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A utopian answer:

The problem with asking about unemployment is that it implies acceptance of the 19th century world view of economic activity, which isn't so much Socratic as Aristotelian. (And therefore spectacularly wrongheaded in almost every possible way.)

So I don't think you can pick out unemployment on its own. A wider view is to realise that most of the work that is done is already either parasitic or useless. It increases numerical GDP, but decreases overall quality of life and trashes the life support system.

The corollary is that many 'employed' people are effectively on welfare because they are contributing nothing of value or interest. (My pet peeve are PR people, many of whom seem barely able to tie their shoelaces, never mind promote products effectively, but are still comparatively well paid. In corporate culture, they're far from unique - and much of the financial industry could disappear with widespread net positive effects.)

A radical idea would be to pay people a significant minimum wage - not just enough to scrape by on, but enough to make work unnecessary - and allow plenty of opportunities for entrepreunerial development of goods, services and artistic output. At the same time access to high quality education should become more widespread, and possibilities for original research more accessible.

There might be some concept of community service to make sure the really dull jobs are done. But this probably wouldn't need more than a day a week from everyone to cover the basics.

Unemployment is very much a top-down concept, rooted in the idea that idle slaves are a drain on resources. A bottom-up approach would cut people loose from a grinding and often pointless 9-5 and give them freedom to decide how to use their time.

A lot of creative and inventive energy is currently trapped in offices, unlikely to see the light of day.

A much looser post-Aristotelian economic model would assume that initiatives will be self-organising. The point of this is to eliminate the incredible sprawling and idiotic distractions and inefficiences that are created by market economics and allow real intelligence and inventiveness to percolate to the top of the culture.

Unemployment is also a nationalist concept. The markets are global. Unemployment is always national, created directly by GDP concentration which collects resources in a few privileged locations while stripping assets and talent from others.

In an ideal world, personal movement would be as free as capital is today. Spreading out opportunities for involvement globally instead of concentrating them in a few locations could do a lot to eliminate the concept of unemployment as a nationalist issue.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 07:16:01 PM EST
Oh, I definitely like your answer the best, TBG!  

Good diary, Swedish (or... Death? ...no)!  This is one of those questions that makes perfect sense, but that I've never heard a satisfactory answer for.  It seems to me the present system is fatally flawed in this way (even though some countries do it better than others), as it seems to require leaving some people out.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 02:57:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
A lot of creative and inventive energy is currently trapped in offices, unlikely to see the light of day.

Ain't that the truth.

by Nomad on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:43:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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