Journey Toward the Firms

A previous post introduced readers to the universe of The Good Corporation, one book in the same titled series by Lazarus Abraham about a White Collar worker who eventually turns Entrepreneur and founds a multi-strategy hedge fund that is a community in itself, both socially and physically. Having now read several other books in the series, I thought it might be worthwhile to return to this universe and discuss some of the interesting perspectives that are explored in the series, in particular, his journey to the Firms. Being the fine collection the books are, this entry is by no means exhaustive.

But first, if you have not read the previous post about this series please read that titled “Inside the Universe of ‘The Good Corporation.’”

The concept that there are three core agencies which vie for allegiance is a timely reduction of some choices faced by modern humans. The author essentially reduces major agencies of collective action and personal security to Tyrannical Governments, Global Corporations, and The Firms. Each is populated by endemic classes of people, who in turn have their own qualities.

Because of financial fallout in the dystopian future, many people were unable to make ends meet, and thus became inured Plebs or members of the Blue Collar. Because of mandates by Tyrannical Governments, often supported by Global Corporations, the population of Firms declined at the same time. The dwindling number of White Collar people still continue to vie for places fewer and fewer positions among the firms, while in response to economic uncertainty and regulation, the Firms increasingly offer part-time employment instead of full-time employment.

Becoming a full-time employee of a Firm is almost akin to becoming a citizen of an ancient Greek city-state, while perhaps working for a Global Corporation would be like inhabiting a city subject to the Athenian empire on the verge of the Peloponnesian War. In this same analogy, the Persian Empire equates to Tyrannical Governments, with their Byzantine practices, persecutions, arbitrary dictates and quintessential Asiatic despotism. In another analogy one might equate the Firms to the disappearing independent German states in the face of an expanding Bismarck-era Prussia, which in turn represents the expansionist and acquisition-oriented Global Corporations. In the same analogy France would represent the Tyrannical Governments, with their subjugation of foreign races, false expressions of sympathy to the destitute and down-trodden and a desire to engage in cataclysmic warfare that would kill or maim half of their adult male subject population (as France did in WWI).

The Firms are like the feudal fiefdoms to which people fled as the Roman Empire collapsed or became too burdensome. Perhaps like Venice. The Firms are the protectors. They are the source of income, security and predictability – even if they are completely surrounded by a Tyrannical State or are a subsidiary of a Global Corporation.

The part-time employee of a Firm is essentially what we would recognize as a resident alien, accorded certain rights but not others, such as an employer health plan and retirement scheme. At the same-time these part-time employees are without allegiance. They are like journeymen or gypsies wandering between medieval kingdoms selling their wares or skills. In an earlier book Dirk Mercer, the protagonist, draws interesting insights from some of these contractors as they sell their labor to the firm where he is employed. They tell him of their exotic experiences at different places with strange internal organizations and workplace cultures, and he retains these understandings as the inter-book plot unfolds.

And it does so, we learn more about Dirk as an individual. It is only briefly touched upon, though occasionally flashbacked to, but we are made to understand that Dirk was once affiliated with Tyrannical Government, first starting out as a minor member of the Servant class, and then becoming a part-time low-level bureaucrat while attending one of the many Tyrannical Government brain-washing and indoctrination camps known as Universities. It was during his time sitting at a desk and doing nothing as a low-level bureaucrat when Dirk fed his mind with non-mainstream and non-governmental intellectual material. This was a veritable red pill and encouraged him to seek association elsewhere. Without the connections for a worthwhile position with the Global Corporations, Dirk instead found a home among the Firms – the last bastion of anything resembling the higher order free market. It is among the Firms where most of the story takes place and where our understanding of the universe of the book series takes more meaningful shape.

So, Dirk is essentially one of the few people able to escape the mental prison of Tyrannical Governments and successfully reach relative security among the Firms and later actual success with his own entrepreneurship. This comes partly as a result of his ability to recognize the true qualities of the three governing agencies, which in turn comes from his exposure to intellectual materials that were later restricted, and also the various part-time workers and contractors with broad perspectives and experiences. The reader, as well as the protagonist, doesn’t even realize Dirk was a serf until his later experiences lend perspective. There are heart-wrenching scenes where Dirk must leave behind those unable to free themselves or those who can’t develop value adding traits. After learning from contractors and the part-time employed, Dirk moves between firms gathering knowledge and skills of various sorts. He witnesses Global Corporation takeovers of Firms, including one where he works, and also sees them take over smaller Tyrannical Governments. Of course, Tyrannical Governments are marauding in various ways through all the books. And it should be mentioned that the courtly bickering within Firms themselves lends other obstacles. The entire series is his journey from serfdom to one of a free man constrained by a brutish reality – the simple state of humanity that John Stuart Mill famously failed to recognize. Though he does ultimately create the multi-strategy hedge fund and community, The Good Corporation, it is Mercer’s journey toward the firms where his emancipation is truly won.