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Amazon’s Thuggish Security Force in Germany Shows State Does Not Have a Monopoly on Violence

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One of the canards libertarians like to sell is that the state has a monopoly on violence.

They need to get a handle on some basic economic concepts, for starters:

Economies of scale

Network effects

Barriers to entry

Those three alone, which operate in many fields of commerce, means that the natural of that industry will be towards fewer and more powerful players, unless something intercedes (such as disruptive technology that changes industry boundaries or regulation). Fewer and more powerful players means oligopoly or monopoly pricing, which even neoclassical economists will admit happens and depict as a Very Bad Thing. This reason alone is why the overwhelming majority of economists that say they are in favor of “free markets” favor regulation to make them work properly. This is one of the many reasons we describe “free markets” as an oxymoron.

Concentrated power allows companies to behave thuggishly, sometimes in a literal rather than figurative manner. It is remarkable how, in the US, the story of the physical risks that early labor organizers and protestors took has been virtually airbrushed out of the record. For instance, from Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth Century by Stephen Harlan Norwood:



Don’t kid yourself into thinking that this was an isolated incident. This was what the NLRB later described as Henry Ford’s war on unions. Bennett built the world’s largest private army. And it was not as if he was wanting for competition. GM and Chrysler also had their hired goons, but they worked through intermediaries to keep their hands cleaner.

Consider this Wikipedia description of Pinkerton:

At its height, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency employed more agents than there were members of the standing army of the United States of America, causing the state of Ohio to outlaw the agency due to fears it could be hired as a private army. Pinkerton was the largest private law enforcement organization in the world at the height of its power.

During the labor unrest of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, businessmen hired the Pinkerton Agency to infiltrate unions, to supply guards to keep strikers and suspected unionists out of factories, and sometimes to recruit goon squads to intimidate workers. The best known such confrontation was the Homestead Strike of 1892, in which Pinkerton agents were called in to enforce the strikebreaking measures of Henry Clay Frick, acting on behalf of Andrew Carnegie, who was abroad; the ensuing conflicts between Pinkerton agents and striking workers led to several deaths on both sides.

And powerful employers intimidating workers with the threat of violence is hardly a thing of the past. As the Independent reports (hat tip Richard Smith):

Amazon is at the centre of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers.

Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations in a documentary about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe to work at its German packing and distribution centres.

The film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. “Many of the workers are afraid,” the programme-makers said.

The documentary provided photographic evidence showing that guards regularly searched the bedrooms and kitchens of foreign staff. “They tell us they are the police here,” a Spanish woman complained. Workers were allegedly frisked to check they had not walked away with breakfast rolls.

Another worker called Maria said she was thrown out of the cramped chalet she shared with five others because she had dried her wet clothes on a wall heater. She said she was confronted by a muscular, tattooed security man and told to leave. The guards then shone car headlights at her in her chalet while she packed in an apparent attempt to intimidate her.

Several guards were shown wearing Thor Steinar clothing – a Berlin-based designer brand synonymous with the far-right in Germany. The Bundesliga football association and the federal parliament have both banned the label because of its neo-Nazi associations. Ironically, Amazon stopped selling the clothing for the same reasons in 2009.

ARD suggested that the name “HESS Security” was an allusion to Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. It alleged that its director was a man, named only as Uwe L, who associated with football hooligans and convicted neo-Nazis who were known to police. The programme-makers, who booked in at one of the budget hotels where Amazon staff were housed, said they were arrested by HESS Security guards after being caught using cameras. They were ordered to hand over their film and, when they refused, were held for nearly an hour before police arrived and freed them. The film showed HESS guards scuffling with the camera crew and trying to cover their lenses.

Notice that the goons held the filmmakers and the police “freed” them? That’s unlawful detention.

For German-speakers, here is the program for your viewing pleasure, and a local report, with lots of reader comments.

So, Virginia, businesses can get too powerful and inflict violence to get its way. But you’ll never hear that from libertarians.

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100 comments

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        It is public knowledge that Amazon’s CEO, the CIA and Goldman are all investing together in D-Wave: http://www.informationweek.com/government/information-management/jeff-bezos-us-intelligence-invest-in-qua/240008567

        The broad and deep technical expertise and interests of all three organizations probably merits inclusion in the particular deal cited, but I would hope this situation in Germany is a one-off oversight error and that those at senior levels of all three of these organizations had no prior knowledge about the nature of the German contractor for Amazon.

  1. from Mexico

    McMike said yesterday:

    “I think it was Michael Parenti who pointed out that apex capitalism – the ultimate free market – is the drug cartels.”

    Hannah Arendt said something similar in The Origins of Totalitarianism when she wrote: “[T]he political principles of the mob…betray a surprisingly strong affinity with the political attitudes of bourgeois society, if the latter was cleansed of hypocrisy and untainted by concessions to Christian tradition.”

    There’s an outstanding, award-winning interview of one of the mid-level members of the La Familia drug cartel that goes into the nuts and bolts of how the cartel operates:

    http://www.m-x.com.mx/2011-08-07/republica-marihuanera-2/

    What we find is that the cartel controls a geographical area of marijuana production in which it does not allow competing cartels to buy. In this way it keeps the prices it pays the growers down. Growers within this geographical area who dare sell their product to outside cartels, even though they can do so at a much higher price, are dealt with violently.

    Likewise, the cartels fight for markets at the border. They use violence in an attempt to establish a monopoly of cross-border trafficking.

    As Arendt says of bourgeois social organization, only Hobbes, by pure force of imagination, foresaw that “only the unlimited accumulation of power could bring about the unlimited accumulation of capital,” this unlimited accumulation of capital being the alpha and omega of capitalist morality. “Power became the essence of political action and the center of political thought when it was separated from the political community which it should serve… Money could finally beget money because power, with complete disregard for all laws — economic as well as ethical — could approriate wealth.”

    What Hobbes “actually achieved was a picture of man as he ought to become and ought to beave if he wanted to fit into the coming bourgeois society.”

  2. ambrit

    Maam;
    You’ll not hear about it from any of the other ‘usual suspects’ either I’m afraid. Even Dashiel Hammett, a Pinkerton man himself at one time, had to dress it up as fiction. All of the neo-liberal enablers have a hand, or tentacle, in it.
    Once “go along to get along” takes root, it’s all up. Strong upstanding people have always been few and far between. I feel that a lot of those folks who love to make fun of the Deep South are really expressing the understandable fear that the South is just a preview of what’s coming for the country as a whole. It’s past time for those with a love for humanity to start agitating for a “Blue State Model” of their own.
    As the doomed union man famously said:
    “Any last words Joe?”
    “Organize boys, organize!”

