Why are we surprised that unemployment continues to rise? Why do we expect the GOVERNMENT to do something about it?
We've spent the last 200 years mechanizing and automating everything possible. Substituting fossil fuels for human labor and computer circuits for cogitation. "Labor-saving" has become "labor-destroying". Yet it never occurs to us that there could be such a thing as too much productivity.
As James Howard Kunstler says, “It’s all good”…as long as the economy keeps growing every year. But planet Earth ain’t getting any bigger. The highest-quality, most easily extracted resources are gone, and now we’re strip-mining an Arizona-sized chunk of Canadian forest for tarry goo, and even thinking about scraping the barrel at 25,000 feet below sea level. How do you spell “desperation”?
Plus there are limits to how much credit you can vacuum out of the future to jack up present consumption. So when people get frugal, when hundreds of millions of Americans wake up and realize that we don’t really need all the junk we’re buying, unemployment skyrockets. People are terrified that no one else needs them. With good reason. Decade after decade, our economy has “decided” that more and more of the essential jobs should be done by machines.
As citizens, we sure as the devil don’t ACT like we want other Americans to have jobs. Except we’re not citizens anymore – we’re cogs in the economy. As consumers our fidelity is to the lowest prices – getting as much as possible for as little as possible – flaunting our wealth – dying with the most toys. As investors we want the highest rate of return. If these things are incompatible with living wages, health care, honoring pension obligations, supporting local communities…well to hell with them. We’re rational, after all.
But what about good-old-fashioned self-reliance? Right. These days we don’t even want to employ our own legs to get from “a” to “b”. Of course it doesn’t help that 50+ years of Happy Motoring has destroyed pedestrian-oriented, transit-supportive communities.
Yes, Greenspan and his disciples are clueless. But so are people who think that with a dose of hard reality – and if only the government stops “interfering” – the economy will eventually turn around and grow and everything will be OK again.
Sorry, we ain’t in Kansas anymore.