Tom Geoghegan: European Socialism Not So Scary

Well here's something we don't see enough of from our "mainstream media". The Nation's Chris Hayes filling in for Rachel Maddow talks to labor lawyer
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Well here's something we don't see enough of from our "mainstream media". The Nation's Chris Hayes filling in for Rachel Maddow talks to labor lawyer and author Thomas Geoghegan about his book “Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?” and why European social democracy is something Americans should be embracing rather than falling for the fear mongering from the likes of Newt Gingrich, Jim DeMint, Bill O'Reilly, Mitch McConnell and a host of other right wing politicians and Fox "News" pundits. Hayes asks Geoghegan to give his pitch for why European Socialism is so bad and why was he born on the wrong continent.

Geoghegan: This is the time of year when we should be sitting around a lake drinking a few Beck Beers. If you like that kind of life and think your employer should pay for it, check out European Socialism.

Hayes: That would be a reference to the six or seven weeks paid vacation right? That is standard in the social democracies of Europe.

Geoghegan: Chris, in Germany and France the average work time per year is about 1500 hours. In the U.S. it’s closer to 2000. That leaves 500 hours of extra free time for Europeans. I mean you only have one life to live.

Hayes: You know an economics professor once said to me some very wise words which I’ve kept with me ever since which is that time is the one resource that’s never making any more of. But you know the response from the right when you bring up vacation like that is that well but look, they’re an economic basket case right? Yes, they get this vacation but you know, they don’t produce very much and they have high unemployment and they’re all indolent and the whole thing is going to go bankrupt soon.

Geoghegan: But Chris the reason I wrote the book is I wanted to explore, why is it that Germany is the most competitive country in the world? We’re the world’s biggest debtor. They’re the world’s, one of the world’s biggest creditors. Since 2003 Germany has either been tied with China or the leading exporter in the world and Germany and France together just wallop China in terms of exports sales.

So they do it through actually unions, high wages, worker control of, or more worker control than we ever dream of here of the corporations and a commitment to manufacturing that has completely disappeared in this country.

Hayes: Yeah, you talk a lot about the German model. There’s two elements I thought were interesting. One is there’s this focus on very capital intensive but very sort of high tech and expertise driven manufacturing and also that there is this union participation in corporate boards. How does that model work? It certainly sounds radical over here but you make a very convincing case for it in the book.

Geoghegan: What makes it work is the fact that the Germans have intense worker involvement, in fact it’s probably got the most worker control of any economy in the world and that includes China. It helps keep skills together. It’s a way… it encourages people to invest in themselves. It holds together if I may use a clunky economic term, human capital, high skills, in a way that flexible labor markets don’t. I don’t want to get into economics but I really am convinced that giving working people a kind of role in running the corporations that they work for, albeit it limited, putting them on corporate boards and putting high school graduates on the boards of big global corporations precisely because they are high school graduates, you know is one of the reasons that Germany has kept a commitment to manufacturing and being competitive while we’ve turned into a casino type capitalist society.

All I can say is amen brother.

I blog at C&L anonymously because I don't want to deal with even the possibility of putting up with my employer giving me a hard time for my views and contributing here. That said, I will say this much. I've been a union member for 25 years and lucky enough to work for a company where I don't have to worry about my job being outsourced. I've got a whole lot of co-workers that are extremely grateful to have jobs now as well in this terrible economic environment that lost jobs at other companies due to outsourcing and were very grateful to find a job that pays well and with a strong union and decent benefits to replace the one they lost.

After 25 years of watching people being promoted because they told their boss what they wanted to hear instead of what they needed to hear, seeing a mentality where cutting corners instead of competence is rewarded and not always by any means but way too often depending on who was running the show, our union being treated as an enemy instead of a work force who's input would make the company stronger as a whole, I cannot give enough kudos to Mr. Geoghegan for pointing out that valuing workers and their input actually works and that it makes them stronger if a country and their corporations decide to invest in that business model.

It saddens me deeply to see our country, our corporations and our politicians happily continue to take us down this race to the bottom where we're forced to compete with slave labor wages, where keeping Americans employed is no longer something considered to be of value, and where profits for the few running the show matter more than anything else. It's really disgusting that we outlawed slavery in the United States and instead of actually getting rid of it, we just outsourced it where we don't have to look at it any more.

We could learn a lot from Europe. It's about time someone in the media pushed back on the fear mongering from the right on how evil "Socialism" is. I can tell you there's not a single person I work with on a day to day basis no matter what side of the political aisle they're on that would disagree with what Thomas Geoghegan said during this interview. Sadly most of them will have never watched it either.

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