People before Profits – Article 23

Posted: 07/01/2018 by zandtao in Democracy, Education, Finance, Freedom, Insight, ONE planet, Struggle
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People before profits is a standard liberal and socialist slogan that ought to make common sense to all intellectuals across the spectrum. This is pragmatic, it is fundamental compassion and if applied wisely could be the overriding mantra of governance. Surely people first is just democracy.

I began thinking about this when I spoke of human values before robots. These values are creativity, intuition, insight and wisdom, and are not valued as part of the underlying ethos in the world of capitalism as these values do not necessarily provide profits.

In article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (pdf here):-

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Much of this article is forgotten as these Labour rights eat into profits, but for me it is important that every person has the right to work. It is my view that it is government’s job to ensure that every person has the right to work, and I believe in the counter “every person should work”. Our welfare system is a net to help those who fall through the cracks, but the reality of the situation is that the way our society is structured there is not enough work for everyone. The major cause of this lack of work is automation. Despite all the PR to the contrary everyone knows that the machines perform menial tasks more efficiently, and as the profits on the production side of our economy is based on menial tasks we have a situation in which our dominant economic model is putting people out of work.

This is why there is such an increase in racism in the West. Prior to automation there used to be jobs and indigenous white people were well off. Then the number of jobs were reduced primarily to do with automation, and the jobs these white people did were lost. Into their societies there came non-indigenous Labour, in the UK people from the colonies following their money, in the US and elsewhere cheap immigrant labour was used. Whilst there was full employment people did not complain, once automation put people out of work racism became a scapegoat.

Whilst profit is the raison d’etre there will never be full employment because machines make more profits. R&D into robotics is on the increase so even more jobs will be lost. This is why Article 23 is so important. People have the right to work.

For many people the 1%-conditioning that labour must produce a profit is gospel. But with increased automation labour cannot be involved in the profit-making. Therefore there is a need to re-evaluate what labour is for; if we continue to accept that the reason for labour is profit only then there will be an increasing number of people without work.

Beauty is a human value often associated with creativity. Are our cities beautiful? Are all people working? They could work to make the cities beautiful. They could work to improve our health care. They could work to improve our education service. If the principle of our caring society was Article 23, the right to work, and the corollary the insistence that all people have work, then the emphasis of our social service would be totally different.

Of course all of the above is totally impractical because the people who control our societies – the 1%, control where the profits go – mainly into their offshore bank accounts. They do not follow Article 23, and with the increasing roboticisation there will be more people without work.

Wise compassion requires a change in this. Putting people before profits combined with Article 23 means that we need to see the way we employ people has to change.

At the moment the increasing automation means more and more people are without work. There are an increasing number of schemes out there to massage this fact. At the same time the 1% do not want to admit that this is their aim. If the wisdom of the compassionate doesn’t step in then the majority of people will not have work, and will be perceived as scroungers.

But it’s not that there are things that don’t need doing, it is just that what needs doing is not profits from production.

For me Article 23 is the place to start. At the moment liberalism suggests that if people don’t have work then they should be given handouts. This of course is divisive especially if these people are not indigenous. But if all people had to work then there would be no such issue. Marx describes the way the bourgeois perceive the unemployed is as a reserve army. If you don’t toe the line you will be sacked, if everyone is working they can’t say this.

If we start with the right to work then we can begin to move away from the road to chaos that 1%-profit-making is taking us to with automation and robotics. Change work so that it respects the human values of compassion, creativity, wisdom, intuition, insight and aesthetics. Bring quality into life, and stop reducing everything to profits based ion manufacture and gambling.

This is a pipedream because of 1%-control.

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