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Plantation capitalism
#1

Plantation capitalism
A friend mentioned it on facebook and it got me to reading. I found it rather interesting.

"My friend, mentor and colleague, Rev. James Lawson, calls our economic system “plantation capitalism.” Lawson was the nonviolent strategist for Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement and the key figure in the desegregation of Nashville. His reference, of course, pulls forward the image of enslaved field workers in the Old South.

The image chafes in my mind. Yes, slavery, but today’s workers are not slaves. They are not the landless peasants or sharecroppers that emancipated slaves were forced to be. They are not the low-level, below-the-standard-wage employees that Southern blacks became when they migrated to the steel cities of the North. They are not second-class citizens isolated into segregated neighborhoods and limited to menial jobs.

Except, there is a growing body of evidence showing that this is exactly what a majority of workers of all colors is becoming. Between 1965 and 2011, while the top 10 percent gained an inflation-adjusted annual income increase of $116,000, the other 90 percent received a paltry $59. No wonder 75 percent of families report living paycheck to paycheck, and one in four Americans report using payday loans, pawn shops, auto-title loans and tax-refund loans to make ends meet. It’s why working people depend on check-cashing stores, purchase cars from “buy here/pay here” dealers and get re-treads from rent-a-tire shops.

People who depend on such high-interest businesses to make it feel a lot of anxiety. Some 59 percent of Americans who think of themselves as middle class fear falling out of their class. Half of working-age Americans skipped necessary medical care in 2012 because it was too expensive. Even people with health insurance postponed care because of the cost of co-pays. Nearly a quarter of Americans report struggling to put food on the table.

Meanwhile, women have moved into the breadwinner position. More than 40 percent of families say the woman is the sole earner. Yet a wage survey indicates that a mother is paid five percent less per child than her female counterpart without children, and women on the whole receive lower wages than their male colleagues. While moms in many states can now take an extended maternity leave without fearing losing their jobs, most do not.

These patterns did not result from worker choices, but resulted from employer policies. Now they pile on more. Employers monitor employees in ways only technology could provide. Companies measure the keystrokes of data-entry workers. The phone message “this call may be monitored for quality assurance” is heard everywhere, all the time. Warehouse workers wear head phones that direct them to their next task and tell them how much time they have to finish it. The delivery guy sets a timer, then runs to leave the package and jogs back to his truck. Piece-work quotas are up, and managers even time bathroom breaks.

As one worker put it, “I’m worn out. I get home and I can barely stand up.”

With the constant threat of downsizing, layoffs and pay cuts – while a long line of the unemployed waits to take any available job – employees find themselves less and less willing to voice complaints or even talk among themselves about grievances. Since 92 percent of private-sector wage workers have no union or worker/peer means of redressing egregious circumstances on the job, people self-censor. They check their civil liberties at the door and take their bitterness home.

A job, for most workers, means go to work, keep your head down, close your mouth, work to exhaustion, then go home and try to meet your family’s needs by going into debt. No wonder this generation of young people is not making long-term buying decisions on new cars and houses. They face the anxiety and stress of life-long financial insecurity. I think that is what my friend means by “plantation capitalism.”"


And another, much longer, one.

"During slavery, “Americans built a culture of speculation unique in its abandon,” writes the historian Joshua Rothman in his 2012 book, “Flush Times and Fever Dreams.” That culture would drive cotton production up to the Civil War, and it has been a defining characteristic of American capitalism ever since. It is the culture of acquiring wealth without work, growing at all costs and abusing the powerless. It is the culture that brought us the Panic of 1837, the stock-market crash of 1929 and the recession of 2008. It is the culture that has produced staggering inequality and undignified working conditions. If today America promotes a particular kind of low-road capitalism — a union-busting capitalism of poverty wages, gig jobs and normalized insecurity; a winner-take-all capitalism of stunning disparities not only permitting but awarding financial rule-bending; a racist capitalism that ignores the fact that slavery didn’t just deny black freedom but built white fortunes, originating the black-white wealth gap that annually grows wider — one reason is that American capitalism was founded on the lowest road there is."
“We drift down time, clutching at straws. But what good's a brick to a drowning man?” 
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#2

Plantation capitalism
Rev. Lawson makes a valid point.

Reminds me of this observation.

[Image: 38206171981_d640634de6_o_d.png?resolution=0]
Robert G. Ingersoll : “No man with a sense of humor ever founded a religion.”
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#3

Plantation capitalism
This all strikes me as pretty spot-on. The past 12 years especially I worked for something of a unicorn where I just did self-directed and interesting work on a sane schedule with little oversight and high pay. Now they've been sold to a multinational and the picture has changed totally. The sale happened 7 days ago and I'm still getting a combination of ignored and mixed signals about my role and I now have a colleague actively trying to bluff me into a more arm's length relationship with the company under the pretext of "doing me a favor".