        1. Adam Noel

          That’s the part I’m unsure of. The massive social system we call society is pretty much unintelligible to us and we are incredibly heavy-handed in the ways our policies actually end up working out. I’m unsure if there’s much that can be done at this point except letting the system run its course.

          If there’s anything I could think of its working towards an economic system in more accordance with how nature would build an organism. Promotion of diversification of business, monopoly busting, building resiliency and making credit less accessible all seem like good ideas. Optimization, risk leverage, credit fueled consumption and crony capitalism all things nature would never do. Towards a more resilient society… perhaps.

          1. Late to the Party

            I’m not sure I understand what you are suggesting with the “nature” paradigm. To take the conversation in a sophomoric direction, perhaps, I would venture that you probably don’t mean “survival of the fittest,” but perhaps you do. If not, then I am interested in a clarification. I guess the idea is in a raw state.

            If I can suggest something kind of circular but perhaps worth something: If the main problem facing we humans is what happens when we grant the wrong people (almost anyone) too much power, then perhaps I, we, you should endeavor not to do this, to be distrustful, scornful, and antagonistic to the possibility that we will err again in the same fashion. May I suggest that the beginning of this pooling of power is the divestment of small pieces of the means towards supporting ourselves — and it might be useful here to ask what power is, for a moment, if not firstly the ability to support oneself and then, later, the ability to command others after one sees to it that they are supported — namely in the division of labor. That old thing. This is when we parcel out a bit of our autonomy — and I am saying nothing that isn’t much more than circular — dispossessing ourselves of the ability to fulfill certain of our, maybe relative, needs. So, someone else has power over this aspect of our well-being. All it takes is a bit of effort and DIY ethic to take some of that relinquishment back. For instance, perhaps we should not award winners such as Google and Amazon and Apple and whoever else can be described as such since they are therefore on the verge of becoming tyrants. We should all be suspicious of salesmen, since we often end up giving away a finer currency than cash in the transaction — our autonomy!

          2. Nathanael

            In nature, the “fittest” species in the long run is usually the one with the most diversity — and the most *adaptability*.

            He’s suggesting taking a cue from *actual* nature, rather than the fake stories which right-wingers tell about nature. The goal is to create *robust* social systems rather than *fragile* ones.

          3. Adam Noel

            The idea of robust versus fragile social systems is one I’m feeling more and more influenced by. The question is IF we want social systems that are resilient in the face of shocks what current economic paradigms are compatible with these social systems.

            For example, debt assumes the ability of the consumer to repay the debtor. This is a good assumption in times of economic growth but in times of stagnation or recession debt becomes problematic. Can we have a system based on credit fueled consumption and still enjoy robust (as opposed to fragile) growth?

            There’s also the interplay of energy flow within the economy , the distribution of the benefits of energy flow and what an energy constrained system does. A robust system will only grow as much as the system permits and will not try to keep growing once growth has stopped. It’s entirely possible we have been in a period of stagnation since the 1970s and the attempts of China and other countries are now highlighting this fact as market prices displace our demand for commodities and result in falling standards of living.

            I have more questions then answers and I’m solely interested in what works not some ideology. It’s for this reason I’m skeptical there is much we can do at all at the moment. Our economic systems are too complicated for us to understand them and they are too optimized. I’m skeptical about any policy changes that aim to directly make changes to the economy but am less skeptical about changes that try to reduce system complexity.

            Perhaps failure of systems and letting the parts that no longer work fail is the only way out… but the risks inherent in such a view are unknown. Nature does not build skyscrapers.

  3. Adam Noel

    The problem is that most libertarians believe organizations whose role is “peace-keeping” will not be employed illegally to do as other organizations please. It is the fallacy of anarcho-capitalism that government’s sole role will be protection of private property and that somehow that government will never act in the favor of the powerful. You actually could keep the rest of the market as free as possible but eventually the state would merge with corporations and in such a case there would be no government to protect workers at all.

    I’ve been wondering if the fractal nature of reality might be a decent critique of anarcho-capitalism and other libertarian philosophies. If wealth is distributed in most transactions due to power distributions with the rich getting very rich and the poor getting a very small slice of the pie then the notion of anarcho-capitalism promoting freedom is absurd.

    Monopolies would naturally form (and would eventually fall) and they would continuously head towards the formation of bigger and bigger mega-organisms that consolidate power. In such a case freedom will always be compromised by the so called free market itself. If the market naturally tends towards monopoly due to power distributions of wealth gains then the philosophy is not only wrong but incredibly dangerous.

    1. hunkerdown

      “Humans are corruptible, therefore the system is unsustainable and/or unrealistic.” Wait, we’re not talking about the Soviet system here?

      Without color of common good, how can anyone credibly interpret anarcho-capitalism as anything but “fixing the rules so our team wins”?

  4. from Mexico

    A wonderful critique of the Utopian vision shared by both libertarians and Bolsheviks — a state which Engels describes as one of idyllic harmony with “no solidiers, no gendarmes, no policemen, prefects or judges, no prisons, laws or lawsuits” which will be achieved after the apotheosis of man — is Adam Curtis’ All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, which can be seen here:

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/all-watched-over-by-machines-of-loving-grace/

    The Utopian ideals of the libertarians and Bolsheviks were recycled by the hippies of the 1960s and the California computer magnates.

    One of the most insightful parts was what resulted when these principles were put into practice in the hippie communes of the 60s. What resulted was the law of the jungle.

    As Curtis concludes in the trailer for the movie, “The power hasn’t gone away. It never does.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/video/2011/may/06/documentary-internet-adam-curtis

    And even though I very much respect the work of both Adam Curtis and the anarchist filmmaker Scott Noble, this movie serves to highlight the deep ideological differences which separate the two.

  5. William Branch

    Commenting on “from Mexico” … the British Empire was made rich from the Triangle trades of sugar, rum, tobacco, tea and human trafficking … not to mention opium. Apex capitalism was the drug cartels circa 1750. Adam Smith was a student of the Glasgow enabling elite. His “Wealth of Nations” is a prejudiced critique of Glasgow capitalism vs London mercantilism. So are we simply ignoring the history of the ongoing competition between differing “early modern” hegemons? Do we Anglophones ignore or unconsciously struggle with our Englishness? Does economics rattle with the din of William Wallace against King Edward? Are we not the original Medellin cartel? Isn’t Big Pharma just the latest version of the opium trade … similarly beer replacing rum and high fructose corn syrup replacing cane sugar?

