Posts Tagged ‘democracy’


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One way of thinking about workers’ happiness is to measure the extent to which it contributes to higher stock returns for the corporations in which they work. That’s exactly what Alex Edmans, Lucius Li, and Chendi Zhang did and the result is not particularly surprising: employee satisfaction is, in fact, associated with positive abnormal stock returns. But there’s a caveat: the positive relationship really only holds in countries that have “flexible” labor markets (such as the United States and the United Kingdom), that is, where it is relatively easy to hire and fire workers. In other countries (such as Germany), where “regulations already provide a floor for worker welfare,” there’s very little effect.

As Mark Thoma explains,

Why might this be the case? One suggestion is that when a company spends money to make workers happier in a flexible market, it can then attract the most productive workers from other firms. But when labor markets are less flexible, it’s harder for workers to change employers, and the payoff from spending on worker satisfaction is much lower.

The U.S. has a relatively flexible labor market, and one reason for that is the “commodification” of labor. Increasingly, labor has come to be treated like any other input to the production process. All that matters is the contribution to the bottom line.

Of course, another way would be to move beyond the choice between flexible and not-so-flexible labor markets: by eliminating the commodification of labor power, letting workers themselves democratically decide how to increase their happiness, and ultimately changing what the bottom line means.


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Brazil WCup Soccer Murals

The 2014 World Cup finals start tomorrow and I can’t wait. I can’t wait to watch the beautiful game, as played by the footballers of 32 nations across the globe—without forgetting about the dirty business the FIFA games have become.

At least that much the Economist gets right. But, not surprisingly, for the editors—”deep-dyed internationalists,” as they see themselves—it’s all about the benefits of globalization on the game of football, which are only hampered by the corruption surrounding FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Nothing, however, about the corporate sponsors of the tournament and the conditions in Brazil that led one of the residents of the Copa do Povo (People’s Cup) flash camp to conclude, “The World Cup is for those in helicopters.”

That’s certainly true for the tiny group of people running—and profiting from—the World Cup. They’ll certainly be crisscrossing the city and arriving at their luxury boxes in the stadia by helicopter. The millions of the rest of us will be watching the matches on television, looking forward to being witness to the unpredictable moments of footballing magic (and, inevitably, frustration and agony) individuals and teams will certainly offer us.

But what would a different World Cup look like? As it turns out, Brazil offers an alternative in its own history, in the form of one of its own brilliant footballers. No, not Pelé. I’m thinking of Sócrates (Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira was his full name), who was the captain of the Selecão and of Corinthians and the leader of the Corinthians Democracy movement. (He died in 2011.)

Eric Cantona presents the story of Sócrates’ attempt to create an alternative to dirty business and to practice democracy within the beautiful game: