Thursday, August 18, 2016

Let’s Talk About . . . Job Creation

It’s a standard political promise.  “Vote for me instead of The Evil Candidate and I will create a gazillion new jobs!”  “Vote for me instead of The Stupid Candidate” and I will create a humongoid number of jobs!”  “Vote for me instead of The Evil or The Stupid Candidate and I will make every child, woman, and man a capital owner so that everybody gets an adequate income from capital, labor, or both, whichever best serves the needs of the individual and the community together!”
Who let the capital ownership nutcase in?  Get rid of that potty private property person and join in the chant of Jobs-Jobs-Jobs. . . .
"Now, kiddies, Say's Law doesn't work, except when it does."
It’s pretty much a given these days when the politicians are talking about how to take care of people (instead of providing the environment within which people can — gasp — take care of themselves), they think in terms of a wage system job, or welfare for those who can’t find a job.  This leads to the idea that if somebody needs income, he or she must work, for human labor is the only thing that is truly productive, and production equals income.  Except when it doesn’t, such as when capital produces something.  (And if you think that’s contradictory, you ought to read John Maynard Keynes’s “refutation” of Say’s Law of Markets in his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.)
The demand for jobs-jobs-jobs goes back a pretty long way in the U.S.  It’s rooted in the socialist idea that human labor is the sole factor of production, which was formalized — more or less — in the theories of David Ricardo, and congealed into an absolute dogma by Karl Marx.  We say “more or less,” for Ricardo’s theory of rent, which was based on the labor theory of value, contradicts itself, but that was essential in order to establish the character of land and other natural resources as being both “a cost-free factor of production” and not productive at all.  (This is known as “Ricardo’s Detour,” and you’re not supposed to be rude and point out that it doesn’t make any sense to have your cake and eat it, too.)
"I am not a socialist, except when I am."
Anyway, through the influence of Henry George on Fabian socialism, the idea entered Academia (and from there entered politics) that human labor is the only thing that is productive, and a wage system job is the only legitimate way to employ human labor.  Some Fabian socialists — such as George Bernard Shaw — even advocated that anyone who refused to work at a job for a wage be killed.  (We hope he was employing hyperbole.)
It may have been Shaw’s comment that inspired former fellow Fabian Hilaire Belloc to write a book in 1912 he called “The Servile State” and he and G.K. Chesterton to develop “distributism.”  This makes it all the more puzzling why today’s distributists and Chestertonians are such avid supporters of Fabian programs and promote the writings of the people who were against everything the Chesterbelloc was for.
"A state that makes me work when I don't want to is servile."
Anyway, according to Hilaire Belloc, capitalism and socialism merge in the "Servile State," in which the only recognized source of income is wages.  Ironically, back in 1912 the worry was that people who did not want or have to work would be forced to, while today the problem is trying to create enough jobs for the people who desperately want to work.  The demand has shifted to insisting that people who don't want to work, don't have to work, or are not the right sort of people not be permitted to take jobs away from others.
Of course, none of the jobs-jobs-jobs crowd seems to see the obvious solution.  As ESOP inventor Louis Kelso said in an interview in Life magazine in 1964, “If the machine wants our jobs, let’s buy it” — the machine, not the job.
Kelso pointed out what should be obvious to everyone.  That is, anybody can afford to buy the robots that are doing them out of a job if permitted to pay for them with the future earnings of the robots themselves.  In fact, modern banking was originally built on the assumption that these “future savings” can be turned into money today to buy the capital that will repay the future savings tomorrow . . . when they become current savings. . . .
There are, of course, a few little details that go along with that, but you can fill them in for yourselves by going to the CESJ website and reading up on it.  It is, however, enough to give you the idea, and change the mantra from “jobs-jobs-jobs” to “ownership-ownership-ownership.”
Okay, that doesn’t have quite the “swing” of “jobs-jobs-jobs,” but it has quite a bit more substance.
You can either own the machine that’s doing the job, or the job will own you.  Own or be owned.


Gary Reber said...

Instead of jobs, jobs, jobs, our economic policies should be structured to create OWNERSHIP, OWNERSHIP, OWNERSHIP as in wealth-creating, income-producing capital asset formation in our FUTURE economy!

Jayasri Hart said...

Bravo, Mike. Perfect timing.