besides, at what age do we as a country make the distinction between someone who’s just being lazy and not wanting to get a new job after being laid off and a poor older person who “can’t” get a new job because they “feel too old to start over”? It will probably be difficult but nowhere in the constitution does it state that you have a right to an easy life with no tough choices.

Of course many in China and India etc will benefit, but it will be at the cost of growing poverty in our countries.

Paul,
Poverty as compared to who? Poverty in the US or Western Europe is still nearly impossible to compare with that of China, India or Pakistan. It is not even in the same ball park in most cases.

China, India, etc. are the countries working the hardest to “catch up” to the western world. We can not stop them from doing that. What we can do is urge people in our countries to be responsible (education, career choices, etc) and work harder as well. Sitting back and hoping that the government will stop other countries growth from happening will not work.

The days of pushing a button in a automobile factory and making $70k a year with full benefits doing it are over. The sooner people realize that and start working and making the right choices to make their own lives better, the faster we as western nations will be back on the right track to maintaining our status on top of the commercial value chain.

Posted by: BradM at October 25, 2005 10:29 AM
Comment #87859

Paul in Euroland:
“What we are seeing is the rise of international corporations, whose only priority is to maximise their profits, no matter what the social, environmental or economic costs to any particular country. This has to cause massive economic dislocation to even the educated technocrats and specialists across the Western world. We will lose not only our manufacturing industries, but also much of our information industries. Of course many in China and India etc will benefit, but it will be at the cost of growing poverty in our countries. The gap between the richest and the average will only widen into a n unbridgeable gap. It will decimate the middle classes, and we will end up with the super rich, and the untermensch. Welcome to the brave new world.”

Perfectly said.
This is exactly what has already been happening in America. The gap between the middle class and the wealthy has never been wider and seems likely to keep growing until there is no middle class whatsoever. Meanwhile, the wealthy keep propagandizing that free market globalisation, and the loss of our manufacturing and informational jobs is inevitable and necessary at all costs.
While some globalisation is necessary, a great deal of what they’re saying is really a lie — but they’ve managed to convince plenty of people that they’re the ones who know best, even if this situation flies in the face of what is truly in the best interest of the majority of people, and their families and childrens futures.

When I read replies like BradM’s I want to laugh and cry at the same time, because it is a perfect example of that Big-Business-Propagandized attitude. They’ll harp on about the “personal responsibility” of a 55 year old man who loses his job (and these days, often the pension money he’d earned as well) to find a way to go back to school (at his expense, of course) and get an education in order to find himself a whole new career, but it never enters their mind that Corporations should feel a sense of responsibility, caring and goodwill toward their workers or allegiance to their countries.
And that really is the whole problem — Corporations have become these totally irresponsible entities that really owe no allegiance to anyone (sometimes not even their investors!). And as Paul in Euroland said, they’re “international” and so, they have no country.
When one really looks at what they’ve been doing to the people, their economies and our environment around the world, you begin to get the sense that the mindset is actually pathological capitalism that is totally destructive, parasitic and harmful — like a disease.
I realize that some globalisation is actually necessary and healthy, but I’m the kind who believes in regulated FAIR Trade, not rampant, run-amok Free Trade that takes advantage of everything and everybody, wherever and whenever it wants.

Ron Brown,
I don’t give a rats tuchus what political party the Waltons give wads of their cash to — they’re Evil, therefore, they never get any of mine.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 25, 2005 12:22 PM
Comment #87879

Craig:

It’s true that Friedman did not specifically say Wal Mart is great. He merely devoted many pages of great detail of Wal Mart’s operations and discussed them in glowing terms.

You say you don’t want our government to control business. Well today business is controlling our government. I think this is terrible. Business needs to do its thing, but it also needs restraint so it acts responsibly, something that only government can do.

Sanger:

HP is better than Wal Mart because it collaborates with people in poor countries and treats them as people. Of course HP makes a profit.

Stephanie:

I recommend highly this book. Friedman is an excellent writer and you learn a lot from him.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at October 25, 2005 2:08 PM
Comment #87902

Paul:

You say you don’t want our government to control business. Well today business is controlling our government. I think this is terrible. Business needs to do its thing, but it also needs restraint so it acts responsibly, something that only government can do.

Can you tell me the difference in your mind between “control” and “regulate”. Control to me means socialism, and I don’t think that is your intent.

Craig


Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 25, 2005 3:14 PM
Comment #87906

Euroland Paul:

This has to cause massive economic dislocation to even the educated technocrats and specialists across the Western world. We will lose not only our manufacturing industries, but also much of our information industries. Of course many in China and India etc will benefit, but it will be at the cost of growing poverty in our countries. The gap between the richest and the average will only widen into a n unbridgeable gap.

I hardly think so. Demographics in Europe and America point to labor shortages in the coming decades as our populations age. These younger populations you mention provide the youth that is necessary in these economies.

Our unemployment rate here in US is hovering around 5.0% in our “jobless recovery”. When the blessed baby boomers start to head for retirment, we will need those workers to provide goods and services.

The future belongs to the young. That means Europe, Japan and the US will decline in market share.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 25, 2005 3:21 PM
Comment #87908

Adrienne:

When I read replies like BradM’s I want to laugh and cry at the same time, because it is a perfect example of that Big-Business-Propagandized attitude. They’ll harp on about the “personal responsibility” of a 55 year old man who loses his job (and these days, often the pension money he’d earned as well) to find a way to go back to school (at his expense, of course) and get an education in order to find himself a whole new career, but it never enters their mind that Corporations should feel a sense of responsibility, caring and goodwill toward their workers or allegiance to their countries.

