How exactly do you create a job?
by Noni Mausa
How exactly do you create a job? Raising and Training Omadiki
How exactly do you create a job? The president is blamed for not doing it (but warned not to do it directly.) Business is exhorted to do it, (but not blamed for not doing it.) But what is the “it” that they are not doing?
A big heap of Lego blocks, piled on the floor, are mere caltrops to the unwary new parent. But with a little imagination, the blocks link up and can take the form of people, machines or even animals. Given enough blocks and a little ingenuity, the range of forms they can assume seems endless.
In human societies each person is a highly complicated Lego block, and each employed person is someone who has found a spot in a structure and helps animate it. This creation of powerful “living” structures out of many participants is a skill like no other species on our planet. To reify this sort of structure is difficult in English, since the words “team,” “crew,” “corporation,” and others all have precise meanings that don’t embrace the whole set. So, when in doubt, go check the Greek. And there we find the word omadiki, “group,” all handy to be stolen, ahem “adopted” for the purpose.
To create a job, it appears, will almost always mean to create or augment an omadik -a structure animated by people. Simple examples of these structures include a football team, a university, a bakery or an army. The payoff to participating in, supporting or at least tolerating such structures is HUGE.
(Let’s call these jobs “derived” jobs. There are also “direct” jobs which don’t participate in such structures, but may or may not depend on their existence. For now, let’s just look at the derived jobs.)
Lego blocks are static and undemanding. Human beings are far from static, and ornery. However, keeping that in mind perhaps our omadiki model of employment can be some use.
Individual people, unlike most wild animals, have a difficult time living well only on the efforts of their own hands. But as we begin to link up, our productivity rises so abruptly that above a certain low population and resource threshold we begin to create more value than we can use. Scarcity is no longer the problem – storage and distribution is.
Heresy! Isn’t scarcity the foundational concept of economics? Maybe so, but I don’t believe it. As witness I cite countries like Zimbabwe, where the populace is desperately poor but there is still enough productivity excess to needs to support a small but sumptuous upper class. It is excess-to-needs which creates an upper class, and how many countries do you know that do not have one of those?
Society is an interaction of many omadiki. Each exists only so long as it retains the participation of enough people. Of course people, and thus the constructs they animate, depend on some of the common produce being returned to them as sustenance. But the fraction of total productivity needed for this is not large. And it’s participation of people, not their prosperity, or their direct profit from a given omadik, which keeps such constructs alive.
Omadiki which do not return their share of sustenance are, by definition, free riders — predators or parasites, or (in many, many cases) pets. All ecosystems have free riders. We have lots. And humans have supported lots of free riders for thousands of years.
Our excess-to-needs allows long periods of childhood and retirement, supports artists and thinkers, many poor people and many people who have situated themselves in society so as to tap off some of the excess. We care for our disabled and elderly, and we imprison rather than kill or exile our transgressors.
The support extends to our draft animals, our omadiki. We maintain expensive pets like symphony orchestras, arctic expeditions, WWI air museums, and partisan think tanks, and still have plenty for all.
Not scarcity, but excess, is the essence of our economy.
Paradoxically, this excess is a big problem for feral omadiki, the parasites and predators among our constructs. They rely on human participation for their existence, as do the domesticated omadiki. And there is surplus for all. But, they want to benefit from the productivity of their participants while giving back as little as possible. Ideally, they want individuals to draw their sustenance elsewhere, and work as volunteers for the parasites.
Strictly speaking, this isn’t quite true. Omadiki simply want to persist. But people are fickle, distractible and ornery. What if they decide they don’t want to be on the team any more? What if they run off to join another, more comfortable omadik? What if your liver or your gall bladder decided to spend July in the south of France, or all your cells took off to forge new careers as individual protista in the leaf litter? They not only need us, but cannot exist without us.
Which brings us to the current paradox. On the one hand, millions of people without a spot as part of an omadik, on the other hand thousands of omadiki either undersized or not existing at all. Their non-existence is not a threat to America, because the productivity of the existing omadiki is excess-to-needs, more now than ever in history.
