it's easy for those who are .. mistreated to feel isolated and even personally inadequate, rather than seeking solidarity from co-workers."
“My son just finished his National General Classification Tests. He just about killed himself studying up for them, but he didn’t do nearly well enough for college. There were only twenty-seven openings, and six hundred kids trying for them . . . so now he’s got to decide what he’s going to do with his life. What’s it going to be, the Army or the Reeks and Wrecks?”
“I really don’t know much about either one . . .“
“Doctor, isn’t there something the boy could do at the plant --?”
“He’s got to have a graduate degree,” said Paul. He reddened. “That’s policy, and I didn’t make it. . . . Maybe he could open a repair shop.”
The man exhaled, slumped dejectedly. “Repair shop,”he sighed. “Repair shop, he says. How many repair shops you think Ilium can support, eh? Repair shop, sure! I was going to open one when I got laid off. So was Joe, so was Sam, so was Alf. We’re all clever with our hands, so we’ll all open repair shops. One repairman for every broken article in Ilium. Meanwhile, our wives clean up as dressmakers -- one dressmaker for every woman in town.”
-- Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano (1952)
Instead of thinking of humans as all participating in one big economy, think of most humans as being to some degree tools of the economy, just like industrial machines are. ...
With humans reconceptualized as capital, it becomes clear that there exists two economies. One economy involves providing laborers and machines with the goods needed to keep them running, in whatever fashion is least expensive. Should we as humans begin to develop expensive tastes, we will be disciplined away from trying to get something nicer for ourselves by losing our jobs to laborers (human or machine) that are willing and able to work for cheaper.
Meanwhile, there will develop a large market in luxury goods designed to meet the whims of the relatively small group who own capital and as such are fully human. We laborers (human and machine) will make those goods, but we'll never have them for ourselves, no more than a FoxConn employee will ever get to have a completed iPhone.
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