I must have messed up somewhere, somehow. How did I end up on the same side of an arguement as you?????

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 25, 2005 3:23 PM
Comment #87912

Brad:

Why? Please point me to the rule that says that we as a country are responsible for someone who “feels too old to start over”. If they are really not ready to retire (which they will not be at that age unless they have done some great planning) then it is up to them to find a new job. Period.

The rule of precedence:

We helped Chrysler,and probably GM in the future because of the long term economic benefit to our country. By reaching out a hand to a 55 year old WHO THROUGH NO FAULT OF HIS OWN, found themselves out of a career because of globalization, we can vastly increase his/her chances of a successful retirement, and reduce the chances of him/her becoming a fiscal burden on society at retirement.

Pay a little now, or pay a lot later. Your choice.

Or we could just do it because it is the moral decent and honorable thing to do.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 25, 2005 3:30 PM
Comment #87913
When I read replies like BradM’s I want to laugh and cry at the same time, because it is a perfect example of that Big-Business-Propagandized attitude.

And when I read responses like Adriennes all I want to do is laugh at how some people will never accept that people can and do (on a daily basis) take responsibility for their own lives. And that those people, on the whole, find that they eventually no longer need to rely on government, big business, etc to be quite comfortable in this world.

Corporations should feel a sense of responsibility, caring and goodwill toward their workers or allegiance to their countries.

I agree. They should. But the reality is that they don’t. Corporations suck. They are looking out for their bottom line and that is all. And the sooner people understand that the better off they will be.

If you want to play the blame game all day then fine. Lets say everything is always the corporations fault. Nothing you did in life, none of the choices you made, put you into this predicament. So now what?

The corporation is still the corporation and is still going to do only what it was designed to do. Make money. That is all it is there for. If it can no longer do that then it makes changes to try again (Benefits cuts, downsizing, etc…) if it still can’t then it goes away permanently. Right or wrong this is the reality. Anybody that feels differently is kidding themselves.

Morally do I think that this is right way for corporations to be? Absolutly Not! It is completely backward from what is “Right” morally in my mind. But reality is such that this is the safest way for you (as an employee) to enter into the “deal”. Don’t assume that the deal you have (your job, benefits, etc) with them will last forever. That was the mistake of the previous generation. And it is a mistake that we are all paying for now. Taking responsibility for your own life and making sure that you have other options for income, career, and retirement (other than what a corporation or the government promises) is only truly safe way to live.

I’m in my 30’s, was downsized over a year ago(thank you Worldcom), and changed careers completely, incurring my own costs in schooling to “start over”. I’m not happy with the way that turned out but what good does it do me to sit around and blame the corporation or better yet the government? And how am I different than that 55 year old person? I would have been called lazy if I did not go out and do what I did. Why can’t they? It will be tough. It won’t be fair. But it will get you farther than sitting there blaming the corporations.

I am a realist… I believe that a corporation is a place for you to work and make money. No more, no less. They are neither your friend nor your enemy. You give them some of your time and effort and in return they give you a paycheck, benefits, etc. If you feel your being treated unfairly then you always have the option to go elsewhere. There is no one holding a gun to your head saying you must stay there and accept all of the “changes” that the company is making. You choose. It is a personal choice for which you should be held personally responsible for making.

If you could not tell, I trust corporations about as far as I can throw them. I don’t necessarily like or agree with many of the things that they do but I understand that the only thing that I can truly control is my own future. So tell me, how is this a “Big-Business-Propagandized attitude”?

It amazes me that some of the same people that adamantly support personal choice in certain issues refuse to accept the personal responsibilities that come with those choices.

I guess it all comes down to how one chooses to move forward when faced with tough choices. Angry at the world and looking for someone to else to blame or optimistic and in control of ones own destiny.

Posted by: BradM at October 25, 2005 3:32 PM
Comment #87921

Craig,

I should have been more specific that I was supporting your response to Paul, sorry about that. As I will tell Paul (and apologize for confusing him with Phillipe) I was tired as I am most of the time now that I’ve gone from stay-at-home mom to working mom.

As to your questions, I won’t belittle them by giving any sort of pat answers, but that’s what I meant by shaping the way this all works out. Globalization may be a great boon for all humanity, if we do it right. As we’re all human, we’re bound to mess up somewhere. These questions need to be addressed at least by the government, and best by entreprenuers. The man or woman who finds a way to use the skills of those displaced older workers will not only have a dedicated, experienced, and grateful work force, they’ll become a team motivated for one another’s mutual success.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2005 3:51 PM
Comment #87922

sanger,

“Leaving aside the idea that Walmart would actually open a store in a poor Indian village …”

They don’t have to open a store use and abuse those villagers. In case you’ve forgotten, all those products that line the WalMart shelves have to come from somewhere, somebody has to manufacture them and if you look at the labels you’ll see pretty quick it ain’t us.

“The fact that a company like HP who has its corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, CA …”

Yes, the fact that HP is putting the idea of globalization into practice is not a point that I’m going to debate. The fact that they’re doing it because it’s cheaper for them is not lost on me. The fact that America loses jobs is certainly not lost on me, considering that’s just the sort of job my husband’s been training for and thought was not outsourcable ten years ago. If the job the Indian man I spoke to was had here in America it would be a decent paying job. Not super fantastic or anything, but it would be above-poverty level. However, even though this issue has a direct, negative impact on me and my family, I still cannot think about globalization as a totally bad thing, because of all the people it has the potential to help. HP does a better job of helping people than WalMart.