But right now, more than ever, it is nearly impossible for an individual to access sustenance, or hold social status, unless they have a good spot in an omadik. This is the gap between the individual and the excess-to-needs – the scarcity at the core of conventional economics that obliges him to participate even when the return is equal to or less than the effort he expends. Part of this coercion lies in convincing individuals that omadiki are the source of sustenance, rather than the gatekeepers of sustenance and creators of scarcity. God knows that is well in hand.
And finally, of course the excess-to-needs doesn’t go to the omadik, it being imaginary. It goes to those who ride the creature like a mahout on an elephant’s neck, and to those who manage the mahouts. But that is a different post.
(Dan here…Yes, scarcity in economics does not mean the same as scarcity means to us regular folk. But ‘economics’ intrudes all the time as story telling into regular folks lives.)
trouble is, whatever scarcity means in economics, folks throw the word around as if it meant whatever it means to ordinary folk and then build national economic policy on the basis of it.
aside from “natural scarcity” which does exist from time to time, there is a pretty reliable chance that at any time someone will want “more,” and this is a disease.
I’ll see if I can find it, but reading about the Kellog company use of 6 hour work days, I learned that today we could produce everything we had in 1948 on 2 hour work days. That is a lot of excess productivity.
Unfortunately for US, we put that extra toward more productivity. ‘Cause you know we don’t want non of that there European 6 wk vacation and 1 yr maternity leave socialism.
A reminder of past post/discussions
while we are going greek, we may want to remember that the greek word for “a man alone” is “idiot.”
i think you get a little confused with your metaphor (which i enjoy):
[now it is impossible for the] “individual to access sustenance, or hold social status, unless they have a good spot in an omadik. This is the gap between the individual and the excess-to-needs – the scarcity at the core of conventional economics that obliges him to participate even when the return is equal to or less than the effort he expends. Part of this coercion lies in convincing individuals that omadiki are the source of sustenance, rather than the gatekeepers of sustenance and creators of scarcity.”
first, it would be hard to measure exactly what “return” is equal to in terms of “effort.” the economists would say essentially that the return is equal to its value in the market. most working people would have their doubts, and most Republicans are absolutely convinced that their return is 100% what they “deserve.”
second, you (and the Republicans) overlook the grand omadiki… the government. without it, the little omadike, not to say the individuals, would get far less than they do with it. but it is so hard for them to remember this at tax time that they are convinced the government is taking away something that is rightfully “theirs,”
this is exactly the same fallacy commited by those of a communist persuasion who beleve that property is theft, or by Noni, who appears to believe (in one place) that her omadiki do not create wealth but only gatekeep it. the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the creator of the whole also “earns” his share… as does the government.
this is not to say that both the government and the owners do not at times cause harm — even to themselves — by grasping for more than they “should,” though by what measure we are to dermine “should” I can’t quite say.
That was an interesting post. I’m not sure if this is helpful, but I did find the ranking of the States infant mortallity rates and median incomes revealing: State Rankings–Statistical Abstract of the United States–Infant Mortality Rate
Ranked from Highest to Lowest Using 3-Year Average
This is actually a first, toe-in-the-water approach to looking at what jobs are, in our current (that is, post Industrial Revolution) economic environment.
I don’t know Jimi’s source of income, but there is practically no way, no matter how hard working or lazy he may be, for him to prosper without the confluent effort of hundreds of omadiki.
A “job” isn’t a single, free-floating combination of effort and reward. It’s human effort tailored to one little task which, combined with the tasks of hundreds of others, results in a payback hundreds of times greater than possible from the individual efforts toward the same goal.
But what happens when the human effort needed for all production is reduced to the point that nobody will pay a living wage for the efforts of left-over citizens, however skilled and virtuous they may be? What happens when omadiki and their mahouts have concentrated control of sustenance and wealth to such an extent that there are no direct jobs save robbery, prostitution or living in the wilds in a hut, eating wild ducks and cat-tail roots?
If our entire socioeconomic system links up so tightly that only a hermit can escape it, then we had dang well be aware of this.
“…fallacy commited by Noni, who appears to believe (in one place) that her omadiki do not create wealth but only gatekeep it…”
Not a fallacy.
Individual human beings, working in concert, create wealth. Omadiki are patterns brought to life by the time, effort and attention of the people who participate in them (employees and customers alike.) When we say “Goldman Sachs did such-and-so” there is, of course, no there there. No bottom to smack, no soul to damn. With a loss of participation, the giant conglomerate evaporates. Think buggy whips.
