The Anarchist Township

Fight the war, fuck the norm!

Month: December 2010

Who Should Care For The Poor? (Paper #4)

I wasn’t sure if I’d post this because even if it was heavily relevant to anarchism I didn’t get a good grade on it (a C) but I made some corrections to it and am interested in some constructive criticism of it.

To see the sources I linked copy and paste them into Google is what I’d recommend, I couldn’t transfer the links on to the page.

Nick Ford
Professor Hirsch
WRI 105 L
11 November 2009
Who should care for the poor?

Poverty is a huge issue around the world and not only in the world but in America as well and there has always been a particular interest in how best to solve it. The issue of poverty matters because how the poor are treated doing economically reflects on society at large. If the poor are not well cared for or are suffering it stands to reason that the rich are not that well treated either. And if the poor are not well off or taken care of so they can get back on their feet this reveals an economic instability in society. Not only this, but such economic instability can lead to greater social instability. Such instability does not seem that far away if as according to the 2009 census poverty is, “…14.3 percent—up from 13.2 percent in 2008. This was the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004.” (Walt, Proctor and Smith) Clearly poverty has not gone away in recent years and is getting worse. In America the safety net is a series of payments and benefits given to the poor through either government or private relief and is supposed to help them out of their low economic status. But it seems since poverty rates have only been increasing in recent years that the safety net is not doing its job.
Instead of relying on this government provided safety net the poor should rely on mutual aid societies that historically have taken care of the poor. Mutual aid societies are voluntary organizations that exist to provide relief for people who are having difficulties with getting basic necessities or exist as a type of insurance. Current examples of mutual aid societies include Wikipedia, Habitat for Humanity and others have been set up ad hoc in times of need throughout history. Mutual aid societies would help create a better and stronger safety net for the poor than government provided assistance. One type of a mutual aid society that specifically catered to black people was The United Order of True Reformers which was led by William Washington Browne and eventually gained national prominence. (Doyle) This society existed from the early 20th century to the time of the Great Depression. Mutual aid societies were not intended to be as large scale as government provided assistance to the poor and so their expenditures were highly disproportionate to governments in most cases. Other examples of mutual-aid societies and how successful they were can be found through the research of David Beito. (Beito, From Mutual Aid to Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services; From Mutual Aid to Welfare State: How Fraternal societies Fought Poverty and Improved Character)
In order to understand what other forms of care for the poor have been attempted it helps to look over noticeable policies that the US government has passed. Dating back to the New Deal policies in the 1930s and expanded in the early 60s with President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty have been bills that offer another way of aiding the poor. Since the war on poverty began one of the biggest policy changes was the 1996 welfare reform bill passed in spite of the opposition in congress. Specific opposition came from such notable political officials as Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani because of discrimination against immigrants in the bill. (Carpenter; Wallace) One of the new policies that came from the bill was a federal program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This new agency replaced the old federal program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and TANF is now being used by most low-income households with a single parent. (Conte) The safety net this policy sets up however is susceptible to recessions and depressions and if it would fail would leave the poor to be largely without any financial assistance. In a 2009 article in the USA Today Dennis Cauchon said,” In all, government spending on benefits will top $2 trillion in 2009 — an average of $17,000 provided to each U.S. household, federal data show.” (Dennis) Other problems with the TANF is that some who live in poverty are left out of the benefits it provides. (“Employment Situation Summary”) It would seem however, that TANF and other polices like it should be secure with all of the spending that government puts toward assisting the poor. With all of this money why is the safety net still so unstable? The safety net should be stronger than this if the poor are going to survive and get jobs. The poor will not be able to do this if the safety net they may have to rely on cannot even support them. Alternatives need to be turned to so the stress can be taken off the safety net and the poor can more easily prosper.
Weak alternatives are being used today; private aid is done through charities, homeless shelters, and non-profit organizations. These organizations are being overcrowded and this is quickly becoming one of the biggest problems. (Bailey Jr.) Organizations that get funded through government have a tough time, and the ones that don’t get such funding are struggling more. The truly alternative ones however are completely non-profit and run on only voluntary donations and no government funding. These organizations act within the same spirit of the mutual aid societies of the early 20th century. Mutual aid societies however did not have such a problem. Evidence comes from Roderick T. Long, a professor at Auburn University, who wrote a brief essay on mutual-aid societies called How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis: Medical Insurance That Worked – Until Government “Fixed” It.

