Jaron Lanier on the structural gotcha for American business

Scanning the HuffPo RSS feeds, I spotted this insightful piece by Jaron Lanier: “I am writing this on a United Airlines flight over the Atlantic. The flight is tense. We had a mechanical delay and United has been having trouble re-routing customers who will miss connections, apparently because it is now understaffed. The major airlines of the richest country in history tend to be bankrupt, and somehow or other that is considered normal.”

That much is familiar. But the analysis is slightly different from what you’d find in the WSJ:

American corporations are increasingly functioning like fashion models. Youth matters most…. The main problem for old companies is that if you’ve had a workforce for a long time, the health care and pension bills pile up…. From them… I always hear complaints about a walloping big “Tax-like expense” they have to pay for health care and pensions, a tax that foreign competitors are excused from…. [C]ompanies facing the Tax that dare not speak its name have a harder time thinking in the long term. Toyota would probably not have been able to fund the development of the Prius if it faced the Tax at home in Japan.

Is this what an America in decline will look like? When Google has been around long enough to have a middle aged staff instead of a gorgeous crowd of healthy young people, will investors dump it for a new Googalike that can hire kids again to get out from under health care and pension costs?

The thing that I’ve always found amazing is that universal health care in the U.S.A. is solidly opposed by the right-wing corporate establishment, even though these are the people who could benefit most from it in the long term through the business efficiencies and flexibility that it would create. But I guess ideology is more powerful than rational self-interest.