Illusions of Capitalist Efficiency
In recent days, newspapers and network broadcasters have been announcing massive layoffs in gathering news. No doubt, such measures will help to improve efficiency — at least the way efficiency is measured in a market economy.
Quality may suffer, but no matter. In the media, news is fast becoming little more than an opportunity for product placement. Democracy may suffer, but we have precious little of democracy anymore when elections depend upon media manipulation and after the elections the political process follows the whims of the most powerful lobbies. We are fast entering the age of one dollar, one vote.
The media are not alone in slashing costs. Hospitals have been trying to reduce the number of nurses by replacing them with less skilled employees. So long as the media or the hospitals can charge the same amount such measures constitute an increase in efficiency.
Airlines are following the same route. The Wall Street Journal reports that JetBlue has been experimenting with extending the hours that pilots can fly. Some pilots are flying 10 or 11 hours at a time.
Pasztor, Andy and Susan Carey. 2006. “Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue in Hot Water.” (21 October): p. A 1.
From the time of Karl Marx, people have understood the benefits of extending hours of labor. Indeed, so long as the company can avoid any mishaps, efficiency will improve (disregarding any negative consequences for the pilots’ quality of life).
The article reports: “The National Transportation Safety Board has cited pilot fatigue as an increasingly important factor in aviation accidents.”
Given the long-forgotten doctrine of consumer sovereignty, however, one might have thought that JetBlue might have informed its passengers that they were participating in the experiment. But we have long passed into the age of corporate sovereignty with a rather narrow concept of efficiency.