“Credit-as well as blame-for whatever HP does for poor Indian villagers, or for you and me, also belongs to Walmart.”

Why? Does WalMart own HP?

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2005 4:00 PM
Comment #87925

Paul in Euroland,

I’m very sorry for misidentifying you. For some bizarre reason, probably having much to do with my own fatigue, I mistook you for Phillipe. I remember now very clearly that you’re in Ireland, and I assure were international travel a viable option in my near future that this island would be my first choice.

As for your concerns, I agree, but…

“The gap between the richest and the average will only widen into a n unbridgeable gap.”

This is what I meant by shaping how globalization is manifest. This will only happen if we let it.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2005 4:17 PM
Comment #87926

Brad,
I can’t believe how full of horsesh*t your post is.
I have to think that you don’t have a mortgage to pay, or mouths to feed or bills hanging over your head to talk about how a 55 year old man should just shut up and not complain when he has to start over at the bottom, having going to school to find himself a new career, because the brutality and greed of today’s corporate mentality simply can’t be reined in.
This country once faced a rather similar situation before — and at that time it was a Republican (Teddy Roosevelt) running the government who managed to clamp down on the Robber Barons to do the right thing by American’s who had become the victims of Big-Business greed running amok. This CAN and SHOULD happen again, in fact, it is long overdue.
You call yourself a realist, but you sound much more like a defeatist to me if you really think that nothing whatsoever can be done to improve this situation.

And btw, please don’t try to lecture to me about personal responsibility or life choices. I’m someone who put herself through college with no monetary help from anyone, and I’ve worked for several corporations in order to have seen that disgusting and pathological mindset up close and personal. That’s how I reached my particular viewpoint. It’s also why I started my own business.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 25, 2005 4:26 PM
Comment #87929

BradM,

“It amazes me that some of the same people that adamantly support personal choice in certain issues refuse to accept the personal responsibilities that come with those choices.”

That actually seems fairly typical to me, but I digress…

Right now, I’m 26 going from being a stay-at-home mom to a working mom, because of complications with my husband’s ability to work. He’s not disabled enough to get any assistance, but he’s too disabled to keep a job for more than a few months before burning out again. So, having not been prepared to work again because I’ve been solely focused on figuring out how to help my three children with developmental disabilities progress towards future independence more or less on parallel with their peers, I find myself in the work force.

Now, our stories are both different and similiar. But, what we both need (you being someone who did need, I’m assuming you’re through the process) to develop and refine new skills. Now, from what you’ve said, you think it is a BAD IDEA for the government to help us. Am I understanding you correctly?

I understand that some people have the ambition and drive to start over on their own. Are you saying that those who don’t shouldn’t get any help?

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2005 4:35 PM
Comment #87954

Adrienne
I don’t give a rats tuchus what political party the Waltons give wads of their cash to — they’re Evil, therefore, they never get any of mine.

Good for you, they don’t get any of mine either. For the same reason.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 25, 2005 5:30 PM
Comment #87964

Ron Brown said: “Good for you, they don’t get any of mine either. For the same reason.”

And see me, I’m less convinced about that. Not the part where they’re evil, but the part where they don’t get my money. Do any of us know for sure what pies the Waltons have their grubby fat fingers in for sure? I know I don’t. So, while I won’t shop at WalMart, that doesn’t mean I don’t spend money on things that aren’t at least partially owned by WalMart or the Waltons.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2005 5:51 PM
Comment #87970

Stephanie, if you want to keep from giving any of your money to the Walton’s (who btw, happen to hold five spots on a list of the 10 richest American’s) don’t shop at SAM’S CLUB either, because they own that too.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 25, 2005 6:35 PM
Comment #87972

And see me, I’m less convinced about that. Not the part where they’re evil, but the part where they don’t get my money. Do any of us know for sure what pies the Waltons have their grubby fat fingers in for sure? I know I don’t. So, while I won’t shop at WalMart, that doesn’t mean I don’t spend money on things that aren’t at least partially owned by WalMart or the Waltons.

Your right Stephanie, we don’t know what all Wal Mart has their grubby greedy mitts in.
But I gaurentee you that if I find out, I’ll quit spending my money there too.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 25, 2005 6:37 PM
Comment #87987

Craig,

you will either take me to be a hopeless sentimentalist or else a raging socialist, because I happen to believe that people living as communities, looking out for each other and protecting those whose needs area greater or whose faculties are weaker, is the mark of a civilised society. I also happen to believe that a country’s economic policy should be dictated by what is best for the majority of the people of that country. As I think it was you said above, about Corporations only being interested in maxing out profits and at best being accountable to shareholders, that is all the more reason why they need to be reined in as far as practicable for the common good. Extreme examples of this would be the Enrons and Worldcoms . If we live in democracies, and therefore get to select our leaders and by extension our countries economic policy at least nominally, then what would be wrong with seeking to create a society where there was real egalitarianism? The problem about the American dream is that it’s an illusion. It holds out the promise that you too can be rich. Well pardon me, but that happens to be the lotto slogan over here - “it could be you!!!” Hardly a way to direct your life. The reality of course, in the US and indeed every other country, is that only a small minority will achieve the wealth that this fantasy promises. The reason probably is because the acquisition of material riches in not the guiding principle of everyones life. So if we’re not all either aiming for riches or going to be rich, why can’t we set a template for what would be a realistic society to aim for? Perhaps where people are free to pursue wealth if that is their thing, but where we seek to ensure that whoever needs it, gets a hand up. I did say hand up, not hand out. Where the guiding tenets of economic policy are the true welfare of the people, not just the corporations. I don’t say that we don’t need the corporations, or even that we can do as we like with them, they carry out an essential function in any successful society. I suppose what I’m trying to say in a perhaps longwinded way, is that business should be seen as a means to an end in society, and not the primary priority in society. Furthermore, that if we as societies aspired to creating true civil communities, rather than the pursuit of meaningless materialism and consumerism, might it just be the case that people would actually be happier? That they would have a stronger sense of belonging, of being a member of a community? That they wouldn’t be bowling alone anymore?