In this essay he remarked that:

Most remarkable was the low cost at which these medical services were provided. At the turn of the century, the average cost of “lodge practice” to an individual member was between one and two dollars a year. A day’s wage would pay for a year’s worth of medical care. By contrast, the average cost of medical service on the regular market was between one and two dollars per visit. Yet licensed physicians, particularly those who did not come from “big name” medical schools, competed vigorously for lodge contracts, perhaps because of the security they offered; and this competition continued to keep costs low. (Long)
The low cost and the added resources this gave the poor helped them be able to spend more on themselves and other essentials. With this increased wealth the poor could also help themselves get a better economic standing and contribute better to society and the economy. Long proves here that mutual aid societies have been able to help many people specifically the poor.
However both conservatives and progressives would admonish the idea of no government help to the poor. The idea that the poor should rely on these mutual aid societies would result in those who live in poverty to be in worse conditions. The mutual aid societies in short, would not be able to adapt to the present conditions of society and disappeared over time exactly because they couldn’t. These criticisms are fair; because after all mutual aid societies stopped having a central role in American society back when the Great Depression started. And since mutual aid societies do not have such a prominent role in American society anymore it makes it hard to see how they could readjust to society. Taking another look at history however shows that mutual aid societies weren’t at all hard to access for the poor or to adjust to different times. And to add to this there’s evidence from other articles such as Friendly Societies: Voluntary Social Security and More by John Chodes that these mutual aid societies have been around for even longer than the early 20th century, “Various forms of friendly societies have existed since ancient China, Greece, and Rome. In Britain, they arose out of the guild system. Daniel Defoe wrote in 1697 that friendly societies were “very extensive” in England. In the mid-18th century, as the Industrial Revolution hastened the growth of British towns, the friendly society system became well established.” (Chodes) Mutual aid societies could not only adapt to different times but in different parts of the world. And the fact that mutual aid societies had arisen out of so many different systems and different places shows that they can also help on a large scale basis as well.
Mutual aid societies are a radical alternative to the safety net in the US and throughout history have been a great help to the poor. Mutual aid societies are an alternative to the provided welfare as well as policies like the TANF. They are also a much more viable help for the poor than the weak alternatives of private aid that is assisted by government funding. People in congress and influence policies on giving financial assistance to the poor should take note of this alternative. The idea of mutual aid societies should be shown to people through the discussion and debate among high ranking officials and other people of power. The policies that have tried to better serve the poor have the right idea but are not being implemented correctly and are failing the poor. Mutual aid societies will better help support the poor without the arduous process of instituting countless new laws and with the added benefit that they have historical precedence, especially in the US.

Sources cited:

Betio, David. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services,
1890-1967 (North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999) Google Books edition, Accessed November 7 2010

Betio, David. “From Mutual Aid to Welfare State: How Fraternal Societies Fought Poverty and
Taught Character,” The Heritage Foundation, July 27 2000, Accessed November 8 2010

Carpenter, Amanda. “Giuliani Oppose Welfare Reform in Order to Protect Illegals,” May 14 2007, Human Events, Accessed November 7 2010

Chodes, John. “Friendly Societies: Voluntary Social Security And More,” The Freeman, March
1990, Volume: 40, Issue: 3, Accessed November 7 2010

Conte, Christopher: “Welfare, Work and the States,” The CQ Researcher, Dec. 6 1996, pp.
1057-1080, Accessed November 7 2010

Davis, Teddy, Wallace, Gregory. “Obama Shifts on Welfare Reform,” July 1 2008, ABC News,
Accessed November 10 2010

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, Proctor, Bernadette and Smith, Jessica: “Income, Poverty, and Health
Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009,” p.22; Accessed November 7 2010
Cauchon, Dennis , “Benefit spending soars to new high,” USA Today, June 4, 2009, p. A1.,
Accessed November 7 2010

