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The Blowback from Stripmining Labor for 45 Years Is Just Beginning

The clueless technocrats are about to discover that unfairness and exploitation can’t be measured like revenues and profits, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real.

Economists and financial pundits tend to make a catastrophically flawed assumption. They tend to believe the technocratic myth that all human behavior boils down to financial incentives, data and metrics, as if all people make decisions based on interest rates, tax breaks and greed, the desire to maximize gains by any means available. (Cough, FTX, cough…)

The only other source of decision-making that’s recognized by the punditry is political / ideological squabbling: people make decisions based on their self-interest as expressed through political / ideological positions.

But this doesn’t exhaust the sources of human decisions and behaviors. People make life decisions for many other reasons which cannot be quantified or linked to financial incentives, interest rates or ideological beliefs.

For example, people can become fed up and quit caring: as in we pretend to work and you pretend to pay us, quiet quitting, opting out, laying flat and let it rot.

People get fed up with bogus propaganda designed to exploit them and with unfairness and corruption.For example, consider the endless spew of employers’ syrupy propaganda aimed at convincing their employees that the corporation / institution / employer really, really cares–I mean really cares–about its (ruthlessly exploited) employees.

If the employers actually cared about their employees and demonstrated it with loyalty and real-world behaviors, they wouldn’t need to slather on the phony propaganda. The employees would know the employers cared about them and their work because it was being demonstrated day to day.

The ugly truth is corporate / institutional employers stopped caring about their employees decades ago. This is the bitter fruit of hyper-financialization and hyper-globalization, which both reduce labor to a globally arbitraged commodity and an input cost that had to be cut to the bone to maximize shareholder value, i.e. profits and stock options that flow to the top management and top 5%.

This exploitation of labor resulted in the transfer of $50 trillion from labor to shareholders and management, the owners and managers of concentrations of capital which capture and distort governance mechanisms to serve the interests of capital to the exclusion of the common good and the workforce.

When employers stop caring about employees, employees stop caring about their work. No loyalty from employers is repaid in kind: employees have no loyalty to employers.


Everybody now understands they’re slaving away not for a piece of the ever-receding American Dream but to make the already-rich even richer and to keep the workforce cowed, compliant and exploitable.

So people are fed up and choosing to exploit their employers if possible and if that’s not possible, then stop caring and do the minimum to get by. This might mean cutting work hours, switching to gig-economy informal labor, retiring early, or switching jobs to get more for the same work.

In effect, people are choosing to reduce their dependence on exploitive structures by becoming more self-reliant: need less, invest in yourself, your family and community, shorten your personal supply chains, become productive on your own behalf rather than to the benefit of distant shareholders.

It’s called blowback, or karma if you prefer. What goes around comes around. The workforce has been stripmined by the few at the top for 45 years, and now they’re responding in kind: take this job and shove it, I ain’t working here no more. (Per Johnny Paycheck’s timeless classic, Take This Job And Shove It 2:31).

This blowback is just beginning and it’s going to run farther and hotter than any of the clueless economists and financial pundits can even imagine. The clueless technocrats are about to discover that unfairness and exploitation can’t be measured like revenues and profits, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real.

While Everyone Cheers Soaring “Wealth,” America’s Social Order Is Unraveling (October 1, 2021)

The Blowback from Stripmining Labor for 45 Years Is Just Beginning



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Charles Hugh Smith
At readers' request, I've prepared a biography. I am not confident this is the right length or has the desired information; the whole project veers uncomfortably close to PR. On the other hand, who wants to read a boring bio? I am reminded of the "Peanuts" comic character Lucy, who once issued this terse biographical summary: "A man was born, he lived, he died." All undoubtedly true, but somewhat lacking in narrative.
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