    1. from Mexico

      William Branch said:

      “Adam Smith was a student of the Glasgow enabling elite. His “Wealth of Nations” is a prejudiced critique of Glasgow capitalism vs London mercantilism. So are we simply ignoring the history of the ongoing competition between differing “early modern” hegemons?”

      That’s the way I see it. When Smith formulated his polemic, labor didn’t even have a place at the table. The only places were those reserved for the mercantilists, the industrialists and the landed aristocracy.

      There were of course the Christian socialists which stood up for labor, but by this time religion no longer had a place at the table, and they didn’t stand a chance against Smith’s “scientific” formulations.

      1. Shawn

        Reminds me of a joke my old economics professor tried (and failed) to make in front of the class where he said there was no economic difference between labor and capital (recall the standard Cobb-Douglas production function). His joke was that the only real difference was that “unlike capital, labor talks back”.

        Needless to say this didn’t go over well with many of us in the class. While labor might be capital to some theoretical economists, this just provides support for never letting an academic economist run a country (or heck, a state or a city, for that matter).

        1. JEHR

          Shawn, Canada has a economist running the country and we are learning with much despair what that means–mostly austerity and support for financial and corporate entities.

          1. hunkerdown

            Like any other course of study in our vo-tech oriented educational system, orthodox economics education will naturally inculcate the proper mindset to support best performance in the positions students will most likely fill: advocating for the consolidation of wealth. One could argue that the government is barely pulling on their end of the tug-of-war rope.

      2. H. Alexander Ivey

        from Mexico and William Branch
        Your comments about Adam Smith are shallow and off the mark. Either read his work, or at least a good summary, so that your comments will be accurate and helpful to our understanding of the world’s politico-econ activities, or just label your “views” as troll remarks so that people will understand that you are just slandering him.

    2. from Mexico

      William Branch said:

      “Apex capitalism was the drug cartels circa 1750.”

      I very much agree with that too.

      As Arendt put it in The Origins of Totalitariansim, “Imperialism must be considered the first stage in political rule of the bourgeoisie.”

      “What imperialists actually wanted,” Arendt goes on to explain, “was expansion of political power without the foundation of a body politic”:

      ***beginning of quote***
      The first consequence of power export [by the West] was that the state’s instruments of violence, the police and the army, which in the framework of the nation existed beside, and were controlled by, other national institutions, were separated from this body and promoted to the position of national representatives in uncivilized or weak countries. Here, in backward regions without industries and political organization, where violence was given more latitude than in any Western country, the so-called laws of capitalism were actually allowed to create realities.
      ***end of quote***

      What most Americans do not realize, however, is that all the mass murder and torture of innocents — the police state and technocracy/bureaucracy which capitalism employ to make itself a reality — and which are unleashed in these faraway places with not so much as a whimper of protest or scintilla of guilt, eventally come home to rest in what Lord Cromer called the “boomerang effect.” “If we subvert world order and destroy world peace,” Henry Steel Commager said of it, “we must inevitably subvert and destroy our own political institutions first.”

      For a more specific example, Greg Grandin cites Latin America as “empire’s workshop,” and the dirty wars, political assasinations, military coups, torture, fraudulent elections and genocide orchestrated by the United States in Latin America, and given moral and intellectual sanction by thinkers like Freidrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman, may very well eventually visit themselves upon the US, just like they did upon Europe with Nazism and Bolshevism.

      “The chief importance of continental [Nazism and Bolshevism], as distinguished from overseas [British], imperialism lies in the fact that its concept of cohesive expansion does not allow for any geographic distance between the methods and institutions of colony and of nation, so that it did not require boomerang effects in order to make itself and all its consequences felt in Europe,” Arendt observes.

      1. Glenn Condell

        ‘If we subvert world order and destroy world peace,” Henry Steel Commager said of it, “we must inevitably subvert and destroy our own political institutions first.’

        Michael Hudson boils it down to ‘we need to choose between democracy and empire – we cannot be both’

        ‘eventally come home to rest in what Lord Cromer called the “boomerang effect.”

        What goes around comes around. It’s only fair…

      2. Nathanael

        Much of Latin America, however, has figured out how to get rid of and stay rid of the dictators, military coups, and foreign abuse which characterized it for much of the last 200 years.

        Perhaps we can learn a lesson from Latin America about how to break the power of our United Fruits and Pincochets.

  6. Aussie F

    Reminds me of a rich old tale a friend once related. Picture a salty old Geordie Sea Dog in a dimly lit South Shields tavern, puffing on his bitter rollie, nursing a pint of the Broon dog and referring to your reporter as ‘young feller me lad, soft southern gobshite,etc..

    He was working on a North Sea oil rig when an industrial dispute broke out. A group of Glaswegian welders eventually downed tools. The German rig boss informed the canteen staff that striking workers were not to recieve food, and told the sriking Scots that a “man who does not work, does not eat.”

    The rig security team tried to enforce the bosses grim diktat, and within seconds there was a virtual insurrection. My friend informed the boss that ‘he’d forgotten who won the last war’ before administering a blow to the ‘box heed.’ (Geordie slang for German).

    It took a chopper load of Norwegian Marines to restore order, and about a dozen men were hospitalized.

  7. Karsten S.

    “Amazon’s Thuggish Security Force in Germany Shows State Does Not Have a Monopoly on Violence” I´m sorry, but that is utter nosense!
    If you read your own article, you´ll see that exactly the opposite is true: A private company abused its workers, the mainstream media(a state TV station at that) got wind of it and engaged in some investigative journalism, privatley hired crooks tried to interfere, the police was called they restored order and the operation is getting shut down.
    Unless your definition of “…shows state does not have a monopoly on violence” is the absence of any violent crime in a given society ever, the way it was dealt with seems to be pretty much the way you would want these kind of situations to be dealt with!

    1. reason

      You are correct, of course, the headline is misleading. It should read, “Absent the state there will still be violence, just no recourse.”

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      You don’t get the point of the post.

      Libertarians argue the state should be kept to a bare minimum and only do thing like national defense because the state is the only coercive power.

      The Amazon goons and past private armies show that large companies are plenty capable of physical coercion, thus showing the libertarians are all wet.

