The Need for a New Way to Organize Society
A human is so far separated from the process of production of a good he/she consumes in modern times that he/she has no direct control over it. In contrast, a human during ancient times would have virtually complete control over the production process. Furthermore, in a system that values efficiency over all else, the modern method of production has to be one of the most inefficient ways to produce goods at the individual level. If a person wants a pair of shoes and has a design in mind, he/she has to visit various shoe stores, look at numerous shoes, and possibly decide upon a pair that still might not fit his/her exact need. Since a large percentage of shoes produced do not find suitors, the waste of resources is enormous, which mocks the very definition of economics – the allocation of scarce resources.
‘Efficiency’ attained by the producers of goods during the production process is effectively negated by the inefficiency of post-production. In fact, letting the aforementioned person create their own pair of shoes would not only prevent enormous waste of scarce resources but it would also enable him/her to produce one that would fit his/her exact need. In addition, there would be the additional satisfaction of making one’s own shoes from beginning to end.
However, in today’s world, putting a shoe together would be like working outside of work. Humans get so little time off from work that they would rather go buy a pair of shoes from the store even if it might not fit their exact need or even if they would have no knowledge of who produced the pair or how it was produced. For all they know, it could have been a child working under terrible conditions in China that made them. Time off from work is so precious that even thinking about that or researching it would eat away any leisure time available.
Leisure time, time off from work, has become the only thing that makes life worth living for a majority of people in the world. Work has come to be seen as an evil necessity. A compelling explanation for why people abhor work is that work has become repetitive, specialized, and meaningless. The work we perform has little connection to our true interests and talents and the final product or service we partially contribute to has no use for us.
The way labor is organized bears major consequences for human happiness, in addition to the allocation of scare resources. In the current system of capitalism (which includes China and Russia), labor is organized in such a way that workers receive as income much less than what they actually produce for their employers (the discrepancy is called labor surplus) and the work performed is so specialized and repetitive (in order to increase labor surplus) that workers are alienated from what they do. They derive little satisfaction out of the process of production they are engaged in because they do not choose what they produce or how they produce it. The system is designed in such a way that the wants of the employers overshadow and subordinate the wants of the workers, which results in employers dictating how the workers work and enforcing routines and methods that make the workers as productive as possible, as opposed to as satisfied as possible.
The Club Labor System
There are many other ways of organizing labor that could possibly bring more happiness to people and more meaning to the work that they perform. The only reason that labor is organized in a capitalistic manner in the present time is because of the power that capitalists possess to preserve the institutions that perpetuate capitalism. Of course, they want to preserve this system because it gives them the ability to extract the most output from workers but pay them a lot less than what they generate, and keep most of the labor surplus, or the profit, for themselves. The money they derive through the labor surplus from their workers is usually so disproportionate to what the workers are paid that the total surplus is enough for them to pay to affect policies of the government, control the media, maintain a security force that protects their interests, hire top lawyers to defend their legitimacy, and on top of that, keep enormous profits to grow even more powerful.
I am now going to discuss another type of system to organize labor that would not only give people greater choice and control over their work but also return to them the labor surplus that they generate. This system is loosely based on the organization style of a club.
A club is simply defined as an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal. The structure of the club is such that the goals and strategies of the club are chosen through a democratic process in which all the members of the club engage in direct or indirect voting. The funds obtained by the club, usually through the members’ contributions or through fundraising, are then used to attain the goals of the club by following strategies and methodologies decided upon by the committee (which consists of all members). Since every member plays a part in every decision made by the club if he/she wishes to, the organization of labor in achieving the goals of the club is based on the interest of all members and not just one or a few.
In terms of the labor surplus, if there is labor surplus (the member putting in more effort than he/she gets rewarded for, financially and psychologically), once again, the club committee would vote on how to distribute the surplus and to whom. If the members decide to take back the surplus that they generated, say if it was money the club received from its operations, they can simply vote on this policy and divide the surplus amongst themselves. However, as this might prove problematic as far as the specifics are concerned, the club could operate in a way where no disputable surplus is generated, which I will elaborate on a little later.
Therefore, the relevant features of the club in terms of the organization of labor is that the decisions made by the club would be democratic through its members, the members would be self-motivated and satisfied to perform work on behalf of the club, and the labor surplus, if generated, would not be used to benefit a single member or a small group of members of the club.
