I have written an earlier post along the same vein as this one but given that labor day has passed it seems appropriate to write about it again. In this instance the impetus I had to write was an article I read on USA today(http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/08/28/low-wage-workers/2711379/).

One of the first things mentioned in the article is the lack of economic opportunity in this country. This is unavoidable due to the nature of capitalism itself which has no connection with social aspirations. Capitalism is defined by its boom-bust cycles and the way it benefits one set of nations by the labor of others. While the United States benefited from the low wages of other countries in the past, the wheels have turned and it is now other countries that are slowly benefiting from our low production costs. As more and more of the jobs in this country become low-wage jobs then it only stands to reason that economic opportunities will dwindle for the majority of workers.

And while it pains me to say this, corporations make a good point in the article concerning the relationship between wages and prices. Wages is the highest cost of labor so it follows that raising wages will inversely affect profits. The more workers are paid the less capitalists will make in profits and the more prices will have to raised in order to keep the previous profit level. This is the one defense that capitalism affords to capitalists, the one bulwark it has against worker demands.

This is the great irony that is constantly thrown in our faces whenever we ask for more. If we ask for more then all is doomed. But if capitalists ask for more then it will herald in an age of prosperity for all! More for the workers will end in disaster but more for the owners will usher in opportunity for the rest of us. But as we have seen, more for the owners has done nothing but increase opportunity and wealth for themselves.

There is one last point I wish to show that is raised in the article which I have written about before. The article speaks of the relationship between employment levels and wages and how one affects the other. I don't suspect many people understand that high unemployment works in the favor of capitalists since a high employment level allows them a greater pool of workers to choose from. The more workers there are that are seeking a job, the more they will compete amongst themselves in order to attain that job. And the only way workers can compete with each other is to lower their cost, to work for lower wages than those around them.

This all works in the favor of capitalists and we can see how high unemployment would be preferable so long as it doesn't interfere with their profit margins. And while the capitalists reap the benefits of our despair we must fight each other to survive and learn to live with less.

 
 
 The Israeli government's recent decision to end the exemption to military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews has caused me to question Israel's future social cohesion and existence. While Israel's future has traditionally been threatened by its regional neighbors and armed anti-Israel groups, this decision has the potential to pave the way to civil war and self-induced disintegration. Indeed, even ultra-orthodox leaders say this decision could result in a civil war if it is enforced and their people conscripted. The idea of forced conscription is causing much anxiety among the religious right who see their way of life and rights infringed upon. But I don't think it's the conscriptions themselves that will cause the ultimate problem.

Suppose that the ultra-orthodox do serve and are able to attain military experience, what will that mean for the rest of Israel? Does secular Israel truly expect a large, demographically significant population with military experience to stay passive? These religious Jews would already feel persecuted against for being forced to serve in the military so can secular Israel expect them to not use their new found skills against those who they may not see as truly pious like themselves? And what of their support for the settlements that their kin are erecting on occupied land? The Israeli government has already steps to remove settlements and sometimes forcibly remove settlers, all of which agitates the religious right. What does the secular Jewish population believe will happen when they begin to arm and train people who share the beliefs of those same extremist settlers?

To expect a people that feels persecuted and looked down upon to simply turn their swords into ploughs while a government opposes that which it thinks is right borders on the insane. We would remiss to not expect a similar situation as we see in the United States with far-right militia groups. Only a fool arms his mistreated slave and expects him to continue to obey under the whip. Even worse, only a fool attacks and criticizes a person's way of life and then arms him.

Many secular Jews feel anger at the discrimination they feel as they are forced to serve their country while others earn an exemption through religious studying. This anger can manifest itself in military units when secular Jews bully or otherwise degrade their fellow religious comrades. The newly recruited pious soldiers would not soon forget this slight and would have greater reason to dislike the rest of society. To avoid this negative environment many new recruits may join the Nahal Haredi, an IDF unit composed of fundamentalist soldiers. On the surface this may seem like a win-win situation since the religious will still serve while better able to abide by their religious restrictions. But upon closer inspection I think this will prove to be an extremely dangerous Pandora’s box.