The latter sounds way more typical than the former, even in white collar professional work. I have a friend who manages a library of antiquities for a university and acquisitions therefor, which is a rarified job if ever there was one, and he's terrified of being downsized due to some combo of his age and the pandemic. I don't know anyone who's not retired who isn't some combination of job-insecure, job-miserable, and/or feels they will never get ahead enough to enjoy a comfortable retirement.
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#4

Plantation capitalism
Income inequality is a huge problem, and requires a range of political solutions to address it adequately.

However, it would be inaccurate to assume that the difficulties, anxieties, and insecurities of workers in the modern world are caused only by this one problem, and that political action is the only answer. For instance, over-population, over-competition, over-consumption, and automation are also parts of the same problem. Labor becomes cheaper, over-worked, and more expendable because of those other issues. As always, there are costs as well as benefits for any progress, and we are pushing everyone too fast. Having children and providing them with competitive educations becomes more and more expensive. People try to behave as their parents did, even if it's no longer so easy to do. Yet people do share in the riches of modern society, and live lavishly compared with plantation-era slaves. So the comparison only works in certain narrow ways.

The way I see it, most people are paid to do jobs they will only do if they are paid. Misery is built right into that equation.
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#5

Plantation capitalism
@Alan V, the wealth disparity is the most dangerous economic issue confronting America right now, because once folks understand that no matter how hard they work they still cannot get ahead, they get desperate. Automation is a big part of that.

Wealth in America is often expressed in home-ownership and home values. But when people cannot buy their own homes and must rent -- or when people can only buy into poor neighborhoods -- they also put a limit on the education of their children here in America, because school-funding is generally drawn from property taxes.

Until that is changed, it will be very hard for poor folk to be upwardly mobile. It has become a vicious cycle.

A permanent underclass is inherently destabilizing.
Freedom isn't free.
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#6

Plantation capitalism
(07-30-2020, 06:39 PM)Vera Wrote: ..... 
"During slavery, “Americans built a culture of speculation unique in its abandon,” writes the historian Joshua Rothman in his 2012 book, “Flush Times and Fever Dreams.” That culture would drive cotton production up to the Civil War, and it has been a defining characteristic of American capitalism ever since. It is the culture of acquiring wealth without work, growing at all costs and abusing the powerless. It is the culture that brought us the Panic of 1837, the stock-market crash of 1929 and the recession of 2008. It is the culture that has produced staggering inequality and undignified working conditions. If today America promotes a particular kind of low-road capitalism — a union-busting capitalism of poverty wages, gig jobs and normalized insecurity; a winner-take-all capitalism of stunning disparities not only permitting but awarding financial rule-bending; a racist capitalism that ignores the fact that slavery didn’t just deny black freedom but built white fortunes, originating the black-white wealth gap that annually grows wider — one reason is that American capitalism was founded on the lowest road there is."

Actually it's not a system that Americans built. The manipulation of commodity prices goes back into the Medieval period, if not far further back than that. There were famous crashes and panics long before (centuries before) Rothman wrote his little (wrong) generalization. He just (apparently) doesn't know much history. I note he has no proposals for a system that works and works better.
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#7

Plantation capitalism
I was listening to US Representative John Lewis's funeral on the radio this morning and one of the speakers (I didn't catch his name but he spoke before President Obama) used the phrase "plantation capitalism."

I never heard the phrase before but it immediately rang true.

-Teresa
There is in the universe only one true divide, one real binary, life and death. Either you are living or you are not. Everything else is molten, malleable.

-Susan Faludi, In the Darkroom
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#8

Plantation capitalism
What was always a supreme irony of the American Civil War was that the abolitionist classes were, generally, from the educated elite.  Many clergymen, writers, professionals, and commercial types were drawn to the abolitionist movement.  The lower classes were generally not involved.  So when factory owners were bitching about the evils of slavery they probably overlooked the way they treated their own workers.

Yes, slavery was revolting.  But unless a slave owner was totally fucking stupid or psychotic he would not be beating or starving his property to death.  They did not have slave insurance.  If you beat a slave it was beating an asset.  Think of it like going to your garage and whacking your car with an axe for the hell of it.  Sure, some assholes will do it but it is not the norm.  But as bad as slaves had it in 1860 the factory workers fresh off the boat from Ireland in NY or Boston did not have it much better.  Yes.  They were "free."  Free to work in appalling factory conditions with little fire or safety protection.  They were paid, more or less, $2/day and if they got hurt or sick they were out on their asses.  From that $2/day they had to buy food, find a place to live, and buy what ever clothes they could.  Then as now, it sucked to be poor and their bosses did not give a flying fuck about them.

But the capitalists could puff themselves up and congratulate themselves for opposing those damn Southern slave owners who were so obviously morally inferior to them..... no matter what that fucking bible said.

Things have not changed as much as some might think.
Robert G. Ingersoll : “No man with a sense of humor ever founded a religion.”
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#9

Plantation capitalism
I thought this might be appropriate here.

[Image: 116045561_10158939277595312_5064393766788010089_n.jpg]
Robert G. Ingersoll : “No man with a sense of humor ever founded a religion.”
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