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272 pages, Hardcover
First published October 23, 2018
It turns out that a quiet movement has been taking shape, led by people who see how things have gone wrong and believe that business might be the solution.From there, the book quiets down and talks sense (starting about location 2415) about what people need from work (“Trust, pride, and camaraderie”) and how to get it (“You get the best work out of people when you treat them with respect”). From there on, the book is easier reading, because the people and ideas that appear are not worthy of ridicule, so the author can settle down (with occasional backsliding) to actually telling you interesting things that you don't know, like how companies can be profitable without driving its employees to the verge of suicide (or beyond).
“Hanauer, the billionaire-turned-activist, was at one time close to Bezos. I asked him if he had ever talked to his old friend about paying workers better and treating them more humanely. “I took a crack at getting him to care about it,” Hanauer said. Apparently, Bezos wasn’t persuaded. In recent years, “I have lost touch with Jeff,” Hanauer said. He was reluctant to say more.
For years Hanauer has been trying to convince legislators to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the current minimum wage of $7.25. Even that $15 wage would not be enough to make things square, but it would at least be a start.
“If the minimum wage had tracked the growth of productivity since 1968, it would now be $22,” Hanauer says. “If it tracked the top 1 percent, it would be $29.”
“The reason to give back the money, he says, would be so that the one percent can save their own skins. As Hanauer sees it, the election of Donald Trump might be only the first step toward something much worse. “People were hurting, and they lashed out—by voting for the guy who was lashing out, too.”
If we don’t shift wealth back toward workers and just keep carrying on the way we are now, Hanauer predicts we will end up in a real-life Mad Max movie: “If you don’t give it back, things are not going to get better. Oh, dude, we are in for a bumpy ride. This is going to get way worse before it gets better. I think the country is in trouble. The West is in trouble. We have institutionalized a set of dynamics which benefit the few and immiserate the many.
“People are not going to get less pissed. People’s lives are going to get worse. People are going to be even more angry and more polarized. The talk will get even crazier. Plan on violence. Plan on it. People do stupid shit when they’re angry. It’s not going to be good. I think we’re going to have a lot of civil unrest. Hopefully we will avoid a civil war. The last time the country was in crisis like this was 1968. Remember that? We had hundreds of bombings. We had riots. Well, it’s been fifty years. We’re right on cycle.”