To quickly contrast the features of the corporation, all the corporation’s decisions are made by a very small group of stakeholders (the board of directors), the worker’s personal goals and wants are misaligned with that of the corporation (which is to make more profit for the owners), the payment to the worker is a lot less than what he/she generates for the corporation, and this labor surplus is distributed through a highly undemocratic process.
There is a good likelihood that the corporation would be more efficient than the club in terms of production but the simple reason for that would be that the members of the club would choose not to endure working conditions and methods that would be the most efficient but rather would choose conditions and methods that would be the fairest and most inclusive. There would be a shift in priority from efficiency to fairness, from specialization to greater involvement in production, from repetitiveness to variety; in other words, from owner to worker.
Features of the Club Labor System
I will now discuss some prominent features of the club labor system that distinguishes it from the capitalist labor system.
First off, self-sustainability and greater communal responsibility will be promoted in the club labor system and these will be rewarded by giving people greater freedom and greater variety when it comes to work and giving people opportunities to work on what truly interests them or where they feel their true talents lie.
The club system will not force any individual to perform any particular type of work or to give up something for the community but rather it will provide incentives for people to contribute to the community. Moreover, individuals will be able to request their own compensations based on their contributions in production, provided that it is a fair assessment. In addition, they will have a say in how much is paid to other members of a club for their contributions. All members will evaluate the fairness of a compensation request and a majority vote will grant this request.
This democratic system of determining compensation for effort will not only ensure that everyone is compensated fairly but it will also maintain natural checks on overcompensation and greed. The most humane aspect of this compensation system is that it will be based on human empathy and not on mathematical calculations. This system will take advantage of natural human abilities of giving credit where it is due that have been developed over thousands of years of communal existence that have given way, quite unreasonably, to impersonal and soulless computer calculations in the capitalist system.
Clubs in the community will provide all the goods and services in demand besides those that would be considered human rights: health care, education, and public transportation. Those services considered human rights would be provided by the government, which is already the case in countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.
The education system will be based on all-round education, the pattern that the work system will follow as well. The introduction of students to all kinds of topics will enable them to find their true interest as well as practice a more holistic way of thinking. In addition, all students will be exposed to farming, weaving, toolmaking, carpentry and so on to a degree that they would be able to live a self-sustaining life if they desired. These skills and knowledge gained from education will be utilized and honed in the self-rotating club labor system.
Supplying Necessary Goods and Services AND Bringing Enjoyment to Work
The most revolutionary aspect of the club system would be its self-sustaining and self-rotating labor system. Club membership would be based on two distinct criteria: the interests of an individual and the wants of an individual. First off, the labor system will not be rigid but rather free-flowing in the sense that an individual does not only have to be a member of a single club at one time but can be a member of several clubs. For example, in one week, a person can work as a part of the pizza-making club, the public works construction club, the neurology research club, the farm club, the classical music club, and the shoe-making club. However, the person would have to pay attention to how much income he/she is earning as the revenues for these different clubs would be different, and so would the respective income one could derive from them. If the person desires more income, he/she would work more in clubs that produce goods and services that would be in higher demand. Therefore, if the said person had higher wants and thus needed higher income to fulfill them, he/she would spend more time working in the pizza-making club, the construction club, the farm club, and perhaps the shoe-making club more than the neurology research club and the classical music club, assuming that the demand for neurology research and classical music is lower than the former ones. On the other hand, a person with lower wants would have the freedom to engage more in clubs that truly interests him/her while also putting in effort in the basic clubs to maintain a basic wage. In this way, the goods and services that have the highest demand level would be taken care of first and foremost.
Furthermore, a very important feature of the club system would be that there would be incentives such as discounts for purchasing products and services from a club one works for, which, in turn, would motivate a person to work in a club that produces what he/she wants. In this way, a person would produce goods and services that he/she wants and that would consequently greatly diminish the problem of supply-demand discrepancy. Additional motivation to help make products one wants would be that the work would be more meaningful since the member would have a direct interest in the product and the person would have greater control over the production process of a product, which would ensure a higher quality product as well.
