As I understand it, there’s quite a bit of (unproductive) work involved with being unemployed such as filing papers, taking courses, and passing around papers between various agencies.
In the Keynesian analogue, being an “Associate Unemployed” is like being a temp government worker that fills the holes that the people working inside the social transfer system area digging. In other words, when there is a surplus of workers, the government hires them to do meaningless paperwork.
It is a way to shunt off productivity while keeping people feed; much like longer educations are a way of keeping the supply of labor down.
Yes, we have an oversupply of labor. Hence more and more people (myself included) are now working on things which can not be classified as a work.
Since our credit based monetary system and our financial/structural economic organization has growth designed into it, this problem is currently being fixed with various patch work. Kludges to make the existing system work even though a better system more suitable to the changing environment could be created. The problem with changing that system is that too many people in the current system have too many vested interests to give it up.
The current system works well with primitive (17th century) technology with a few skilled artisans, farmers, soldiers, …
The problem with humanity is that while most humans are about equally strong and can work about equally hard, something which acts as a great equalizer when it comes to hunting, farming, soldiering,… Humans differ widely an ability when it comes to technology.
Technology has allowed the skilled ones to design a machine which the unskilled ones can use to push a button and produce exactly the same as a skilled person. This has increased production beyond our needs. Wants are usually considered infinite; I don’t know why that is. Mine aren’t infinite, so I think wants are finite and that productivity is high enough to satisfy most people’s wants too.
As this system keeps evolving, we find we can replace the unskilled hands by even more unskilled hands or even no hands at all. Consequentially, the system has evolved and favored different personality types ending up with Maccoby’s gamesmen.
To ensure that the unskilled still eat (now that farming is done by tractors and soldiering is done by cruise missiles), we design kludges such as extending high school education into college and create elaborate paperpushing games for the unemployed.
As far as I see it … try to follow this … being unemployed is just a very unproductive government job that involves filing papers, taking courses, and passing around papers.
Having reached its productive peak, the US is dealing with this right now. Europe reaches this peak decades ago therefore has a more evolved and complexified social system designed to keep the unproductive busy. More accurately, actually … I think, the US decided to reduce its unemployed by increasing college admissions. Europe did it by social transfers, longer vacations, etc.
Personally, I’m doing my part by retiring early. Each professor now trains about 10 people to replace him. With me gone, that leaves more room for the other 9 to fight it out
I think what I have been talking about here on the blog (and particularly in the book) is a system that would indeed solve the unemployment problem. The main issue which worry me is whether ERE requires a high level of intelligence (I don’t think so) to complete it. It would redefine employment.
As far as I am concerned, nobody has a right to a job. It is not Peter’s duty to employ Paul. Getting a job is a privilege and someone should be happy that someone else will tell them what to do if they can’t figure out a way to feed themselves. With ERE, however, instead of focusing on a highly specialized skill which will be beyond more and more people simply due to lack of relative aptitude (now that the global labor supply comes into the picture and locals can’t compete due to high real estate prices), ERE will focus on a wider and more generalized skillset much like the 17th century farmer. Anyone can learn the skills I use to live on 6-7k/year/person. They are not complicated. This system is much more flexible that the earn-a-lot/buy-a-lot system we are currently using and a job loss would not be seen as “unemployment”, because everyone is a self-responsible free agent.
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Originally posted 2010-07-26 11:19:30.