I found a link on Twitter to this article, which raises some points I’ve thought about before, and also some others I hadn’t really. I’ve considered before the possibility that there just aren’t enough jobs to go around in the nation, perhaps even the world. Automation made some of them obsolete, and others just aren’t things people need or desire anymore. I’m always a little suspicious of people who talking about creating jobs, as if the problem with our economy is that those with money just aren’t creative enough.
That’s not to say that there aren’t jobs that need to be done and aren’t, infrastructure often being the area that’s cited here. But it’s not like these jobs need to be invented out of whole cloth; they’re jobs that theoretically already exist but aren’t being properly filled or funded. The article discusses how, while jobs that involve actual production are being eliminated, outsourced, or given to machines, there are still plenty of bureaucratic and middle management positions.
It’s not that these people don’t work hard, but that the system isn’t all that efficient. The way I see it, society is supposed to function as a give-and-take; you do something to benefit others, and you are given a way to partake in things you need and want (in the modern economy, that takes the form of money). I’m sure a lot of people think of their jobs as punishment, and while that’s not exactly true, you could argue that it’s developed somewhat in that direction. It isn’t that your job is helping other people, but rather that it’s something you have to do to pay your debt to society. You do something boring for a set number of hours a week, and you’re allowed basic necessities and occasional luxuries. If people DON’T work, they’re often considered lazy, even if they have a valid reason to be jobless. I’ve seen proposals (mostly just on social media, not from politicians or anyone in power) that people should be entitled to a stipend whether or not they work. It makes a certain amount of sense, but I have to admit that I’d feel guilty if I were a non-worker in that position. There are people who are going to work out of altruism or just because they enjoy it, but likely not enough to keep society functioning. There has to be SOME motivation for work, but making people’s lives depend on it even when there isn’t enough to go around isn’t always effective. Donald Trump says he would bring back jobs, but how does he plan to accomplish this? Maybe he’s going to get a bunch of helicopters to lift the Chinese sweatshops and take them to the United States. Considering some of the other stuff he’s proposed, that doesn’t seem too far off the mark. But no, he seems to promote the same idea Republicans have been touting for years, that if you don’t make businesses pay taxes, they’ll hire a lot more people and stop sending jobs overseas. Because if there’s any subset of the population you can trust implicitly with free money, it’s corporate executives, right? And I don’t think there’s any way you can make American labor cheaper than that in Chinese sweatshops except by repealing labor laws, which I’m sure Trump and his ilk would be cool with as long as it didn’t affect the people at the top. I’m also not sure how we could get back the jobs that have gone to robots even if trickle-down economics DID work. And we can’t forget the lesson of the Golgafrinchans, who banished all of their useless workers into space, then all died out from a disease contracted from a dirty telephone. Meanwhile, the useless ones crash-landed on Earth and screwed up the development of this planet.
Picture by Jonathan Burton
The article begins with a mention of how people in the 1930s through 1960s pretty much assumed the work week would be much shorter. It’s what we see in The Jetsons, when George complains about having to work three-hour days.
I don’t know whether this would actually be possible, but there does seem to be a lot of busywork that could be streamlined or eliminated. Why are meetings still a thing when you can discuss work issues through e-mail?
A lot of jobs insist that you LOOK busy, as if that’s more important than actually getting anything accomplished.
There’s a certain logic to that in customer-centered businesses, as you want to make a good impression on potential clients. Still, it seems quite possible to go overboard in this respect. I’ve noticed that, in jobs I worked, it was better-paying positions that tended to have more down time, while lower-paying ones only allowed the minimum amount of resting time required by law (and sometimes not even that). Of course, plenty of people ARE working George Jetson hours these days, but they aren’t making a living wage by doing it.
Last night, I watched last week’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, and Maher was arguing with a guest about how the economy has been getting better in the past few years. Republicans insist that it’s gotten so much worse under President Obama. They’ll talk about the “worst recovery,” to which I say it’s still a recovery, which is better than the alternative. Of course, statistics on such things are tricky. The unemployment rate doesn’t count people who no longer bother looking for jobs, even though I’m sure many of them would work if it were a viable option. And what about all the underemployed people? I think the larger point here is that, while there are still a lot of problems with the economy, there’s no evidence that trickle-down economics and top-down policies can ever help any but the richest people.
I also love the argument about how Obamacare is failing, even though the reason is the greed of the same insurance companies that big business conservatives support. If anything, isn’t the problem that these companies are still given too much power? As such, how would voting Republican not just work things worse? I don’t want to hire the people who purposely destroyed things to try to rebuild them, you know?