Friday, September 26, 2014

Brilliant, complex and disturbing, reality of Henry Ford

Back March of last year I put up a post where I noted the importance of Henry Ford and found myself wondering if I'd said enough about his controversial side. Reality is I didn't completely understand it myself, while I also under-appreciated a lot of what he managed to accomplish.

For instance, consider that Ford helped a lot to create a middle-class by raising wages against the opinion of just about everyone around him. He more than doubled the salary of his workers. Pause, reflect if you're an American worker on that one! Can you imagine if your bosses decided tomorrow to double your salary? Yet in later life he faced accusations of anti-semitism, and violent anti-unionism. Definitely a complex character who deserves the full picture.

Which I got thanks to PBS so this post is to link to what I saw:

Henry Ford . American Experience . WGBH | PBS

Today I'm more convinced than ever that fights over wages have the greatest impact of all when it comes to the health and vitality of the middle-class. Henry Ford was bizarre for his time--a wealthy man who fought everyone in his way who tried to stop him from sharing the wealth with his workers.

And consider, his move in that direction made him one of the most powerful and wealthiest of them all!

So what gives? Why do wealthy people fight against fair wages even against their own interests?

Good question. I've recently considered various issues around money, but will admit am puzzling over that one still. After all, the example of Ford shows that the naive self-interest involved in hoarding as much wealth to one's self as you can and fighting against your own workers as the enemy doesn't work as well as, well, doing what he did. Though in later life he clearly lost his way.

Maybe there is something about some wealthy people that makes them behave in a way that actually makes no rational sense, where they mindlessly hoard wealth against their own interests, and that of their society.

James Harris
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