As a society we do not value working people or work. One of the most important economic measures is productivity – production per unit of labor. What does that mean? The fewer “units of labor” we invest in a product, the better.
The very idea of hard work is denigrated. My father used to tell me “Work smarter, not harder.” The point (originally) was industrial efficiency. (The phrase was coined by an industrial engineer in the 1930s. Industrial engineers are the guys who stand around with a clipboard watching you work and then tell you how to do a job that they’ve never done.) It was often heard as “You are more valuable if you sit behind a desk than if you get your hands dirty.”
You are not a person, you are a unit of labor and therefore a necessary evil until we can replace you with a robot. The very people who produce the goods are considered a drag on the economy.
But who are the real parasites? Who takes money from the economy without producing anything? High on my list is the insurance industry. There was once something called a “mutual aid society”. People realized that any one of us could be wiped out by a disaster and if we pooled our resources, we could take care of each other in times of trouble. That concept was bastardized by the insurance industry – a group of companies that take our money in good times so they can find ways to avoid giving it back in bad times: you contributed to your own loss; you had a pre-existing condition; we have this loophole that says your loss isn’t covered; maybe your loss should be covered but we’ll make you jump through enough hoops that you’ll give up. Even the hospitals have begun to recognize insurance as a parasite: https://www.hfma.org/topics/financial-sustainability/article/front-line-stories–how-today-s-prior-authorization-processes-cr.html
Advertising – an entire industry devoted to convincing you that you need something you don’t really need. Check out the movie The Joneses.
Once you buy it, you must of course buy the newer, bigger, better version. And “they don’t make ’em like they used to” is no accident. If a product lasts too long, you won’t buy the newer, bigger, shinier version. The clothes washer I bought used 27 years ago still works fine. If I’d bought a new one a few years ago when the new highly-efficient front loaders were all the rage, I would have learned only later that a load took more than twice as long, so the savings from less water used are offset by using twice as much electricity. Then I’d have found out that they have a tendency to grow mold. And when they fail, it’s often a motherboard failure and requires a new machine, not just a new part. Or that the new part cost almost as much as the machine – and isn’t in stock so I might as well buy the newer, shinier version instead of waiting for the part. Then maybe I’d get one that solved the mold problem – or not.
If The Joneses is not dark enough for you, try the earlier British film How to Get Ahead in Advertising.
Advertising only works if you continue to buy more stuff. And advertising doesn’t make stuff any better – just more expensive, since the stuff has to pay for the advertising. And we don’t call it “advertising” anymore – it’s “marketing” because that sounds more scientific. The”science” is the science of how to manipulate us more effectively. Parasites, all of ’em.
Real estate sales – another parasitic industry. Since we know that producing more land is rare, the entire industry is devoted to driving up the price of the land that already exists. The concept of private ownership of property results in speculative purchase of land – ownership of land specifically for the purpose of selling it to someone else later at a higher price. The epitome of capitalism: Making money by having money. If you can afford to buy land, you can get rich by doing nothing. Work is for suckers.
You can hire a real estate agent to help you buy a house. By state law (in Wisconsin) a real estate agent always represents the seller. It is in the agent’s best interest (and legal obligation) to get the highest possible price for the house. Since they get paid a percentage of the sale price, their income is directly tied to what you pay. So don’t think there is any such thing as a “buyer’s agent.” If you each hire an agent, they are on the same side – not yours, if you are buying.
Human Resources departments. Once upon a time, we found that companies had this unpleasant tendency to exploit their workers. Bosses just might sexually harass their underlings. We came up with the idea of a personnel department – a place to take your grievances and maybe not lose your job for voicing them. Over time this morphed into a “Human Resources” department – a department devoted to exploiting the “resource” represented by your labor, the way Peabody Coal exploits coal deposits. What is a “resource” other than a profit center? Now we lose benefits we used to have, or they find creative accounting and reporting practices so when you look at your pay stub you can’t really tell if you still have the same benefits you used to have. They can change sick leave, vacation, and holidays into “MTO”. You can have the “freedom” to take vacation OR get sick. And maybe that time off will expire if you don’t use it – so if you get really sick, you don’t have a bank of sick leave to draw on. And maybe, when they combine those into one “bank”, the total number of hours will mysteriously shrink – if you can ever figure out what that total is.
Management – talk about parasites. There is actually a service to be performed by management. There is work that needs to be done behind the scenes to support productive work. That’s management. A job in service to and in support of production. Today, the CEO who makes 320 times what the typical worker makes is the real parasite. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average CEO made 21 times as much as the average worker in 1965 (21:1). By 1989 that had gone to 65:1. In 2018, 293:1. And in the single year from 2018 to 2019, that jumped to 320:1. Does the CEO provide 320 times the value of the worker? Does the CEO provide value? Does the CEO produce anything?
So if you are a production worker, you are not a parasite. It is your labor that produces everything we need (as well as everything we don’t but those noted above convince us we do). So, hats off to the parasites of the world – those who suck money and produce nothing. But when you take that hat off, make sure you hold onto it or they will steal it so they can sell you another.
In the interest of disclosure, I have worked as a manager (including management consultant), plumber, maintenance worker, grocery buyer and stocker (including produce manager), cashier, restaurant worker, occupational therapist, temp worker, and others if you count unpaid work – and I do – but I won’t enumerate them here. I have served on the Board of Directors of a co-operative, a non-profit day care center, and a non-profit theatre company. I have been a member of two unions. My “careers” have been in co-operative management, plumbing, and health care. Nobody pays me to ride a bike.)