      And you ALSO don’t know how long Amazon was abusing its workers. The fact that it is being shut down does not mean people were not harmed in the meantime.

      1. Late to the Party

        So, we are always relearning the lesson that a concentration of power leads to abuse of that power. So, the trick, then, is to utterly diffuse power throughout society in as even a way as possible? How can that be achieved? To put it another way… perhaps more effort, mine, yours, others, should be put toward an articulation of how things ought to be. Even though, indeed, a more resounding denouncement of those things which ought to be denounced would also be very welcome. I wonder if repetition (and we are doomed to repeat if we are keen observers and commentators of human nature!) can simulate resounding.

        1. JTFaraday

          “So, we are always relearning the lesson that a concentration of power leads to abuse of that power. So, the trick, then, is to utterly diffuse power throughout society in as even a way as possible? How can that be achieved?”

          I agree this should be the goal. Giving more power to the narrow faction that controls the US federal government as it is currently constituted is a suicide mission.

    3. scraping_by

      Read again. It doesn’t say the thuggish private guards were hauled off to jail and that Amazon has put in better, more legal, management. It says the police intervened in an attack on an outside group and then went away.

      Like the private law/neo-feudal rule by gun on our own Western frontier, it requires the real authorities to stay out of the way for thug rule. Especially in a plantation, ranch, sweatshop, labor camp, etc., which is easy for the real law to find.

      The German cops are hands-off. Kidnapping people with relatives who can complain was just a little over the line. This time.

      1. Nathanael

        Now that this has hit the news, I suspect the German cops will no longer be hands-off.

        There’s a strong sense of the importance of the *appearance of legitimacy* in the halls of the German government. (Perhaps this is due to fairly recent governments, before and during WWII, which are universally considered to have been illegitimate.) As a result, there is attention to public opinion.

        Here in the US, in contrast, most of the people in power just don’t seem to care any more; they act like they will always be in power no matter how egregiously evil they act, and no matter how many people notice. This is insane behavior, and it is probably due to a lack of studying history.

        The last “delegitimated” government in the US was a long time ago, either the 19th century or earlier (depending on your assessment), so anyone who never looked outside the US and who didn’t study history wouldn’t realize the risk.

    4. rob

      What the story is an illustration of is what happens. The example in germany, is just one.Sure those whose job it is to mend public relations, say it is over… but really, is it?Those whose job it is to keep labor under control.to minimize risk… propbably will be happy to resume course as soon as possible.The point is. This is the norm, always finding new normative states of equilibrium.If not here.then there.There are hoards of disposable workers in this world.
      And to the point of the post,
      the “libertarians”, these days are a joke. they are’t libertarian, they are republican/fascist lite.To entertain the idea gov’t has the monopoly of abuse of power, is a flagrant disregard to history.hyperbole.

  8. Laughing_Fascist

    Corporate funded and directed violence may be the future in the USA, with private Pinkerton armies everywhere. And the big 5 banks (maybe just one “Unified Bank of America” 20 years from now) will have priviledged use of the US Army for its purposes, with Unified Bank controlled NYTs to explain each US Army victory over the roving terrorist mobs.

    Interesting trends in play for Futurists to chew on.

    1. AbyNormal

      “Control in modern times requires more than force, more than law. It requires that a population dangerously concentrated in cities and factories, whose lives are filled with cause for rebellion, be taught that ‘all is right as it is’.”
      h.zinn

      imho, this tall order is in need of immediacy… merge/close many more schools with google$ relea$e of that 3 highway, comes to mind

      1. Nathanael

        Important quote by Zinn. Incidentally, this was always true; the backbone of feudalism was the church teaching that you were supposed to obey your master.

        It’s actually become much harder over the centuries to maintain that level of brainwashing of the people. Mass communications, which cannot really be censored much, allow people to see that there *are* alternative ways of doing things (that this isn’t the only option), and allow people to realize that other people are dissatisfied.

        But there is one other critical aspect. In ancient Rome, the people were appeased with bread and circuses. *The bread matters*. As long as people are well-fed, housed, clothed, and have sex and entertainment, they will tolerate a lot — the idea that “things are all right as they are” is plausible.

        Once the food is missing, no amount of brainwashing can convince people that things are all right as they are. It’s too obvious that something is wrong when you’re hungry.

        (The result: the first duty of any government is to feed everyone, or at least nearly everyone. A government which fails at this will be overthrown, guaranteed. This has been known since ancient Egypt, and yet the brain-damaged morons who constitute our ruling elite do not seem to understand this.)

        1. AbyNormal

          from you earlier post and well worth repeating:

          The goal is to create *robust* social systems rather than *fragile* ones.

          and since you brought up Rome: In the late nineteenth century, archaeologists found a lead pipe which conveyed water from a reservoir to the Roman Forum. The pipe was 1750 meters long and required 232,750 kilograms of lead (Lanciani, 1897). When it is considered that there were thousands of these conduits in Rome, one can get a feeling for Rome’s massive dependence on lead.

          It has been hypothesized that Rome’s dependence on lead water pipes lead to its decline. It has been suggested that the aristocracy died off from nothing more complicated than simple lead poisoning.

          Since almost all of the lead absorbed by the human body is deposited in bones, investigators have studied the bones of ancient Romans. While some studies did indicate above normal concentrations of lead, it seems unlikely that water pipes were a contributing factor. Hodge (1981) has correctly pointed out that lead pipes would not have caused contamination for two reasons: (1) because the Roman water contained high concentrations of calcium which formed deposits inside the pipes, insulating the lead and (2) because lead will never greatly affect running water.
          http://www.waterhistory.org/histories/rome/

          i maybe off the mark here but i disagree with the ‘hypothesis’…surely the brain damage was in its infancy and with a growing ‘middle class’ tapping into and adding on to original pipes, the lead poisoning exacerbated

  9. Paul Tioxon

    The libertarian hoax rests on the amnesia of America’s peculiar institution of slavery and the KU KLUX KLAN. A private terrorist organization founded to subvert elected officials during the reconstruction of civil society after the Civil War and continued unabated up until the early 20th century, with membership in the millions from North to South, including famous mass marches in full regalia in Washington DC.

    http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6689

    The inspiration for numerous armed terrorist groups currently active in killing, firebombing and intimidating via threats of more violence, such as Christian Militias, Neo-Nazi Militias, anti-state Libertarian Sovereign Citizens Movement, among others, the organized and well armed and stock piled with 10,000 of thousands of rounds of ammo private armies of the night proves the lie that the government has a monopoly on violence as the ultimate threat for coercing conformity and compliance.

