An Assured Sustainable Corporation

A tribalised community has, as its reason for existence, a certain quest. That quest may have some commercial value and provide sustenance and shelter of its individual members. Many quests have no obvious commercial value and if sustenance and shelter cannot be assured then the quest would have to be abandoned. A sustainable assurance corporation assures sustenance and shelter thereby allowing the pursuit of other quests. By joining a sustainable assurance company a person `buys' guaranteed lifetime work at a wage sufficient to provide adequate shelter, sustenance, and transportation.
A corporation such as General Motors (GM), or a nation, or grouping, guaranteeing lifetime work at a sustainable wage, aligns itself with tribal ideology. Sustainable assuranceembraces everyone as useful on a lifelong basis. It instills a sense of belonging and commitment freeing people from doing jobs merely to survive. Sustainability assurance frees the individual to launch into intrapreneurship, or creating a more habitable environment, or other endeavors closer to her, or his, wellspring.
Nations are moving in one direction by providing hospital rights, pension rights, unemployment rights, education rights, and charging for those rights by taxation. Their business is insuring that those rights are available to their citizens. Corporations are moving for another direction by providing dental rights, pension rights, layoff rights, retraining rights, and `charging', or giving, those rights as a condition of employment.

In a common market, the market that Kenichi Ohmae has named, THE BORDERLESS WORLD, it makes little difference to the individual if rights are assured by a corporation or a nation. Individuals work anywhere in the common market. A Canadian banker, working for a Dutch bank, in a Japanese branch, has her, or his, rights assured by the bank. Nations, in a common market, can assure hospital or pension rights, to the holders of their passport no matter where they may work. The holder of a particular passport is taxed for those rights no matter that the individual does not live within the geographical boundaries of that nation. Government, as business, leads directly to government as assurance company.
Any citizen of the European Common Market can now work in any nation within that market. A British citizen, working for a German corporation, in an Austrian branch, has a choice of assurance corporations. The worker can either have rights assured by the German corporation or the British national corporation. If the German corporation can offer medical, layoff, pension, and education rights at a lower price than the British national corporation then he, or she, will not pay British taxes.
The ultimate expression of assurance is sustainability and corporations and nations will finally meet on that ground. Human sustainability is inseparable for environmental sustainability. A sustainable assurance company, no matter whether it is a national government, a corporation, or other grouping, becomes the umbrella under which individuals pursue their individual quests. It becomes the basic support system.
An employee of GM, assured that survival is no longer an issue, realises that any choices made by her or him is a choice of interest. The threat of automation or economic downturn will not longer be seen as a threat to employment. The removal of that threat will promote greater efficiencies. The only possible way that a lifetime support system will fail is GM's bankruptcy.
GM, knowing that it has members who can return at any time for a job, is now in the business of creating dedicated consumers for its products. The concern of Japanese businesses for market share rather than profits now makes more sense. The Japanese see market share as captive consumers that they do not intend to lose. The profits will be made in the future. With GM acting as a tribal umbrella it creates an interdependency between the organisation, its members, and its consumers.
A foreseeable scenario for a worker, let us call him Bill, would be as follows:-
Bill was brought up in Detroit and although he didn't have much education he really enjoyed playing basketball. He had tried out for various professional basketball teams but everyone seemed to be taller than him and reached the ball a shade sooner. He never received a contract. It was his preference for playing basketball that made him want to join G.M.. Basketball was his life and he knew that some of the work at G.M. was not enjoyable and the well paid hours were short. That arrangement would give him time to play basketball and at the end of seven years he would be assured of lifetime employment.
He got a job on the G.M. assembly line but as a new employee he got the nightshift from 12:30 A.M. to 5:30 A.M., four days on and four days off. He was young and strong, wanted the money, and so took one of the noisier jobs in the riveting section. It suited him just fine. The hours didn't bother him and he had enough time off to follow his first love, basketball. He joined a junior basketball team and travelled with them through the mid-West. Most of his team mates either worked at G.M. on the same shift or at other plants on similar time shifts. This meant that they could go on the road for four days and not miss any pay.
