May 14, 2003

Notes: Chiaki Moriguchi: Last Economic History Seminar: "Did American Firms Break Their Welfare Capitalist Promises During the Great Depression?"

Chiaki Moriguchi from Northwestern. Here to talk about welfare capitalism--or maybe better to call it corporate welfarism--in the U.S. in the 1920 and 1930s. Vibrant, growing movement in the 1920s: corporations to provide social welfare benefits that the state would have provided in Europe. Collapse in the 1930s. Corporations wanted to cut costs, and with unemployment so high why bother on programs to attach workers to the firm? Loss of trust thereafter hard to regain--workers turned to CIO instead to negotiate for benefits, et cetera. Did the NLRA foreclose a return of corporate welfarism? Survival in high-wage high-skill firms: IBM, GE, Proctor and Gamble. Foreshadowing of modern HRM for skilled high-wage workers?

Chiaki approaches the topic from a perspective that treats Japan--not the U.S., not western Europe--as the typical case. Very refreshing and instructive approach: to presume that welfare capitalism and company unions a la post-WWII Japan should be the rule in mass-production high-skill manufacturing, and to search for explanations for American divergence from the "natural" pattern...

Great, great topic!

Posted by DeLong at May 14, 2003 05:22 PM | TrackBack

Comments

I'm not sure what Brad means by "Chiaki treats Japan as the typical case."

Surely the mythical Japan of permanent employment, workers' dormitories, and the warmth of the welfarist company hearth is simply the United States of the 1920's, even to the point of its benefits being similarly restricted to perhaps 15% of the labor force.

The actual white collar and industrial Japans since about 1975 have been the United States of the same period: mass layoffs, outsourcing, involuntary retirements, accounting scandals, and widespread bankruptcies. A roiling rolling reorganization of the industrial and commercial sectors.

If there's a big difference between Japan and the US of the past twenty years surely it's only that the US faced up to its S&L scandal, and wrote the whole mess off. Japan, faced with an equivalent dead weight of bogosities on its banks' books, soldiers on self-blindfolded, apparently confident that what it pretends not to see can't really be there.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on May 15, 2003 06:26 AM

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Yes, presume that "welfare capitalism" should be the rule, and then start your research! Great indeed!

Posted by: John B. on May 15, 2003 01:52 PM

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The whole idea is crocked, as history has already proven several times over.

Your average citizen has two large, very specific, unavoidable needs: lifetime health care and retirement income. Businesses are cyclical, and these cycles are a multiple of your average worker's lifespan. So you want to get people tossing their cash into a common pot, so that an "up" shipbuilding industry can fund this pot during a "down" real-estate market and vice-versa. Or consider a worker who starts her career building typewriters and ends it assembling computers. One industry didn't exist when she started, the other doesn't exist when she finished.

But in welfare capitalism, we (surprise) see corporations forced to underfund pensions and cut health care anytime their particular industry is in a down cycle. Stupid.

Posted by: a different chris on May 15, 2003 05:06 PM

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I don't get the scare-quotes around the word natural in Brad's post. They seem to undermine the whole point of the exercise.

Posted by: Mark Rickling on May 16, 2003 09:42 AM

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Our next line looks familiar, except it starts with an asterisk. Again, we're using the star operator, and noting that this variable we're working with is a pointer. If we didn't, the computer would try to put the results of the right hand side of this statement (which evaluates to 6) into the pointer, overriding the value we need in the pointer, which is an address. This way, the computer knows to put the data not in the pointer, but into the place the pointer points to, which is in the Heap. So after this line, our int is living happily in the Heap, storing a value of 6, and our pointer tells us where that data is living.

Posted by: Cuthbert on January 12, 2004 08:04 PM

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Our next line looks familiar, except it starts with an asterisk. Again, we're using the star operator, and noting that this variable we're working with is a pointer. If we didn't, the computer would try to put the results of the right hand side of this statement (which evaluates to 6) into the pointer, overriding the value we need in the pointer, which is an address. This way, the computer knows to put the data not in the pointer, but into the place the pointer points to, which is in the Heap. So after this line, our int is living happily in the Heap, storing a value of 6, and our pointer tells us where that data is living.

Posted by: Cuthbert on January 12, 2004 08:06 PM

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