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 25, 2005 8:09 PM
Comment #87992

Sorry Craig, I addressed that last post to you, when it should have been directed to BradM.

I hardly think so. Demographics in Europe and America point to labor shortages in the coming decades as our populations age. These younger populations you mention provide the youth that is necessary in these economies.

Our unemployment rate here in US is hovering around 5.0% in our “jobless recovery”. When the blessed baby boomers start to head for retirment, we will need those workers to provide goods and services.

The future belongs to the young. That means Europe, Japan and the US will decline in market share.

Craig
Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 25, 2005 03:21 PM

Except Craig, where are we going to find all of those young people, if globalisation is going to so enrich the developing world? They won’t need to come to our countries, they can stay home and make a living. Except that they will be busily producing goods and services that an increasingly cash poor western middle classes cannot afford. Then we will all be in the sh……quandary! And their own people will not be able to afford the luxuries that lubricate international trade. So in the end, we all lose, east, west, citizen, corporation.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 25, 2005 8:29 PM
Comment #87997

Adrienne,

Consider Sam’s Clubs are usually attached to WalMart… Yeah, I know that. However, I would be more interested in the other companies that WalMart has bought out or that the Waltons might have the same sort of control over.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2005 8:47 PM
Comment #87998

Ron,

“But I gaurentee you that if I find out, I’ll quit spending my money there too.”

Well, if you find out, please pass the information along, too. :-)

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2005 8:48 PM
Comment #87999

Paul in Euroland,

I’m sure if nobody played interference, then your predictions would be true. However, our job as responsible citizens is to play interference, to shape globalization in such a way that it suits the purposes of the majority in EACH country, not a few select majorities and minorities.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2005 8:53 PM
Comment #88021

Paul from Euroland:

Except Craig, where are we going to find all of those young people, if globalisation is going to so enrich the developing world? They won’t need to come to our countries, they can stay home and make a living. Except that they will be busily producing goods and services that an increasingly cash poor western middle classes cannot afford. Then we will all be in the sh……quandary! And their own people will not be able to afford the luxuries that lubricate international trade. So in the end, we all lose, east, west, citizen, corporation.

I think in twenty years, when I need to sell some stock to live off of, I will most likely be selling a bunch of it to Indian, Chinese or Pakastani investor. There is nothing wrong with that.

It think Europe will suffer far greater than we in the US. Europe’s policies are resulting in a much slower growth rate.

We are not all going to loose. The world productivity rate will more than take care of that. America will be fine. We will just have a smaller % of the world GDP than now.

I also think the US should hold off on giving in to the demands of control of the Internet. Tje world power structure is shifting to the east.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 25, 2005 10:02 PM
Comment #88035
I have to think that you don’t have a mortgage to pay, or mouths to feed or bills hanging over your head to talk about how a 55 year old man should just shut up and not complain when he has to start over at the bottom, having going to school to find himself a new career, because the brutality and greed of today’s corporate mentality simply can’t be reined in.

Actually, I do have a mortgage (bought a new house 5 months before getting laid off, great timing). Have many medical bills that are all on credit cards because I had no insurance to pay for them, and have a wife who is due literally any minute now with our first child. :-)

I never said that the 55 year old man had no right to complain. He certainly does. But it will get him about as far as your complaining about my posts will. What he needs to do, no matter how difficult it is, is to start over or find some way to go on. Giving up and letting the government take care of it all really should not be an option for him if other than his age he is still fine to work, learn, and contribute. Bitching and moaning, while satisfying for a little while gets you nowhere. That is my entire point.

My father, who is in his late 50’s is in the process of slowly being phased out of his life long career in Industrial sales. And due to medical issues is in no financial place to retire. He has talked about taking classes to become IT certified. Bottom line is that he is willing to do whatever it takes to make it. Does he have a right to bitch… Sure! But he knows that that will not get him very far.

And btw… I too put myself through college, previously worked for, and still work for large corporations as well as my own business which will hopefully soon my only job if it keeps going well (fingers crossed). You made that choice, and I applaud that. I too am working to make that my reality. We are no so different in our chosen paths, but our outlook on the world around us is clearly very far apart.

Now, our stories are both different and similiar. But, what we both need (you being someone who did need, I’m assuming you’re through the process) to develop and refine new skills. Now, from what you’ve said, you think it is a BAD IDEA for the government to help us. Am I understanding you correctly?

Not at all… My posts were really not directed at government at all. I’ll be the first to admit that I claimed unemployment from the government while I was looking for a new job. That is what it is there for. I have never said that people in this situation should not recieve any help. But at some point they MUST pick it back up and start over.

You sound as if you have made the best choice available to you for the situation you are in. Was it easy? I’m guessing not. But what you did not do was sit around complaining about how everyone should help you more and you should not have to do anything on your own. You made a choice, and a very brave one at that, to go back into the work force. In my book, you are the type of person who should be helped.

People may not like it but one of my favorite quotes is to “help those that help themselves”. those that refuse to help themselves (even though they are able) get very little sympathy from me.

Posted by: BradM at October 25, 2005 10:43 PM
Comment #88145

Okay Brad,

Allow me to apologize.
Your first post led me think you were displaying what is a very prevalent attitude that many people share because they’ve been sold on big business propaganda — but I was obviously dead wrong on that score.
Your last two posts seem much more indicative of someone who has been badly burned by big business but thinks that nothing can be done about their seemingly unstoppable power. And as I’ve already said, I simply can’t and won’t agree.
In fact, I am certain that plenty can be brought to bear upon The Corporate World if American’s begin insistently demanding corporate regulation and reform to our Congressional and Administrative Leaders. We can also start demanding more stringent oversight upon those same leaders, and reform when it comes to corporate lobbyists who seek, and these days often do, control our government (see the recent medicare, or bankruptcy bills).
And in the case of giant retailers, consumers do in fact have quite a lot of power to change things — much more so than I think many people realize. If huge numbers of folks here and around the world began boycotting corporations directly (Like Ron, on the right, Stephanie in the middle, and myself, on the left do with Wal-mart. :^) to show displeasure with their race-to-the-bottom business models, cutthroat tactics designed to totally wipe out all competitors, shabby or downright outrageous treatment of employees, and the commandeering and advantage-taking effect on extremely poor or weak economies in other countries, it might add up to a great deal of change. The kind where they’ll actually be forced to alter their practices — if only to rehabilitate their image and/or maintain their market share.

Unfortunately I feel your posts are also displaying a certain amount of hard-hearted bitterness too, because of what you and your dad have obviously been forced to do. And I think that’s totally understandable, even though I can’t approve of it. Not at all.
What seems clear is that you and your Dad are resourceful, strongminded, intelligent people with the will to do whatever it is you have to do. But the sad fact is, other folks don’t always possess every one of those same traits, and sometimes people can lose the will to start over through adversity. This isn’t always due to a weak will, but can also be caused by things like accidents, injuries, sickness, or because of personal problems (or any one of those things taking place within their families).
You seem to feel that corporations should be let completely off the hook and that they owe people nothing but their paychecks. Again, I strongly disagree.
I’ve been a witness to how corporations squeeze and demand so much from their people both in time and in effort that they end up ignoring almost everything else in their lives — including the maintaining of their health. Let’s face it, with the Downsizing of jobs, it means some lose will their livelihoods while others are just forced to work harder without any kind of compensation.
I’ve seen how the corporate mindset has been programmed to think nothing of hounding, harrassing, humiliating and firing people who they decide have either been there too long (and therefore have risen too far up the pay scale when they might easily find someone to do the job for less), or who they discriminate against because they think are too old, or those who they feel aren’t properly robotic / comforming / sycophantic enough, or those who are going through somekind of personal crisis.
And then of course, there is Outsourcing — which these days can actually entail having to train the people from other countries to do the job they’ll be losing due to the relentless and limitless greed of their employers.

In my opinion, people who give or have given so much of their time and effort to make a business successful don’t deserve such unfair and horrible treatment. And I thoroughly reject that kind of inhumanity for the sake of the rabid and pathological pursuit of profit. It’s bullshit, and we shouldn’t continue to allow them to get away with the continual impoverishment of us on every level. On the world level, on the national level, on the personal level, and indeed, even on a moral and spiritual level.

So Brad, it seems that you and I are quite diametrically opposed, because I simply can’t go along with the idea that it is workers that must always do all the changing. I think it is long past time to be demanding that some changes be brought about on their end.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 26, 2005 2:48 PM
Comment #88146

Paul in Ireland — great posts, eloquently said.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 26, 2005 2:50 PM
Comment #88148

It think Europe will suffer far greater than we in the US. Europe’s policies are resulting in a much slower growth rate.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 25, 2005 10:02 PM

In fact Craig, in the case of my own country, our growth rate and unemployment rate are higher and lower respectively than that of the US. We have had a huge influx of economic migrants here from Eastern Europe since their countries acceded to the EU last year. But at present, the biggest shipping and ferry company on the Irish Sea, is seeking to make their employees redundant, and take on employees from third world nations in order to fatten their profits. This from a company that has held its market share and profitability in a growing market. There was a major controversy here a few months back when it was discovered that this same company had a hairdresser from the philippines employed on board being paid the princely sum of 1 euro per hour, about $1.20 to you. Now I consider myself a capitalist, but this is unconscionable. The globalist philosophy is to treat people soley as means of production. In Charles Dickens writings he caustically described such people as hands, depersonalised and dehumanised means of production. And that was in Victorian times. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that the world has moved on and things have gotten better? What we are seeing is too much power being invested in international capital whose only ethic is the maximisation of profit, and that even with a solely short term outlook,without looking at what it means even for themselves in the longer term.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 26, 2005 3:20 PM
Comment #88174

Stephanie
Here’s some information that I found out just last night.
Over in Arkansas, and maybe some other states, there is a bank called Arvest Bank. The bank is owned by Walmart.
We don’t have any Arvest branches around here, but they might have some in yours.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 26, 2005 5:16 PM
Comment #88176

BradM,

First, let me congratulate you on your baby! That’s always an exciting (and nerve-wracking!) time, especially with your first. It’s also well-worth it!

