May 1995, The Quill


The Workplace


Over the last thirty years, the increase in personal freedom, autonomy, and self-expression has been accompanied by corresponding changes in the workplace. A generation ago, businesses often accepted the idea of paying a steadily increasing lifetime “family wage” to an appropriately loyal “breadwinning” employee. Now, while American individuals are much more mobile and enjoy a high standard of living compared to much of the world, businesses look to employees as contingent resources (otherwise, as fixed expenses). The notion that “Greed is Good” applies to both businesses and persons.


Much has been written about middle class “downward mobility.” People, often owing more on their houses than their net worth, cannot maintain a standard of living, because their skills have lost “fair market value,” much like real estate. Now, the catchall phrase is “entrepreneurialism” – which can downgrade into buying your own job. It is probably prudent to view one’s earning potential as consisting of two parts: (1) what the person could earn, freelancing, one day at a time, on the everyday value of one’s typical skills; (2) the value added from long term association with and loyalty to a single business.


The bridge concept is “teamwork,” often coupled with “total quality management.” Companies are quickly rediscovering the reality that long term success cannot be achieved without reciprocal commitments. Companies replace a “Peter Principle” hierarchy with a confederation of self-managed teams, which conceptually could even move as groups from one client to another as projects and needs change, but which are always accountable for results.


Teamwork provides an opportunity for libertarian principles. Imagine the possibility of a company’s providing a team a variable, results-oriented bulk compensation budget, which members could reallocate among themselves as they perceived each other’s contributions and needs. Teams could make “hiring” decisions, and would work out the psychological tensions between employees with different levels of family responsibility. The end result could be greater career stability and progress for many people. Government needs to give industry and “labor” the chance to work these ideas out by relaxing some labor regulations, and needs to make employee ownership even more attractive. Individuals will find that they can rehearse new skills more quickly and “keep up” when they find they are important to other people.




On March 13 (1995) the first major challenge to the “new” military policy, “don’t ask don’t tell,” was argued in Federal District Court in New York. Everyone should read The New Republic editorial on March 27, which angrily conveys the SLDN report of shocking abuses of the due process rights of some servicemembers supposedly given a “zone of privacy” by the “new” policy. And on March 11, a significant piece by me discussing the constitutional issues of The Ban and relating the history of unsuccessful efforts to secure a “Live and Let Live” policy was published in Ground Zero News (below).


On March 30, the (lower) District Court ruled that the “new policy” is unconstitutional because its “presumption” provision inhibits lawful free speech. To tell the truth, I am not optimistic that the higher courts will ultimately overturn the military’s subjective discretion in deciding personnel standards for military service (the “old” Ban), or, even in interpreting certain statements as “presumptive” evidence of (future or past) prohibited conduct (the  “new” Ban). There are even judicial scenarios which would anchor the notion of military “deference” if the practice of “asking” were officially resumed; hence Newt Gingrich clumsily proposed to restore the “old” Ban based on “suitability.” However The Ban is formulated, it is supported by the troublesome notion of the government’s judging citizens inclinations and associations to prove specific “criminal” acts.


Rather than counting on a long court fight, we should be starting a debate on a carefully crafted Right to Privacy constitutional amendment – an addition to the Bill of Rights – one which would legally protect once and for all the practice of consensual, adult, private, non-fraternal intimate relations, and the right of a woman to make decisions about her own body (at least during the earliest weeks of pregnancy), and, finally, the right to be free of involuntary servitude or conscription.


©Copyright 1995 by Bill Boushka and GLIL, subject to fair use.


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