An Uncomprehending Look at the Far Left

Mr Swartz is on the (far) left, which he thinks should be a larger plurality. In this post expressing that sentiment he writes:

It quickly became clear that I was the only person even remotely on the left. And it wasn’t simply that the others disagreed with me; they couldn’t even understand me. I remember us discussing a scene in Invisible Man where a factory worker brags he’s so indispensable that when he was out sick the boss drove to his house and begged him to come back, agreeing to put him in charge. When I suggested Ellison might be implying that labor, not management, ought to run workplaces, the other students (and the teacher) didn’t just disagree—they found the idea incomprehensible. How could you run a factory without managers?

And thereby it becomes clear why the left which Mr Swartz envisions is so small … it’s because the ideas he holds are so, well, wrong in a very obvious way.

Imagine as Mr Swartz suggests a “factory without managers.” How might that proceed. Well, consider that factory entirely consisting of managers. Somebody of course has to procure raw materials … and a good price would be nice. So one or more of the workers, depending on the size of the plant, isn’t on the plant floor, he’s making calls and finding suppliers. Somebody (or more people again depending on the plant size) has to manage the cash-flow: ingoing, outgoing, and arranging for lines of credit. People will have to locate buyers, find markets, locate new ways of the products produced at the factory to be used. Some people will need to tool up for new product, decide “build or buy” on new property for expansion and arrange for the, uhm, capital as is necessary.  Additionally some of those workers will need to arrange for the hiring of new workers, assist during health emergencies, and could even help plan retirement plans. Others will need to do engineering or basic science work to figure out new and better ways to manufacture whatever it is this factory produces. These roles, oddly enough, are indispensable. They all  in fact take quite a bit of hard work. Additionally many of these roles take more expertise and background training than an unskilled labourer requires, which cost that person time and money in order to acquire. A plant manufacturing “stuff” if it is real actually depends on these sorts of services. We have a name for those people in those roles, that name for people watching the supply chain, doing sales, managing capital and doing HR services are what we call management. Oddly enough the idea is in fact incomprehensible. It is in fact impossible to run a factory without managers in a actual real world situation.

So it seems this is the sort of leftist who finds it sad that factories which don’t actually sell their product, acquire raw materials, and so on … are not seen as realistic. Or to put it another way, I find it completely incomprehensible that Mr Swartz figures on running a factory without people performing the jobs and roles noted above. Who will do this? How and why? There must be a standard answer in his repertoire. What might that be?

My commenter JA scoffs at my idea that those the communist sympathizers and the sympathies held by the left in the mid to late 80s didn’t suddenly have an epiphany and decide that everything they believed was wrong. That they instead have softened their rhetoric and acquired camouflage. Part of his difficulty with that sort of notion is that Mr Obama is of this generation and himself being somewhat younger and one of the “non left lefties” that Mr Swartz complains realize that the socialist/communist dreams of the 80s left has not been inherited by the younger left.

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5 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    Actually wouldn’t a ‘factory without managers’ be essentially small businesses and the Yeoman farmer idea Jefferson envisioned (as opposed to ‘big finance’ lover Hamilton)?

    Very little of the post you cite, though, is about how to run factories but about Chomsky’s criticism of the media. What’s interesting about this left wing view of the media is that it is essentially the same view the right wing likes to put forth about the media. That it’s dominated by giant institutions that shape the debate and keeps certain points of view out of the mainstream discussion while pushing (or over-hyping) other points of view that are more friendly to a preconceived ‘agenda’.

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    I work for a small business, numbering about 15. We have managers and salesmen. They work hard and are necessary. I don’t think anything larger than a half dozen people needs management. So, the question is then I guess do you think that every manufacturing or essential job can be done by small business? Can a small business build an commercial aeroframe like a 747?

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Oh, I might add there are (some) companies in fact which are essentially nothing but management. General contracting firms for example basically do little but manage.

  4. Boonton says:

    As I said, the post was not really about how manufacturing firms should be set up and managed. Do I think Jefferson’s model is workable? Not really, although I think it is more workable today than it was in, say 1950.

  5. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    I won’t disagree that the point of the post wasn’t about business w/o management. But the little story the author started off with seemed something that he believed and I found unbelievable.

    Do you really think business can be run w/o management? Just “workers”? Truly?