The Call for a Constitutional Convention
In our country, a clerk making change at a convenience store makes $7.00 an hour in a high-risk situation, and a toll taker making change on a state toll road makes $22.00 with health insurance and pension benefits. The same person making change at a cafeteria could expect yet another different wage and benefit package. We attribute this situation to the free market, but really it’s about power. The unionized toll collector has power, the convenience clerk and the cafeteria workers have less power, relative to the strength of the organizations that they work for, unionized or not.
The Chaos of Free Enterprise
The free enterprise system provides no logic, no justice and no control. Both the worker and the corporations are subject to the whim of a non-sensical marketplace. The stronger the corporation is, the more likely it will be targeted by the union. The “invisible” hand of free enterprise invites both the chaos and the slavery to form. It is the corporate drive for profitability that creates the original chaos, as it tries to negotiate a legal slave wage, and the nascent strength of the unions just makes the chaos worse. All men are created equal, but this system generates inequality. Mutual Responsibility does not require equal pay for equal work, but a more equitable reward for work is a side effect of such a system. A system that rewards each man equally for the same effort is morally better than one that does not.
The Government’s Dilemma
A starting point to making a practical change is to assess how we operate now. Our government has three primary responsibilities: To protect the nation’s borders, to provide for the social welfare of the people, and to act as referee for the competition between private corporations. It is the third role of referee that consumes much of our government labor, and the attention of our free press as well.
Taxes, by definition, are against the fiduciary interest of a corporation. They want the government to provide all its services for free, regardless of the fact that corporations are a huge cost for the operation of the government. Because taxes are the focal mechanism for the government to exist, corporations (and individuals) fight any tax or expenditure, which does not effect or benefit them directly. As a result, we have a myriad of laws, tax laws, lobbying for loopholes, legal interpretations and judicial decisions. We tax and audit at the level of minutiae. For every pet project, there is a pet fee to fund it. Every fee and every fund is administered and audited at every level of government. Along with this activity there is an entire private infrastructure built around understanding, interpreting, and auditing these same laws, and a judicial branch to decide any conflicts. This is an enormous wealth of human talent, and it is all spent in a bureaucratic dead end. All this activity does nothing to further the basic spirit of man, and creates no real wealth for the nation.
Free enterprise generates a demand for professional lawyers, accountants, auditors and clerks, when we could just as easily have more builders, doctors, counselors, teachers, engineers and scientists. Our collective diversity is our greatest strength. We waste our resources by perpetuating a system that makes numbers written on a piece of paper our primary goal. What Adam Smith described in The Wealth of Nations was the manufacture of products for a useful purpose. We have made the record keeping more expensive than the product it tracks, because doing so serves the narrow self-interests of the participants. As a society, we could work a four-day week, and enjoy our leisure, our family, and our personal interests more, and audit less. Instead we are increasing our workload, and both parents often work outside the home.
The free enterprise model may have fit an agrarian age, when the natural rhythm of the day was determined by the sunset and the seasons. As we have harnessed energy, and our society has grown more complex and inter-related, it has failed the basic test of being rational, much less utopian. It is generating less real wealth and destroying our families. The government’s mandate is to support free enterprise, unchecked wealth and private property. It is powerless to stop the wasteful cycle.
When our young nation made the change from the Articles of Confederation to the central government as embodied in The Constitution, we made a massive and important change based on the power of the vote. That change codified the social utopian ideals of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We need the wisdom and the courage to make another fundamental change to our public affairs. We need to change our economic model to fit the ideals of our social life. Our economic model is in conflict with our civil liberties. Free enterprise squanders our wealth, our opportunity and our freedom.
When the government tries to develop enterprise zones, redistribute wealth, formulate tax schedules, encourage consistency, promote research, provide health and retirement benefits, provide defense, fair elections, protect the environment, and arbitrate the checks and balances of commerce, crime and human frailties, it does so because there is no other power to take the responsibilities of governing. If business took on more of the burden of social needs, the government could be smaller and more effective. This system we live under creates government expansion by virtue of the failure of corporate powers to engage in a broader view, which they cannot do because it is against their self-interest.
The Philosophy of Mutual Responsibility
Consider a new formula. Not socialism where the government owns the businesses, not capitalism where the businesses do whatever they can get away with, but an industrial-nationalism where both private corporations and governments are mandated to provide equally.
Core benefits are part of every workers rights, they are not negotiated, they are universal. Free speech and the freedom to worship apply equally to everyone. This system expands it to include health care and the fruit of ones labor. Private property continues, different classes of wealth continue, but free enterprise does not rule the system unchecked.
Whatever the government does for itself, the businesses must also do, and vice-versa. It is an equalization of life’s basic requirements. Business competition is based on the skills and productivity of the employees, not on the ability of one group to manipulate its workers’ rewards. There is no need for labor unions. Health benefits are pooled and equal between private and public corporations.
Union and government jobs often provide a “set for life” mentality that often yields high costs and low productivity. The private sector complains, but seldom offers a better alternative. It is quick to provide a select few with much, and leave the bulk of its employees far behind. Mutual Responsibility eliminates the “set for life” mentality of all three groups.
Everyone who works is vested through a profit-sharing mechanism in the success of the corporation. Likewise, when the corporation struggles, all employees struggle with it. This motivates the middle management to be effective within the corporation, and binds the laborers and managers fortunes together. When the corporation is successful, all the employees are successful with it.
A formula of Mutual Responsibility will improve the quality of life for all. Corporations need to be re-formulated from enterprises for predatory profit to partners in the American experiment. There will also be less poison in our politics. The equaling of Mutual Responsibility will dilute the power of corporations and unions. Like the vote and our other freedoms, Mutual Responsibility will empower each citizen, but not one over another. Corporations are made up of citizens, and have neither a right nor a need to be treated as a separate entity. Corporations do not sit on the jury at a trial because they are not a peer of the individual. Likewise, they should not control the machinations of government, or be held in higher regard than the individual. Corporations should be subject to the same collective rights and freedoms as the individual, as well as the same limitations. The framers of the Constitution did not envision the role corporations would come to play.