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Reblogged:Businessmen Wear Moccasins, Too

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Pray, don't find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

-- Mary T. Lathrap

The old saying about not judging another until one has walked a mile/a day/two moons in his moccasins isn't only not an old Amerindian saying, it is often abused. (The saying is properly used to challenge someone to show some deserved empathy, or at least to attempt to appreciate an unfamiliar perspective that deserves a hearing.)

And this Atlas Shrugged fan loves the mention of a load in the last line...

The abuse of the saying takes the form of using it to provoke feelings of unearned guilt for morally judging someone else, especially when doing so might preempt a sacrifice desired by the abuser.

The same people guilty of this kind of abuse will also frequently fail to do what the above advice intends when a sacrificial victim is in sight. Case in point: Businessmen. See, e.g., Scrooge, a common stereotype.

In keeping with the fact -- that Ayn Rand identified 60 years ago -- that big business is "America's persecuted minority," one Atlantic writer fails to do exactly what the saying does regarding the recent big-tech layoffs.

Indeed, Annie Lowrey arguably does exactly the opposite, and psychologically projects an unbelievable degree of callousness and cowardice onto our captains of industry:
Image by Cindy Louis Treasures, via Pixabay, license.
[M]any of those firms have seen their revenues and profits decline in the past year; the tech sector as a whole has been hit hard by shifting consumer behavior, falling advertising spending, and rising interest rates. Yet each of them, except Twitter, is making money -- some of them wildly so. Facebook's parent company, Meta, made $23 billion last year. Microsoft made more than $70 billion, placing it second in profitability among Standard & Poor's 500 companies, behind Apple.

Those firms, in other words, did not need to let so many workers go [How does she know? -- ed]; they chose to [At what fiat currency-denominated level of wealth do people cease having a moral right to agency, anyway? -- ed]. And they did so because other tech firms were making the same choice. Laying off employees turns out to be infectious. [Lowrey doesn't need her day job: With this level of clairvoyance, she could make a killing in the stock market! --ed] And that makes it all the more insidious. [Who needs John Birchers when "journalists" concoct conspiracy theories like it's a bodily function? --ed]

Indeed, these tech layoffs (as well as a recent round of media layoffs, I should add) are what the Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, an expert on organizational behavior, has termed "copycat layoffs." When executives see their corporate competitors letting go of workers, they seize what they see as an opportunity to reduce their workforce, rather than having no choice but to do so. [Really? --ed]

Shedding employees when everybody else is doing it avoids drawing public scrutiny to or creating reputational damage for a given firm, for one. A lone business announcing that it is downsizing is likely to be described as mismanaged or troubled, and may well be mismanaged or troubled. However merited, that kind of reputation tends to hinder a company from attracting investment, workers, and customers. But if a firm downsizes when everyone else is doing it, the public seldom notices and investors seldom care. [links and italics in original]
A major difference between conspiracy theorists and rational thinkers is the ability to entertain the idea that one does not necessarily know everything, particularly the motives behind other people's actions. (Another one is that a rational thinker does not turn his mind off the moment a credential like professor pops up. Experts are fallible human beings, too.)

For example, at the start of the paragraph on "copycat layoffs," I was tempted to ask, sarcastically, if Lowrey had divulged a journalistic trade secret by describing business executives making layoffs as copycats. Her piece, after all, sounds like so many other hit pieces about business over the past six decades. If they all say it, it must be true -- or, more importantly, the readers won't notice.

But I know better: She may actually believe what she wrote. Our culture, after all, is awash in the idea -- Dennis Prager has called it a "Judaeo-Christian value" -- that "Man is not basically good," and double for businessmen, whom we are all taught, are predatory.

That may well be Judaeo-Christian, but that nasty attitude is not a value.

Be that as it may, Lowrey didn't conspire to write such a ridiculous piece, nor will she (or should she) be found out for plagiarism: She was acting on very common premises floating around in our culture, and which she has plainly not examined carefully. What she wrote follows.

Or: Garbage in, garbage out.

This does not mean that every businessman who has ever laid off employees has been right to do so, or hasn't caved in to pressure against his better judgement. But the idea that so many companies are doing this basically because everybody else is doing it (even to the point of being Bad Business!) is so preposterous that anyone saying it in print would be rightly laughed out of a job ... if it weren't such common "wisdom" that businessmen are the scum of the Earth at worst, or an army of Babbits at best.

Trying on a pair of moccasins here: Might the widespread layoffs be due to businessmen seeing very bad stuff coming, which they need to act now to head off? Might the companies that carried a whole country through the mass, indefinite incarceration so many politicians put us through "because Covid" no longer need so much manpower? The same people ran those companies, also "except Twitter," then as now.

Maybe their executives know what the hell they're doing, and maybe it's a tad presumptuous to second-guess them now, to say the least.

-- CAV

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