The rotation system would not mean that a club member would leave a club in the middle of a production cycle because that kind of irresponsible behavior would be discouraged by the income vote by the club committee if there is consensus that the behavior was irresponsible and unfair. The club committee meetings in regards to income for its members would be held at the end of each production cycle. Since the production cycle of different clubs would be different, members would stay longer in some clubs than others throughout the production cycle. For example, the production cycle for the Italian cuisine club could be the preparation of meals for lunch while that for a public works construction club could be the construction of a public landmark.
This system would naturally and quickly evolve into a system where the compensation for work that would be less desirable, require greater effort or demand longer stay would be substantially more than work that would be more interesting, easier, or shorter. In fact, if labor supply were to be chronically less than the labor demand for certain work, then the government would be able to provide further tax incentives or other incentives to attract people to those positions. Either way, this would not mean that a person would only have to perform less desirable work. He/she would be free to engage in more interesting and meaningful work during the work week in the rotational system that ensures variety in work.
Concomitantly, people with greater material wants and desires would have to work proportionately harder and do less interesting work than people with fewer wants and desires as those types of work would be where the most income would be available. This fair system would reward those willing to work harder. People who will have developed special skills and talents would also be rewarded accordingly through the simple labor supply and labor demand mechanism that would be much more fluid in the club labor system.
This kind of system could also discourage excessive material consumption as people could begin to realize that they would rather do interesting work than basic work in exchange for owning lesser things than more things. This would do wonders to alleviate environmental degradation as well as reveal to the person alternative ways of attaining contentment to the belief that material consumption brings happiness.
Funding the Club
The way that clubs would fund themselves to acquire the means of production as well as raw materials would be through interest-free loans from the government. The loans would be expected to be paid back not in lump sum but in installments at the end of every production cycle or a reasonable period of time. The repayment would be carefully planned such that it would not encroach upon the labor surplus of a club member or necessitate unreasonably high prices for the goods and services provided by a club.
Because the only recurring costs not covered by the loan would be labor costs, the prices charged by clubs for a product or service would incorporate only the labor that has gone into it and a small amount extra for the repayment of the government loan. Since there would be no profits or capital accumulation, there would not exist any large monopolies or oligopolies to charge prices higher than those dictated by the mechanism of supply and demand. Thus, fair prices will be universal as well. Immense corporations that just sweep aside small businesses in the current world would become a thing of the past. Also, the average club would usually be small in size, depending on the products or services they provide. An example of a larger club would be one that produces airplanes. There would be no desire for club to grow as there would be no incentive to increase profit for the club. A club would be large only if it absolutely needed to be, in light of what it produces.
Government and Tax under the Club Economy
Individual income tax would fund most government projects and programs. Individuals would be taxed monthly based on the types of clubs he/she worked for that month. Tax rates would be about the same as current rates in most developed countries but the individual income would be much higher than in capitalism because instead of being given back only a small portion of what a worker actually makes for the company, the worker will receive income equivalent to what they make for the club. It may be hard to believe, given how workers have come to accept the current incomes they receive as normal, but getting back an equivalent compensation for what one produces would raise the income by an enormous amount.
The tax system would be progressive, in that greater income would incur a higher marginal tax rate. However, the progression gradient of the tax rate would not be as steep as in capitalism because income would be mostly derived from doing actual work, as opposed to investing in shares or extracting exorbitant salary and bonuses. This would also mean that the society under the club system would be much more egalitarian, yet people willing to work harder for greater income would be able to do so without unreasonably high marginal tax rates.
Tax incentives would also be extensively used in the club system. Firstly, low tax rates would be applied to the portion of work performed to produce basic goods and services in order to promote work in areas that have the most demand but that could be less interesting than others. Secondly, portion of work performed for public services such as health care, education, and public transportation would carry the lowest tax possible. This would ensure that public services are of high quality because the demand for low-taxed jobs in the public sector would create healthy competition among applicants who are motivated to attain higher income. Moreover, as the club system would create a society that fosters higher standards of morality and altruism than capitalism, there would also be a lot of people applying for public jobs in order to help their fellow humans.
The taxes raised by the government would be used to provide social welfare such as free education, universal health care, and subsidized public transportation. In addition, the government would also use its funds to provide interest-free loans to clubs in order for them to purchase the means of production. Because the club itself would have no selfish motive, it would be reliable in repaying the loan.
The government would also fund a public but independent department of ethics, which would consist of people who would be responsible to ensure that the functioning of the club system is as ethical as possible. This department would perform auditing at all levels of the club system. Once again, the workers for the ethics department would incur the lowest possible tax rate and receive other incentives for performing work that many might consider uninteresting. Any unethical activities perpetrated by club members regarding government funding or price-setting would be investigated by this department. The repercussions of unethical activity could range from incurring a higher tax rate for a certain period to jail time, depending on the offense.
Starting the Club System
Clubs already exist and have existed for some time in human society but that organizational form has rarely gone beyond simple interests and hobbies. The idea of starting a business instead of starting a club to produce goods or services must have been one of those ideas that no one really bothered to question. The promotion of self-interest by modern economics must have also played a vital role in turning people towards business. However, if there is a group of altruistic, innovative, and freedom-loving people that is willing to make a true change by providing any kind of good or service to the community without any profit incentive while still earning a decent income, then this would be the perfect time to start a club.
Very soon the club would beat its capitalist competitor on the price for the good or service as that company would need the labor surplus it extracts from its workers to pay for several things including profit that the club would not have to worry about. Even after the members retaining compensation for a large part of the labor they invest the club can beat the price of the corporation and start becoming more well known in the community, not only for their community work, but also for providing higher quality and locally produced products and services for cheaper prices.
The club would be seen as a pioneer in the community and inspire various other clubs that will entice corporate workers that are sick of working repetitive and meaningless jobs and being paid much less than what they produce for the company. They would be further attracted by the democratic governance of the club and being offered to truly feel a part of something good. Moreover, the service provided to the community will invite further praises and good vibes that will make the club concept spread fast.
As the number of clubs grow, members of a club can join other clubs and bring variety into their work lives. The learning experience will be enjoyable too. In addition, the community spirit would provide many more opportunities for social interaction and camaraderie within the clubs as well as among the stakeholders of the clubs including customers.
The success of the clubs and the newfound enjoyment and meaning of community-oriented work will have a viral effect and clubs will begin to mushroom in large numbers, which will even pressure large corporations. Because the clubs will have the support of the community and lower prices for similar quality products, this tension between the clubs and the corporations will attract political interest. In order to appease the people of the community, the government will begin legislating policies that eventually give decisive advantage to the clubs. Then it will only be a matter of time before the club culture becomes pandemic and soon enough the country welcomes a new freer, fairer, and friendlier labor system than has ever existed before. It is not a far stretch from that to its spread around the highly connected world.
Development in the areas of science and technology should not be confused as the byproduct of capitalism. The club system would ensure even better progress in science and technology because it would be aimed at the benefit of the community instead of the benefit of a few privileged people. A community that wants great developments in science and technology will get great developments in science and technology in the club system because of two factors. First, a high demand for science and technology will create clubs dedicated to them. Secondly, high interest in scientific and technological development would ensure the creation of such clubs as well. Moreover, there will be voracious research at public universities as people base their education on their interests instead of shaping themselves for a specialized workforce and not only will science and technology flourish but so will art, music, culture, philosophy, and film.
Most importantly, the club system would pave way for a society that is freer, more equal, and has greater communal togetherness. Capitalism, despite feeding us with illusions that it is the best system for human progress and for being rewarded for hard work, has made us dislike work, become slaves to employment, become distrustful in other humans, engender false hopes of happiness, disconnect from nature, and become unable to take care of ourselves. The simple recapture of labor surplus by those who created it through clubs would truly bring unprecedented change and go a long way in eliminating class struggle that has existed in all hitherto human societies. The club system will herald the long-awaited emancipation of the worker and commence a rise to a truly egalitarian and humanist society. However, it will not be the final step; but it will be a giant leap in human progress.
The idea of the club labor system is simple. Because of that exact reason, it will be easier to start, easier to maintain, and easier to change if the need arises. But above all, simple ideas are the ones that work the best because there are fewer variables to account for. With all due respect to capitalism, corporations do not belong to the human club no matter what rights they have been given and it is high time that real humans decide their own fate as a people.