Doyle, Stuart, “Fraternal Lodges: Developing & Expanding the Village in Rural Southern
Virginia,” Chickenbones: A Journal, May 21 2009, Accessed November 7 2010

Bailey Jr. Everton, “Free clinics hit with more patients, less funding,” The Associated Press,
July 20, 2009, Accessed November 7 2010

Long, Roderick: “How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis: Medical Insurance That
Worked – Until Government “Fixed It,” Libertarian Nation Foundation; Volume 1,
Number 2 – issue #2 – (Winter 1993-94) Accessed November 7 2010

N.p., Employment Situation Summary,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 2, 2009 Accessed
November 7 2010

Power Analysis Paper #2: On the Road To Worker Autonomy (Paper #3)

This is the second power analysis paper I’ve done and the second A I got and once again this topic is heavily related to anarchism so I thought I’d post it. I hope you enjoy this post, let me know what you think through the comments or my Facebook, etc.

Nick Ford
Power Analysis Paper #2:
Problems and Solutions
11/5/10

On the Road to Worker Autonomy

In Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed one of the major obstacles for her is to get around as a low wage worker dealing with the the managerial class. Throughout the book she explains how the managerial class looks down on the workers and hardly does anything productive and so on. This reveals a larger problem in the world; the fact that bosses and managers are a hindrance to overall production. Workers should be free to own the means of production just as the bosses and managers are. This system of centralized power and top-down hierarchy is not only opposite of the founding ideals of the American Revolution and what the country was supposed to be founded on but in a lot of ways but lowers the amount of productivity possible for the workers.
Instead, this top-down, highly centralized and bureaucratized system of authority should be cut down more and more until it is ultimately abolished. This can be done by taking all of these problems and putting them into smaller pieces. Once that is done a three step process of education, solidarity and peaceful direct action can help successfully replace the managerial class with a more equalized workforce. One made up of worker cooperatives, worker owned factories and firms and independent contractors. Such a world is not even close to being impossible and in this paper I will provide evidence that suggests that in order for the workers to truly have liberty, equality and solidarity, they need to fire their bosses.
One of the main problems of jobs today is the stress levels workers have to deal with. Recent surveys have shown that there are a multitude of reasons for this increase in stress.[1] While managers are not necessarily the main cause of this stress they can be if the stress is interrelated to the system. After all, managers are supposed to be a help to the workers and create less stress but how can this be if the problem is systematic? In a Nation’s Business article Armin A. Brott, a freelance writer said that, “No matter how healthy individual employees are when they start out, if they work in dysfunctional systems, they’ll burn out.” [2] And so if managers cannot do their job sufficiently then it is workers who will suffer the most and not the mangers. This suggests that the managers have less of an incentive in the end to care about the workers especially when a lot of mangers of low wage jobs will just restock their workers at will. It becomes easier when the middle class are slowly losing their jobs and are being replaced by machines while the low wage manual work is falling more into favor.[3] This leads to a polarization of workers in both sections of the economy and eventually will lead to more stress for workers who feel like they can be replaced at any second by their boss.
All of this stress for low-wage workers can be seen in Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed as well as the causes of such stress. (22, 48, 64, 74, 89-90) In all of these examples Ehrenreich or one of her co-workers are left to fend for themselves no matter how they feel. In Maine where Ehrenreich gets a job scrubbing mostly upper class people’s houses this theme of stress comes together. After finishing one the later houses a co-worker of Ehrenreich’s Holly trips and breaks something but still wants to work because she knows Ted won’t take mercy on her. (110) Holly does not become concerned about her immediate health but can only think about the job and losing it and disappointing Ted. Ted only relents when Ehrenreich stands up to him and tells him that she can’t treat them the way he is treating and that Holly needs help. (110) All of this shows a lack of concern from the managerial class about how their subordinates are doing. After all, the bosses can just replace the workers and hardly have to worry about them going to court and suing them for being treated unfairly with the low wages they get.
Another big problem about the managerial system and the employees they hire is that there are huge disparities in power, in wealth, security and money. That is through, surveillance; high bonuses for CEOs and basic conditions of working. The security discrepancy comes in the form of surveillance, where bosses and managers can and do spy on their workers. There seems to be little interest in stopping this invasion of privacy however.[4] And while at the same time bosses and managers the workers the workers have no such advantage themselves. They’re not allowed to look at the boss’s resume to see if they’re a good boss or give them a test to see how agreeable they are about working together. They’re also certainly not allowed to go through their personal belongings or they risk being fired unlike the bosses. The wages between the bosses and workers seems odd to a lot of people since CEOs that hardly do as much as what the workers do are in some cases getting millions while the workers slave for hardly anymore than they were getting before. [5] These differences in pay raise suspicion among the work force that there’s more to the CEO’s pay than just their “capitalist spirit” and “entrepreneurship”. The fact of the matter is that a lot of corporate privilege comes from the state and not from their hard work or innovation. [6]
Surveillance fits in Nickel and Dimed rather nicely in situations where Ehrenreich is closely monitored by her bosses, especially at Wal-Mart where “time theft” that is doing anything but working, is strictly prohibited. The drug tests that she has to take as well as the “tests” to get some of the jobs are also an invasion into her privacy. At one point she mentions that Ted, the boss of her in Maine while she scrubs wants her and her coworkers to imagine they are always being watched. (97) The pay of the boss is never directly mentioned in Nickel and Dimed, but it’s clear Ehrenreich has a disdain for their jobs as bosses (22, 41, 59, 74, 115). Given the inequality of conditions, pay, the lack of trust between the two classes of people (the working class and the managerial class) and the stress it can cause this system is problematic and seems to cause more harm than good. If so what should replace it if it were to be abolished?

