You may have noticed that Localist Roundup—FPR’s bi-weekly short post collecting articles of interest from across the internet—has vanished in recent weeks. This post is a continuation of that series, only instead of providing a handful of links, the new Localist Roundup will focus on commending one especially interesting piece.
So without further ado…
The Week ran an opinion piece yesterday intriguingly entitled “Why it’s naive to expect corporations to be nice to their workers.” The author—Jeff Spross—argues that, when it comes to the behavior of business owners and managers, “culture matters, but it’s largely at the mercy of economics.” Spross explains that the reason “the elite have embraced greed, selfishness, and profit maximization” is because of changes in the economic climate which has allowed for such vices.
I don’t find Spross’ argument ultimately persuasive; we should, I think, be suspicious of attempts to reduce human behavior to economics. But that does not prevent the article from raising important questions. Here’s a sample:
But perhaps the biggest weakness of the cultural explanation for why businesses are shortchanging their workers is that it leaves us at the mercy of the elite. We don’t need to take their wealth and power away from them, we just need to change their values! If we convince the elite to be nice to everyday working Americans, then we can trust them again.
There’s an implicit, but really important, assumption about human nature here: that having outsized wealth compared to everyone else is itself neutral in its effect on the individual or social moral conscience. But that’s certainly not what the major religions have taught. Nor does it square with what social science is telling us, or with the fact that the political mobilization of the business community and the wealthy is arguably what gave us all the above changes.
Read the whole article here.