Thursday, July 5, 2012

Scarcity of Will

The most pressing scarcity we face in the United States today is not a scarcity of things – energy, food, natural resources, or manufactured items.  It is, rather, a shortage of will: of willingness to allocate a sufficient portion of our discretionary spending[1] to labor inputs into the production and delivery of goods, services, and infrastructure.  This lack of will is manifest in a shortage of employment opportunities for those among those of us who require employment income to purchase the necessities of life.

Needless to say, our ongoing adoption of labor productivity[2] only makes matters worse.  Highway spending, for example, does little for local employment when the lion’s share of spending goes to fuel purchases and payments on giant earth-moving machinery.  Yet we consistently describe ourselves as unwilling and/or unable to resist labor productivity[3].

Persisting unemployment leads to social unrest, and high levels can lead to societal breakdown and violence.  Therefore we believe we must increase acquisition of wealth, consumption of luxuries, construction of infrastructure, emissions of wastes, and aggregation of military power at a cumulative rate which matches or exceeds the rate at which we adopt labor productivity.

I see little evidence that this is recognized in our contemporary political discourse – and to the extent that it is, it is invariably drowned out by the heated rhetoric of opposition-blaming.  We-the-people cannot yet imagine the power inherent in choosing the labor of a man over the work potential of a gallon of gasoline.  It does not yet occur to us there could be too much of a good thing called “productivity”.

[1] Including taxes, credit, and money creation
[2] By labor productivity I mean technologies, methods, and inputs of non-anthropogenic energy which reduce or eliminate human labor input per unit output). 
[3] For some persons this is true: no corporation engaged in producing commodities in competitive, price-driven markets can afford to employ people for the sake of employing people.  But many working-class Americans – and virtually all in the middle-class and above – have significant discretion to choose more labor-intensive goods and services over capital- and non-anthropogenic-energy-intensive ones. This even includes choices to use one’s own labor for such things as walking and bicycling (rather than driving), entertaining one’s child (rather than using TV), pushing a human-powered lawnmower (rather than sitting on a motorized one), growing some of one’s food (rather than employing 300 HP tractors and 200 HP harvesters

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