Costs Of Job Loss

This lack of job security imposes a heavy burden on workers. A recent British study showed that temporary workers have lower levels of job satisfaction, receive less training, and are paid less (Booth, Francesconi, and Frank 2002). Workers who frequently shift from job to job also have a difficult time in getting medical care and pensions. Society still pays lip service to the sacred institution of marriage, despite the damage that job insecurity imposes serious burdens on family life. Many...

Pensions And Individualism

Why then did employers voluntarily offer defined benefit programs in the first place The answer is that corporate power was not as strong at the time these plans began to proliferate. Unions then were able to muster considerable power. Defined benefit pensions offered a means to make workers see that their financial security would depend on the health of the corporate employer. Inducing workers to identify with the employer seemed to offer a mechanism to reduce workers' solidarity. In the...

The Precautionary Principle

The vagueness of the system for assigning liability gives a substantial advantage to those who would impose risks on the rest of society. For example, critics of genetically modified agricultural products suggest that because the genes in these crops can cross over into other species this technology creates the risk of producing superweeds that can do great damage to the ecosystem see Wilkinson et al. 2003 . Suppose that before embarking on such a technology, the genetically modified...

Attacking The Myth Of Individualism

The book begins by describing the myth of individualism and the power that this myth has over us. The first chapter offers a brief introduction to corporate society, emphasizing the many ways that corporate rights trump individual rights. This chapter describes how corporations cause problems that make corporate-friendly policies appear to be the only solution, leading to a never-ending spiral of corporate power. It describes how conservative interests act to blunt the impact of growing...

Markets Uber Alles

Consumer sovereignty is a pleasant fiction designed to reassure the powerless. While business people might find such rhetoric useful for public relations, they speak a different language when they address each other. For example, Walter Wriston, former Chief Executive Officer of Citibank, described a future that was sure to delight his business readers in a book, tellingly entitled, The Twilight of Sovereignty. There, after asserting that information is the driving force in modern society,...

Food Terrorism And The Individuals Right To Know

The food industry offers another excellent example of the diminished rights of the individual relative to the corporate sector within the context of the War on Terror. Even in the absence of any intentional terrorist acts, both industries presently create serious health risks to the public. I have already discussed the widespread deaths and illnesses from food-borne illnesses. The potential for terrorists to use the food supply to harm the public is fairly obvious. For example, a single 4-ounce...

Responsibility And Tort Reform

Given the absence of criminal penalties for corporate misbehavior, society needs an alternative means to protect itself against corporate abuses. Ideally, effective regulation might help to keep corporations in line, but the regulatory structure in the United States is embarrassingly weak. Part of the problem reflects the political organization of the United States. The framers of the Constitution deliberately constructed a fragmented government with limited powers, impeding the creation of...

Back To Adam Smith

Although the idea of consumer sovereignty did not originate with Adam Smith, we economists have a long tradition of tracing ideas back to that venerable figure. Writing at the dawn of the formal study of economics, Adam Smith laid out a powerful vision of the economy as an entirely voluntary process. At times, he went considerably further. For example, once while lecturing his students, Smith remarked an ordinary day-labourer, whom we false account to live in a most simple manner, has more of...

The Real Meaning Of Individualism

Within the myth of individualism, corporations diligently serve their kingly consumers, while these privileged consumers have the responsibility to earn the wages needed to participate in the market. Market society demands that individuals make their lives conform to the needs of the market, reducing the role of the individual in corporate society to two narrow dimensions working diligently and consuming appropriately. Slacking off in either regard is unacceptable. Oh yes, the individual is...