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Chapter 25
Government, Business, and the Definition of Labor

The hectic state of work and life in America is not only a matter of historical chance. Nor is the financial desperation of the economic lower half of our society. While the advance of technology with its division of time into nanoseconds and picoseconds and of our own sense of urgently chasing after minutes and seconds has something to do with our great, modern rush, there is another fundamental cause. And while the personal finances and successes of each of us have much to do with our own talent, study, and hard work, none of us lives in a vacuum and is the sole agent of the wealth that comes one’s way. Within government and industry, the political and economic laws and rules which have been created and exist in our society have a great deal to do with how long and hard we must work and who receives what rewards for effort and success.

In our political-economic system, economic success is rewarded by the accumulation of private property, of wealth. The notion of private property is, indeed, a sound principle. But it exists within the context of other ‘principles’ and practices which are unbalanced, corrupt, and unjust.

The materially successful person righteously exclaims, “This is my property!” Perhaps words to this effect could be true in a just society. But in an unjust society such as ours today some portion of one’s wealth is not righteously earned. It is merely stolen property. That one does not go out and directly steal some particular property from some particular other, that one merely is born into and lives and conducts business within a system created by a privileged few long ago that redistributes to the few (steals) wealth created by the many, does not alter this fundamental truth.

To say that one merely is born into and lives and conducts business within a system that one did not create suggests an innocence which, in truth, does not exist. To continue to exist, the system that was created by the privileged few long ago must be and is actively sustained by the few today. The innocent child grows into an adult who learns how the system works and well knows its injustice. When conducting business and hiring others, the adult elects or not to take whatever unfair advantage over others that the system permits and fosters. The adult not only engages in immoral actions in the business world but votes for those in government who create and sustain the unjust laws, rules, and conditions under which business and labor are conducted. One may defensively exclaim, “I did not create the system! I am only trying to survive and prosper within it!” This is not an adequate defense. We are all caught within and are to some extent the victims of circumstance. But we are not helpless victims. In the face of injustice clearly understood by all of us, one may choose or not to take action to change the unjust system and one’s personal unjust actions within it. There are no adult innocents here.

In addition to unjustly redistributing the power and wealth of the populace to the few, our political-economic system creates or exacerbates many social ills. Despite its draconian effect on people’s lives, government uses unemployment as a tool to manage the economy and to mitigate such factors as wage rates and inflation during the business cycle’s expansions and contractions. Some people are made to work a great deal more than they would like to work while others would like to work but are underemployed or unemployed. All suffer various forms of illness and unhappy circumstances from this imbalance: stress, lack of leisure, physical and mental illness, family dysfunction, poverty, and hunger.

Within the current system, the personal costs of stepping off or being kicked off the “fast track” or of working less than full time are enormous. Most people cannot suffer the loss of the higher pay rates and benefits, especially healthcare benefits. Save for the leisure class, the system is geared to make most people slave in high gear until in old age they drop or are discarded to the trash heap. Millions watch what they thought were secure retirements evaporate as rules are rewritten and companies evade lifelong commitments.

Since the system politically excludes the economic bottom half of the populace and takes from it most of the fruit of its labor, a strong whip is required to serve as motivation to work. Hunger works wonders for keeping the populace in line and toting the load another day. Desperate, impoverished people create a source of cheap, obedient labor and soldiers. The fact or threat of unemployment, poverty, and even brute force strikes fear in the hearts of those who might be inclined to rise up against the system or demand justice.

And a lifelong mountain of debt serves well to keep the potentially unruly in line. Recall the lines from the song Sixteen Tons sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, “Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.” Our entire system of mortgages and credit is now “the company store” which keeps the populace sufficiently enslaved and obedient for easy management and exploitation.

Whether it is true or not, it was written somewhere that at birth a Rockefeller receives five million dollars. This is not a bad start in life and not a bad idea. A wealthy nation such as ours could easily provide each child at birth with a modest sum of, say, $100,000 just for the sake of discussion. It could be conservatively invested and protected, earning daily compounded interest. Such a fund, to which employers and individuals could add money, would serve as a person’s initial economic stake in life and as a nest egg in his or her old age. It could be used for the full or at least partial financing of education, housing, healthcare, and retirement. This would bring new freedom, opportunities, and possibilities into the lives of everyone. Instead of our being a nation of debtors, we could enjoy the economic and personal freedom found in being a nation of savers and investors. But as a matter of deliberate policy and action, the blind who occupy the seats of power choose to economically enslave the populace, the better to control and exploit it.

