"Taking himself seriously, so you don't have to."

Part IV: Unemployment

Part IV: Unemployment

There’s no solid reason why so many skilled, educated youth are unemployed. It does not make sense. If growth is feasible for such a long period, there is no reason why this should be. If the private sector method of employment for more product, more sale, and more taxes were good (consumerism), then what we’re seeing now would not be happening. What the fuck is wrong? Consumerism does not work. “As much product as possible”, but a labor force unnecessary, a generation in its prime: skilled, educated, and wanting to work. We have some heavy duty problems when there is no one to go to. When ditch-diggers aren’t even needed. And yet!

 

We have such an abundance of goods and services, here in the USA. Something is wrong with the way we view currency. The troubles of our economy are not troubles of our existence… they are problems of paper, and our perceptions. We should keep them on paper and somehow learn to disregard a caging debt. Because our output as a people does not depend on dollars, it depends on the hands and feet of every man and woman, every mind that learns a new trade, each bushel of wheat raised from the earth, each rotation of the wind turbine, every cow, pig, and horse, every car or contraption assembled with a skilled hand. This is what money stands for. Nothing is stopping say, the people of Greece, from doing these things besides an imaginary number on some dataset somewhere. But for those that do not have these things. Skilled people, energy, and the land to grow. And yet you know, that sometimes things don’t always turn out right for every part of a country, or part of a coalition. The way that the United States have turned is that one is for all, all for one. That’s how it should be. Have a small spat (Civil War)? Get over it, and get into it all together. When falter, you fall. The European Union, you guys knew what you were getting into. You make choices and you live with them. Live with it and help your neighbors. Because in the end, and always, we will always be.

 

*****

 

Presently, our world is so rich, so decadent, so saturated with wealth of every kind (not everyone can afford it, but it’s RIGHT THERE). The average suburban shopping center contains thousands of things that were unimaginable ages ago. They were impossible to create, certainly in the numbers that we have been building them, or rather, contracting them out to be built. This is an evident fact, and of course it has been mentioned many times before, that our age is rich.

As I have mentioned with the waste of food, in which the intrinsic value is of a temporary nature, and is permitted to waste, to depreciate, to the point where the vast majority of what made it worth growing, or raising in the case of livestock, is lost; the same goes for other products produced, as our American tendencies create “more product, lower quality” for overall economic gain, we have a dearth of product of other kinds as well. To be honest, I don’t know what happens to a lot of it. What happened to the palettes of recordable CDs when CompUSA went out of business? Perhaps they were bought wholesale by another company during liquidation, and sold for a slightly lower price than what was originally set. Or perhaps they were sent to another company elsewhere in the world, where the CD market is still booming, where the level of consumer technology is a little behind ours. Nevermind what happens when a company goes out of business; what happens to the product that simply does not sell? One would imagine a number of possibilities. But in all of them, the price drops when it hits that next level. The product itself did not experience any real depreciation, but the price did, as a result of public opinion that said, “I do not need nor want this thing.”

Far be it from anyone to start dictating what people “want or need”. It is up to their whims, as unpredictable and fickle as they can be. And as they are the “king”, the market must assent to their wishes.

Public opinion, then, is at least responsible for the lessening of the price (as opposed to the value, which I should like to remind the reader, is quite a different thing) of non-expirational products. It can be altered by advertising and marketing (which is one of the more pathetic characteristics of “democracy”, that an entire segment of the population might be swayed to want something they have no reason to), by strength of individual opinion, empirically-determined reasons, etc. This is not a problem, exactly, but please take note.

Now for the subject: unemployment. Considering these things, considering how rich our country is and how much is available for anyone, had they the money, I do not think that it is impossible for there to be enough to feed everyone, so to speak. Many of the products that the more wealthy enjoy cannot simply be handed out to all. There is a very good reason that China creates most of these things, say, an iPhone. They are very difficult to produce and there must be some recompense for those who spend their lives piecing together a component in mind-numbing repetition. They must be rewarded for their undertaking somehow. Not to mention all of those who do other shitty jobs; they do them for the money, which allows them to buy the niceties that the system creates, the very niceties and necessities that they slave over. It is a good cycle, and I am glad to be a part of something like that, ideally and practically, functions so well.

But what to do when there are no shitty jobs available? Personally, as a college graduate with one year of experience in this particular trade, I couldn’t find a job as a janitor. Just what does that mean, when picking up people’s shit and cleaning up after them is a privilege? And you’re lucky to have it?

What I think it means (and bear with me on this) is that we are entering a world in which it is not necessary for everyone to work, in the traditional sense. What we have done is created a world with such technological superiority, such incredible efficiency, that the needs of all can easily be provided for by a small segment of the population, growing smaller every day.