Part two:

To find solutions workers can’t try to face the whole problem on their own without any knowledge or any sense of what action they want to take. They’ll want to be well informed about how to fire their own boss.[7] The first step is to reexamine the problem once they realize that there is a problem to begin with. What can be done about this problem, what causes it and how to best get rid of it should all be considered by any worker seeking more equality and autonomy in the workplace. Once that is through the workers should start dismantling the managerial class through a three step process: education, solidarity and peaceful direct action. It would serve time and space better to just outline the first of this strategy just to see if the overall strategy itself is even worth considering. There also should be evidence that not only does the education work but the end goal, that being worker owned factories and cooperatives and so on work as well. Without these important things being shown the workers will have little to no confidence in such a process and may reside themselves further into economic slavery.
The future in some ways already looks bright, you just have to look at certain sides of the story right now and realize it. For instance, doing a little research you can find that there are many places for a worker to get more educated about what sort of tactics they should use or how best to face the current system and examples of the end goal. Such examples come from mostly alternative media sources online, such as Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS), AlterNet and cooperatives in the US also have a specific site.[8][9][10] But in order to get towards a better educated work force so they can begin this three step process towards liberation and equality steps in the right direction must be taken. One of the ways this is already being done is through flexible work arrangements. These arrangements often empower the worker while giving the boss a little bit more work and enthusiasm from the worker. This happens because the workers know that they have a little bit more power and use it to be more productive. The great thing about this step is that it’s not a terribly difficult one to make and in some cases can the company too.[11] Examples of giving more power over to workers and good coming from it comes from one example in particular. This being the Mondragon Corporation which is a federation of worker cooperatives in Spain and the world’s largest and most successful experiment in a large worker cooperative.[12] And although Mondragon was started up and is still funded through government to an extent it is still a good example of workers taking their labor into their own hands. The workers must realize however that as long as government claims their labor through taxes and funding they will not be nearly as equitable and autonomous as they want to be. So both Mondragon and flexible work arrangements are first good steps in the process but they’re not enough.
Education is therefore necessary to push these steps into giant leaps forwards towards liberty, equality and solidarity in the workplace. What sort of education and how this education should be done and for whom and how are all very valuable questions. Distributing pamphlets to workers who have low paying jobs may be a good first step. People in such jobs are already feeling the oppression of the current managerial system if Nickel and Dimed has any validity to it. And therefore they are good targets for education and to help spread the word throughout other low paying jobs and people who work there. Another good target is people who are out of work because of the current recession or even better because of the managerial system itself. Both of these groups are already disgruntled with the managerial system in one way or another and educating them can in some cases can help them channel this energy into more productive action.
From there more solidarity can be reached and more education can be done until workers start forming their own alternatives to the managerial system. Two other great ways of spreading the word to the disgruntled and left behind is alternative media source and social networks. Alternative media sources are already online but really finding them and their stories and passing them out to the working class along with connecting with them using social networking can help make education that much more simple and cost effective. All of this education leads to more solidarity among workers for better alternatives and eventually peaceful direct action against the managerial system.
But why would workers in the end want this? It’s evident that in many places as high as the fourth face of power is heavily grounded in the worker’s mind. They think that this system is their only means of surviving and that they must sell their labor in order to make more money for themselves. But education can be just as much of a liberating tool as an enslaving one. The hope is that getting the workers a better idea of what it really means to be equal and free and have solidarity with their fellow man should eventually spark even some of the most indoctrinated workers. The key is to educate them based on reality and show them that not only is there evidence of alternatives and that they really do exist and but that they also work.

