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Socratic Economics III: Is full employment possible? And how?

by A swedish kind of death Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 04:48:31 AM EST

I have come to believe full employment (everyone who wants a job, has a job) as a goal is essential to the left regaining its moyo. As long as we have a substantial unemployment the right is going to use it as an argument to lower taxes, lower regulation and such in order (so they claim) to increase employment. The far-right (the ugly parties) are going to claim that it is the foreigners fault, who take our jobs either oversea or here. If the lefts only answer is that those propositions are false but have no own agenda to get full employment the right will keep on winning.

I have come to realise that when it comes to the economics of employment I have a lot of questions, and few answers.

I will start where I think I know something and work myself towards were I know I do not know. Between we will pass some unknowns...

This is more of a sketch then anything else, and I hope I get some answers in the comments.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob


1. Why do we not have full employment today?

A common answer is that we are out of jobs or they have moved. Therefore we need to take them back or share those we have. While I am supportive of shorter workdays for other reasons (more time, less consumption = healthier planet, happier people) I do not think this is the case. There are a lot of tasks in society that should be done but are not, and that in itself for me falsifies the notion that we have run out of jobs.

Labor is power coupled with intelligence. We have run out of need of neither. Then the answer as I see it would be that we have an economic structure that does not allow full employment.

2. As I understand it central banks in our modern age (the last 20-30 years or so) have been tasked with keeping inflation down, and in accordance with the NAIRU theory, unemployment up over a certain level. There was an abstract here on ET the other day from a report claiming that the FED really aimed at keeping unemployment up (please link it in the comments if your memory is better then mine). The central banks tool for this is increasing the interest rates if unemployment falls to far.

Here I have two questions:

2a. Is this a (somewhat) accurate description of the roles central banks try to play?

2b. Does it work? Does increasing the interest rates increase unemployment and decrease inflation?

3. How should this be reformed to allow full employment? Since I augur Chris answer will have to do something with getting rid of toxic money, I will specify a bit.

3a. Is a solution possible within the current system of central banks and money? If so, how?

3b. Is the solution reforming the monetary system from the bottom up? If so, how?

3c. Does the solution have nothing to do with the central banks and money? Then why do we not have full employment?

Take your pick of question to answer, or find the glaring holes in mine line of thought. This is mostly an outline of a train of thought really, and any input is welcome.

Poll
This diary
. has questions I would like answered 90%
. is not understandable 0%
. missed the central point 10%
. shows the writers lack of knwoledge in basic economics 0%

Votes: 10
Results | Other Polls
Display:
Is not Id!

Darn.

Well the Id of full employment might also be an interesting topic.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 03:11:40 PM EST
Not to worry, there should an "edit" button around there somewhere!

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 03:13:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 03:57:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, there's the matter of having jobs that people want to do...over in my Finnish conservative diary we've noted that being a nurse is considered a "low status" profession, all the while we're running short on qualified nurses. I, for one, hold nurses in very high regard, but how do you fight that "low status" perception? Just by significantly increasing their salaries?

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 03:27:04 PM EST
Yes, nurse is a low status profession, as are most nurturing (female coded) professions. I would say it is mostly about the pay, since doctors are generally a well-payed high-status profession and they work in the same buildings.

But I do not see this as a factor really to explain unemployment. Sweden had about full employment (which was measured as 80% employment) in the 80ies and it did not end because of people getting to picky about their jobs.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 04:03:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would like to nominate this diary for "Socratic Economics III".


Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 04:01:34 PM EST
Sure, second titel change.

And thanks, I was wondering why the term "Socratic Economics" kept intruding into my thoughts as I wrote this.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 04:07:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... approach (I won't say the only feasible approach, since I am skeptical of analytically reasoning out the real limits of what's possible).

Under a JG guarantee with an hourly living wage, the conventional Keynesian mix of automatic stabilizing fiscal policies, normal low floor interest rates, and putting on the brakes with surpluses and interest rate hikes when the economy pushes through the point of Macroeconomic Income Conflict (misnamed the natural rate of unemployment) could still be pursued if desired, but the consequence of slowing down the economy is for people to take up JG employment, rather than becoming unemployed.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 04:17:59 PM EST
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 ]
I believe we have run out of a fair amount of the jobs that need to be done. There are plenty useless jobs around : the Soviets may have had plenty of bureaucracy , but what essentially plays a similar role in our current system is much more bloated, from marketing to banking to redundant information systems.

One thing that is never mentioned in this context is the fact that it's f*cking great that there is actually less need of human labour to have better lifestyles : the main, real reason for unemployment is that simply we don't need so much labour as we used to (okay, much of it is hidden away in China)

Solving unemployment through creating more dumb service jobs, such as people putting stuff in bags at the supermarket, is bad.

