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Job Destroyers

The rich never pay the cost

What's a job?
Basically it's the opportunity to work for somebody who pays you for the time you spend working. And that somebody does it in the hope of selling the output of your work for may than you were paid for working. Marx made a convincing case that jobs are the only way of creating surplus value which is what creates the pools of capital we need for investment in a capitalist society.

This system is dynamic and can produce exponential growths in capital accumulation for the capitalist. All they need to do is hire and equip more people to make more money - the system feeds on itself and can become a virtuous spiral. But for this pretty picture to work the output of workers must find buyers. Without buyers there is no way for the capitalist to recoup even the money paid to workers doing their jobs, let alone make a profit. In fact - without buyers the virtuous spiral becomes a vicious one that can destroy productive operations in pretty short order - literally huge industrial enterprises end up as piles of rusting buildings and machinery surrounded by zones of blight and poverty. And this is actually a fairly positive thing from many perspectives - it's called creative destruction. It causes periodic renewal of our productive capacity with newer more efficient methods.

Let's think about that - newer and more efficient methods - gotta be good right? But what does more efficient really mean? It means producing with less labor. Less labor means fewer jobs but it's pretty convoluted because sometimes doing things more efficiently means that much more gets done. That is newer ways of working enable more kinds of work. The loss of jobs in the buggy whip industry was more than made up in jobs building cars and highways.

Such is the way that economic activity seems to spin itself up out of nothing - like it took only a few hundred years for North America to go from a wilderness to an industrial wasteland. This spinning up out of nothing aspect of an economy makes it very dynamic and hard to predict. There are many narratives around that pretend to be predictive; if you follow this or that ideology or plan or leader or party jobs will be generated And if you don't they won't be generated This is all pure prediction and most of the extant narratives have very little predictive power.

One side says that taxing rich people discourages them from investing which is associated with a subtext that only the rich know how to invest. Another side says without taxation to support infrastructure jobs directly that infrastructure is falling apart so it's more and more expensive to even ship the products of the factories around. How about this idea; it is those predictive narratives that are genuine job destroyers because they blind us to our actual situation.

It's why we have eyes and ears. Nature learned long ago that automatic algorithms don't work very well in dynamic situations like ecosystems. Those who can actually detect problems and opportunities can flee them or take advantage of them. And yes I know that lots of entities prosper by just sitting around with their mouth open waiting for something to fall in. The point here is that by being completely dependent on predictive narratives about our economy we are basically sitting around hoping for good luck.

Can we do better?

Why not?

After all there are lots of area of human life that have ways of checking predictive narratives for accuracy - science and medicine come to mind. But it applies to all sorts of fields too - from art to financial auditing. People make their way by trying really hard to see what is really happening and have developed many ways of finding an accurate narrative.

And the thing about an accurate narrative it helps you in your situation now - it's not so much a prediction I like Karl Popper's idea of an open society. That's a society that can see what it's actual situation is and solve problems as they arise. Heck - an open society might even be able to re-imagine human culture so that we can move away from a society dependent on jobs at all.

For instance - rather than be rugged individualists supporting ourselves with jobs maybe we'd like something being members of co-ops Instead of a job the co-op members might have roles they play that together forms a function economic unit. But with nobody having a 9 to 5 job and nobody thinking about unemployment insurance. (There would be other problems of course to be solved :-)

What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.