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February 23, 2014

work, and not having any

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 12:00 a.m.
work, and not having any

The Economist muses on the role of work in identity: http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/02/social-norms

A world in which a healthy adult has the reasonable expectation of earning a decent living while working full-time at a market wage is absolutely a world in which the dignity of work is a useful social value to cultivate. In a world in which that is not a reasonable expectation, the dignity of work can be a harmful concept. Society would effectively be kicking people while they are down; in addition to the hardship involved in un- or underemployment and poverty society would demand that the workless individual feel shame at his or her inability to function as a valued member of society.

Most of America's psychological ills stem from misconceiving the world. It is not a wonderful place where the average person can derp their way through life and kinda be OK. No. The world is one unbroken landscape of constant war and competition for scarce resources. America's been through 70 years of absurd 'prosperity' wherein every working-age man could (before the previous two decades, at least) find an opportunity to put his shoulder to the wheel in return for some food credits and the promise of retirement.

That building is crumbling, as all buildings set upon foundations made by witch-doctors with the blood of innocents as mortar do1. America doth-mean revert to the natural state of the world, which is to say one wherein work is impossible to find for anyone with skills that fail to differentiate them from the mob.

In this world, do we give up on the nobility of work? Of course! This is communism! We say to the children: "imagine a world of no work! Where magically, your feeding tube is paid for, and you can be the creative snowflake you were meant to be!"

Stoppit. This is not the America of twenty or thirty years ago. There are but scraps on the table, and you must slit throats for your scraps or risk going hungry. Nobility of work?!?! Let me tell you about the nobility of failing to feed your family.

Maybe technological change will force a large share of the population to get by with too little to live on—or too little to live on relative to average earnings to be politically sustainable.

This will happen - this is the promise of Bitcoin. All fiat schemes will now fall apart, unable to generate currency fast enough to stay ahead of their own inflation. This includes all of the United States hanky-panky around borrowing money now to be repaid in printed dollars twenty years from now. The borrowing rates must increase. The welfare payouts will become more and more paltry, and the people will grow more and more restive. The corn subsidies will reduce the cost of gas and food less each year; the people who cannot find work (because America does not teach its people the value of fighting tooth and nail for a job, constantly improving oneself) will grow more and more desperate; the whole delicate edifice will suffer a shock it's unequipped to survive and boom! Chaos in the streets of New York2.

The problem that the Economist is grappling with under the hood here is that they can't actually wrap their heads around an America in which basically nobody can get work. You can see this in their treatment of wages and purchasing power:

Society will have to come up with new means to set useful incentives for people in a world in which we do not allocate purchasing power through market wages.

Do you hear that? Purchasing power is being allocated in some other way than wages. Are Facebook likes the new purchasing power? Oh, my sides…

It's communism all the way down. When the Economist says:

Economies that have relied on market wages to provide incentive structures for people for centuries (with a dash of dignity of work and other social norms thrown in) are going to have to change.

They intimate that things must change, and I can only imagine they mean for the government to pay everyone one of these "guaranteed minimum incomes". The laws of conservation must be satisfied, though, and that money must come from somewhere. Taxes won't pay for it, and attempting to impose them will drive the remaining capital from the country. Printing will pay for it much more easily today, at the cost of a ruined currency in a decade. This is the fate of all modern socialist governments with a printing press - ridiculous inflation to keep everyone who can't work in "food" and entertainment.

Footnotes:

1

In case you're wondering, the only foundation upon which you can construct a building safely has been engineered, not imagined.

2

Not that New York is a terribly civilized place to begin with, but whatever.

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