Thursday, September 24, 2009

When the world doesn't need you anymore...

Greetings good citizen,

I confess to a perverse attraction to articles that support my main arguments, it doesn’t make me ‘right’ by any stretch of the imagination, it merely shows I’m not the only one making a given point.

Um, in a ‘perfect world’, one would never have to take exception to statements made in support of one’s arguments…but I think we all agree that this is a far from ‘perfect’ world. So it goes that I harbor certain quibbles with some of the viewpoints expressed here.

Onward to tonight’s offering

The Real Problem With The Economy Is That It Doesn't Need You Anymore

Roughly speaking the world's economy has always worked as a giant pass-along-game between the planet’s citizens. Person A needed stuff from person B and person B needed stuff from person C and person C needed stuff from person A. So everyone needed everybody. It has been a kind of giant circle of needs.

But as a smaller and smaller number of people are needed to make the basic things that people need for survival, from food to energy, to clothing and housing, the less likely it is that some people will be needed at all. [My quibble here is more of a grammar issue, it would suffice to point out that as technology advances, it takes fewer workers to achieve the same results, totally eliminating the ‘likeliness’ that some people won’t be needed at all…]

When you read in the press the oft-quoted concept that “those jobs aren’t coming back” this “reduction of need” is what underlies all of it. Technology has reduced the need for labor. And the labor that *is* needed can’t be done in more developed nations because there are people elsewhere who will happily provide that labor less expensively. [More grammar problems here as the term ‘can’t’ is almost like using ‘never’…there is nothing that prohibits any kind of work from being performed anywhere it is necessary to perform it; except for the relatively minor issue of ‘profitability’. Which in reality boils down to ‘currency manipulation’…which is criminal all by itself, but what they hey, it’s a system run by and for criminals, it doesn’t have to ‘make sense’ too!]

In the long term, technology is almost certainly the solution to the problem.[Not so fast, Paleface!] When we create devices that individuals will be able to own that will be able to produce everything that we need, the solution will be at hand. [Just try to wrap your head around how much one of these suckers would be worth…does anyone seriously harbor the foolish notion that such a piece of equipment would sell for the ‘cost to produce it’?] This is *not* science fiction. We are starting to see that happen with energy with things like rooftop solar panels and less expensive wind turbines. We are nowhere near where we need to be, but it is obvious that eventually everyone will be able to produce his or her own energy. [um, not if you don’t ‘own’ access to either daylight or wind…it’s a mighty foolish assumption to think anyone would let you ‘park’ your power generating equipment on ‘their’ property…isn’t it?]

The same will be true for clothing, where personal devices will be able to make our clothing in our homes on demand. Food will be commoditized in a similar way, making it possible to have the basic necessities of life with a few low cost source materials. [were it only so simple, and trust me, it not…nor will it ever be!]

The problem is that we are in this awful in-between phase of our planets productivity curve. Technology has vastly reduced the number of workers and resources that are required to make what the population planet needs. This means that a small number of people, the people in control of the creation of goods, get the benefit of the increased productivity. When we get to the end of this curve and everyone can, in essence, be their own manufacturer, things will be good again. But until we can ride this curve to its natural stopping point, there will be much suffering, as the jobs that technology kills are not replaced. [I guess it’s one thing to ‘hipshoot’ and ‘dream aloud’ about a hypothetical ‘better world’ but it never ceases to amaze me how many people ‘assume’ the glue that holds civilization together is somehow ‘divorced’ from the economy’s ability to provide the whole population with sustenance…never ceases to amaze…]

The political implications of this are staggering. Clearly, more and more jobs will move from more developed nations to countries like China, and it is difficult to see how, as this process continues, the United States retains its leadership position. In fact, it seems entirely possible that the U.S. will exchange places with less well-developed nations. Yes, there will certainly be fabulously wealthy people in the US, because many US companies will own these highly productive businesses. Unfortunately, that wealth will be held by a very small number of people. And their operations will need to employ very few people. [Isn’t native US ‘exceptionalism’ grand? There is absolutely no evidence (save our totally broken and corrupt legal system) that says the US or anyone from here will, by their exceptional abilities, bestowed upon them simply because they are US citizens, will own even a tiny fraction of the world’s future productive capacity.]

In short you will have a few very wealthy folks [living in a state of constant fear], and a much [Eh, more like ‘somewhat’] larger majority that will just not be needed for the most important things that the country needs to do. [In a world of diminishing resources, the urge to ‘right-size’ will be too powerful to resist…that said, it will take more than money to survive in a ‘rarified’ future.]

I don’t know what the short-term solution to this problem is. In fact, I fear there may not be one. But it is clear that what I am describing has already started and there is little we can do to stop it. GDP will increase as demand for labor **decreases**! How is that for the ultimate economist's oxymoron?

Hank Williams is a tech entrepreneur. He writes at Why Does Everything Suck?, where this post originally appeared.

Tonight’s offering was pilfered from ‘Some Assembly Required’…and this article, as it states here, was lifted from it’s original source (and the original thief didn’t provide a link to that source!) Which isn’t a particularly grievous loss ‘cuz our boy Hank is another misguided soul that refuses to give up on long dead capitalism.

This I guess is the part that baffles me to no end, the fact that nobody in their right mind today would ‘give away’ a piece of equipment that could convert ‘useless’ matter into valuable resources…so what makes these people think it’s going to happen in the future?

This is like expecting the people of the future to be ‘brilliant’ technically but to also become ‘economically retarded’ in the process…it’s kind of a ‘contradiction’, ya know?

Um, I also harbor serious misgivings about both the ‘safety’ as well as the ‘effectiveness’ of these new, er, ‘labor-saving’ devices. I sure as hell wouldn’t volunteer to ‘beta test’ these monstrosities. A little dust in the settings could prove disastrous…if not fatal.

So the ‘theme’ is correct anyway, what the hell do you do in a world that no longer requires your services?

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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