“Are Jobs Obsolete?”
Sandwichman has a history of writing on the topic of “Lump of Labor” at Econospeak. “Are Jobs Obsolete” is another in a long series working less due to technological achievement minimizing the need for Labor in Manufacturing and/or Services processes. Speaking as a “throughput analyst” who has done brownfield and Lean” analysis, the need for Labor will lessen even more going into the future.
Citing Rushkoff’s 2011 CNN.com article “Are Jobs Obsolete?”, CEO co-Founder Larry Page also brings up the topic of the need of potentially working less. This is nothing new given Sandwichman’s plethora of posts over the years of fewer hours required in the work week.
While Rushkoff hesitates in saying the obvious, I am not afraid to sign up to it: “but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand we all want paychecks — or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs?
We’re living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That is because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that’s even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings Video to get the empty houses off their books.”
So why is food, clothing, housing even a problem given our present ability to manufacture with greater efficiency and throughput the needs of this nation and globally for that matter with a fraction of the Labor which was needed even as late as the sixties (Drucker/Ingersoll Engineers)? We are held to some artificial standard which demands 40+ hours of week of every person, able bodied or not, to the age of 67 before enjoying the ability to retire at a lesser percentage of the wages earned while laboring called Social Security and hopefully a 401k. The increase in wages for Labor has not kept up with the increase in productivity and neither have the hours worked been offset by productivity gains thereby allowing more Labor into the work force. Instead, productivity gains have been heavily skewed to Capital and a few while Labor has been set aside dormant and used as a control factor to any increase in Labor wages.
In a WSJ interview, Douglas Rushkoff talks with Dennis Berman: “Does America Really Need More Jobs? Hat Tip to Sandwichman at Econospeak. Worth a listen.
I was lucky enough to have a job (for a while) that I enjoyed. I am also lazy enough so that I know if I were offered a paycheck to stay home, I’d take it. I hope I’d find something to do at least as productive as what I did on the job. (In fact, I seem to be doing just that now.)
My point is first that people “need” work… that is something that makes them feel useful and productive. They don’t do well standing on corners watching the girls go by. Neither do the girls.
On the other hand “employers” can’t see the point of paying “more than they have to,” and real crazies like Alan Simpson are convinced the devil makes work for idle hands.
I think you’ll have to solve the last two problems before you get a sane labor market.
Also, to my regret, the history of the world as I know it suggests that a country which does not put in full time building up it’s military industrial base will be conquered by one that does.
Interesting that the interviewer interpreted the exchange-based economy, where exchanges of effort outside of the money economy would “destroy value” because it would drive profit down to a minimum set by the actual worker, as a serious problem.
Two thoughts: when the profit is driven down to a level acceptable to the principals, what is lost? The worker gets a credit acceptable to him, the buyer pays credits acceptable to him, but what is lost is the gap between principals that permits skimming of credit by people whose contribution to the exchange is either mediation (not necessary in a Craigslist world) or else prevention — raising an artificial threshold between the principals.
The second point is that the “value loss,” either to the intermediaries or to the seller of labour, can be viewed as a steep value gain to the members of this society who are buying those services.
Not impressed by the interviewer, who was rather smarmy and dismissive. Bug, feature, you know the drill.
that is very similar to the argument that Social Security reduces the incentive to work. Seems that people are not to be allowed to say how much is “enough.” Thing is that while the boss gets no value out of your leisure, he makes roughly one dollar for every dollar you make working for him.
It has been shown that leisure time does improve productivity or throughput.
This caught my eye: “My point is first that people “need” work… that is something that makes them feel useful and productive. They don’t do well standing on corners watching the girls go by. Neither do the girls.
It reminds me a a comment my late wife said about driving through Watts in the late 60’s. She would leave our white bread neighborhood and pick up a black woman and go to The University of Southern California for a class. Leaving white bread there would be no one on the streets. In Watts there would be groups of black men standing around. My take was that us white bread had been socialized to work and black men had been socialized to not expect to find work. Wonder if that will be the fate of men in white bread?
The Rich and the Middle class had been socialized to work and the Poor and Lower class have been socialized to not expect to find work. There was a time not that long ago, one could come to Michigan from the South spawning Taylor-tuckey Michigan and find a job on the assembly line and make a good wage. Those jobs have gone away leaving lower wage and less attractive jobs which provide the bare minimums in purchasing power. This can be seen in south-eastern Michigan and Detroit which was walled off via the Milliken v. Bradley decision. Yet as many despise the Detroit Metropolitan area, it still provides 52% of Michigan’s GDP. Without Detroit, Michigan would not be much.
“This sort of work isn’t so much employment as it is creative activity.” Perhaps it is no longer the activity of making too much stuff and a matter of challenging the man or women with some endeavor? Poverty adds the injury of being socially invisible when compared to a man of wealth or prominence.
