WORK DOES NOT WORK ANYMORE
Humans have always worked in
order to survive. In the beginning, physical exertion required most of our
energy. Without tools even plentiful resources were hard to reach. Invention
could make the difference between life or death.
The evolution of tools has
reached the point where physical exertion can no longer compete with the energy
now harnessed by technology. Our new-found abundance elicits praise for
technology and higher standards of living. The cost of that increase has not
been measured, though the side effects may prove lethal.
Work provides the focus of
our lives. How we feel about ourselves, how we relate to others, and the means
of survival all turn on how we work. Natural selection has prepared us for
certain tasks. The most satisfying work calls forth our genetic capacity. The
mercurial rise of technology has replaced much of that capacity. Few of us were
designed to spend our days staring at computer screens. We can even adapt to
that but at a cost to health and sanity.
The sea change in the
distribution of tasks also foresees a radical change in economic and social
organization. Labor has lost so much bargaining power that it can scarcely
defend itself against exploitation. A new form of slavery awaits us. Abuse of real
wealth, the environment, is and will continue to reduce the standard of living.
The war of all against all for the scraps has begun. It will be fought with
deception and labor- saving devices, which will again reduce work and make more
waste and another lower standard of living for most people. An economic
downward cycle will create more pressure against social justice. Capitalism has
failed to provide a future and the answer so far has been more
capitalism--turning real wealth into paper wealth.
Democracy requires economic
support. Shifting wealth into fewer and fewer hands eventually destroys equal
opportunity and equal social justice. Loss of traditional work that most people
could do and employers could not do without is creating a new feudal state--the
economically powerful and the serfs who toil for them. The technology that once
freed people is now making them powerless again.
Look at what is happening to
work. Not so long ago, half the population worked on the farm. Less than one
percent toil there now. First they left for the factories, many of which have
now gone to some other country. With robot technology, fewer people work in the
remaining factories. Mega stores have replaced small retailers and the internet
has replaced some mega stores. Fewer people who left the factories to become
sales people can find that work. Some of them worked in book stores and music
stores where people asked them questions about what was new and who played or
wrote best. Those jobs are gone.
More people work in finance
than ever before but service industries require the production of goods that
provide the wages for discretionary spending. Someone has to build the house
before a mortgage is created to buy it. Occupations that once provided
employment are disappearing. No amount of stimulus money from the government
can stimulate growth when wages continue to stagnate or decline and more people
need government help to survive. Taxes necessary to feed the helpless put a
drag on the economy when businesses cannot pick up the slack, continue to avoid
hiring, and cut benefits.
The trend is fewer good
paying jobs, fewer people who can afford the support of the health insurance
and retirement that keeps people out of bankruptcy when things go wrong. The
independence that once supported democracy and free enterprise is losing to a
shift in wealth to the top. Government spending has hidden the fact that the
market can no longer support a middle class. Ironically, the government gets
the blame, even when it provides the funds for saving those businesses.
Government employment has had to take up the slack in the labor market. Without
it, the crash would have occurred much sooner. The redistribution of wealth
downward through taxes and benefits kept capitalism alive. Now, thanks to billions
in propaganda financed by conservative think tanks, redistribution down is a
communist plot and distribution up is on God's agenda.
The budget deficit that
borrowing money to fight two wars instead of raising taxes created is now the
conservative excuse for further tax cuts for the top. Politicians did not raise
taxes because that would create an outcry against the wars so profitable to the
military-industrial complex. Blaming the deficit on so called entitlements like
social security that people worked all their lives contributing part of their
wages excuses further desecration of labor. Conservatives do not care about the
outcome. They either get their tax cuts or they allow government to fail and
money takes complete control, preferably both.
On whose back will deficit
reduction fall? That is the big question no one touches. Obama is trying to
spread the pain. The top wants to put it on the rest of us. Liberals are at a
great disadvantage. They cannot make the promises we all want to hear because the
economy is not merely suffering a cyclical downturn. The problems are systemic.
The constant reduction of wages and degradation of resources in a competition
to be better than other people creates the war of all against all that blocks
the kind of sharing and cooperation needed for future generations to survive.
The big debt we are creating goes beyond numbers in a budget. Our means of
adaptation are at risk.
People's short term memories
have already forgotten that the problems
addressed here were accelerated under eight years of Bush and his
conservative friends. Only a sea change in our ethics and morality can save our
Most reforms fail as a result
of greed. As in George Orwell's novel, Animal Farm , it does not take long for
the new leaders to take up the tricks of the old leaders. That will continue
until we change peoples' relationship to resources. That requires a fundamental
change in the concept of property. Basic resources must not be held as private
property. Oil, steel, water, coal, natural gas, and other commodities required
for manufacturing and universal support are too precious for distribution under
the profit motive. Private ownership creates a divisive conflict of interest
that fuels the war of all against all.
Capitalism here undermines
the efficiency required by natural selection for survival of the species.
Capitalism's fundamental premise turns real resources into ephemeral (paper)
wealth. The more consumed, the more money generated. No incentive for
conservation is possible. Competition turns on reducing the cost of extraction
of the resource which in turn mitigates against labor and often other
resources, like water, used in industrial processes.
Management of resources for
long-term adaptations would require a panel of experts on the best use of a
resource, a constitutional guarantee of equal rights to purchase the resource
from the government for approved uses (making taxes unnecessary), and a
political system that oversees the legitimacy of the administration, the public
being the shareholders of the peoples' resources.
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