By having a unit composed primarily, if not exclusively, of a certain type of citizen you do nothing but reinforce their feeling of separateness and isolation. They are made to feel that their life and belief system is so different that they must be kept separate in order to be useful. Such a unit also breeds a sense of unity among only the religious right at the expense of a sense of solidarity with the rest of society. If violence between the secular and non-secular portions of Israel were to erupt, which side would a fundamentalist unit side with? There is no reason to expect that the Nahal Haredi would not rise to the defense of their pious brethren and form a nucleus around which others like them would congregate around. This nucleus would be a ready made leadership and training apparatus from which they could prepare for and execute a conflict with the rest of society.

The existence of this unit and the ending of the service exemption seems to me to be a very dangerous and naïve thing. The government is simply trading a lesser evil, a disgruntled population that dislikes either bearing the burden of military service or the social stigma of not having to, for the far greater evil of having a trained minority which does not conform to contemporary social beliefs and feels victimized. The existing social unrest in Israel – the protests by both sides, settler evictions, etc – should be incentive enough for the government to tread very softly and not further alienate people. One would think having enemies outside the gates is enough without having enemies inside them as well.
 
 
The fourth of July has come again and we are asked to celebrate the greatness of this state and those who died to protect it and our rights. It is on this celebration of military veterans and its political implications that I want to focus on for a bit.

I do not intend to disparage those in the military who have fought and died. I have no doubt that very many of them served out of a sense of nationalism and wanting to protect their homes and loved ones. But the question must be asked: who do they fight for? The military does not serve at the discretion of the populace directly, it serves at the whim of the government.

An argument can be made that since we live in a representative state the military is still, indirectly, serving as our guardians. But to anyone who has watched the news lately it is plainly obvious that the government no longer represents and serves the interests of the people as a whole. Indeed, the government has fractured primarily into two groups which are highly antagonistic. Both sides have vastly differing views on what our rights are and should be . And to further confuse the notion that the government actually represents us as a whole the voter turnout in this country is so low(rarely exceeding 50% in both congressional and presidential elections) as to question our claims to democracy.

So what exactly is the military serving and protecting? They cannot legitimately be said to serve a united people because the government is clearly divided into antagonistic camps. They cannot be said to protect the will of the people since most Americans do not vote. They cannot be said to protect our rights because the camps that make up our representative government cannot agree on what those rights should be.

This brings up a disturbing question: whose interests does the military serve? If government is not united then the military must serve one group over another. If most Americans do not vote then the military must advance the will of only a few. If we cannot agree on what our rights are then the military must serve only one group's idea of rights at the expense of another group's conception of rights.

 
 
We will tell our grand-children how it was all a pipe dream. We will have to explain to our overweight, diabetic, and toxin-infused grand-children how organic agriculture was not the answer to our ills. The organic revolution will eventually turn out to be a flop, a dead end on the road to a healthy society. Population levels have reached the level where there are too many of us to feed primarily through organic agriculture with the limited land and labor available. Couple the physical limitations with the lack of political and social will and our dietary future is assured to be a bleak and industrial one.

The development of industrial agriculture was not a freak occurrence detached from the world around it. It developed alongside the increase in our population: it was a necessary event. The agricultural methods of the past - less advanced versions of the organic agriculture practiced today - could no longer hope to keep up with the boom in population during the industrial revolution. As urban density exploded the agricultural realm had to make use of the chemical and mechanical discoveries of the time to provide for the massive explosion in workers and families.

The attempt to steer our agricultural infrastructure back to organic methods, albeit more advanced and productive methods, does not have a strong basis in reality. Our population has grown ever upwards and with it the need to grow increasing amounts of food, but not through the use of agricultural systems that cannot cope. Just as the industrial revolution and its population boom required a switch to industrial farming our current boom requires either more industrial farming or a more advanced form of it, not a reversion to methods that produce less.

It is an unfortunate possibility that organic agriculture cannot hope to produce on the same levels as industrial agriculture. Granted, organic farming has been shown to produce up to 95% as much as conventional farming(Organic Farming Research Foundation) but this is under the assumption of continuous proper management. Such an assumption seems faulty given people's tendency, even farmers, to take shortcuts especially given that federal rules allow the use of pesticides as a “last resort.”(Organic Farming Research Foundation) Organic and industrial farming are entirely different methods meant for entirely different population levels. And just as they are meant for different population levels they require very different amounts of land.