Then too, do we really need a 40+ hour work week?
been coming a long time. It took a while after the civil war for the old Planters to recognize that it’s cheaper to rent than to buy and the white is as good as black.
but Hey Run, I been reading that book you recommended. It strikes me that Ronald Reagan would have agreed with it…. The real world is a constant state of war in which the biggest army and the best guns wins, and “free enterprise” and of course, “control of resources” is the best way to have the biggest army.
if this is true… and i suspect it is true enough that we can’t get away with calling the Reagans crazy and stupid… it would suggest that maybe one reason why “we can’t afford Social Security” is that when people are secure enough so they don’t HAVE to work, they lose the “incentive to work” and you can’t build the most guns if your people are taking half of their lives off not working.
I do suspect this has more to do with the war against retirement (worldwide) than is generally recognized.
If you are speaking of Kennedy’s “The Rise and the Fall of the Great Powers,” you have arrived at the wrong conclusion. Maintaining a large military costs and it costs at the expensive of domestic productivity. In the end every nation since the Qing dynasty which has done so, has ended up a tier 2 or 3 nation in the end.
I am not sure what Kennedy’s “conclusion” is, but at least in the first few chapters he makes a good case for “it’s a dog eat dog world out there and it’s guys with the biggest armies and best guns who survive…. for awhile. At some point they get overextended and can’t make enough guns or field enough armies and so the next big dog gets his turn. There is no illusion about this by the parties. But they have no choice either.
You get eaten sooner or later, later is better.
But as for Me, I think we could at least do a better job of it… for one thing, as you may have noticed, people are more productive when they are treated better. I don’t think Reagan or Cheney noticed that. And there didn’t seem to be much point in invading Iraq… or Afganistan… except that Cheney likes to shoot people in the face.
My point.. besides the one about “working” … is that when we try to talk to these people, much less negotiate with them… it is not best to begin by assuming they are stupid and insane. Not all of them. They can be brought around to treating people better… if they can see the strategic advantage of that.
Meanwhile, don’t expect the world to become all peace and love because you’d prefer it that way. So would I. But even when I try to appeal to people’s enlightened self interest I find that first.. enlightenment is very hard to get.. and second… people appear to have evolved to enjoy hurting their “enemies.”
“If you are speaking of Kennedy’s “The Rise and the Fall of the Great Powers,” you have arrived at the wrong conclusion. Maintaining a large military costs and it costs at the expensive of domestic productivity.”
Yep, that about captures it. Read it around the time of the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq . . .
You forgot the one part of being relegated to Tier 2 or 3 as a nation after consistently overspending GDP growth on war or defense. Coberly is in his typical contrarian mode. Time to ignore him.
I haven’t finished the book and that may well be Kennedy’s conclusion.
My guess is that there is a trade off between military spending and the domestic spending that keeps the economy robust enough to keep up the military spending. It’s not an either-or; it’s a question of optimization. And while you and I might draw the line far to the left of where Reagan etc would draw it, I suspect there are dangers either way.
Let me try to assure you that I don’t like Reagan, Bush, or the whole military-industrial economy-on-steroids “ethic.” What I am not sure of is the extent to which we can rid ourselves of it, or even talk the Right into a better balance.
And if you and Run will look at my original comment you will see.. I hope… that I didn’t come to any conclusion at all.
Bull Shit; but you can read what you want into it. It is what it is and the tradeoff is becoming a tier 2 or 3 nation by overspending the growth in GDP on Defense or War consistently. Why do you think Kennedy takes the time to look at each nation? I (we) can care less if you like Reagan or Bush and either is a non sequitur to Kennedy’s take on the issue.
I was just discussing the failure of logic most of the time in most humans. If you read what I said you would realize how inappropriate you “bull shit” is.
I did note that Dale hasn’t finished the book. I did.
I was agreeing with you, not disagreeing with Dale.
To decry excessive military spending is not to favor no–or inadequate–spending. In my universe, there are grays, as well as black-and-white. Kennedy is not merely writing about military spending. He writes of the unsustainable use of military to establish and maintain empires. The US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t extend US empire, albeit in the absence of tax increases to pay for them, they were unsustainable and contributed to the federal deficits and debt. Maintaining an excessive military-industrial complex is a temptation to use the military that countries find hard to resist. We need to diminish that temptation.
I absolutely agree with you.
you have the knack for insering comments where it is hard to follow up with a relevant comment. when I said the boss gets no value out of your leisure I was thinking of “retirement.”
in the not so distant past most bosses were pretty sure they got no value out of giving you a lunch break (leisure). they seem to have gotten smarter than that, or just resigned to the “lost productivity” (people don’t learn even when the evidence is in front of them).
So I, even I, understand that children need recess if they are going to learn anything at all… something the Superintendent of schools in Portland a few years ago didn’t understand and had all the city fathers swooning at his brilliance. Eventually though, for other reasons, they paid him a million dollars to go away.
my prediction: as long as jobs are needed to produce the weapons that keep the owners feeling safe, there will be jobs… those jobs anyway.
though i don’t think they care much about “your” job. you’ll have to work on that barter thing.
and it’s just possible the owners have figured out how to be international and don’t even care about “national security.”
but don’t expect much job sharing unless you are a nuclear physicist and know another one who wants some time off for personal development.