Saturday, February 06, 2010

Who Does What and Does It Matter

Here are some (numbers from 2008).

Employed Persons by Occupation, Sex and Age
Count (in Millions)
52.8 Management, Professional and Related Positions
52.8 Total
24.5 Service
19.2 Office
16.3 Sales
14.8 Construction, Maintenance, Natural Resources
17.8 Production, Transportation
92.6 Total
145.4 Total, all occupations

So, there are 145.4 million Americans in the workforce in 2008, and 52.8 million of them are classified as "Management, Professional and Related Positions."

Sales is an anomalous classification. I believe most workers in that category are probably inside sales, working phones or behind counters. In the Department of Labor Current Population Survey (CPS) tables, sales and office are categorized together. This makes sense. However, I believe also that most persons in sales see themselves as in the category of "Management, Professional and Related Positions," rather than lumped in with "ordinary" office workers such as secretaries, mail clerks and receptionists.

Staying with the CPS classifications, management &  professionals represents 36% of the workforce. (That might give you pause.)  I'm not going to break out the "purely management" from "professionals" such as doctors, lawyers &c.

The reason I'm thinking about these numbers is that one of the constant refrains I hear from the right is that "Americans want ..." this and that. And mostly, I hear this refrain from people in the management classification.

If there's one thing I have learned decisively in 45 years in the workforce, it is that management does not put the welfare of the employee above the welfare of the manager's pocketbook and career. Management is very hierarchical (as is sales, another reason perhaps that they tend to self-identify together). If my boss' boss tells him to do something, he will do it, no matter what he thinks about it personally. He may find it morally or ethically repugnant; he may even think or know that it's illegal; but, he'll do it.

This ability to discount ethics and obey seems to be a quality required for advancement in the world of management. This may account for the rarity of whistleblowers within corporate management. When you think about all the corporate scandals -- the defective products, the financial malfeasance, environmental law violations: pretty amazing how few of these are brought before the public by knowledgeable individuals within the management teams that implemented them or ordered them.  If you have qualms about "sticking in the knife" or "turning a blind eye" on orders, you're probably not going to advance into a position to see behind the green curtain.

Another trait of management is a "Father Knows Best" paternalism. For the most part, managers seem to feel that not only do they know best how to do everything within their business, but they seem to feel a corresponding wisdom about every other aspect of life; and they feel that everyone else not a member of their team has a moral imperative to follow orders. One of the real sticking points in management-labor relations where unions are involved, is that management is absolutely, characteristically incapable of accepting that anyone other than themselves could possibly have anything useful to contribute to the running of a company. After all, if you _were_ competent, you'd be a manager!

The summary line is, that our politics are driven by the 36% telling the 64% what to do -- not just on the job, but in daily life. Now, when the country was founded, the Constitution was written by men who fell into the 36% category: at least, in thought patterns. James Madison was explicit in his description of the Constitutional government as being designed to prevent the "tyranny of the majority," because the anticipation was that the mob would be driven by envy of the aristocracy and would therefore have to be restrained. And the mechanism of restraint was brilliantly conceived.  For rather than applying force of arms, as done by all governments up to that time; and as evidenced in the recently thrown-off yoke of tyranny; the design of the government itself reserved the powers of change to those most deserving of them: the aristocracy; while at the same time, seeming to circumscribe all citizens within that group.1

Our modern 36-ers are not far from that tree of thought. They believe that it is necessary for the government to be owned by business because if it wasn't, it would be owned by citizens -- and 64% of those citizens are the mob. Hence, again with brilliant insight into the requirements of political expediency, they describe what is best for themselves economically as what is best for "all  Americans."

To the extent that a public school system educates its students to be good citizens, it's bad for the 36-ers: because good citizens can sniff out the poison in the dialog. Hence, 36-ers are against a public  school system that is not devoted to producing "good workers": obedient, mercenary, consumption-oriented and politically malleable. "Sit down, shut up and do what you're told" is the essence of the 36-ers conception of public education. Of course, that's not the education they envision for their own children. To avoid that conundrum, we need vouchers to send their kids to private schools.

To the extent that a healthcare system provides adequate and sustainable care to all citizens, it's bad for 36-ers: because it places all citizens on an equal footing. You will never meet a 36-er who does not believe that he deserves better healthcare than a mother on welfare. You will never meet a 36-er who believes that that welfare mother's baby is genetically and morally equal to his own.

To the extent that a government restricts the avarice of the wealthy, it's bad for the 36-ers: because their lives are dedicated to the pursuit of avarice.

But there's a huge worm in the apple of the 36-ers' eye. There's a layer of citizens at the top of the pile, driving the body politic like a metaphorical brain. Mostly invisible to most of us, the very wealthy work the levers of power in the financial and political capitals of America.

The 36-ers do the dirty work for these rulers. These rulers live in a veritably unbreakable,  invisible bubble. When the 36-er manipulates the political structure to enhance his own comfort by extracting resources from some segment of the 64% below him, he silently passes on the bulk of that extraction to the rulers, gratefully lapping up the crumbs that fall to the floor in front of him.  Above all, hierarchical: just as he is greater than the 64%, the rulers are greater than he.
They keep you doped with religion, and sex, and TV
And you think you're so clever, and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants, as far as I can see.
America has morphed into a kind of feudalism. At the top we have our rulers. The 36-ers represent the gentry, and the lower 64% the serfs.   Everybody is expected to "know his place" and keep it.

Lawrence Lessig has recently penned an article for The Nation, How to Get Our Democracy Back. This article is well worth reading. I have read no more cogent summary of our current political status in America; it is a call to action.

There is no "third way" in American politics. Either business controls the government and turns its broad powers to the ends of profit-making and maintaining the aristocratic privilege of the 36-ers and their rulers; or the citizens control the government and turn its broad powers to the ends of social justice. There is no real-world scenario in which government is ever, will ever be, a neutral party in the daily operations of life in the State.

I can't say that I'm sanguine that we will "get out of the state we're in."
"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." -- Mahatma Gandhi
1 Yes, some of the founders recognized exactly what was being done by this design. Patrick Henry is famous for having repudiated the output of the Constitutional Convention, campaigned against it in his home state and helped force the hand of the nascent Constitutional government in order to secure the Bill of Rights; which Madison, et al were wont to regard as "unnecessary" once the government was in place. We owe more of our modern liberty to Patrick Henry than to James Madison.

No comments:

Post a Comment