    The US Military has taken note of the recruiting patterns and has clamped down as much as possible to de-politicize the military.

    http://archive.adl.org/learn/ext_us/kkk/intro.asp?LEARN_Cat=Extremism&LEARN_SubCat=Extremism_in_America&xpicked=4&item=KKK

  10. JohnB

    Vaguely on-topic; the strike-breaking story reminds me of a good film I watched recently, Matewan (think I found it in comments for an article here), which is a good depiction of unions and strikebreakers in that period; I don’t know of any other films like it, in its concentration on and depiction of unions.

    1. Glenn Condell

      Yes, a wonderfully direct movie that assays the mine conflicts from an unashamedly pro-worker perspective. Stark and atmospheric, with a great performance from Will Oldham as the young preacher. Righteous stuff.

  11. bmeisen

    If the workforce at the plant was organized – as German law allows – in a works council (Betriebsrat) then blame for the loose cannons can be spread around. “Amazon” is not as monolithic in Germany as it may be elsewhere.

    1. Massinissa

      Speaking of Roads to Serfdom, it always amazed me that Hayek supported Augusto Pinochet.

      According to Hayek, a neoliberal dictatorship was preferable to a non-neoliberal democracy. Such incredible hypocrisy…

      1. LifelongLib

        In their hearts neoliberals know that laissez-faire and democracy are not actually compatible. Given the chance workers will steal from their betters using the legal theft of taxes and unions. Thus it’s better not to have democracy.

        1. Strangely Enough

          “Given the chance workers will steal from their betters using the legal theft of taxes and unions.”

          Betters? And I didn’t realize workers were excempt from the taxes their “betters” usually avoid. Nice to know.

          1. LifelongLib

            In a democracy, the majority could impose any level of taxation on any group (including itself) that it wanted to.

            And in case you missed it, I was using “betters” in the sense that a neoliberal would — someone who was “smart enough” to be an owner/investor rather than being so “dumb/lazy” that he/she actually had to do something productive for a living.

          2. LifelongLib

            Revision: In their hearts neoliberals know that laissez-faire and democracy are not actually compatible. Given the chance workers will “steal from their betters” using the “legal theft” of taxes and unions. Thus it’s better not to have democracy.

  12. political economist

    Great post and reminder of past and pesent history.
    There is no violence as long as labor “keeps the pease” and other non sequitors are part of the BAD (boundaries of acceptible discourse).
    Much of the history you refer to, Yves, is cateloged in the report of the Lafollete committe on Education and Labor. It is outside the BAD and rare (never?) referred to in the story books of high school US history which are throughly governed by the BAD.

  13. craazyman

    This can’t be accurate. In the real world corporate security teams would freely negotiate without violence or force to preserve their reputations and maintain market access for products and services. Employees would be paid a market-clearing wage that assures socially optimal outcomes. Everybody would be maximizing their utilities in a stochastic continuum redolent with benevolence and grace. Anybody who doesn’t understand is wasting valuable mental resources in a sub-optimal and non-fully efficient manner leading to social underperformance relative to equilibrium stasis potential.

    1. Massinissa

      Look, if you havnt noticed, instead of looking at “How things are/were”, you yourself are looking at “How things SHOULD BE”.

      Your models are really cute and pretty on paper. But the real world does not work like your models, the real world is much messier.

      Have a nice day ^_^.

    2. JTFaraday

      With mad skillz like that you will always have a jahb driving aggregate demand for the neoliberals.

      You might even avoid finding yourself enlisted in their jahb guarantee buffer stock reserve army of labor.

  14. tom

    Hallo everybody
    I live in Germany and just checked Google news. There´s very little coverage of the scandal. Two things seem to be certain though: 1. a German company would have shied away from such a contractor. (Not that they wouldn´t do the same but with a contractor without such obvious neonazi credentials 2. Amazon seems to get away with murder. That is not the only case of questionable behaviour by Amazon. It certainly plays a role that Amazon is American. Americans and American companies can do really amazing things here without getting in trouble. After all there are still 50 000 American troups here

      1. diane

        (Note: That site (News Now) can be used without: ‘logging in’; allowing scripting, or cookies; etcetera; I do it all the time and it works fine except, I imagine, certain preferences obviously can’t be set up without allowing scripting and cookies.)

    1. different clue

      The hiring of neonazi contract-goons by a specifically American company operating in Germany seems almost a “kinder-and-gentler” repetition of the role some specifically American companies (or rather their human leadership persons in Company authority) played in very specifically supporting the Hitler Nazis and working with their German upper class comrades to bring them to power in Germany to begin with.

      And yet how many “progressives” buy books and kindles through Amazon instead of buying books at a real analog meatspace bookstore because its “cheaper”? (Just as so many “progressives” auto-pay their bills electronically rather than send checks by USPS landmail because its “cheaper”).

      1. diane

        Yep, and for the life of me I never could understand why anyone would buy books through Amazon, versus a local bookstore; especially when those who initially bought through Amazon –making it into the beast it has become – were not financially needy such that it made any difference. And especially if anyone was aware of Bezos’ initial background in Finance. But then all things Techie have insidiously been equated with Liberalism, versus the actual deeply Ayn Randian background which made a handful obscenely wealthy, stunningly arrogant and crushingly powerful.

        Europe appears to thoroughly understand this, but so called Progressives in the US appear totally dismissive of the actual reality.

        1. different clue

          Lots of people buy through Amazon because it costs them less money than buying the same at a meatspace store would cost. Just as many people who could afford nonWalmart buy at Walmart anyway, for the joy of spending less money on the same things.

          I wonder if many of today’s digital hip groovy silicon young people of today buy from Amazon because it is digital, hip, and groovy. Not like their parents’ or grandparents’ analog meatspace bookstore. I wonder if they would find buying a “book” in a “bookstore” to be a blow to their cyber-identity and sense of digital self.

          1. diane

            Yes, that was my point above. Many, who can afford paying the extra and then some, still shop Amazon and other ugly entities like Wal-Mart when they can well afford shopping at a brick and mortar and non-BigBox store. Ironically some (or is it many?) who have little money, prefer not to shop at those places. Perhaps because they can literally feel – being used to being abused by the powerful – the oppressive hierarchy of power they might be dealing with?