Bill had a close friend, Andy, a member of the basketball team and a GM worker. They worked together, played together, and even spent most of their spare time together.
Seven years seemed to slip by easily and Andy and Bill realized that their time of fun and friendship with the basketball team was drawing to an end. They were getting too old to chase that ball up and down the court, the younger guys were faster. They now knew that they would never make the professional tour. They were also beginning to feel "serious" about a continuing female relationship.
Bill therefore decided that when his seven year probation period with G.M. ended he would leave the riveting shop and do something else. He knew that after the seven year period he had a job for life but he didn't know what he wanted to do, - apart from play basketball.
The day after the seven year time limit Bill went to the Personnel Department and told a counsellor they could stuff the riveting job. The counsellor laughed and that put Bill at ease. The counsellor said they knew that job was awful and there was going to be a vote soon on whether it should be automated. Since he was now a full fledged member with a vote he should vote at the end of the month. There was only so much money available and it either had to be spent on automating the riveting shop or on a new die pressing operation. The financial tribal community said they would make more money off the die press operation but acknowledged that the riveting shop was harder on the workers.
After a discussion about how they thought people would vote she said, "And so, you want a new job."
"Yep," said Bill, "What have you got?"
"Well. What do you want?"
Bill smiled, "I'd like to play basketball and get paid for it. That's what I would like."
The counsellor smiled at that and then said, "Well, have you made any of the professional teams yet?"
Bill gave a long explanation of his life with his basketball team and told her that he had realized that he couldn't make professional but that was all he was really interested in.
The counsellor, after listening in silence, then said, "Yea, I know. It's a problem. But I don't think I know any better than you how to run your life. But I have a suggestion. Summer is coming up and why don't you just get away from the factory for six months or so. Do something entirely different. G.M. is engaged in a project to go into the fishing industry by restocking the Great Lakes. They need all sorts of people to plant vegetation at the lake side and clean up industrial crud."
Two days later Bill was standing on a dock shivering in the wind off the lakes. He thought to himself, "Jeeze. At least it was warmer in the riveting shop."
By the afternoon he had forgotten all that. The clean up crew was always laughing about something being brought up from the bottom. And it was day work. Bill was on the early shift and although he made less money he had great fun wandering around the waterfront with his clean up crew. It was a wonderful summer. Days spent either on a small boat or on shore with a bunch of guys that were always good for a laugh.
He didn't miss out too much on basketball either. He still went away with the team but as he was exercising outdoors most of the time anyway, basketball sometimes seemed to be like just more exercise. The spell of basketball on his life was lessening. Also, half way through the summer, Andy joined him with the cleanup crew and life was perfect.
When Fall came, and the winds started to whistle down from the north woods of Canada, Andy and Bill decided that it was time to move indoors.
Bill went back to see the counsellor. "Hi! It's me. What have you got for an ageing basketball player?"
She smiled, "Ah. I know you'd be back. How did you like the Great Lakes?"
He sat down. "Fine, just fine. I tell you, I really go for that outdoor work. I guess I like doing physical things but I don't want all that noise again at the riveting shop and I don't want to work nights."
"So! Finding a job for you is a process of elimination. You're the strong silent physical type. That's a pretty wide field. Have you thought what you'd like to do?"
"You keep on saying that. And all I can think of is basketball."
"Yes. I'm sorry. But I don't like putting square pegs in round holes. It's your decision." She paused. "Maybe you should try some other things in the meantime. Have you thought of going back to school? I mean, it took me a little time to find out I really wanted to spend my time with the personnel tribal community. At one time I was a waitress, then a security officer and then I found out that I was a people person. So I went back to school and studied social work. You're allowed to move around to find out what really suits you. It's no problem, work four days and them go to school for four days, and still live comfortably."
