Rebirth of Reason


The Virtue of Exploitation
by Joe Trusnik

When people cry that a company is exploiting its workers, what do they mean? To exploit something means nothing more than to utilize it to its fullest extent.  For example, I exploited my bike today, employing its speed and acceleration to move quickly between places.  My wife often exploits her cooking abilities, to best enjoy our meals.

In this sense, an employer is definitely exploiting his work force. He is utilizing their abilities to the greatest extent he can. Indeed, this principle is a driving force behind bonuses and career development activities … the former motivates his employees to do better, and the latter increases their ability.

But this doesn’t sound like a bad thing … is it really so rotten and evil to want the people that you’re paying to work hard? After all, when I go out to dinner, I expect the busses to thoroughly and quickly clean tables to reduce my waiting for a place to sit, and I expect the cooks to work hard to ensure my food is cooked quickly and properly. I fail to see how wanting to exploit their abilities makes me so rotten.

Exploiting, though, is a dirty word designed to go beyond utilization … it implies that you are not simply using, but sacrificing others to your own ends. Employers profit from the labor that their workers are doing … that’s exploitation, because the employees are losing their time and effort for somebody else’s benefit. The compensation, it seems, could only run as such: the employer keeps any extra value, from my hard work, for himself. For example, if I sell my labor for X amount of money, and my employer could make X + $10 off of my ability, then it seems that he owes me $10 that I produced for him. He must be exploiting me.

Which is, of course, nonsense.  If I thought I could earn the extra money just on my labor alone, then what on earth compels me to work for him?  I mean, all he ever did was take entrepreneurial risks, provide equipment, and (possibly) training … but I did all the work!

Exploitation, in this respect, is ridiculous. Sure, he’s exploiting you, in that he’s trying to get the most out of you … but if you thought you could get a raise, wouldn’t you try to get the most out of him? “Exploitation” isn’t a sin; it’s a virtue. It’s getting the most bang for your buck.  It’s attempting to profit as much as possible. It’s attempting to achieve the most you can for the least expense. It’s going after the better deal, finding the best quality.

Indeed, exploitation is necessary.  Rand made the point clear in Atlas Shrugged that the best must be demanded in the story behind the fall of Twentieth Century Motor Company:  

“Well, when our customers began to see that we never delivered an order on time and never put out a motor that didn’t have something wrong with it — the magic stamp began to work the other way around: people wouldn’t take a motor as a gift, if it was marked Twentieth Century.  And it came to where our only customers were men who never paid and never meant to pay their bills [p. 615].” 

And, in an atmosphere like that, how long could an employee have a job from which he could be so maliciously exploited?  And, if the employer should continue to demand sub-quality labor, and thus need to stop exploiting part of his work force, who is suddenly the villain for daring to lay off his workers?
Sanctions: 9Sanctions: 9 Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (2 messages)