The prime forces motivating corporations, businesses, and bureaucracies are not the enrichment of human lives but profit, growth, efficient production, and self-preservation. The enrichment of lives that occurs—and there is much—is a spin-off lavished abundantly upon those whose lives are already lavishly enriched while ignoring those whose lives are impoverished. History has amply demonstrated that there is no shortage of people within government and business who are quite willing to do anything to anyone to increase business and personal profit no matter what are the social and environmental consequences.

Business will find its profits and efficiencies and set its relationship with labor, ever seeking the lowest possible cost, in any way that government promotes or favors by direct action or allows by turning a blind eye. Business has amply demonstrated through time and around the world just how low it is willing to sink in search of maximum profit. Government by its laws and rules pertaining to work has shown itself all too willing to be ever so helpful in satisfying the desires of business. Government can and does help labor to some extent. It is only good animal husbandry to keep one’s economic serfs in at least minimal health and able to work and produce. But business and the personal profits of the elite class come first. This is the natural result of an electoral process and government that is essentially owned, populated, and run by the same elites that own and operate corporate America.

In recent decades we have seen business, with government’s blessing, slash its work force, force its remaining employees to redouble their effort, define a small core of employees to be full time and give them a dwindling amount of perks and benefits and often longer work hours, and define most of its workers to be part-time, temporary, or “consultants” to avoid paying them healthcare and other perks and benefits. Or work is farmed out to other companies that pay lower wages and benefits or to other countries that profoundly abuse workers and do not protect the environment. Our government even rewards such practices by its tax laws. The ruthless, myopic pursuit of such policies by hosts of individual companies and by our government has impoverished the American middle class, drastically reduced the market for their own products, and caused national economic decay.

Always unfair and unjust right from its beginning, our American plutocracy now runs completely amuck. The greed and avarice of the elite both in and out of government run rampant. Money no longer simply “talks”; it reigns as our supreme principle and god. Millions have lost their pensions to corrupt business practices. Millions have lost their good-paying jobs, their health insurance, and their hard-earned, secure retirements. Americans in general and American workers in particular feel helpless and hopeless in the face of the speed and immensity of their forced decline.


Reorganizing the powers of our government by the creation of a new, fourth branch, the demos, would go a long way toward redressing these injustices. The demos issues and other issues discussed in this work pertaining to leisure, minimum wage, taxation, the election of officials, and our political education would directly and indirectly affect work and reward in our society and mitigate our many social ills. But the good effect of a demos and the other changes discussed so far in this work would not be able to correct every business and government malaise. A great deal of the injustice and unhappiness in our society is the result of rules and laws created (or omitted) by the current bodies of government.

Many of America’s unfair and irrational business and labor practices could be corrected simply by reorganizing the relationship among government, business, and labor and changing some government rules and regulations regarding the conduct of business and labor. The remainder of this chapter contains some recommended changes. These proposals are separate from the central proposal in this book for the creation of a new fourth branch of government, a demos consisting of the entire electorate, which is set in balance with the other branches of government. They should be taken as recommendations given to future demos elected members of the representative bodies of the government when those bodies’ memberships demographically resemble the entire electorate in body, mind, interests, and pocketbook and honestly serve the entire electorate.


My first recommendation is a more rational way to calculate reward for work. The basic recommendation is contained in the following six bulleted paragraphs, but there are further references to this recommendation in later text. (Not everyone will be able to follow this written description. A thirty-minute, animated, video demonstration would more effectively present the ideas.)