"School?" said Bill, "Not for me." He shook his head. "I could never stand being inside."
"OK", she said, "Why don't you go back to the fishing business? As you know G.M. is an umbrella banking and assurance company with their finger in many pies. I hear the Corporate banking tribal community is putting a lot of money into the fishing business. They clear up the lakes and keep the environmentalists happy. They get sole fishing rights. In return, they can build a fishing fleet and sell the fish. They'll sell the fish from electric powered vans that move to the neighbourhoods with the day's catch. They build the vans, they build the fishing fleet. They figure on getting lots of customers out of this. All sort of things going on. Why don't I find you a job over there?"
Two days later Bill was once again on the dock. There was a sharp wind blowing off the lake when a guy in a white coat emerged from a floating barge and waved Bill over. Inside the barge Bill was introduced to members of the fish biology community.
His job was moving the fingerlings between holding tanks as they grew bigger. What really got him was how dedicated these people were to raising fish. That was all they talked about. And it was not all talk either.
They went to different centres around the lakes always checking, always looking for ways to encourage stronger and faster growth. That was their life. Their mission was to re-stock the lakes so that the entire Great Lakes would operate as the bioregional resource for fish with minimal human interference. It was not their intention to "farm" fish. The Great Lakes was looked upon as a water reserve where only the surplus of the fish could be taken. As a reserve the water quality had to be preserved and recreational facilities made available.
The fish biologists were part of the Great Lake Reserves Authority. The Authority had an executive of one hundred people selected by lot from the fifty million people who were in the Great Lakes megalopolis and its hinterland. The executive was splintered into ten departments such as recreation, water quality, and fisheries, of ten people each. The fish biologist's tribal community was responsible to the executive through the ten member fishery department.
It was through the department that regulations were made governing the amount of catch to be taken, what kind of fish, and the size of the nets. They made agreements with the sport fisherman tribal community restricting fishing to a license to fish from shore and these licenses, in part, funded the Authority. They banned sports fishing from boats and banned the use of pleasure power boats. Sailing was encouraged and promoted by the recreation department.
The Great Lakes commercial fishing tribalised community was in the process of formation and, as fishing in the Great Lakes would be continued for hundreds of years, each step was carefully considered by the fish biologists. To Bill, they represented a whole different kind of life. They were a community consumed by a mission. They lived in a small village together that was like a small university campus. They often ate together, they worked together, they provided for child care, recreation facilities, and just about everything they needed for village life. But he could laugh at that - not so long ago he was consumed by the need to play basketball.
By the following summer Bill had decided that he preferred people to fish and it was time to go back to see the woman in personnel. He had been impressed by the dedication of the fish biologists. Now he thought in terms of being involved in something that brought a smile to people's face that was outdoor work.
This time, on returning to Personnel, Bill put his hands in the air and said, "Don't ask. This is want I want to do. I want to work with people outside. You had told me something about selling fish to neighbourhoods. Can you tell me more about that?"
"All right." she said, "Welcome back. And come back anytime. I'm here to help."
Bill nodded.
"Now let me see. The computer says there is a waiting list. Also. Let's see. Yea. To do this you have to invest $10,000 in this electric van G.M. has built. Now, all the members of the fish sellers tribal community are negotiating with corporate banking and Great Lakes fishing tribal communities as to how to run the operation. So it's still getting off the ground. Here's a name. Why don't you go and see the guy. I'll phone and make an appointment for you. O.K.?"
Bill nodded. "I'll go see him. But I ain't got no 10 big ones."
"So what," she said, "If you can get in, the G.M. credit union tribal community will probably front you the money."
Chris, occupying a draughty office in an old warehouse, didn't seem enthusiastic about Bill's chances of getting in.
"Bottom line, man. We're just starting. The vans will be operating out of this warehouse to start and whoever can buy this van has got to go before a board who decides whether you're in or out. Most of the people we see don't want to put up the 10 g's so we're saying now, show us you're willing to put your money where your mouth is, then we'll consider you."
