Mr. Sensitive

September 7, 2012

Is This The Future?

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 12:32

The big story of today’s employment report seems to be plummeting labor force participation–people aren’t out looking for traditional nine-to-five jobs.  The spin is, that’s bad bad bad.  And in the short term it may well be.  But in the long term…weren’t we kind of aiming for that?

Would be so terrible if everyone didn’t have to work the closest available nine-to-five (or worse) job every day of every week, talent and ability notwithstanding, just like prior generations had to?  Wouldn’t that actually be progress?  Hundreds of years ago we didn’t have economic specialization and division of labor, so you had to grow or make everything you had in the place you happened to be.  If you didn’t have the skills or raw materials, too bad.  If there were wolves or Vikings, too bad.  Now, we have an integrated, diversified, international economy–that presents its own challenges, but it’s better than the Dark Ages, no?  If we reach a point where machines (and the Chinese, yikes) do most of what we had to do in prior generations, isn’t that a good thing?

Two huge potential pitfalls: rich people, and lazy people.

First, rich people.  In a mechanized world, capital dominates labor.  That’s fine, unless all the capital is controlled by a handful of selfish, soulless Romneys.  We have to use the government to prevent that.  Communist centralization and government ownership isn’t the answer; deathless, tentacled multinational corporations running the show is no better.  We need to resist both extremes.

Second, lazy people.  If you don’t have to work a factory or office job anymore, does that mean you should sit on the couch all day eating Doritos and watching Mad Men?  It does not.  We need to be self-motivated and self-disciplined.  Do you need a boss to tell you what to do, otherwise you don’t do anything?  That’s a problem.

One related point: watching Mad Men isn’t necessarily bad, depending on what you are inspired to do as a result.  If you’re inspired to think and debate and create, that’s good.  If you’re inspired to get another bag of Doritos and fire up the next thing Netflix recommends, that’s bad.

If we can overcome rich people and lazy people (and avoid Skynet altogether), these employment reports may not be so relevant in a generation or two.


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