  • Define the length of a Standard Workweek as a certain number of work hours per calendar week. As described earlier in the book, the demos would set the number of hours in the Standard Workweek. Each calendar week would begin with what would be called “the first work hour” or more simply “the first hour.” A person could work as few or many hours during each calendar week as was agreeable to him or her and the employer. At the completion of each calendar week the first hour of the next Standard Workweek would begin.
  • Eliminate the concepts of part-time, full-time, overtime, and salary work. Express all monetary reward for work as wages earned per Standard Workweek. Express all perks and benefits such as sick time, vacation time, pension, etc. in terms of minutes, dollar values, or percentages earned per Standard Workweek.
  • Using the work hour, not the workweek, to calculate all wages and benefits, pay both wages and benefits on a sliding scale, each hour earning more wages and benefits than the previous hour.
  • Using an hourly linear scale, increase the payment of wages and benefits in such a way that the work hour that is equal to the number of work hours in the Standard Workweek is paid 50% more wages and benefits than the first hour in the workweek. For example, in a 40-hour Standard Workweek, one would earn 50% more wages and benefits for the 40th hour than one earned for the first hour. An hourly wage increase additive value is used to achieve this result: For a 40-hour workweek and a wage of $10.00 paid for the first hour, one would use the additive value $0.13 to calculate further hourly wages. One would be paid a $10.13 ($10.00 + $0.13) wage for the second hour, a $10.26 ($10.13 + $0.13) wage for the third hour, a $10.39 ($10.26 + $0.13) wage for the fourth hour, etc. By making this calculation repeatedly, one would end up being paid about a $15.00 wage for the 40th hour of work, about 50% more than for the first hour. The linear scale would keep increasing in the same manner past the 40th hour until the employee’s last hour for the calendar week is reached. In a similar manner, use the appropriate minute, dollar, and percentage additive values to calculate the minutes, dollars, or percentage amounts of each benefit earned for each hour that one has worked during a calendar week.1
  • Completion of the work hour in a calendar week that equals the number of work hours in the Standard Workweek would result in one’s receiving what by custom and practice would be considered to be full pay and benefits for the calendar week. For example, with a 40-hour Standard Workweek, completion of 40 hours of work would accumulate full pay and benefits for the calendar week. But this “full pay and benefits” mark would be just a point on a sliding scale. One who worked in a calendar week fewer hours than the number of hours in the Standard Workweek would receive some lesser amount of pay and benefits, and one who worked more hours than in a Standard Workweek would receive some greater amount. There would never be any extra lump sum of pay or benefits allotted for having reached any particular number of hours in a workweek or at any other moment such as holidays or when one is hired, terminated, or retired.
  • In addition to setting the length of the Standard Workweek, the demos would also set the minimum wage that could be paid for the first work hour of each Standard Workweek. This minimum wage should be accompanied by a minimum package of benefits that must be paid for the first work hour. The wage and benefits would increase with each work hour as described above. This package of benefits would be too complex for the demos to set. It should be set, therefore, by elected representatives, by congress. The minimum package of benefits should be similar to and proportional to the packages of benefits most commonly provided to employees throughout business and industry.

Businesses and corporations are becoming more and more like perpetually transforming entities or shells which encase a dynamic flow of projects and processes. New products and services are continuously being created while old ones are discarded. The hiring, shuffling about, and laying off of employees is becoming an ever more dynamic process. The lifelong, loyal relationship between an employer and an employee is becoming increasingly rare, a ghost from a previous age. Increasingly, the principal loyalty of the employer has become to his or her business, and the principal loyalty of the employee must become to his or her own career. We need to embrace and facilitate this process by creating a whole new relationship among business, government, educational institutions, and labor. Redefining and justly rewarding labor as described here would be one important step in the right direction.

But something else is needed. So that one may “flow” from job to job or career to career in today’s rapidly changing world and workplace without repeatedly falling into catastrophe, we need to change the relationship between the individual worker and the workplace. Some things currently “attached” to the individual workplace should instead be “attached” to the individual worker.

All benefits earned by an employee for each work hour should be fully funded at the time they are earned, portable, and secured by law. Each employee should have a permanent personal account with a third party or agency outside the workplace into which is deposited all accumulated sick time, vacation time, pension funds, etc. These accumulated benefits in the account should not be the possession of the employer but of the employee to use or to easily take with him or her from job to job. Educational and unemployment benefits should also be accrued with each work hour and be deposited into the employee’s account. All benefits would be used as the individual’s life situation warrants. The idea is that the individual would move through his or her work life with an arsenal of accumulated benefits that could be used when needed. These accumulated benefits would be the individual worker’s property, not the property of some particular business or of government. Throughout one’s work life one should be able to convert accumulations that exceed certain minimum levels into cash to use at one’s pleasure. Upon retirement one should be able to convert all remaining accumulations into cash.