Bill walked out and walking back slowly to his car he said to himself. "Well. No use thinking about it. I'll just go and get a few days day work to keep the bucks rolling in."
He went to the G.M. day work office where any member of seven years can get a job at any time and worked for a few days on the assembly line. But as he worked, he thought, "I don't want to be doing just this job or something else for the moment. Hell, I'll see if G.M. will front the $10,000."
And sure enough, they would. Bill was surprised at how easily they accepted his application. The woman in the credit union told him they supported corporate finance and really wanted to get this thing happening. She also told him that his $10,000 would only cover half the vehicle and someone else has to put up another $10,000 because each person worked four days and four days off. The vehicle was always in use. "And," she said, "a sure way of getting in was to have the other person lined up so that they didn't have to bother about getting two people together who could work with each other."
Bill walked away with a grin on his face. "Hey!" he said to himself, "I like this. And I'll bet Andy will pick up the other half."
He went to see Andy that evening. Andy was thinking about getting married and settling down. Bill was more casual about a steady arrangement than Andy. Bill's girlfriend was a photographer who led her own life and was pretty clear about having Bill around for emotional support and not much else.
Andy wanted a regular job. He had $5,000 stacked away for building something and he wanted to put it in something that would mean a lot to him. He wanted to be attached to some group that could give him money, let him work with people that he liked, and doing something that he liked. Basketball had been all that, except for the money, and it looked as if Bill’s plan would do the same thing and provide the money. He was concerned about getting his money out if things went sour but he was willing to talk to Chris.
Bill set up an appointment and on the appointed day they met with Chris.
Chris listened to Andy and pointed out that the same rules that covered their employment on the assembly line applied to the situation they were discussing. If there was a dispute it goes before a tribunal of G.M. members from other communities and they decide. There were no legal formalities, just the good name of everyone involved, we sink or swim together. The fish vending tribal community would have the same structure as all the other tribal communities. Everyone who puts in $10,000 has a vote on how it will be run. Ten will be elected by lot as the executive and they will make sure that Chris and the management run the business properly.
Andy and Bill discussed their ideas at length will others and slowly found themselves dealing with all the challenges of starting up a new business. The corporate banking tribe gave advice, trying to make sure they succeeded and be sure the money invested was repaid.
As owners they were motivated to succeed and in doing so they became more knowledgeable about local preferences. This lead to political – or it could be called inter-tribal, action, where they joined with the fish vending tribe pushing for stocking the lakes with more whitefish.
G.M. was expanding in an organic fashion into fishing and from there the production of electric vans for retailing fish. The various tribalized communities under the G.M. umbrella acted interdependently as a network. At its fringes it was barely distinguishable from municipal parks boards or local credit unions. As an assured sustainable corporation it created a large society of employees, joint enterprise entrepreneurs, and consumers, supporting its operations.
Guaranteed lifetime work allows members to launch into micro-entrepreneurship. The idea of retirement as the time to do ‘what we always wanted to do’ would end. There is no reason that a person should wait until they reached sixty to go fulltime fly fishing. A person could open a fishing resort for G.M. members after the first seven years of work – it gives the freedom to seek a vocation in which they can excel. It opens up to everyone the opportunity to search for their wellspring and creativity.
A policy of guaranteed work would emphasise efficient production along with a reduction in pay for those sheltered by strong unions or professional societies. The result would be an enormous increase in jobs. The ‘haves’ of course, would object as they do not want to share their income, even if they do not like their job and would jump at the chance to do ‘what they have always wanted to do’. The preference for the ‘haves’ is to pay in taxes (approximately fifty percent of what they earn in most industrialized nations) and have the ‘have nots’ receive social assistance or unemployment payments.
Such thoughts of assured sustainability are fantasies at this time but the growing global demand for economic equality points to a political and social structure incorporating these ideas.