Being able to design and animate these patterns is a huge benefit to the human race. Believing they are real, believing they are our fellow persons, our masters or even our owners, is the chief hazard we risk by empowering them.
Yes, the “government” is a thousand-armed omadik also — the one which, if we are lucky, keeps the others in line. Recognizing that all of these overlapping entities are our creatures (in the religious sense — creatures are “things created”) is a constant and crucial task for the human beings who monitor them. You can recognize these people because, in unguarded moments after a half a pizza and a glass of wine, they start to sound like SF writers.
“More productivity?” Sometimes, certainly. But I am guessing that often times that extra effort is absorbed in threat- or promise-driven wheel spinning.
perhaps not a fallacy the way you are thinking of it. certainly i hear a lot of talk about abstract entities as though they were people. “the economy” is the worst of the lot, that which we must worship and obey. and if mere humans are harmed in the process, well, the god must be served.
but i think you are in danger of failing to recognize that “the organization” does have a kind of life, and that life gives direction and power to the efforts of those who are members of it. and those who create such organizations are creators indeed. workers even. i’m not ready to put such creators in the category of “they who must be obeyed,” like our Randian friends. but i think there is some danger on the part of the Left to minimize the contribution of “entrepreneurs.”
what makes it funny is that it is exactly the same fallacy the Right commits when they fail to recognize the contribution of “government.”
as for finding a bottome to smack, I thought Nuremburg had settled that.
“…you are in danger of failing to recognize that “the organization” does have a kind of life…”
No Coberly, I do recognize that. Once created, the effects go both ways – people tailor the org, but the org also tailors (by choice, training or exclusion) its component people.
No, what I was in danger of, was writing a piece longer than 70,000 words and still perforce leaving important parts out. And getting turfed off the site.
sounds like we are arguing. i can’t imagine why.
Is that you Sandwichman (Tom Walker)? If not it sure sounds like him
Sorry. I didn’t think we were arguing either. Must be the wine talking. * hic *
You could have written a better essay if you dropped he idea of omadiki which doesn’t seem, if what you are written is evidence, to lead to any insight into the creation of jobs. A job has two sides: a function to perform and getting paid for it. There are all sorts of societal positions which are not jobs, but you were starting to talk about jobs. (I agree that the problem is excess and not scarcity, but the getting paid for it part of jobs has a lot to do with our management of excess.)
Then again, I’m a horrible reductionist.
Hi Kaleberg. I use the “omadik” idea because our default view of the world of work is just as you describe — and not correct, not complete and not helpful for many people. It takes a lot for granted and leaves a lot out.
Much of the effort essential to a society is not paid. Much paid work is either non-essential or even harmful. Many essential possessions, like status, as essential to human beings as water and shelter, is mostly tied to holding a position in an omadik and/or wielding control of a large number of the naked IOUs we call money.
There will always be inequalities in wealth, power and social standing. We were told “The poor will always be with you,” but the rich will always be with us too, as a side effect of our ability to generate more than we need by working together. But we have seen that when that imbalance reaches a certain level, things collapse and people get hurt, and it’s hardly ever the rich.
I try, with my unusual approach to describing the structures we build and live in, to take us far enough outside those structures so we can see why they collapse and what the effect is of such collapses.
You are right when you say I didn’t deal directly with job creation. There is work to be done — tons of it. There are people to do it — millions. So what stands between them? In a society that insists that private business organizations are the most legitimate mediators between effort needed and persons organized towards that effort, and that the most legitimate source of sustenance for a citizen is to find a spot in such an organization, we run the risk of the people and the effort alike being held hostage by whatever interests have positioned themselves to be in control of the whole process.
Currently, those interests don’t want to step in to address the wasted months of unemployed workers, their sustenance, or the tasks not being done. In this way, they have made it plain that are not the most legitimate mediators. But they demand that no-one else (like the elected government of the USA) step into the breach and link up workers and work.
The dog is not just in the manger, but has an option on the granary and the prairies, too. I think this is a bad thing. But as long as people believe the default job-market model, that work and workers have a free-floating existence and that people who aren’t working [for a traditional employer] are at fault, the free-range hostages will continue to suffer and the nation will continue to slide into mediocrity.