Friday, August 13, 2010

The Solution to Jobless Growth

The solution to Jobless Growth is:

Growthless Jobs! Now that wasn't so hard, was it? Reverse the words and Presto! The solution to all of our problems.

Really, it makes sense. Consider what we have right now in our economy. Lots of businessmen (and women) who set out with the explicit intention to sell toasters, cars, corn chips, open-heart surgery – stuff like that. Lots of investors with a laser-beam focus on getting Higher Returns. And darn near every consumer bound and determined to get More Stuff for Less.

Given these intentions, what have we got to show for it? Exactly what one would expect: lots of toaster manufacturing; profits on toaster sales; toasters in our basements, in our attics and storage lockers, on our garage sale tables. More toasters than we need…and unemployed people who have good reason to worry about not being needed.

Hmm…no need for so many toasters…not enough need for people who need to be needed. Could it be that our intentions are the problem? More precisely, a LACK of intent? A BIG lack? A black hole, in fact?

Amidst all our intentions to make and sell and profit on and acquire more toasters than we need (along with more than enough other stuff), where is our intention to need people?

Could this have something to do with passing the buck? OK, we all love to blame Government whenever unemployment rears its ugly head. Business executives with factories run by automated machines don't even blink when they scream bloody murder about how Government is preventing them from creating jobs. Even the candidates play along, making all kinds of promises about the jobs THEY are going to “create”…after (of course!) they blame the opposition party for unemployment...and every other ill in the world.

But what if the whole thing was a ruse, a huge lie we tell ourselves in order to avoid yet another Inconvenient Truth? Forget outsourcing toaster-manufacturing, what happens in an economy when darn near everyone "outsources" responsibility for making sure that people who need to be needed…are needed?

The thing that makes it really tough is this: we can get More Stuff for Less – and Higher Returns to boot! – when we outsource employment to fossil fuels, machines, and automation. Year after year, more Productivity, more “saving” labor. What the heck, who needs other human beings these days?

Oops, we still need them to consume the stuff our machines are making. So…is there some way to make machines that consume? THAT would be sweet! Cars that drive themselves to McDonalds and order high-fructose corn syrup (straight up) from serving-robots. That's right, skip the distillery, skip turning most of the corn into cow-manure (another disposal problem!), we're talking about hyper-mobile, perpetually-hungry consumers that wanna LiveGreen GoYellow, baby.

Ye-ha! Kick back and watch the DOW soar! Who knows, with the ethanol subsidy AND “smart” cars ordering corn syrup for themselves at every drive-thru in America, maybe the corn surplus would take care of itself…

Anyway, is a bit of Luddism in order here? As in, enough to make sure that we need one-another? And how about choosing to need our own labor once in a while? Instead of using our legs mostly to press accelerator and brake pedals, what if we used them more often for (Gasp!) self-locomotion? Getting from “a” to “b”?

I got a lot more to say. You want it?


Dawn said...

You have some really good nuggets of food for thought in here, Hans.

A.T. Wood said...

Well done! Well said!! Makes me think of the "modest proposal" of Jonathan Swift...With every job outsourced, with every industry automated and all persons anaesthetized by the all seeing blind eye of the cyber world...the next step would logically be...let's eat people...first the old and weak...the uninsured...then move onward and upward from there.