AIER: The Obama Film “American Factory” Backfires

The American Institute for Economic Research has up a short article discussing the film American Factory which was perhaps meant to be about workplace culture clashes or the diminishment of wages and benefits when there workers are not unionized. The AIER contents that it is instead a “damning snapshot of American labor entitlement.”

Higher Ground, the production company founded by Michelle and Barack Obama, has released the first of a planned seven-film series on Friday. American Factory chronicles the opening of a Chinese factory near Dayton, Ohio, where a GM plant closed in 2008. It’s reasonable to suppose that the point was to alarm us about the wiles of global capitalism. Oddly, the film might have the opposite effect on many viewers. It certainly did for me.

The documentary opens with a prayer on the day the plant closes as tearful workers see the last vehicle come off of the production line. A few years later, Fuyao Glass announced its intent to open a glass-production facility in the shuttered facility. One of our first glimpses is of a question and answer as American employees of the Chinese firm speak about the goals of the firm to prospective employees: they plan to employ several thousand people in all capacities, but mostly blue-collar work of the type that disappeared when the local GM plant shut down. One prospect asks if this will be a union shop. No, he is told. The plan is to be non-union…

nitially, the woman who has been living in her sister’s basement has moved into an apartment. She extols her reacquired independence. Other employees bemoan their non-union pay and conditions but seem contented; they or friends and family have lost houses, have seen communities torn apart, and know firsthand the double impact of the so-called Great Recession and increasing competition from China. But even that wears off over time.

The work is sometimes dangerous, and the pay is lower than many of the workers have previously received, and before long thankfulness is replaced by myopia. Despite the company’s warnings, there are rumblings about unionization, and a United Automobile Workers agitator is caught walking through the private workspace with a “Union Yes” sign held aloft. The ineffectiveness of American managers to quash the unionization efforts leads to their sudden termination, and the Chinese CEO threatens to close the plant if it continues.

The same workers who, a short time before, were deeply appreciative of their unlikely bounty then begin to badmouth the company. Some are meeting secretly with union officials. Ultimately employees hold a vote, and the result is somewhat surprising.

There are two particularly telling moments in the film. In one, a Chinese manager teaches a class on how to deal with Americans, whom the Chinese line employees are training. Americans, he explains, need constant encouragement. It’s a hilarious and somewhat cringeworthy section…

 

Click here to read the entire article at AIER.

 

AIER: The Real Problem Is the Politicization of Everything

Kai Weiss at the American Institute for Economic Research has a nice, short article on the problems of over-politicization and the solution thereto – The Real Problem Is the Politicization of Everything. Unfortunately, at least one of the sides will reject the idea of a less-intrusive state.

…This is a problem the great C.S. Lewis also saw when he mused that we should focus on “a household laughing together over a meal, or two friends talking over a pint of beer, or a man alone reading a book that interests him.” Meanwhile, “economies, politics, law, armies, and institutions, save insofar as they prolong and multiply such scenes, are a mere ploughing the sand and sowing the ocean, a meaningless vanity and vexation of the spirit. Collective activities are, of course, necessary, but this is the end to which they are necessary.”

So what is a possible way out of this conundrum? A multitude of proposals have been made to detoxicate today’s climate, and it would frankly be pretentious for me to claim to know the solution. Nonetheless, one surefire way, as friends of liberty will quickly point out, is to get politics out of our lives. As Kristian Niemietz notes, “The most obvious antidote to a dysfunctional, adversarial political culture is just to do less politics.”

What does that require? It necessitates a dramatic reduction in the size and scope of the state, the building of a wall between the state (so long as it exists) and the rest of our lives, and the restoration of the conviction that society works best when it is left alone. In other words, we need desperately to resurrect the vision of classical liberalism and draw lessons from its modern heirs in the libertarian tradition…

To regain civility in human interactions and finally treat other human beings as human beings again, we would do well to get politics out of human affairs.

Click here to read the entire article at AIER.org.