ECONOMICS - 21st CENTURY BUG
21st century bug
“Get Real. This is
the 21st century.” Kevin Rudd sprang that surprise in order
to dismiss trade union concerns about his IR policy. Two days later, his
deputy announced an end to the Industrial Relations Commission as yet
other 20th-century institution.
Under Rudd, everything
is to be 21st century. The ALP slogan is no longer “It’s
time” but “It’s the future.”
John Howard responded
by presenting nuclear power and Work Choices as the 21st
century. The election has become a contest between Now-ists.
Here is a little list
of what else must be abolished if we do all the running we can to stay
on the one spot.
First to the chopping
block will be the late eighteenth-century doctrines of free trade and
the division of labour, courtesy of Adam Smith.
Next to go will be the
joint-stock company, that contraption left over from the 1830s. Like the
IRC, this device for garnering money served us well for its time.
Without it, we would still be waiting for the first rail network. Now is
the post-supersonic age.
Moving right along, the
axe will fall on the corporation, that legal fiction concocted as long
ago as the 1880s. Granted, the corporation also played its part by
fixing prices, squashing medium-size firms and subordinating smaller
businesses. But that was another 19th-century solution.
Also to disappear will
be two attempts to bring the corporation up to date. The
multi-divisional corporation is as ancient as Anzac. The multi-national
corporation is a hangover from the era of black-and-white television.
There can be no place for corporations of any stamp in the 21st
century. Indeed, there will be no room for the firm.
Getting rid of the
pre-2000 institutions for the concentration of capital will leave only
individual workers and very small businesses. In Rudd’s real existing
21st century, workers will not need to organise into unions,
or to strike, or to approach the IRC.
Instead, they all will be either self-employed or negotiating
with only one other person.
How did equality get
itself into the 21st-century?