Due to industrial agriculture's reliance on monocultures and synthetic fertilizer it is typically able to obtain a greater amount of food from a similar amount of land devoted to organic agriculture. This inability to provide as much with so little physical space is organic's crux and the insurmountable obstacle to becoming the main method of farming.

This limit on physical space causes a domino effect on prices which is hard, if not impossible, to prevent in our type of economy.

The increased need for naturally arable land that organic agriculture requires causes a swell in farmland prices as more people attempt to move into the, now, lucrative market. As land prices increase farmers must increase the prices of their organic wares in order to repay the inflated loans they had to take out and to cover the more expensive means of production("Can Organic Farming Feed Us All?"). The already high prices of organic food turn it from a simply expensive commodity to a luxury affordable to few. Inevitably as prices go up fewer people are able to afford this type of food and thus purchase less of it. This decrease in purchasing forces organic farmers to increase their prices even more in order to make up for lower sales which then perpetuates the cycle.

That cycle says nothing of those who were already unable to get their hands on organic food. Cost-prohibitive food becomes economically forbidden food. The move towards an organic-centric food supply presupposes that aspects of industrial agriculture niche still exists if only to feed those who cannot afford land-extensive organic food or to transport food to large population centers that are away from farms("Eating Better Than Organic" 2).

This increase in land use also as a factor when it comes to the workforce. There are two potential labor side-effects of relying on primarily on an organic infrastructure.

An increase in land used necessitates the need for a greater workforce to cultivate that land and perform all the necessary logistics. It has become common practice to rely on migrant workers to make up for the shortage of indigenous labor, something that has caused friction both politically and economically. If this practice were to continue in a organic-centric system then it would have to be drastically expanded to meet the growing need for farmhands.

This increased use of non-indigenous workers may potentially have an adverse effect on the local economies due to money not staying entirely within the domestic system. Less local workers being employed means less money is available to them to purchase the food the migrant workers are helping to grow. This lack of money forces them back into the industrial fold and forces farmers to either raise their prices or return to using industrial practices.

If, however, farmers decide to forgo the use of migrant workers and rely on local workers then a different set of problems arise. Unlike migrant workers, local workers will demand a much higher pay which will push up the prices of food as workers are able to demand more of the supply. The increase in demand will quickly outstrip supply with our population levels which in turn requires greater cultivation of land. As mentioned earlier, this increased use of land leads to higher prices and eventual privation.

This is not the only potential path, though. The increased need for labor creates a vacuum that swallows up all potential hands. Eventually the supply of labor will exceed the demand for it. When this happens workers will have no choice but to compete amongst themselves for what jobs they can get, often by working for less than the competition. By working for less they are compromising their ability to purchase the food they are growing, which in turn promotes industrial agriculture and a rise in the price organic food. Couple this with the fact that organic workers make wages similar to that of workers on industrial farms(Grist) and their ability to buy more expensive organic food is hindered. Eventually the increase in organic agriculture makes for a prime environment to a return to industrial practices.

Capitalist economics makes it impossible to avoid the aforementioned problems of price and availability. To avoid the problems would require the heavy hand of regulation and social engineering that capitalism cannot function under. Without such regulation the natural boom and bust cycles of capitalism threaten to derail any feasible system of widespread organic agriculture. Capitalist economics also assure that any surplus organic food that isn't readily eaten will be sold to those who will return the most profit, not to those who need it. It may well be impossible to assure a stable and adequate supply of food for the entire population when so many factors are out of our control and when one action can have so many economic reverberations.

Economic obstacles are not the only hurdles society faces on its trek to healthy and abundant food. The greatest obstacle is society itself due to the culture that abundant industrial food has created and nurtured.

The emphasis that our culture has placed on low cost and ease of appropriation is serving to stymie the development of organic agriculture as a viable alternative to industrial agriculture. The inherent high cost of organic food is incompatible with our notion that all food should be cheap and available year-round, the hallmarks of industrial monoculture agriculture. We as a whole may not be ready for such a fundamental transition so long as we lack the collective will to change the way we think and what we believe.

