It would be kind of adorable to watch the plutocratic mind at work if these people weren’t essentially running the country. For example, when Forbes is describing Automattic (the company that makes WordPress, which powers this here site) and its completely Internet-based, no-physical-office-at-all means of doing business, you can imagine where their minds immediately go:
A distributed workforce means Automattic can hire talent from around the world–without having to offer the perks and pay of Google, Facebook and Apple.
Obviously the biggest reason you’d want to operate that way is to avoid giving your peons health insurance! That’s how the plutocratic mind to which Forbes caters works: always looking for ways to cut out little inefficiencies such as treating their employees like human beings.
To his credit, Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic and lead developer of WordPress, took exception to that insinuation as well, stating on his blog, “I’d like to counter the last sentence, which implies this is something we do as a cost saving scheme.”
Now, I’ve read a fair bit of Mullenweg’s opinions about technology and the Internet, but I know next to nothing about his politics, so I have no idea what benefits he provides his employees and how he feels about doing so. I’m not even going to speculate.
In fairness, health insurance was a poor example, because the logistics involved in providing health insurance to employees who live not only all over the US but in 26 different countries sounds daunting at best. More importantly, there’s no doubt that at least several of the 26 countries in which Automattic employees live are countries in which health insurance is unnecessary and employers aren’t left with the burden of covering their employees. Not that I feel bad for the American employers who have to do so, but everyone is better off when they’re not at the mercy of the whims and profit motives of their employers with regard to having access to healthcare.
My point is, I have no idea what kind or extent of perks Automattic offers its employees, but while Mullenweg is absolutely right that being able to work from almost anywhere in the world has many huge advantages, I do hope he’s conscious of the danger it presents as well: that it will morph into yet another form of globalization, enabling corporations to race to the bottom with regard to how it treats its employees and how much it pays them.