Wednesday, November 12, 2008


That's what your employer tells you. You think: "How nice. My employer is concerned about my health. He knows that the flu is a painful disease and he genuinely feels alarmed that I might endure physical suffering if I contract it. How kind of him to care."

Wrong. Your employer wants you to get a flu shot because he read a report entitled: "The Annual Economic Impact of Influenza Infection." In that report, he read that the flu costs $87 billion in lost worker productivity every year. He also read that the flu causes American employees to lose millions of work days. Last, he read that the flu leads to 3.1 million hospitalized days per yer; and that leads to higher employee health plan premiums. Knowing this, your employer insists that you get a flu shot, because it can reduce your infection chances between 70% and 90%. He tells you: "Go downstairs and pay $20 of your own money to get a flu shot. After all, you don't want to get a temperature, sweats, dizziness, aches, delirium and malaise, do you? I wouldn't want to see you suffer like that." But he really doesn't care about whether you'll suffer or not. All he cares about is your profitable presence on the job site. And he maximizes the chance that you will remain on the job site if he can eliminate the flu as a reason for your absence.

What do I aim to show here? I aim to show that commercial motivations do not focus on human need. Rather, they focus on profit/loss balance. From a human perspective, you would want a person to get a flu shot because you know that it is never pleasant to have the flu. You recommend the shot so that they can avoid bodily suffering and pain. After all, we are human beings. We know what agonies our flesh can bring us, and we sympathize with others who suffer agonies. But from a commercial perspective, illness means nothing but a "productivity interruption." In order to maximize profits, productivity must be optimal. Productivity depends on human labor. To render effective labor, humans must be healthy and physically able to work. From a commercial perspective, the fact that illness may cause an individual worker tremendous bodily suffering is a matter of total indifference. All that matters is whether he can produce what needs to be produced in order to maximize profits. If illness threatens productivity, then employers will take steps to combat illness. That is the only reason why employers insist that their employees get vaccinated against the flu every year. At your expense, of course. After all, according to the employer's disingenuous charade: "It's for your own good." Nonsense--it's for the employer's good that you stay healthy.

Influenza is virulently contagious in settings where many people come into contact with one another in close quarters. Commercial activity takes place under exactly these physical conditions. Employers know, then, that the flu has the unique--and likely--capacity to completely hamstring their labor base. That is the only reason why they pay such close attention to the flu. There are millions of other diseases about which they could be concerned. But they only push for their employees to defend against the flu. It has the greatest capacity to damage annual profits. Statistically, other diseases do not present the same risk. This further demonstrates that employers do not care whether their employees suffer physical agony. They merely want to ensure that enough employees stay sufficiently healthy to generate profits for the enterprise. In the end, it boils down to a simple question of numbers: "How many will be sick? How many will be healthy? How many do we need to maintain X productivity level? How much productivity is necessary to generate profit Y? If flu shots are needed to maintain X productivity level, tell the employees to get flu shots."

It doesn't matter whether you are in pain, or even if you are dying. What matters is whether you can show up and put in your 8 hours. Yet your employer entices you to get a flu shot by appealing to your human side. He doesn't tell you that the only reason he's concerned about you is because his profit/loss balance will dwindle if you catch the flu. This is commercial thinking. And there is nothing human or compassionate about it.

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