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.