Also related to the dynamic movement of labor, both the processes used by businesses and the economic and other demands placed upon businesses by government relating to the hiring, maintenance, and termination of employees should be streamlined and their costs reduced, the idea being that the costs involved in varying of the size of the workforce over time should be reduced. This would facilitate the “flow” of labor among tasks and jobs in our rapidly changing work world. The costs (other than wages and benefits) of having, for example, thirty-seven employees at a given time compared to, say, thirty-one should not be significantly higher.


Healthcare is a special problem. You’ve likely heard the saying: The business of business is business. Business should not be burdened by the financing of healthcare, which, at any rate, it does poorly or not at all for the majority of people. The health insurance albatross should be removed entirely from the shoulders of business. Businesses could put part of their savings into their own coffers and use part to fatten employee’s paychecks. (However, some businesses may continue to find it makes good business sense to provide employees with fitness guidelines, programs, and equipment.)

The huge for-profit, ‘healthcare provider,’ i.e., health insurance, industry (which has never applied so much as a Band-Aid on anyone) is an enormous drain, a black hole, on healthcare resources. The for-profit health insurance industry should be entirely scrapped and replaced by a lean, efficient, non-profit, single-payer system. This would produce enormous savings resulting in more resources going directly into real healthcare.

Everyone should be included within the healthcare system. This would save the enormous costs of determining coverage or inclusion and of the excluded showing up in emergency rooms with advanced diseases which would have been more inexpensively treated in doctor’s offices, clinics, or hospitals by preventative care or during earlier stages of the diseases.

The new healthcare system which replaces the old one should be a cooperative effort between the public sector and the private sector. The public sector portion of the healthcare system should consist of a national, single-payer system financed in major part by general tax revenue (the amount of which is determined by the demos), and in minor part by a means-tested, scalable co-payment by the patients. Means testing should only be done on those who claim themselves incapable of making a full co-payment. As an added thought for your consideration, the co-payment could be waived or reduced for people who maintain ideal body weight and whose annual physical examinations reveal the results of adequate exercise and reveal no signs of alcohol, drug, or dietary abuse or of smoking.

The single-payer system should consist of a lean national headquarters and many local units which have a face-to-face relationship with the actual healthcare providers and patients at the local level. The system should be granular enough that those working in the local units have intimate knowledge of the local healthcare providers and of their patient clients. They could even have special offices right within the hospitals and buildings of major providers. Roaming audit teams guided by the local units would audit all or randomly or judiciously selected private healthcare providers, keeping a long memory and focusing on those who tended to abuse the single-payer’s pocket book. The intent of local units and roaming auditors would be to provide a close watch against corruption, expense padding, and patient overuse. These local offices with their intimate knowledge of the local scene should also have the power to accept competitive bids from local healthcare providers for contracts to provide, say, 1000 mammograms payable in one lump sum to reduce costs.

Employees of the single-payer system should have rights equivalent to the rights of employees in the private sector, but the single-payer should be able to be readily and promptly fire an employee when it feels the action is justified and to expand and downsize operations as needed without legal entanglement. One should be able to offer suggestions for improvement of the single-payer system and to lodge complaints against the system and particular employees working within it.

The private sector portion of the healthcare system should consist of all of the private sector healthcare workers, professionals, clinics, and hospitals that already exist everywhere in the country. They would have to compete for business and patients just as they do now and for special contracts from the single-payer such as the 1000 mammogram example just described.

One should be able to sue the national healthcare system and the private providers of healthcare. The awards should be significant, but not today’s astronomical amounts. The winning of any awards should result in a review of the process and personnel involved in the incident and the local and system-wide correction of any discovered problems.

The members of the private and public sector portions of the healthcare system should work together closely and creatively to devise programs and methods of improving the health and the healthcare of the people in the local community and to discover ways to reduce healthcare costs. Although, due to conflicting monetary interests, their relationship would have an adversarial aspect to it, they should strive to rise as much as possible to a cooperative level for the benefit of everyone. The methods and practices which prove most fruitful in a given local area should be forwarded to the national headquarters for distribution to all other local offices for consideration and possible use. There should be national standards, but local offices should have some leeway to do what works best for them.