We need to focus on making a society where "not working" doesn't mean "social exclusion", so that work is less central to our social lives (the jet set seems to handle the concept very well), and share the amount of work that is left to be done : radical work week length reduction.

All of this is pretty incompatible with unregulated labour markets...

As for not having full employment, it creates inflation (as employers have to actually compete for the workforce) and thus a less docile workforce and larger share of the production going to workers. No need for a conspiracy theory to understand that real full employment won't happen anytime in a plutocratic capitalist system.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 07:33:07 PM EST
Here's one argument: capitalists don't like full employment.

Workers who lose the fear of job loss may become ornery. They may demand higher wages, or more leisure time. Profits may suffer.

In some countries with well-organized labor movements and business sectors the problems have been mitigated through corporatist wage restraint. The Swedish Rehn-Meidner plan was one particularly well-articulated mid-20th century approach to the problem, although it has fallen apart somewhat in the last 20 years or so.

One conclusion:

A natural inference of what I'm saying is that capitalism and sustained full employment are incompatible.

I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it is food for thought. We certainly would need a very different kind of capitalism than we have now to get back to full employment.

by TGeraghty on Thu Aug 30th, 2007 at 07:40:11 PM EST
full employment (everyone who wants a job, has a job)
Why do people want jobs? (And do they, and who does?)

How about "Anyone who needs a job wants a job"? And why do people need jobs, and do they, and who does?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 04:38:05 AM EST
Well, don't we all want to feel like we're being useful?

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:05:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a lot of people want to be a celebrity.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:13:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But doesn't it ultimately stem from the same desire?

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:20:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that's all about status.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:21:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strike out the "no".

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:21:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no

But being useful, commanding the respect of your peers...that's about status, sure. I guess what I'm saying is, people have confused being recognised with being respected.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 05:31:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The sobering point of my girlfriend: "If I don't do anything useful, I would go absolutely bonkers." People like her always need something to do. If it's something that also gives them money for their basic needs, all the better.

Last year after graduating I wanted a job because I 1) really needed the money and 2) was going absolutely bonkers by not knowing for certain what I wanted to do.

So from my personal experience I'd propose the follow-up: "Do people always know what job they want to do?" And I guess this must come with the condition that people don't live in the poverty trap constantly battling to get their daily basics together...

by Nomad on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:05:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a job, and I'm going absolutely bonkers by not knowing for certain what I want to do.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:06:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I have come to the realisation that I have great difficulty in being TOLD what to do, ie working FOR people, but am quite happy to work WITH people to an agreed common purpose.

The difference is between:

(a) one way / imposed / adversarially negotiated - "Jobs";

(b)"two way" / mutual / consensually negotiated (arising out of mutual trust & respect) - "Work".

And of course it is the latter that I perceive the partnership protocols of "Open" Corporates such as the UK LLP as enabling.

Marx had a lot to say early on in respect of the "Abolition Of Labour" which relates to this point.

Uri Zilbersheid's critique

The Vicissitudes of the idea of the Abolition of Labour in Marx's teachings - can the idea be revived"

I found extremely interesting, not only for what Marx initially said, but the fact that:

(a) he appeared to think that the advent of industrialisation and machinery had made the Abolition of Labour essentially unachievable;

(b) more recently, the advent of the "knowledge economy" may be re-opening the way.

I believe that the use of LLP's and LLC's for "Capital Partnerships" essentially allows "Capital" to work WITH "Labour", thereby "abolishing" Labour.

Marx's argument that the "Abolition of Labour" would lead to the "Abolition of Property" and the "Abolition of the State" is an interesting one.

I don't see it as causal: but I do see all three "Abolitions" as inherent in a "partnership-based" Society, where relationships are encapsulated in consensual "Open Corporate"  legal protocols.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:35:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you own capital why would you want to negotiate when you can impose?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:43:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't have a choice, because (rentier) Capital which does NOT use this "emerging"

LLP's Strike Again

model will be at a disadvantage to Capital that DOES.

Which is why it is "emerging": this furry little animal simply WORKS better than the dinosaurs....

"Competitive advantage" is being undercut by the "Cooperative advantage".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:58:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many of us here are "problem-solvers", aren't we?
I work as a software engineer, which at its core is all about problem solving. You receive a request for something, and then you figure out a way to do it. I'd like to think of it as being useful, even for products with a fairly small target demographic.
But sure, the money doesn't hurt either.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:20:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like to think of myself as a problem solver too, but using different protocols.

"Law is Code", after all, but legal "programmers" aka lawyers get paid a multiple of what they are "worth" because they have Society by the balls, through a Monopoly on legal coding (alongside the Banks' monopoly on credit=money creation).

Shades of the medieval Guilds.