It is not only the social establishment that is resistive to change but also the political establishment. The status-quo has become a powerful motivator to maintain agriculture the way it is. It is far simpler and safer to maintain a system that is already benefiting the political powers that be than to engineer and support an entirely new system that may not be able to fund political campaigns as well. Couple this financial incentive with the need to satisfy constituents who primarily want access to cheap food and there is little political will left to force beneficial change.

While organic agriculture is a worthwhile goal the realities of our world simply do not allow such a system to survive long. The vacillating economic fortunes of people and the economy conspire to make organic food either more accessible and drive up its price or they conspire to make it less accessible and drive up its price. Organic agriculture has no realistic hope of weathering the storm of capitalist laws and political servility while still being able to provide a decent diet for our ever increasing population. Unless something can be done to limit population growth and economic laws industrial agriculture will always have a place in our world out of necessity.






Works Cited




"Can Organic Farming Feed Us All?" World Watch Magazine May 2006: n. pag. Worldwatch Institute. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4060>.


Cloud, John. "Eating Better Than Organic." Time Magazine 2 Mar. 2007: 2. Time Magazine Health. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1595245-2,00.html>.







Mark, Jason. "Workers on organic farms are treated as poorly as their conventional counterparts." Grist. Grist Magazine, 2 Aug. 2006. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. <http://grist.org/food/mark/>.







Organic Farming Research Foundation. "About Organic." Organic Farming Research Foundation. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. <http://ofrf.org/resources/organicfaqs.html>.

 
 
It is ironic that the article I am going to talk about and the reference I will be using both feature heavily on Judaism. The irony did not dawn on me until I sat down and began this write this but I find it strangely satisfying considering Judaism's propensity for living on the outside(whether willingly or not). The article in question is this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13417502

In short, the article details the life of a Jewish Hasidic community in Britain. Particular described are the myriad rules that govern their lives and which seem completely at odds with what we would consider to be normal - even acceptable - laws. It is as if these people have managed to create a nation within a nation, separate yet a part of the greater whole. This is where I do make one distinction should anyone accuse me of seeing links where none exist. The article does not explicitly say whether this community is subject to the laws of Britain or not, nor does it say whether these people enjoy the same rights enjoyed by proper British citizens. This is important since the work that came to mind when I read this was On The Jewish Question, which deals with groups that demand rights for themselves that are separate from those who they claim to be a part of. 

My point is this: communities such as the aforementioned Hasidic one(with the caveat i mentioned earlier) seem to not understand that they are not an isolated outpost in an empty ocean. They are but a part of a greater whole which does not see them as outsiders. 

What does this mean? This means that isolated communities should not try to have the best of both worlds. They cannot be both Jewish citizens and British citizens; they are mutually exclusive when it comes to rights. One is an egoistic being while the other is a species-being. The rights of one do not encompass the rights of the other. In order for the egoistic being to receive all the rights and protections that the species-being would have he would have to ditch his cape of solitude and don the cape of inclusiveness. How can you or I claim to be a part of group A when we demand that group B has its own special laws and rights? This is a classic case of having your cake and eating it.

This may seem a trivial thing to some but look at it from a sociological point of view. What happens to a society when its members don't view themselves as part of the whole but as part of smaller communities which have nothing in common with others? How can a state be a nation when the people that compose it are not of the same creed, religion, value-system, or even hopes? A nation is only as strong as the values that bind everyone. And as soon as those binds begin to fray and form separate values then that's when the nation dissolves.

 
 
It's stressful, even dangerous, to be an open communist in America today. Communism carries with it many of the moral and ideological stigmas that a great majority of Americans are vehemently against. Let's list them, shall we?

-Atheist
-Free enterprise not being the basis of society/economics systems(being a secondary layer is a completely different story)
-The use of direct democracy over representative democracy
-The idea of a world government or global movement


There are other attributes that put Americans on a war footing when they learn of a communist within their midst. I myself have several unfortunate and unpleasant anecdotes which show that hostility that I am faced with.

On the occasions that I wear an article of clothing which displays any communist symbols I am verbally harassed in the streets. At work I am forced to change my employee of the month article because I mention I am a communist. People, upon learning I am a communist, ask me what is "wrong" with me. Being told that I should call myself a socialist to avoid the negative stigma.