“Not at all…”

I understand what you’re saying much better now, thank you.

“But at some point they MUST pick it back up and start over.”

I agree with that statement completely. Unfortunate situations are almost inevitable, but they are certainly not final. It is my position that people can and should utilize what assistance is available to them (versus letting pride or indignation get in their way) and that the assistance should not only be readily available, but should come from a variety of sources. Government can only do so much in this area and really has difficulty weeding out those who are trying to help themselves from those who are not.

“You sound as if you have made the best choice available to you for the situation you are in. Was it easy?”

I hope I have, and I guarantee it wasn’t easy. I started by jumping in with both feet, landing myself a full-time position that required about 60 hrs a week. It took two weeks of that before my family started a melt down in a serious way. Luckily my new boss was very understanding and gave me a different position that required only 20 hrs. a week, and that on a very predictable schedule.

And things like that is what I speak of when I say “assistance from a variety of sources.” My boss very easily could have written me off because I couldn’t meet his expectations, but he didn’t. Even though I have no experience and am not very good at the position I now hold, he’s giving me the benefit of the doubt and factoring my motivation to learn into account. In exchange he gets an employee who is highly committed to her position and to making her place within the company a success. There’s mutual benefits to an act like that, though it’s always a risk on the part of both participants.

But, as of now, this is only a short-term fix for our situation. We’re still heavily reliant on assistance, which is available only because of the nature of my children’s disabilities. However, for a more permanent solution my going back to college is necessary. The down-side, of course, is to qualify for the kind of position people think I would be best at (a teacher of special needs students or an occupational or speech and language therapist) I would have to go back to school for a minimum of six to eight years, because none of my previous credits will transfer. For me, that’s very scary, but that’s not going to prevent me from doing it.

In the end, from my own experience and those of the people around me, I’ve found that those who want to are going to find a way to succeed. By providing assistance to such people we not only facilitate their success, which usually helps more people than just them, but we also prevent them from utilizing methods that may be less moral, ethical and/or legal than accepting assistance. For those who really don’t want to do what it takes to succeed, no amount of assistance is going to be enough to make them successful. For such people, the best we, as a society, can do is work to ensure that as few peripheral people are hurt from their decision as possible, i.e. people with kids still get assistance so their kids don’t suffer and people who want quick cash but don’t care how they get it find punishment awaiting them if they choose to commit crimes to get it.

“You made a choice, and a very brave one at that, to go back into the work force.”

Thank you.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 26, 2005 5:24 PM
Comment #88200

Adrienne,

Of BradM, you said:
“…but thinks that nothing can be done about their seemingly unstoppable power.”
And:
“…a certain amount of hard-hearted bitterness too…”

And, while I may be wrong, I just want to say that I didn’t get that feel from him, at least not within the last two posts. There’s a difference between feeling “nothing can be done” or being “bitter” and feeling either the wrong things are being done or that the government has limits to what it can do.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been through the process of receiving medical assistance or food stamps, but I have. It’s a mess!!! The bureaucracy is so thick it’d make you sick, and yet it’s also very easy to take advantage of the system. As heartless as corporations can be, and as disgusting as that is, our own government can be just as bad or worse.

I’ve seen people who desperately need the help be denied on mere technicalities or through paper-work mangling, while people who are cheating the system get away with receiving numerous benefits they neither need nor deserve, because they know how to manipulate the system and lie through their teeth. While I don’t suggest these abuses and inconsistencies be used as fodder to dismantle and eliminate these benefits and assistances, I do know that adding layers upon layers to our already dysfunctional system by way of adding more assistance without fixing the mechanisms used to distribute the assistance already available won’t really help anyone. Sometimes government stepping in to regulate something or provide benefits just causes more problems then it solves. In order to fix our system and make it truly beneficial to its citizens, we really need some less bureaucrat minded people stepping in to re-direct our assistance efforts.

People and corporations can peacefully co-exist. Regulation is necessary, but it cannot be solely on the part of the government. Our activities against WalMart will be more successful in the long run than anything the government can or will do. Speaking of which…

“Like Ron, on the right, Stephanie in the middle, and myself, on the left do with Wal-mart.”

How in the world did I get put in the middle!?! We may agree to a certain extent on this issue, but I’m still conservative enough to make your hair curl!

You also said:

“This isn’t always due to a weak will, but can also be caused by things like accidents, injuries, sickness, or because of personal problems (or any one of those things taking place within their families).”

My own life has been affected by a serious mix of those things you’ve listed in the above quote. That is a valid reason for me to receive help, but not a valid reason for me to give up. Unfortunately, I’ve met too many people who really just don’t want to “do for themselves” at all, and are willing to use such circumstances to become totally reliant on outside aid. Now, some people (think permanently disabled) cannot help it, but those who can should.

This is a true-to-life scenario. Please, tell me what you think about it.

I know this individual who got used to receiving government assistance in the form of medical assistance and food stamps for self and family. Then, this individual got a job under a boss who was willing to pay enough so that the individual would no longer be eligible for such assistance. Instead of celebrating what I would consider a great victory, this individual somehow (and I don’t know how) manuevered the boss into paying the majority of the individual’s salary under the table, and thus the individual not only made the amount of money the boss was willing to pay the individual, but also retained the government assistance that the individual and family are no longer truly eligible for or in need of, with the justification for this illegal act being that medical expenses and grocery bills are too costly and would eat away too much of the salary if the individual didn’t retain the assistance.

