Thursday, October 29, 2009

The economy and the power to make things better--Part 2 of 5--Past and present realities

In the past, families envisioned great times as industries grew and so did employment, and the future was promising. Enlightened entrepreneurs looked protectively after workers; those leaders less inclined to share the wealth were obliged to sign labor contracts through unions. In either situation industry and the American workforce was a viable partnership, each partner benefiting through benevolent relationships. Even when work was slow during recessions or depressions, local employers cared for struggling families.

Unfortunately, it took wars to perk up sagging economies. Two world wars lifted industry out of the doldrums. During each national crisis the American workers were ready to pitch in and do their part. They did not debate. They simply helped. A job needed to be done, and they were there to do it.

Enlightened entrepreneurs remembered that each worker had to support a family, so they compensated their workers fairly. Quality of life in the early period of America’s industrialization consisted of family, the church, and an unyielding faith in God. As the family enjoyed income security, they had time to share. And they shared laughter, often in the company of friends and neighbors. Because the employers were benevolent, there was great respect for business leaders. Business ethics were crowned with an unwritten commitment to look out for each other at all times. Accounting was simple and free of tricks. Honesty and fairness fostered respect in the workplace. God was happy because his people were satisfied.

Industrialization was conceived to make life simpler, more abundant, and more secure. America was producing things in large volumes to make them affordable. America had a sound manufacturing base, and America was making money. Sunrise and sunset defined the day for work and shopping. Evenings were for the family, and Sundays were days of rest for fun and laughter. God was the center of family life.

Subtle changes gradually appeared on the horizon. “Efficiency experts” entered the scene. There were shifts away from the personal relationships workers enjoyed with entrepreneurs. Professional managers—“Paper Barons”—appeared to run the business on a new and impersonal platform. The new focus was on the bottom line. Ethics was put into the back seat, and the once-vital work ethic slowly faded into oblivion. The 1960s saw the beginning of the end of manufacturing in America.

This shift to a service economy broke the backbone of the American family. Cheap labor overseas overpowered the American workforce with the approval of management. The American workforce in textiles, shoes, and eventually high technology was hung out to dry by its business leadership. Besides the loss of jobs, America is losing all rights to genuine American technology. Business leaders claim to need the technology transfer to manufacture American-brand products overseas. God is troubled.

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