            About whether the 20 somes use Amazon more (and it also needs to be taken into consideration that Cali hideously supports e-books in [PUBLIC] schools ), I’m not really sure. I sometimes wonder whether the tethered to the machine group isn’t actually a bit older because they don’t want to appear obsolete. I have a feeling a lot of young people appreciate things like printing presses and analog versus digital.

            For an example:

            ”When I look at my kids, just turned 18 year old daughter and 24 year old son — and their friends, they aren’t the share-everything, technophile evangelists that you might expect them to be, or at least those people without kids imagine those generations to be like.

            They are extremely careful about what they share online, and they don’t jump on every consumer tech bandwagon there is, and they certainly do not believe everything they read online.

            For example, my daughter chooses not to have a cell phone, she has a relatively new iMac and an iPod Touch and is quite content. My son is very well equipped with tech stuff, new Macbook Pro, iPhone, etc, but doesn’t share much at all online and can even go days without his phone. Their friends seem similar in their attitudes to tech”

            One of the hideous things, and it’s never discussed, is that a lot of the more insidious technologies – such as monopoly ebooks, biometrics, automatic voicemail capture from a cubicle landline to the cubicle PC (which means that if you receive a personal message on your cubicle phone, it’s now captured and backed up on the Company’s Intranet database) – are initially instituted via the workplace and the public schools, where people are pretty much forced or coerced to use the technologies and the companies which provide them. I took a recent class where the teacher basically told the class to buy the course books through Amazon. I went to Kepler’s, in Silicon Valley, and ordered it instead. Horrifyingly, Kepler’s has now been sold, after it had been family owned for decades.

          2. Harrumph

            Amazon is popular because 1) the act of acquiring books and media is separable from the act of socializing to do it, and 2) Amazon has way more books and media than your local store. I don’t think price enters into it for most Americans after selection and convenience.

            People do exist who gravitate toward physical stores and the social features inherent in them, it’s just that those people are far outnumbered by those fixated on the acquiring.

            This Germany story reminds me of a Mother Jones piece spelling out the abusive labor practices Amazon uses in its US shipping centers.

            http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor?page=4

          3. diane

            The Allentown, Pennsylvania Morning Call investigation, referred to in that piece, has been ongoing. The latest:

            Amazon warehouse workers fight for unemployment benefits –
            Online retail giant’s Lehigh Valley temporary-staffing agency fights aggressively to keep workers from collecting unemployment.

            The archive is here: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/amazon/

            I hear you about people preferring the convenience, I’ve heard that from quite a few, but I’ve also heard the lower prices being noted a lot. As far as selection, Kepler’s, for an example, was great about ordering what they might not have. It arrived usually within a week, and their policy was not to charge any fees even if you decided you didn’t want the book. I don’t know what the new owner’s current policy is on anything, I’ve been too heartbroken to go back and see. From what I’d read about him I wasn’t real inspired that the store would retain what made it a wonderful place to be. I made almost all of my book purchases there, despite larger franchise places close by.

          4. LifelongLib

            I buy from Amazon because where I live there are essentially no other places to buy from (besides Barnes and Noble, hardly an improvement). I was a patron of a local used book store, but the last time I tried to visit the doors were locked with a sign saying “we don’t know where he is”. I knew that the owner had been having financial difficulties and apparently he left town. That was many years ago now. So my choice is Amazon or nothing.

        2. Nathanael

          Amazon carries books which literally can’t be ordered through brick-and-mortar bookstores. That’s the other reason people use Amazon.

          Face the facts: Amazon is providing a better service than its competitors, not merely lower prices. Someone else could have done the same thing; it’s straightforward enough; but Amazon had first mover advantage, and distribution is a natural monopoly.

          1. diane

            Amazon carries books which literally can’t be ordered through brick-and-mortar bookstores. That’s the other reason people use Amazon.

            I’ve never experienced not being able to order a hardcopy book through a brick and mortar, if that book was available somewhere. If it’s very rare, the likelihood is that a person in the business of rare books would be able to find a copy.

            If it’s an ebook, Amazon is certainly not the only ebook provider, which you seem to come just short of implying. There are a large number of other far less noxious, if not actually very pleasant, Brick and Mortars – with a very wide range of books, more than willing to add a wonderful personal touch (They Actually Answer The Phone in Person and Pleasantly!) which Amazon has never offered – which also have very well served online sites; such as Powell’s (which Yves has a link to in the upper right hand corner), and Melville House, the Brick and Mortar I’ve linked to below.

            Face the facts: Amazon is providing a better service than its competitors, not merely lower prices. Someone else could have done the same thing; it’s straightforward enough; but Amazon had first mover advantage, and distribution is a natural monopoly.

            Lovely, very Ayn Randian and hyper Techie [Free Markets!] Ecology based. Whenever someone uses that finger wagging coin of phrase my eyes glaze over. Whose facts? Do you have a White Paper! link, and who paid for the Research, if so? Further, it certainly depends on what you consider a service, and at what ultimate expense to Society for the convenience of those who don’t have to use Amazon, but prefer its brand of so called service?

            Here’s a wonderful example of Amazon’s customer service:

            10/23/12 Amazon would like to apologize for stealing your books

            But, oh wait! … slap me, here’s a significant Community Service Amazon has provided:

            03/17/10 Amazon: 46 states to go

          2. diane

            Hello Nathanael, are you there? (I am sure you are, and have read my, directly above, counter point) … any response? …or are you just glad this post has sunk below the horizon?

  15. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

    What piffle. On Market Mongo we banished violence decades ago when my Liberation Army defeated Ming the Merciless and privatized the assets of Planet Mongo under the corporate identity Mongopoly, Inc.

    We have no violence – corporate, government or otherwise. Everyone is “free to choose” – Mongo residents may choose to work or not work. Mongopoly, Inc may choose to employ at a productivity rate and photon pay scale* of their choosing.

    Residents who choose not to work, along with those deemed unacceptable to Mongopoly, Inc., are given free public transport to Mongo Commons.

    Early on during our quick, but glorious, transition to Market Mongo, we saw the need for a “public commons”. In an act of charity – and an appropriate tax writeoff – Mongopoly, Inc. identified a sizable desert area in their asset portfolio which they deemed “lacking in monetization potential”. They bequeathed it to their Emperor and Acting Chairman of the Board.

    The desert area does have 300 ft long sand worms with very large teeth, but my economic advisers tell me some motivation to work is necessary for a functioning economy, and also that Mongo Commons is probably the single most important reason that Market Mongo is violence free.