Now, in your opinion, is this scenario good, bad or indifferent?

Posted by: Stephanie at October 26, 2005 7:04 PM
Comment #88202

Paul in Euroland,

IMO, a global economy should be governed by international laws that would include respectable minnimum wage laws. That’s something that we as citizens of our respective countries can advocate for, thus dampening the negative effects of globalization.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 26, 2005 7:14 PM
Comment #88203

Ron Brown,

“…there is a bank called Arvest Bank. The bank is owned by Walmart.”

Nope, no Arvest Bank around here. Whew! Then again, I bank at a locally owned and run credit union anyway, so I’d be in the clear even if Arvest was in these parts. Arvest…maybe I’m just too much a Wisconsinite, but do you think that maybe they forgot the ‘H’?

Posted by: Stephanie at October 26, 2005 7:17 PM
Comment #88214

Paul in Euroland,

IMO, a global economy should be governed by international laws that would include respectable minnimum wage laws. That’s something that we as citizens of our respective countries can advocate for, thus dampening the negative effects of globalization.
Posted by: Stephanie at October 26, 2005 07:14 PM

The whole point of globalisation Steph, is that it’s everyone for himself/herself, and the devil take the hindmost. In the US, the minimum wage is, if I’m not mistaken, about $5 per hour. In Ireland, it’s just short of 8 euros, or about $9.60 in your money. Either of those figures would represent a fortune in developing countries. Globalisation requires that those who have an economic advantage in some area, specialise in that area. What the developing world has an advantage in, is low wages. That is something that the West cannot currently compete with. And as the developing countries move up the value chain, still with relatively low pay rates, the West will not be able to compete. The whole issue is competition. And what competition is about is setting people against each other. Just like when you have a sports competition, there are winners, and logically there must also be losers. The real winners in the globalisation race will be the transnational corporations, at least in the short to medium term. In the longer term, consumerism requires that consumers have significant disposable income. When the mass of consumers no longer have that disposable income, the whole system comes crumbling down. That is what I meant by international capital taking the short term view. In short, everyone loses, eventually.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 26, 2005 8:28 PM
Comment #88243

Paul in Euroland,

Paul said:
“The whole point of globalisation Steph, is that it’s everyone for himself/herself, and the devil take the hindmost.”

That’s a very limited view of what globalization means, my friend. While that may be what mean corporations want us to believe it means, because that meaning gives them the most latitude to take advantage of the process before we’re all forced to straighten them out, it doesn’t have to be like that.

As citizens of this world, we have the right and the reponsibility to shape the events within our sphere of influence to best suit all the people of the world and if we know of something going catastrophically wrong, we have the duty to at least try to expand our sphere of influence to the point where we can actually positively impact those things that going catastrophically wrong.

In part, you and I both take on that responsibility by searching out and becoming informed about such issues. The really dramatic part is where we take that next step to affect change on our environment.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 26, 2005 11:35 PM
Comment #88265

That’s all fine and dandy Stephanie, except for the most part in Western nations, we have considerable difficulty in getting out Governments to prioritise the citizens. In the US, the president cannot be elected without the donations of the Corporations and the wealthy. These people and companies do not subscribe for the health of democracy - there is a well understood quid pro quo, and it is not pro bono publico. Out Governments are in the pockets of the rich and influential, the ones who fund the lobbyists, a group whose activities have been developed to an art in the US. As long as the people can be divided by distractions, like the war in Iraq, life SS reform, like medical care, like abortion, the agenda of the powerful can be eased through with the mimimum of opposition. Divide and conquer, it has always been the strategy of those whose mumbers are not large enough on their own to wield power. All they have to do is distract the masses on for them non core issues.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at October 27, 2005 7:11 AM
Comment #88374

Stephanie,
I’m not one who is happy with the idea of having piles of ineffective bureaucracy make things more difficult for people to receive the assistance they really need, either. Nor am I delighted by the thought of allowing people who are lazy and shiftless to game a system which was set up to help only those people who really need our help.
That being said, if this is the only way that persons children get to have a roof over their heads and food to eat, I’m willing to see them get it.
Why? Because it’s better than having them and their kids living on the streets, and because compared to amount of money the govt. and the corporations are ripping us off for, the amount such people take from us is really a drop in the bucket.

“How in the world did I get put in the middle!?! We may agree to a certain extent on this issue, but I’m still conservative enough to make your hair curl!”

My bad. I thought you were an independent voter.
Oh well, at least we can all agree that Wal-mart is Evil, and that their business model and practices are terribly bad for America.

“This is a true-to-life scenario. Please, tell me what you think about it.
I know this individual… [story snipped]
Now, in your opinion, is this scenario good, bad or indifferent?”

This seems like a bit of trick question to me, Stephanie.
Because it’s both good and bad.
He’s a good man for making sure his family has medical care and food on the table. He’s a bad citizen for taking advantage of the system.
And, he’s also obviously the smart, charismatic sort who was able to convince someone else (his boss) to be his accomplice in becoming someone who is both good and bad at the same time.

What would be better was if every American had a guarantee of basic healthcare, and that a smart, ingenious guy like that had access to good education or job training, so that the prospect of getting the kind of job that would pay him enough to actually take care of his family and his bills would be much more attractive than remaining a poor guy who isn’t above a shrewd, Darwinian approach to gaming the system.