It all seems rather harmless, doesn't it? How much would it take to take that verbal harassment to the next level? How much would before statements about my beliefs are censored? How much would before people(Christians, for example) decide it is their imperative to "teach" me what is wrong with me and attempt to fix me? How much before I am forced to hide what I am and call myself something else?

This applies not only to me and not only to communists. The cultural situation in America poses a threat to many of us who do not adhere to mainstream American beliefs and values( not to be confused with traditional beliefs and values). This is a threat that cannot be ignored and that cannot be fought with only logic and words. 
 
 
I was reading a book about the effects of globalization on democracy and it made me think of something: why do we blame the symptom but not the disease?

In other words, when globalization demands that we give up our jobs to cheaper labor overseas why do we blame those foreign workers? Why do we blame those poor people who are struggling to survive when corporations are the ones who moved the jobs to more profitable regions? Those Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc are not forcing jobs to flee our country so that they can reap the profits.

Globalization imposes such fierce competition between countries that there is NO logical option but to lose our jobs to those who can do it for cheaper. In order for national economies to be competitive and successful companies must export our jobs. Are you seeing the irony? In order to improve our economy and the well-being of our people we must LOSE our jobs.

And who do we blame for this loss? The companies who want to make a profit at our(both as individuals and as a society) expense? The governments who kneel before the altar of GDP? No, we blame people who are trying to feed their families and taking whatever opportunities that are available.

 
 
I am reminded of a segment on the Daily Show where the guest(I cannot remember who) put forth the opinion that it is democracy that has kept Western countries from going to war with each other. As optimistic as this may sound I do not believe it to be true.
Democracy in and of itself does not guarantee peace between nations; democratic nations are just as likely - indeed, even more so - as non-democratic nations to wage war upon their neighbors. If it is not democracy that has saved the West from war, than what has?

As perverse as it sounds, capitalism is what has saved us from the ravages of war. Capitalism destroys us from the inside but it saves us from the outside. How is this so? The thing that has saved us is the very thing we decry: profit. The countries of the West all follow the capitalist model to varying degrees, which means their main goal is to maximize profit and minimize losses. Any war between them would be catastrophic to their long-term profits as capital and labor forces would be depleted and destroyed(decrease in supply of either increases their cost). Specific interests within capitalists circles might benefit, think military-industrial complexes, in the short term but in general capitalist countries would suffer.

Capitalism may have spawned the bourgeoisie representative democracy we enjoy now but that isn't what has kept us safe and enthralled.
 
 
I had an interesting talk with a co-worker about becoming accustomed to a certain standard of living. It's safe to say she's a good example of why capitalism in America is doomed: American's have become accustomed to a standard of living that cannot survive globalism.


The exporting of jobs without the creation of enough new jobs to make up the deficit, the decreasing buying power. Americans simply cannot wrap their heads around the fact they cannot live the way they have become used to, life will not be the same. The debt fueled binge of the past few decades has come crashing down and made the already inevitable end come even faster
 
 
I found an interesting passage as I was reading an economics book, something that supports the reason why communism is so adamantly opposed to capitalism.

The paragraph stated that a certain level of unemployment was necessary in our (capitalist)economy in order to maintain a certain turnover rate which would in turn make it easier for employers to fire and hire new workers. The reason for this? To lower prices, of both the workers(wages) and consumers(commodities). Now granted, I understand the reasoning of this from a capitalist viewpoint. Full employment would essentially kill competition for workers since there would be no labor pool to recruit from, which in turn decreases an employer's bargaining power and leads to higher wages for workers. An increase in worker's wages leads to an increase in prices(increased demand at same, or less, supply) which fuels inflation while decreasing profits.

All of this makes complete sense from a capitalist viewpoint, yet it does not help capitalism's defense against communism.

Any level of unemployment, especially at a level which cannot escape notice, reinforces any social instability which may exist in a state. By effectively demanding that a certain percentage of the working population be without a means of supporting themselves capitalists are alienating the very workers they need to exist. Tell any person that he or she must be unemployed for the sake of those who will never know want is asking for trouble. Human empathy barely goes far enough to sacrifice for his fellow worker, much less his employer who makes far more than he ever will.

It's easy to see how workers might become angry, agitated, and eventually revolutionary after being stepped on for the sake of profit. The bourgeoisie does indeed create its own grave diggers.