PC codes and misrule by bossy central planners

PC codes and misrule by bossy central planners, by Adam Creighton.

The sacking of rugby player Israel Folau over a social media post has missed the bigger picture: the growing power of employers over our behaviour and freedom of expression. … Millions of ordinary workers have to comply with proliferating “codes of conduct” and “ethics” every day or face getting the sack. …

It’s not only codes, which are typically chock full of politically correct sludge that small businesses wouldn’t have the time or money to write; it’s also pre and post-employment drug tests, or non-compete clauses that attempt to limit workers’ scope to change jobs. …

Indeed, the procedures, decisions and hierarchies of large corporations have more impact on our lives, whether you work for one or not, than what emerges from parliaments.

Your wage or salary is fixed by a company. Bus and train timetables are fixed. The prices of the goods and services you buy at the supermarket are, in practice, fixed.

Until recently, the price of milk hadn’t changed for years at Coles and Woolworths. Can you think of a recent instance where you’ve negotiated a price for anything?

Meanwhile, the algorithms that underpin Facebook and Google govern our access to social media and the internet, while Amazon increasingly sets the rules of digital commerce. Oligopolies offer us “take it or leave it’’ plans. And if you leave it, you won’t have the internet, a mobile phone or a bank account. As big companies absorb larger shares of the workforce, the economy becomes more planned, given that everything that occurs inside companies is a form of central planning.

We are told that our choice is between free markets and state control, when most adults live their working lives under a third thing entirely: private government,” says Elizabeth Anderson, a professor at the University of Michigan, who says the champions of our economic system ignore reality. …

Massive limited liability companies were for Marx a springboard to socialism. In the 1950s Schumpeter wrote: “Although (companies) are the product of capitalism, they socialise the bourgeois mind.”

A cursory look at the annual reports of large public companies indicates shareholders’ interests are quite secondary to the pay and prestige of management. It’s funny, then, to see politicians ­accuse each other of being capitalists or socialists when neither term describes what’s happening. …

In 2015, of the top 100 governments and companies ranked by revenue, 69 were companies (including 10 in the top 30), according to a list compiled by Global Justice Network. It may be a nice idea but the Liberal Party’s goal of “individual freedom and free enterprise” looks a bit irrelevant when the bulk of people have jobs for large corporations that may sack them for saying the wrong thing on Facebook.

The asymmetry of power between workers and buyers on the one hand, and employers and sellers on the other, may be a better focus for the future.