I'm about democratising the writing of legal "code", through the use of simple consensual protocols, as opposed to the detailed and prescriptive adaversarial protocols.

I aim to add value by architecting "enterprise model" (= legal and financial structure) solutions, it being my thesis that a "Capital Partnership" is an optimal structure.

It doesn't hurt to get paid, for sure - that's been the flaw in my own "enterprise model" until recently!

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:51:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At least in English we have the fortune that

job != work

Let's not confuse the two.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:31:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's hard to get not confused...

job - Definitions from Dictionary.com

1.a piece of work, esp. a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price:
2. a post of employment; full-time or part-time position:

work - Definitions from Dictionary.com

1. exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something

(snip snip)

4. employment, as in some form of industry, esp. as a means of earning one's livelihood

by Nomad on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 09:13:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
social contribution != job != work

There's really no economic concept of the usefulness of social participation for its own sake. (Which is more or less what we do on ET.)

Which is why a lot of potentially useful work, from education to health care to artistic creation to scientific research, isn't being done.

There's also no concept of just allowing people to lie fallow for a while to see what they come up with when they don't feel they have to do something immediately, now, all of the time.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 10:02:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have read the book Le travail, une valeur en voie de disparition which was a very good summary of the various philosophical values attached to work, as personal accomplishment, as the means of social interaction, as the alienating means of earning one's bread...

I'll do a diary about it when I stop procrastinating. (Now I'll have to reread it as it takes me so long to write the damn diary...)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 10:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
There's also no concept of just allowing people to lie fallow for a while to see what they come up with when they don't feel they have to do something immediately, now, all of the time.

This is something I've been puzzling about recently. If I now would leave geology and continue to receive the monthly income to sustain myself with food and shelter, what would I continue to do here in SA? I've already up to 5 projects in my head and no time left to execute them properly.

I do suspect that allowing people to lie fallow will result in a group of people that cherishes to just lie fallow all the time. We're descendants from apes after all.

by Nomad on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 10:31:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I now would leave geology and continue to receive the monthly income to sustain myself with food and shelter...

In other words, if you were independently wealthy...

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 10:34:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say financially independent.

The mind's eye on (financial) wealth somehow always conjures a number containing more digits than my monthly allocation.

by Nomad on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 10:44:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me guess: you need $250k.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 10:47:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For my current living style, far less than that. I currently live perfectly happy on less than 1/20th of $250k. This is Africa. For half of that, I could upgrade from renting a cottage to buying an apartment, sustain a family of three and develop my pet projects to my heart's content.

Any particular reason why the $250k figure came up?

by Nomad on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 11:16:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the correct number would have been more like $110k. (Hence your "for half of that")

I took ZA's GDP (nominal) per capita from wikipedia and multiplied by 20. The original figure came from taking the GDP (PPP), which was a mistake.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 11:26:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
not per annum.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 11:33:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do suspect that allowing people to lie fallow will result in a group of people that cherishes to just lie fallow all the time.

I suspect you may be right. I also suspect it wouldn't be a huge problem.

In fact I'd guess people who'd disappear into a haze of drugs, sleep and sex would probably be a very small minority. Apes like to keep busy, one way and another, and it might be surprising to see what happens if the usual social restrictions around work are relaxed.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 12:30:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The main MSM problem about employment measure is the use of the "unemployment" statistic which is, at best, highly misleading, both when comparing countries and when comparing years for a country.

I added a while ago on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unemployment


For the fourth quarter of 2004, according to OECD, (source Employment Outlook 2005 ISBN 92-64-01045-9), normalized unemployment for men aged 25 to 54 was 4.6% in the USA and 7.4% in France. At the same time and for the same population the employment rate (number of workers divided by population) was 86.3% in the USA and 86.7% in France.

This example shows that the unemployment rate is 60% higher in France than in the USA, yet more people in this demographic are working in France than in the USA, which is counterintuitive if it is expected that the unemployment rate reflects the health of the labor market [10].

So you see that the social category who has the less social and economical potential reasons to be without job (male 25 to 54 year old) does better "super high unemployment France" vs "full employment overheating USA".

Compare this with MSM blurbs and population perception of the relative situation of the two countries work market.

For other categories, in particular old workers, I recommand reading article and comments from Dean Baker on the latest USA statistic release:

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/beat_the_press_archive?month=08&year=2007&base_name=new_d ata_on_income_and_poverty

[...] The article also noted the rise in incomes for people over age 65. At least part of the story is higher employment rates among older people. The employment to population ratio (EPOP) for people over age 65 rose from 23.1 percent in 2000 to 28.1 percent in 2006. This huge rise (more than 20 percent) in EPOPs is a good thing insofar as it is attributable to improved health and employment opportunities for people who want to keep working. It is not so good if it is due to the fact that more older people are finding that they cannot make ends meet without a job.