Both the single-payer public and the private healthcare provider portions of the healthcare system should be rendered as efficient as possible. Both within and among organizations, communications and execution of tasks should be computerized, networked, secure, paperless, efficient, and fast. Any electronic forms (or paper forms presented to the patient) requiring routine patient data should first quarry the system for that data and enter it into the form rather than the patients being asked the same questions over and over again year in and year out. A patient’s records should be kept private and yet the person should be able to go to any doctor, clinic, or hospital anywhere and be identified and medically known. The healthcare system should not create any processes that produce unnecessary paperwork, which would require more staff and increase overhead. The focus should be entirely on giving prompt, efficient, competent, loving healthcare to everyone.


The recommendations in this chapter produce some very desirable results.

Those who for whatever reason worked fewer hours than the Standard Workweek set by the demos wouldn’t be unjustly cut entirely out of benefits as they are today. They would receive benefits proportional to the number of hours worked. Those who worked more hours than the Standard Workweek wouldn’t be unjustly rewarded too much but would earn full pay and benefits and then some. What takes the trauma out of the variation in work hours is that the wage and benefits scales would increase smoothly as the number of hours increased. There would be no “all-or-nothing” transitions such as those that exist between full-time and part-time work today.

Because the hourly wage and benefits sliding scales would be linear, slant upward, and reach ever higher amounts as the number of work hours increased during each workweek, the employee would be motivated to work more hours. While the wage and benefits scales would motivate employees to work more hours, they would discourage employers from working employees too long. Given the upwardly-slanting wage and benefits scales, at some point it would become a rational business choice to hire more employees rather than pay the current employees for increasingly expensive hours of work. The wage and benefits scales (and the absence of lump payments and healthcare costs) would act as an increasingly costly slope rather than a brick wall, removing jarring jumps from labor and production costs making them more predictable and manageable.

As the economy expanded, profits grew, and workers became in short supply, employers would be willing to pay for more expensive work hours, thus stretching the workforce and including everyone in the benefits of the expansion. As the economy contracted and profits shrank, rather than laying off employees employers could simply reduce the number of hours they worked each employee, thus conserving their skilled workforce for better times. Rather than workers ending up fired and in bad straights, they would simply tighten their belts a bit. At least they would still have jobs and something coming in to make do. During a contraction in the economy there would be less of a tendency to lay off workers so unemployment would not rise so rapidly taxing the resources of government.

Recall that the demos sets the percentage that private sector revenue and income are taxed in support of the federal government. Thus, government revenues expand and contract along with the rest of the economy. And its employees’ wages and benefits would follow the same sliding scale calculations as those in the private sector. So the number of hours its employees worked would increase and decrease as the economy fluctuates just like in the private sector. When the rest of us are hurting, the government is also automatically made to tighten its belt in a way that conserves its skilled workforce.

With employers no longer involved in health insurance, with wage and benefit costs tied directly to each hour worked rather than to the concept of a forty hour workweek or to the number of employees, and with trained employees more likely to remain during lean times, costs, profits, hours worked, and wages would all efficiently expand and contract with the economy.

A market economy is all about selling goods and services to consumers. During an economic downturn, millions of workers having to tighten their belts a notch would remain better consumers than if a significant portion of them ended up entirely unemployed. This should cushion and lessen the downturn and aid in a more prompt recovery. Individuals who did end up jobless would have on hand accounts full of resources to use while preparing for and finding new jobs. And during the multiple job and career changes that the modern employee can increasingly expect, whatever other problems he or she must face, the lack of healthcare would not be one of them.

The redefinition of work and reward for work and other recommended changes presented in this chapter would not eliminate bad times and unemployment entirely—people would still quit jobs or get laid off or fired, and companies and businesses would still go belly up—but it would go a long way toward improving the relationships of employers, workers, and government and making all of our lives a lot more sane.


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© Copyright 2001-2017   Roger D Rothenberger



1  For simplicity all values in this discussion are rounded off. In an actual situation in the workplace, computers or calculators would make all wage and benefit calculations more precisely and with the greatest of ease. In the example wage calculations presented here a 40-hour Standard Workweek is used and a wage of $10.00 paid for the first work hour. To end up with a $15.00 wage for the 40th hour of work, a 50% increase above the $10.00 paid for the first work hour, one must calculate the amount that each hour’s wage must be increased above the previous hour’s wage, an amount we may call the additive factor. In our example the additive factor is calculated as follows: The value 0.5 is divided by 40 yielding the value 0.013. The first hour’s wage $10.00 is multiplied by the value 0.013 yielding the amount $0.13. So $0.13 is added to each hour’s wage to calculate the next hour’s wage.  1