    Mongolopy, Inc. concurs and thanks their Emperor and Acting Chairman of the Board for this “small government approach” to business and this wonderful externality for business to enjoy.

    *Workers accumilate photon credits which they can apply to products in the Mongopoly, Inc Online Catalog. When enough photons are accumulated to fill in the product picture, a “ready to pick up” message is tweeted to the employees iPhone implant and they may then pick up the product at the Mongopoly, Inc Warehouse Distribution Center. On Market Mongo we have eliminated the Post Office and ALL packing materials, which we believe was a significant inefficiency in our economy.

  16. Chris

    The labor movement has gone down the memory hole. I’m reminded of a recent interview on NPR in which improved wages and conditions for workers in the 20th century was summarized as a top-down decree from Ford and FDR as a way to increase demand. And this was in a piece that encourages owners/management to listen to their workers. (There was also an insistence that any future wage increases requires more productivity increases–what’s going to be different this time than any time since the 1970s?)

    http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=171257463&m=171257446

    1. Massinissa

      That whole fallacy about Ford paying his workers more to increase demand was nonsense. The reason he raised his wages so high is because he had an ASTRONOMICAL worker turnover rate, because the workers kept leaving because the work on his new assembly line was far more tedious than work they could be doing elsewhere.

      Modern capitalists try to paint it as if somehow Ford made the wages high out of the goodness of his heart… As if someone who literally got a medal from Adolf Hitler would ever do such a thing!

      1. rps

        Joe Adonis (a member of mafia boss Vince Mangano’s family in Brooklyn) provided Ford Motor Company the “muscle” to smash the 1932 autoworker strikes outside Detroit. He was rewarded with a lucrative franchise,”The Automotive Conveying Company” that freely moved drugs in Ford sedans between Detroit and New Jersey, New England and the East Coast. Journalist Fred Cook wrote, “Ford paid this Adonis-controlled company a cool $8 million” between 1932-1940.

        Capitalism is dead without illegal drug money. Banks can’t survive without their laundering services. War on Drugs, it’s a joke. Makes you wonder how many governments, corporations and banks would fail in the advent of legalized drugs

      2. bob

        I agree wuth this. He may have paid his white, american workers better, but a lot of his supply chain was little more than slave labor. He fed them bibles.

      3. Nathanael

        Of course Ford had no interest in benefitting workers. He was a tyrant.

        But he was a *smart* tyrant. He was the sort of tyrant who could successfully run a Brave New World dystopia (which Aldous Huxley noticed, obviously). He knew what he had to do to prevent the workers from revolting, quitting, or sabotaging the equipment; he knew how much he had to give in carrots in order to make the stick work; and he understood Keynesian economics.

        Paying every worker enough to buy a Ford? Well, that means all the money comes back to Ford! The workers effectively build their own cars, pay more to do so than they would if they built them at home, and go home with less money than they would have if they had never started working at Ford! But they’re happy because they have a car and feel like they’re richer. It’s very smart manipulation.

        In contrast, I have been bemoaning the fact that we are ruled by *stupid people* — people who are not merely selfish, greedy and evil, but who don’t even know what’s good for THEM. We are dealing with the likes of Emperor Galba, not Emperor Augustus. This *cannot* turn out well for *anyone*.

        There was an old debate over whether “smart evil” or “stupid evil” is better to deal with. I think that this has been settled. Smart evil is better, because there *is* such a thing as enlightened self-interest. Stupid evil people will make things worse *even when it hurts them*.

        1. LifelongLib

          Part of it is the usual penny-wise, pound-foolish quality of conservatism. Don’t pay people, even if it results in fewer customers. Save money on schools now even though it means (more expensive) prisons later. And so on.

          But I really think the wealthy have decided they can get by without a prosperous middle/working class, at least in the “developed” world. They seem to be gambling that there’ll be enough consumers/cheap producers in China and India to maintain them in their accustomed luxury. The wealthy might be wrong about that but they haven’t completely overlooked the problem.

  17. JGordon

    Libertarians? Why in the hell did you throw in that dig at libertarians?

    As far as I have been able to determine, corporations are state-created entities–no corporation could exist without the explicit blessing of some state actor and with the enactment, by a state, of various laws designed to protect and enhance corporate interests.

    This whole system is designed to become corrupt and degenerate from the get-go. Trying to blame that degeneracy on the few who are interested in living free from it is pretty foul. If you want to cure all the corruption, a good start would be by outlawing and disbanding all corporate entities.

    1. rps

      Yep, revoke their charters.
      ”The people mistakenly assume that we have to try to control these giant corporate repeat offenders one toxic spill at a time, one layoff at a time, one human rights violation at a time. But the law has always allowed the attorney general to go to court to simply dissolve a corporation for wrongdoing and sell its assets to others who will operate in the public interest.”
      http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=1810

      1. different clue

        Which would take state power to enforce, of course. Which would be a publicly beneficial use of state power.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Life is paradoxical like that.

          Maybe it’s to do with more independent variables than number of equations, thus many possible outcomes – one with a small public sector and a private sector with no one dominating, or one with a big public sector to combat the dominant players in the private sector.

          The former is more attractive to me.

          With the latter, it’s possible that we get a Kabuki show where people populating the public sector puts on a good show, but not so effective that they put themselves out of business as well.

          1. different clue

            That’s a possible outcome. That’s certainly the preferred Catfood Obamacrat outcome. But what if the public were to conquer and occupy the Public Sector? Then the public could use its Public Sector government to de-charter black hat perpetrator corporations for real. That too could be a possible outcome in theory at least.

            But it has to be imagined and stated as a possibility before it can even be visualized as a goal to work toward.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Probably more satisfying for the public to conquer and occupy the dominant elements in the private sector first, so we don’t need a big public sector.

          3. different clue

            More satisfying to me to reconquer our own government, if we can, and use it to our regulatory and enforcement benefit. It is, after all, already supposed to be OURS in theory.

  18. Jim Tucker

    Most history deposited in student heads skips the section from 1865 to about 1932 to our detriment, I think.

    At the local university library you will find stories that will curl your toes at the violence perpetrated on human beings that were simply trying to work for a living. 6 year old girls replacing spindles with hands missing fingers after machines pulled them off, or hands smashed flat by stamping machinery. A young girl would play with her friends that night, and her dead body be carried home the next day after her scalp was yanked from her head. 10 and 12 years old boys buried next to their fathers and brothers in the old shafts of mines where they dug the coal to fuel our industry and homes. Companies creating special rail cars with machine guns, later to be used to fire on miner’s camps when they withheld their labor to protest 12 and 16 hour days, low pay, being cheated on their production, paid with company scrip and forced to shop at expensive company stores. Children’s bodies found next to their pets, women and children found burned alive in pits. Stories about the bumbling communists and the Red Scare that STILL influences our attempts at educating people.

