By Professor Doom
It really seems like the world has changed extraordinarily for the worse in the last few years. My friends don’t get promotions anymore; the lucky ones have broken even, perhaps doing the same job for a long time, while the rest have slid further and further down the economic ladder.
Few of my friends are happy in their job, understandably and especially those who have found themselves downgraded. My memories of my childhood and young adulthood don’t have many occasions of my parents’ friends finding themselves becoming ever more desperate just to keep up…but that’s all that seems to be happening now, and I have no friends enjoying great success to balance things out.
It’s no secret that the rules have changed, and everywhere I look, it seems the bosses literally hate their employees.
I’m not the first to have noticed this difference:
The question I’d like to address is why do our bosses hate us now? Let’s look at a “great new company” that pretty much highlights how today’s world works:
Uber is one those “destructive innovation” companies that defines how the world works now, with an insanely huge market capitalization (in terms of stock value) compared to actual profits, losing over a billion dollars so far in 2016 alone. It’s a strange business to invest in, I think: I can envision a day when you can just use your phone to find a nearby driver, eliminating Uber entirely…but let’s just assume Uber can somehow hold on to their position, and move on.
Now, there are things to like about Uber, which is basically a cheap cab service, getting around the (should-be-illegal) city monopolies on cabs that dominate most cities. Most of the reason they’re losing money is because they have to fight endless lawsuits from the entrenched cab monopolies, and, I suspect, pay endless bribes to the local municipalities.
The drivers, the workers for Uber, get a fairly raw deal: they risk life, limb and vehicle to pick up passengers and transport them. The drivers assume basically all the risk, a life-threatening and livelihood-ending level of risk, in exchange for a few hundred bucks a week. The mathematics of this job are terrible: it’s hard to make enough money to cover the ultimate car expenses, much less build a decent life this way. How does the CEO of Uber feel about his employees who risk everything and do all the work, for a small commission?
He wants to get rid of his employees as quickly as possible, despite their extremely low overhead. Uber drivers are pure commission paid, the only way they cost the company $4 is if they first put $5 in the company coffers. As a boss, I would love employees like this, and anyone who wants to work for me under those terms, feel free to use the contact form—I promise, for every $5 you donate to me, I’ll send $4 back to you.
How could any employer not like such a deal? I’d love such servants.
But Uber hates its employees, and wants to get rid of them, all of them, as fast as possible. Uber even has been regularly cutting the pay of its employees, slapping them with bizarre fees and lower commissions…the employees have no recourse but to quit…or work longer hours for reduced pay. I understand what Uber is doing—they’re trying to figure out what are “starvation level” wages for the employees, and to not pay a penny more than that. Because Uber hates its employees.
Other businesses are starting to copy the model. I used to freelance write; my pay varied from a high of 25 cents a word (20ish years ago), down to a few pennies a word (a few years ago). Businesses just keep cutting their pay down to starvation levels…or less. A news site actually hires “freelance writers”—you provide the computer, the news, and all the writing, which must be done to their specifications (specs, incidentally, which guarantee very little readership because you can’t link to outside sites). Then they’ll post the article, and if it makes a lot of money for them, they’ll give you a few pennies.
It’s even in academia; I was recently contacted by a site that wanted extremely technical work done. It would take a few hundred hours of my time, and they offered me, if I did all the work, a 10.5% commission on any money they made. They even have a “buyout clause” so that if I actually made real money, they could put a stop to it immediately. Several other professors leaped at the “opportunity” but I see some problems here.
Like I said, your boss hates you now, and it’s a hatred that didn’t exist decades ago. In fact, none of this crap existed even one decade ago.
What changed? Corporations became “people” in 2010. I’m serious, corporations now have many of the legal rights of human beings, arguably even more rights. The most important right is the one to influence lawmaking, through political
Now, corporations are a great idea for investors; corporations can commit all sorts of crimes, and no (actual) human being will go to jail. Investors can make a great deal of money while the corporation engages in the worst sort of behavior. It’s not just banks that do this, although nowadays they are Exhibit A for it.
Corporations exist for one reason only: to make money. So it’s only natural for corporations to pass laws to enhance their only purpose, making money.
Why does this make a difference? Well, now the CEO, the head boss of the corporation can actually get into legal trouble if he overpays his employees, or otherwise treats them as anything less than the lowest of the low…because that’s how the laws work now when it comes to “fiduciary responsibility.” There’s a reason why CEOs have a marked tendency to be psychopaths—an estimated 21% of CEOs are psycho, far higher than the proportion of psychopaths in the general population. These guys have to be monsters to run something so monstrous as the modern corporation. While bad CEOs certainly screw over the shareholders for personal profit, those are just the bad ones. The good CEOs are dedicated to screwing over the employees for corporate profit. It’s the entire structure of the corporation now.
That’s what has changed in the last few years: a good corporation screws over its employees as much as possible, working them as hard as possible while paying them as little as possible. Any other sort of behavior by the corporation is “bad,” and there can be no tolerance for it.
And so, bottom line, your boss hates you now, he has no choice but to hate you, and the reason why your parents/grandparents don’t believe you when you tell them how hostile from top to bottom the current working environment is, is because they grew up in a different world, one where corporations weren’t people.
A corporation can’t love, you see…but it sure can hate.