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Jon Kofas – American Workers And The Welfare State

Are American workers “inefficient” (producing more at a lower cost to their counterparts around the world) or are they the cause for the lack of “competitiveness”? Are US wages too high and productivity too low, and is efficiency measured only in terms of maximum profits to the exclusion of all other factors? Are workers the reason that US companies relocating to Mexico, Vietnam, China, Brazil and other countries as part of the de-industrialization process in the last forty years?

The argument that workers are fault for the ills of the US economy started during the first Industrial Revolution in England more than two centuries ago. During the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, the argument of worker inefficiency was used to prevent labor organizers and keep wages low and government away from regulating hours, safety and child labor. Clearly, a child, a woman and a minority male was worked more efficiently because they received considerably less than their white male counterpart during the period when trusts and cartels enjoyed unquestioned influence over all levels of government and the courts.

 

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