Sources Cited:

1. David s. Walonick, PHD: “Causes and Curse of Stress in Organizations,” http://www.survey-software-solutions.com/walonick/organizational-stress.htm, Accessed November 5 2010

2. Armin A. Brott, “New Approaches to Job Stress,” Nation’s Business, May, 1994 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1154/is_n5_v82/ai_15205143/?tag=content;col1, Accessed November 5 2010

3. Nathanial Cahners Hindman, “’Middle-Skill’ Jobs Are Disappearing From The Economy, a New Study Finds,” Huffington Post, June 14 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/14/middle-skill-jobs-are-dis_n_611455.html, Accessed November 5 2010

4. Lesley Alderman, “Safeguard Your Secrets from your Nosy Boss,” Money Magazine, December 1, 1994, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/1994/12/01/200332/index.htm, Accessed November 5 2010

5. “What, Me Overpaid? CEO’s Fight Back,” Business Week, May 4, 1992, p. 142. http://www.businessweek.com/archives/1992/b326469.arc.htm, Accessed November 5 2010

6. Kevin Carson, “The Subsidy of History,” The Freeman, June 2008, Volume: 58, Issue: 5

7. This phrase is taken from the pamphlet, “How to fire your boss: A Workers’ Guide to Direct Action,” which details many strategies in order to make a more autonomous work place and can be found here, http://www.zabalaza.net/pdfs/organmans/howtofire.pdf

8. Two recent articles from C4SS include: Brad Spangler, “Public Pension Crisis: Free Worker Syndicates The Way Forward,” October 13 2010, http://c4ss.org/content/4376, Accessed November 6 2010; Ross Kenyon, “A Libertarian in Solidarity with the Jimmy Johns Workers Union,” September 14 2010, http://c4ss.org/content/3916, Accessed November 6 2010

9. Alternet is an alternative media source that has some great sources for showing evidence of what worker cooperatives are and what they can do. Examples include: Sena Christian, “The Growth of Citizen Co-ops is a Positive Development As Corporations Fail Us In Every Way,” January 5 2010, http://www.alternet.org/story/144969/?page=1, Accessed November 6 2010; Tracy Hukill, “A World Without Bosses?,” July 2 2005 http://www.alternet.org/story/23201/, Accessed November 6 2010; Gar Alperovitz, Ted Howard and Michael Williamson, “Worker-Owned, Industrial-Size, Environmentally Sound Businesses Rises Up,” February 11 2010, http://www.alternet.org/economy/145645/worker-owned,_industrial-size,_environmentally_sound_business_rises_up, Accessed November 6 2010

10. Source: http://www.usworker.coop/events/news, Accessed November 6 2010

11. Kathleen Howley, “Workers Today, Teleworkers Tomorrow,” June 1 1996, Realtor Magazine, http://www.tourthenewrealtor.com/archives/officeworkkatarchive1996jun?presentationtemplate=rmo-design/pt_articlepage_migratedcontent_print&presentationtemplateid=06ad608049e7ba93ab3dab87f8d337ee%3Ftourthenewrealtor, Accessed November 6 2010

12. For further reading on Mondragon: Manfred Davidmann, “Co-op Study 7: Mondragon Cooperatives,” 1996, http://www.solhaam.org/articles/mondra.html, Accessed November 6 2010

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