Of Hobbes, Labor, Community,
The Dollar And Legal Narcotics
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Where Does The Line Of Moral Responsibility Lie In The Context Of Day Workers And Their Foremen Who Might Create Hazards In The Community By Tacitly Approving After Work Liquor Binges?
By Gentry Braswell
Modern Times Magazine
Nov. 6, 2013 — Typically my son and I do not eat gas station anything, but recently I got some trail mix at a convenience store on I-10 near our home in Houston while we waited for a tow truck to fetch the family car.
As we shopped, into the store came a crew of day laborers, and their leader who stood and watched as the various men, covered in dust and paint from the day's work, made their selections and lined up for the clerk. We got in line to purchase our snack. A second foreman-looking guy perused bulk-packaged beers in the back of the store.
It appeared that the laborer directly in front of us in line purchased his two tall cans of Budweiser product with U.S. Dollars, because the clerk accepted his money http://goo.gl/2hN02C. With the same hands, the clerk brokered the transaction for the liquor he bought, just as promptly and competently as she did for the snacks that we bought.
As the value of the U.S. Dollar directly correlates with the skills, abilities, and products of the nation’s labor force http://goo.gl/24JKPV , this foreman is not handling the tool in good faith, and is not properly representing his de facto, ad hoc peers with whom he shares the marketplace and the currency.
Even outside of the currency argument, the foreman's act is not occurring in good faith, which brings to the fore that this act involves direct moral implications. It also reflects horrific management and policy, comparable to shooting one's horses at the end of the day because the custodian is too lazy or unwilling to feed and stable them. It is like habitually leaving your tractor in the rain instead of the barn, and buying a new one every time the old one rusts out.
In terms of common law, these men, who apparently do not know any better either, are in the foreman's custody, and as such they are significantly at his ethical and moral mercy as their temporary employer.
Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, Part 1, Chapter 16: “When the actor doth anything against the law of nature by command of the author, if he be obliged by former covenant to obey him, not he, but the author breaketh the law of nature; for though the action be against the law of nature, yet it is not his; but contrarily, to refuse to do it is against the law of nature that forbiddeth breach of covenant.”
The “American Dollar” functions as a symbol of a particular value as relates to specific goods or services in a marketplace, while it allows us to avoid the actual use of laborers and artisans as legal tender. It exists as a tool to serve and enable the labor force, and something is critically wrong when a currency does not reflect the heart and objective best interest of its underwritten workers.
Hobbes' words contextualize how the foreman, when using U.S. Dollars to provide beverages containing ethanol http://goo.gl/ibDR to adult human day laborers whom it would seem do not have the cognitive wherewithal to avoid over-the-counter narcotics, is creating, among many other hazards in the community, an extremely precarious moral and ethical liability for the underwriters (to wit, the labor force and the managers of the currency, e.g., us). Hobbes firmly places the moral liability upon us. Per Hobbes, the foreman’s error is primarily significant because of the liability for violation of natural law placed on the author of the covenant or currency, that is, the commonwealth at large which here includes us.
Specific rules of labor and immigration aside, the sanctioned open solicitation of day laborers is relatively common in Houston because the city is of significant enough distance from the Southwestern border that the chilling effect is not as strong as it is for such labor pools in border areas, for example. However, even then, the city of Houston has other pick-up locations besides beer stores (such as underneath the Westpark Tollway, for example, between Beltway 8 and Highway 59). To wit, if the contractor wants to exercise civil disobedience, his beer-store method is nevertheless morally inferior to his Westpark Tollway option. By his methods, he is creating additional demand for this undesirable way of doing business, moreover he is using the common and public equity to do so. He is eroding the currency, the marketplace, and the labor force.
This activity shows blatant disregard for human welfare and the overall health of the local community. The drunk man has to go somewhere, and the sun must also rise on his body at some presumably nearby location in the morning, since he probably walked to the convenience store where I observed him parting ways with his employer. Evidently, the foreman does not care if the man returns to an ad hoc day labor pick-up location the next morning, or even whether or not any of the men live or die, or he would likely demonstrate his care it by orchestrating the situation differently. Maybe the men do not care either, as there must still be, or at least there used to be, plenty of people besides day laborers who do this to themselves everyday after work. The point is that the behavior is being catered to, encouraged, and perpetuated — aggravated from the topside of the command chain.
The laborer may not need any additional encouragement from the foreman who is enabling his alcohol abuse, by which eventually he will become unemployable, and then what? Where is the foreman when first responders, public health facilities, welfare programs and the like must bear the burden for the demise of entire socio-economic generations of people, to which these historical unethical “business” practices contribute? Is the foreman presuming to be held harmless because he gave them the currency and watched them make the transaction, rather than having physically bought it for them himself?
Who trucked the liquor into this neighborhood anyway? I did not order it, and neither did I nor anyone in my family order any drunk people. Come to think of it, I do not know anyone who did. Perhaps the foreman would not be so quick to dump off his liquor-enabled laborers at the end of the day if he were releasing them into his own neighborhood. A ‘live and let die’ motto is not as attractive when one makes the mess in his own house.
City of Houston namesake Sam Houston was a U.S. Army General, and John Richardson Harris (Harris County namesake) was from New York but he was a businessman and a marine merchant; and I expect that they would both have something philosophical to say about the foolishness of intentionally destroying employable laborers. Furthermore, I expect they would concur that alcohol among the ranks is unquestionably known to be poison in the well of power or complex systems or anything else; as such, when it is intentionally administered, it is administered with intent and/or ignorance, and negligence.
As members of the same ad hoc marketplace consortium whose labor, products, and services are represented by our currency, we are put upon to prevent operations such as these from misrepresenting the fundamental economic will and the intended ethical foundation of the currency tool that is supposed to, among other things, prevent the actual use of laborers and artisans as legal tender. Unfortunately, that is essentially what is happening when laborers are commodified and dehumanized, and are being snuffed at the end of the day through their incumbent command chain.
To support this type of ethically deviant labor practice, regardless of how widespread it may or may not be, by soliciting and patronizing it, is unacceptable because it perpetuates the behavior and feeds the hazardous subculture it underpins. Simply because a behavior or habit may be “culturally accepted” (whatever that means), or because it is commonplace (or rare) in a given community or context, does not make it necessarily ethical or right behavior. Typically this sort of activity occurs in open broad daylight, because people are either simply unaware of what they are witnessing, or because people think there is nothing that can be done about it.
Sometimes, to do the right thing simply means not to do the obvious wrong thing. Labor management, with no exceptions made for shift leaders, is obligated and duly compelled to be ethical in the United States. Exercising such ethical responsibility in business enables different cultures and people to learn to get along and build community bonds, breaking down the walls that prevent natural communication and open markets in all thoroughfares, including the interface between labor and “labor management,” and allowing egalitarian government and ethical marketplaces to function properly.
Gentry Braswell is the Nation/World editor of Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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