Posted by: Adrienne at October 27, 2005 4:05 PM
Comment #88422

Paul in Euroland,

“…except for the most part in Western nations, we have considerable difficulty in getting out Governments to prioritise the citizens. In the US, the president cannot be elected without the donations of the Corporations and the wealthy. These people and companies do not subscribe for the health of democracy…”

I’m well aware of that problem, but that’s no reason to throw our hands up to defeat. I’m working on a different political site, and am actually priviledged enough to be on the initial team starting an anti-imcumbent political movement here in the US. Take a look, if it’s something you’d like to see happen in your own country perhaps we might be able to help you get started on the right track.

“All they have to do is distract the masses on for them non core issues.”

We at VOID understand that all too well; some of us, like myself, learned the lesson the hard way by falling into the trap and becoming inevitably disappointed in the results. That’s why we’ve looked at alternative ways to address our concerns and that’s how VOID came into being, at least it’s why I joined the ranks.

Call me stubborn, but I’m not willing to just watch the future of my country get flushed down the proverbial toilet due to corporate (and others’) greed. We can do something. We simply have to choose to do so, and to do so with vigor.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 27, 2005 9:38 PM
Comment #88430

Adrienne,

“I’m not one who is happy with the idea of having piles of ineffective bureaucracy make things more difficult for people to receive the assistance they really need, either.”

That’s why we need to find a way to clean up the system and improve it, before we simply dump more funds into it. Making it a mess of bureaucratic red tape effectively wastes funds people desperately need to make ends meet. By dumping more funds on top of the dysfunctional program, we’re actually seeing a skewwed version of the trickle-down-theory in action. The funds have to trickle through the bureaucracy before they ever reach individuals, and while I don’t have the figures to represent how much cents per dollar actually gets spent on those who need it, I’m sure the figures would be absolutely disgusting! Dumping more money and more programs on the problem solves nothing. IMO, the way our current program works it does more to fight poverty by paying social workers than it actually does by dispersing benefits.

“That being said, if this is the only way that persons children get to have a roof over their heads and food to eat, I’m willing to see them get it.”

Ah, that’s the thing. It’s NOT the only way, nor has it ever been. Non-government non-profit organizations do a lot more to feed, clothe and shelter the destitute than the government does. That’s not even including person-to-person donations (which have been my own family’s salvation). In my area, if people need assistance they go to the Salvation Army or ECHO, not to the government. The government can offer some “long-term” assistance, but it sucks when it comes to immediate needs, and really doesn’t do a whole lot to ensure people don’t get back into a crisis situation.

This idea that the government is the only or even the best option to help the poor is not at all accurate… or is it the fact that the majority of non-government organizations whose goal is to assist the poor are almost inevitably Christian that bothers you? After all, these organizations do not discriminate against non-Christians or those of different denominations than themselves, but perhaps the fact that they’re Christian at all bothers you. I don’t know, but dismissing them because they don’t fit your political beliefs seems pretty unfair.

“…the amount such people take from us is really a drop in the bucket.”

Yeah, and all those drops in the bucket add up. That’s why this country is in debt.

“My bad. I thought you were an independent voter.”

I am. But that has to do with party affiliation, not political spectrum. I’m an independent conservative, versus a moderate Republican, liberal Democrat, conservative Republican or idependent liberal, or all the other various combinations thereof. For me, being an independent conservative means voting mainly for the Constitution party or Republicans, but also throwing the occasional Green candidate to balance things out. A conservative Democrat can also earn my vote, but they’re rare. And the one I knew no longers runs for office. Right now, the most important thing for me to consider is whether or not the person is an incumbent. If it’s vote for an incumbent or a Democrat, I’ll grit my teeth and vote for the Democrat.

“This seems like a bit of trick question to me, Stephanie.”

I guess that kind of settles it, Adrienne, we’re not going to be able to agree. There was no trick to that question, at least not one that was intentional. Fraud is fraud is fraud. I don’t see the guy I was talking about as being any different than Thomas Noe. Both were breaking the law for the sake of illegal gain. Though, if it makes me seem any less bitter or hard-hearted to you, I’ve also heard that he’s at the very least verbally abusive (eye-witness testimony) to his wife and kids, and possibly physically abusive (assumption, rumor and innuendo) as well.

“What would be better … a smart, ingenious guy like that had access to good education or job training…”

He does!!! In fact, he HAS a good job, and has advised his boss NOT to offer medical benefits because that would make it more easy for HIM to get caught! Including his under-the-table pay, he earns an income well above the poverty line! He’s a vice president for a small company (employing an average of 25-30 employees)! This isn’t some guy who makes $100 a month above the cut-off, he gets thousands of dollars of unreported income a year!!!

“…the kind of job that would pay him enough to actually take care of his family…”

And that’s the thing. Our system SHOULD be able to distinguish between those who really, simply cannot afford a decent living on their own, and those who manipulate the system because they cannot manage their money properly. All children should be taken care of no matter what, because it’s not their fault!!!

But, adults who have sufficient funds and simply waste the money should be eligible for classes about budgeting and managing money, but shouldn’t be able to cheat the system to secure their basic needs are met. Allowing this defeats the whole purpose of providing benefits. The idea isn’t to keep people on the system indefinitely, it’s to give them the help they need to stand on their own two feet, because that’s the only way to get them out of poverty.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 27, 2005 10:44 PM
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