    The government called out troops because of threatened worker violence, as if there wasn’t violence already.

    After a cave-in, mine owners wanted to know how many mules were lost, because they cost money. New people would just walk up on their own.

    The LaFollete Committee had an NLRB member who estimated business was by then spending $80 million (in 1932 dollars) on thugs, finks, spies, and weapons, (lots of weapons) to intimidate and control workers.

    “…millionaire Andrew Carnegie, president of the Carnegie Steel Corporation, and his general manager Henry Frick, a milionaire in his own right, destroyed the fledgling Iron and Steelworkers Union in the brutal “Battle of Homestead.” A dozen men had been killed, hundreds wounded, and 3,200 out of 4,000 workers blacklisted so that they could never work in the steel industry again. “We had to teach our employees a lesson and we have taught them one they will never forget,” Frick had cabled to Carnegie, who was vacationing in Scotland. “Life worth living again,” Carnegie cabled back. “Congratulations to all around.”

    from: Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America
    Linda Atkinson. pps 215-216

    Those same beliefs still run busines, and still own the government as they did then. And until workers again try to figure how to own the assets, and fight again as they did back then, it will likely remain so.

    1. scraping_by

      They’re actually keeping up the lies.

      One episode of violence in the 1800′s, the Rock Springs Massacre, is presented solely and simply as a race riot. The otherwise factual Wikipedia article emphasizes the violence, making the Irish miners simple bloodthirsty thugs. They never present the real reason for the riot, which was management labor practices.

      An eye witness account I read told how the Irish miners were more skilled at opening up a seam of coal. However, they were paid more per ton of coal mined than the Chinese workers. So the Union Pacific management would put the Irish in to open the seam, when it produced little coal, and then put in the Chinese miners when it started to produce large amounts. The Irish workers saw, rightly, that their work was being harvested by the management through the Chinese workers.

      Finally tired of being cheated, the Irish miners attacked the nearest at hand, not their tormenters but their tormentors’ tools. Race division, unfair labor practice, stoking violence and then using the government to put it down, America’s elite learns nothing and forgets nothing.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Springs_massacre

    2. Nathanael

      Recall that the 19th century abuses led to the populist/progressive takeover of state governments in the upper midwest.

      The power elite was genuinely afraid of communist revolution when Woodrow Wilson got into power and ameliorated the situation. They had learned nothing, so they were again afraid of communist revolution after 1929 — and then FDR saved the heads of the elite, for which they were completely ungrateful.

      The most common historical outcome of the kinds of abuses which took place in the 19th century is the bloody execution of the people in power. Carnegie lived too early in the pattern of abuses to see his head on a pike, but the next generation of robber barons got very, very lucky to have Wilson and FDR bail them out.

    3. Nathanael

      It’s also worth noting, as a point of military history, that the miners were very successful at unionizing once they realized that the guns of the Pinkertons were no match for *setting minefields* using the dynamite which the owners were *forced* to provide to them.

    1. different clue

      Maybe people should be BUYcotting analog meatspace bookstores for the same reason people should be BUYcotting the USPS by paying their bills through the mail.

    2. Ray Phenicie

      “Should we be boycotting Amazon?”
      Most assuredly, and then you will go to other dealers or portals like Alibris or Adorama or B & H or Bannana Republic or. . .

      Those dealers are probably better at treating their workers but we don’t know that and that is where I would like to put in my thoughts and experience. This applies mainly to books but could apply to consumer electronics as well. The main feature that books have for me is their endurance. A book is a reference point, a gathering point for thoughts, a repository of notes and trailheads for ideas. My books collect note cards, bookmarks, clips and pencilings; as I read connections form and so I need those to stay in my proximity to be of any use. Library books are a temporary stopgap measure in all of this note taking and I may return the book only to check it out again weeks or months later. In short, books are friends, associates, sometime family members or passing acquaintances.

      Honestly, electronic books are not as good for me, but as the price of books goes up (and this article shows me the price jumped tremendously in the short while I read it) I am slowly adjusting and find the electronic media to be as of much value as the hardcopies especially if those can store notations. My point is that during with the recent scandal that swirled over Aaron Swartz’s death I have changed my ideas about bookstores and retailers and dealers in art and culture and come to believe we have a warped way of distributing cultural knowledge, scientific discussions, art creations, music compositions; they are distributed on a fee schedule that corrupts the creative urge of the authors, artists and scientists involved. Creative efforts can be rewarded without resorting to the weird method of making the originator prove their worth in the market place and elevating creatures such as Amazon to be the gatekeepers. We can pay for the creative effort-the rent, the food, the clothes, the medical care, the schooling and other living expenses without resorting to the carnival of best seller lists and web sites filled with ads that don’t tell anything about the book. Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes book reviews, publications and web sites devoted to literary review and commentary serve well enough to steer me towards my next friend and his glossy, inky pages.
      We need, as a society, to take the humanities seriously again. The society that bows low every day in the direction of Silicon Valley is not a society that will stay together very long. We must, if we are to ever regain our sanity, turn off all the lights, peer into the darkness and write and talk about what we see and hear when the electronic noise shuts down.

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        From the public comments about the Predator drone toy, sounds like many people feel the same way.

  19. 2 people; one head

    Rewind-

    “I wonder what the state would have done to them if they left their jobs?”

    “When these workers were perfectly free to walk away from their employer any time they chose.”

  20. scraping_by

    You’ve actually contradicted yourself.

    It does sound like the workers were illegals or guest workers from Eastern Europe. Recruited, not self-selected.

    So if the employer could turn them in, they also couldn’t leave without facing jail time. Works that way in most of the packing plants in the US.

    Jail time is one of the threats employers use to keep illegals quiet and under wraps. Nations do have a right to control their own borders, but like any law, it can be twisted for bad uses.

    Oppression is a cycle, deliberate on the part of the employer. The worker is abused, and by giving in, is likely to be abused again. A downward spiral that appeals to the worst people in the world. The corrupt are attracted to power.

  21. Patrick

    I bet Charlie Rose doesn’t ask Bezos any questions about this at their next lovefest – interview.

    In the US business leaders are to be fawned over, not interogated.

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