Economists call the technological destruction of jobs “structural unemployment”. In modern lectures on the subject, it gets glossed over by the instructor, as he or she focuses on what they call the bigger problem, “cyclical unemployment”. I hate to call anyone out on this fact, or any other fact, bu they are flat-out wrong. The market dips and lifts according to a thousand different factors that are incredibly hard to predict, if not impossible. Many people get rich in the industry when they can predict things of that nature, but these cyclical risings and fallings are exactly that: cyclical. The major problem we are facing today is that of structural unemployment. (Why they give it such an innocuous name, I do not know. I suppose they don’t want to scare anyone.)

So, to provide for our needs, we need less and less people. Look at what has happened to the agriculture industry in the last 100 years. The advent of oil and machinery has displace 30% of the people from their occupations. Practically, in a well-functioning society, with plenty of energy to feed the machines where the people are no longer needed, this amounts (and has previously amounted) to gains in other sectors: more educated people doing more skilled labor. I believe that this had an incredible influence on the Great Depression, and I expect that we are going through a similar phenomenon.

This phenomenon goes across all sectors. It is not restricted to agriculture but nearly every single profession that exists, besides perhaps computer programming and engineering. Until, or barring that, we create true A.I. (which we seriously need to consider the implications of doing, as its creation is becoming more and more scarily plausible), they will be needed in more numbers. (Dear Reader, if you are a computer programmer working on a project pertaining to A.I., please consider the probability that you are working yourself out of a job.)

Considering that, however, it smacks of a long-standing tendency, a continual projection that many of us, and previous generations have held, particularly Protestant work ethic: “work hard now so you don’t need to later,” and its extension: “work hard now so that future generations don’t have to.” We are experiencing the fruits of that ideology now. Right now.

We might not all consider ourselves at the end of that train of thought just yet, as many of us are still swallowed within a machine churning them about for years to come, but it is happening, more and more, every day.

“If you want to put people to work,” someone once said, “Pay them to dig a hole down 1000 feet and bury a chest of gold. Have them fill it up, and then let nature take its course.” Much of what we consider a job these days is exactly this. Although it has less to do with digging than shuffling around papers.

Do not misunderstand, however, shuffling around papers is extremely necessary; there are very good, orderly reasons for it, but too often there are not. We may not live to see it, but there will come a day when the use of money itself, whether in paper form or electronic, will come to be seen as a waste of time.

To get back to the matter at hand: there are millions of educated young people (not to discount the older folks) sitting around, practically doing nothing. Many of them have college debt, an education that apparently failed to provide them a better life of sorts, perhaps a menial job that lets them barely make rent and student loan payments. Some are completely unemployed, hanging onto whatever family or friends they can. Some begging on the street. What are they to do? Are we really lacking the ideas that put people to work? (We have reached the end of our necessities, and are closing in on the end of our wants.)

What they are lacking is a sense of freedom. When one is shackled to debt, all that one can do is attempt to find some way to make money, period. Especially if it is averse to that person’s best inclinations. Someone who is an incredible artist should not be spending the most productive part of his life flipping burgers, and strange as it sounds, vice versa. The problem here is that (as it has been this way for the history of our country) no matter that someone can benefit society in the best way, our system forces them to find a monetary way. This is not unique to the United States, however, and the only place in which people have been without this master have been those born into the higher class of aristocratic societies. By now we have reached the point where it is conceivable that this “sole monetary way” can be converted to “the best way”.

This is the essence of what should be termed “free pursuit”. “The pursuit of happiness” is a phrase we know all too well. In earlier times it has served us well; in those times when a man is without external barriers, when he is unshackled and free to roam and find what he can, create what he chooses, and vicariously benefit society through those acts themselves. The ideal of the “free man” is one of the foundations of our country, and a welcome development for all the world. To make him as free as possible, to remove all unnecessary restrictions, greatly improves his health, his work, his relations, and all posterity. (However, there must be reasonable limits to this freedom. See Appendix A: A Democratic Apology.)

Here is the point: we need to make it very easy for one to pursue what he would like. If there is a plot of land unused, it should be easy for someone to start growing something on it. For people who are very good artists, it should be easy for them to acquire materials to make something beautiful. For very good engineers, it should be easy for them to make things, etc.

The reason I gave the overview at the beginning of the section is this: where market sways, no one can be certain of what the people might want. It is important that individuals who are the best at something create what is best, that we might all benefit from their enhanced vision, that is, at auction, the most beautiful thing selling for the most money, not the one most advertised. As it stands, there are far too many broken bureaucracies and channels and gauntlets through which those who are best at a certain thing must pass. Were we able to create a world in which these people were without shackles after their education, where they had provisions that allowed free pursuit (necessities that we know through our use of energy and machinery presently and in the future will require less and less of their effort to produce), where one’s effort is not restricted by what produces monetary reward, where there is nothing preventing one from pursuing, we will find ourselves in a virgin territory; with freedom of expression and refinement of culture (though the artists may always need to be their own critics); adherence to law without the need for many specific guardians (eliminating most physical needs that cause crime); a distinct but non-exclusive class system; a vibrant economy of trade and innovation in every sector; a “symbiosis” between classes; and other positives.

Of course, there must be some extra incentive for those who do shitty work. Maybe they should get cars? Something certainly… please see “Section II: A Solution”.