[... comments ...]

I don't think the SS earnings test had much to do with the change in EPOPs for older workers. It has risen by 3.4 percentage points for workers between ages 70 and 74 (13.1 percent to 16.5 percent), and there never was any earnings test for this age group.

One can easily imagine the real reason why 70-74 year old workers are going back to work in the USA, and in no small numbers: a 25% relative increase in 6 years.

ET diary:

http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/1/9/41455/23507

My blog article:

http://guerby.org/blog/index.php/2007/01/08/140-un-rappel-sur-la-definition-du-chomage

by Laurent GUERBY on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 07:01:26 AM EST
How well do the Stats capture "self employment" and is there any decent data on the "black" economy?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 07:06:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There cannot be "decent" data on the underground economy, almost by definition. It must all be inferred and estimated from other indicators.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 07:08:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know that!

Money laundering (the law enforcement side!) used to be one of my "Day jobs" as the IPE "exchange policeman", and before that, I was clearing out some of the crooks from the commodity markets in the AFBD (before it was rolled into the FSA), and before THAT in fraud investigation for the DTI.....

All right then: what inferred and estimated data is there?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 07:16:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Self employment is a category if you look at the detailed statistics.

After employment to population the next step is to look at full or part time (big difference between UK and France for example). Then look at hours worked and then at work income.

by Laurent GUERBY on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 03:47:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First we have to break ourselves free of the idea of what employment means.

In a government economic sense it means working for money. That's why the statistics have always had a problem with women who stay home to care for their family.

Since economists measure everything by means of money those things which don't lend themselves to this measure are not worth considering. This also leaves out a large part of the population who do things not for money.

When I first "retired" I used to tell people that I was still working, just not getting paid for it. I now do things like blog and maintain my web site. I give away my expertise in photography (I won't claim any special expertise in blogging!)

The next thing to be considered is whether "employment" is even something that should be a goal. Don't we have the concept of "make-work" jobs to keep people employed? Societies think it is important to pay people so they won't starve, but they demand that they do something for the money.

As I say frequently, we will need a new model if we are going to have a steady-state economy, one that doesn't consume more than can be renewed. The amount of "work" that would be needed in that case should be much less than now. If under 10% of the population is in the agriculture sector then we can see that producing everything that we need can't take more than another 20-30%.

We could cut the amount of work that each person needs to do, or we could rethink things and not treat those who aren't being paid as loafers or parasites. I think some further thoughts on the concept of work would be worthwhile.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 07:01:53 PM EST
I agree, rdf, and this seems as good a place as any to post this story from our local paper.  It infuriated me when I read it.  I'm meant to put it here somewhere, but I've been otherwise occupied lately.  It's well worth reading the whole thing.

People with disabilities face uncertain path to "real" jobs

Aleta Hursh is 31 years old but has never held what most would consider a real job.

Born with cerebral palsy, the Kirkland woman can't talk. Her limbs jerk involuntarily, so she can't hold heavy or fragile objects. Two days a week, she sorts white paper from colored at a recycling center known as a sheltered workshop, where people with disabilities can get a taste of the working life in a supportive setting.

The job is well beneath Hursh's mental abilities. But like many people with serious disabilities, she hasn't had an opportunity to do much more.

Once viewed as progressive, sheltered workshops are now seen by some as outmoded, places where people with disabilities are segregated from society and relegated to lives of stagnation. The pay is low, averaging just $1.82 an hour, and the challenges are few. Some question whether people are really working or just killing time, and whether the workshops are just another example of discrimination.

Washington is the first state to adopt a revolutionary policy aimed at changing that.

The Working Age Adult Policy, which took effect last year, aims to transform the lives of thousands of people with disabilities. It requires adults who receive services funded by the state Division of Developmental Disabilities to be on a "pathway to employment," or have a job out in the community that pays a living wage.

"This is the next great civil-rights movement in our country," said Chris Brandt, chief executive of Issaquah-based AtWork!, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities.

Other states are looking to Washington for advice, said Ray Jensen, director of the King County Developmental Disabilities Division. "Other states have it as a goal or a value statement, but we're the only state that's actually put it into policy."

While good jobs and living wages can hardly be criticized, the policy hasn't been universally embraced. Because the policy has placed a priority on work, some popular programs have been cut back. These programs provided activities, but they also offered respite for families who care for loved ones with disabilities, which can be just as important. Then there's the looming question: What about those who are simply too disabled to comply?

Hursh is wary herself. She pointed to a word on a board she uses to communicate.

"Scared."



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 07:25:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Due to IRL circumstances I have not been able to participate as much as I planned to, but I want to thank you all for the comments and discussion. Lots of food for thought.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Sep 2nd, 2007 at 07:46:41 AM EST


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