Pragmatism is Better than Ideology
Adam Kotsko posts on An und für sich HERE
“The reverse invisible hand”
“As we all know, capitalist accumulation is guided by the “invisible hand,” which ensures that the selfish and short-sighted choices of individual capitalists fit together into a beneficial whole that promotes long-term wealth-creation for all. What’s less well known is that for workers, the situation is reversed: their self-interested decisions add up to create a situation that is more and more disadvantageous for workers as a whole. Examples abound. On the individual level, taking an unpaid internship can give one a leg up on the competition — on the whole, it creates a situation where more and more work is being done on an unpaid basis, so that there are fewer slots available for paid workers.”
I shall ignore on this occasion any comments on Adam Kotso’s repetition of the usual nonsense from modern economics about the “invisible hand”. Instead, I shall comment on the assertions he makes about “unpaid internships” being part of his assessment of capitalist exploitation.
I see unpaid internships and paid 'modern' apprenticships as an extended job interview and better than making a decision on the basis of one or two interviews, which usually are not informed by evidence of a candidate’s range of suitability. This can lead to early terminations for disciplinary breaches (not turning up for work regularly), or not showing those little positive attitudinal benefits on a daily basis (getting on with colleagues and customers), the absence of which make their employment stressful all round.
It’s not all one way by any means. A few weeks work in a work role can also enlighten the unpaid employee. They may too discover they are not suited or do not wish to be suited for that type of work. They end up with some experience too which in itself is of benefit to other employers, both private capitalists, public, NGOs and private individuals.
Ignoring the consequences of politically motivated interventions is typical of (albeit well meaning) stances. In France the restrictive labour laws in the cases of young people and adults too was to raise the costs of employing the unemployed because of the difficulty of correcting mistakes in recruitment of what turns out to be unsuitable candidates. Hence, youth unemployment is higher that it needs to be even in the current recession.
Pragmatism rather than ideology is relevant when discussing practical problems and selecting and testing potential solutions to them.