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Forum Post: The goal is the same as it always was. We forgot the goal.

Posted 3 years ago on Sept. 25, 2011, 10:32 a.m. EST by myne (23) from Fitzroy, VIC
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Dear everyone,

A couple of hundred years ago, at the start of the industrial revolution, I imagine that the people there pondered the purpose of their efforts. Why industrialise? Is it just for profit? Yes, and no.

Before we can answer that properly, we have to consider the purpose of work. Why do we work? Why do we labour in exchange for tokens? Two main reasons. One, we want to survive. We must work to eat, to have a shelter, and clothes. Two, we want to enjoy the products and services of others.

The first part, we, in the west have nailed. Today, a single GPS guided tractor can farm a vast field with only one supervisor. Today, we can build houses from the ground up in a mere two weeks. We can weave at speeds that have never been seen before, to make the durable clothes.

Most of this is automated.

In the past, these tasks would take hundreds of workers and the net produce would only be a little more than was required to sustain themselves. Today the work of 1 person can support hundreds.

This was the goal. We have achieved it! So what is wrong? Why does it feel like distopia, and not utopia?

Well, in part it is our own faults. We forgot that we wanted to work less. We forgot that we wanted to enjoy our lives with our families and friends. And we forgot that the aggregate IS us.

We have engineered a structural unemployment problem. We each, at full capacity, in a standard week, produce more than we can consume. If we produce more than we can consume, demand in the aggregate falls to meet consumption. This is basic logic. Businesses and people do not produce, simply to store. That is wasteful.

When demand drops, what happens? People are laid off. Huge swathes of perfectly capable people are made idle. Now, this is the capitalist way. And it's the right way. It is much more efficient to keep the most productive, the most experienced and to offload the less productive assets. That is what capitalism is designed to do.

But capitalism is flawed. Equally flawed as socialism. Neither model has ever proven itself capable of meeting the complex outcomes we desire from our lives. Capitalism is a production model to drive efficiency and deliver progress. Socialism is a community model to drive social equality and enrich minds.

Both have gaping flaws.

Unbridled capitalism will rape this planet of every last combustible material, burn it, and then try to profit from our extinction. It has motivation but no morality.

Communism offers the opposite. It looks toward the people, and however badly, it attempts to nurture them. The problem is, it stagnates. The technology of today is the technology of tomorrow. Fudalism and Communism have both proven that most people need self interest to drive themselves to excel. Thus communism's equality delivers poor outcomes too.

We need both. We absolutely need both. We need to deliberately and carefully select sectors of our economy and give them a primary ideology. We need to give each sector the opposing secondary ideology to guide the primary. In healthcare, we need socialism with capitalist accounting to achieve best practice, in the workplace, we need capitalism with socialist regulation.

But not too much. Regulation invariably has a stifling effect. The regulations should be straightforward.

Which is why I propose a straightforward socialist slant to solving unemployment.

Change the working week. Reduce hours. But not through typical government mandate like "None shall work past 34 hours", but through a more flexible arrangement. Simple. "Overtime pay starts at 34 hours." Let the businesses and the people adapt as they wish. Some will pay the overtime initially. Eventually they will hire more people. Capitalism understands price and price alone.

We are at the future. The future where we each get more time to ourselves. We have millions of people around the world who are forced into destitution through our efficiencies. Every year millions of people are automated into unemployment.

This is a good thing if managed correctly. This is a sign of our amazing success and productivity.

We've largely hidden this from ourselves with strange innovations in the financial sector. Completely unproductive people skim a small amount of production from everyone. I won't go into much on that topic though.

The 40 hour week cannot work any more. We must share the capitalist load in a communist way.

Here's what would happen in the short term: Working on a 38hour week here YMMV. 1) Government mandates overtime conditions to start at 34 hours. 2) Businesses would cut hours to cut costs. 3) Businesses would realise that they need to maintain production so they would pay 4 hours overtime per person. In my country, that's an extra 2.5 hours pay. They're paying 40.5 hours for 38 hours work. 4) They'd start hiring. 5) For every 8.5 workers, one new worker would be employed. The U6 unemployment rate in the USA is 16%. This is the real unemployment number. 8.5:1 is 11.7%. 6) Recovery. Probably a lot more rapid than you think.

Many will baulk at this initially. They're on minimum wage, and they cannot afford to lose any income. In the short term, it will hurt. But a funny thing will happen. Once the labour pool dries up, employers will suddenly find themselves at the negotiating table. They'll be offering concessions to keep and attract staff. The wages will rise. Not by mandate, but by capitalist supply and demand.

Socialism can work WITH capitalism to form a whole greater than the parts.

Remember also, it was only a generation ago that women entered the workforce in large quantities. Previously one man would support 2 adults and several children. If it was possible then, then the only reason it's not possible now is because we screwed up, and we allowed the labour share of revenue to decline so markedly.

Now, I have a suggestion for a way to reform the working week to offset this loss of hours. Obviously most people commute. Obviously in a 5 day working week, everyone's commuting 10 times. The ideal would be a four day week. But the flip side of that is the hugely expensive capital equipment secured by loans, will be idle for 3 days a week. It also does nothing to resolve the largest commuting problem of all: congestion.

Like it or not, it looks like we're going to be headed for 7 day trading in every industry. An efficient capitalist's wet dream but a socially conscious person's nightmare.

But what if there's a way to reduce commuting, reduce working hours, improve our logistical efficiency (congestion/power consumption etc), deliver employers up to 40% more capital utilisation offer FAIR 7 day trading and basically be a net win for everyone with few minor drawbacks?

I modelled this some time ago. It's just a suggestion. But I think with the right approach, it could deliver on all of the above goals.

The 4/2/4/2/4/4 "week": //i.imgur.com/1QD5w.png

It's a repeating pattern that is completely predictable completely fair and totally efficient.

There would be 5 offsets in the economy with 20% of all workers working each of these versions of the "week". Some social losses will occur, but with 40% more days off (regardless of whether it's a 38hour 34hour or whatever is chosen) it can't be that hard to work around.

Thoughts?

8 Comments

8 Comments


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[-] 1 points by Alex (79) from Rhoon, ZH 3 years ago

Capitalism breaks down when regulation and laws tries to steer the economy. There is no free market where a law or regulation dictates. It's exactly these laws and regulations that enslaves the majority of the people. The corporations and elites use these laws to their utmost advantage, just look at the many loopholes created. Laws and regulations are not there for you but against you.

What we have in this world is not capitalism but corporatism.

[-] 1 points by woodfoe (25) 3 years ago

The whole idea of capitalism, unbridled or not, is a construct of the "ruling elite", who have economically enslaved us in order to dominate. It is all planned as even the 2008 recession was planned according to the official report on the bank failures. Take a look at this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ANEEzz7s9s It may seem new age and maybe it is although I think it conveys some interesting ideas about how things could be and maybe once were, especially in a world like you have just described, where we have the technology to produce an abundance with so little effort. Are we ready as a collective society to move into a system like this? That's the question. Say the people who like to dominate all died off by attrition in the near future. Just for arguments sake. What kind of system could be implemented that would allow for maximum freedom from work and would encourage the altruistic sharing of gifts and talents? Would it need be a system like you describe.

[-] 1 points by AxeArgonian (3) from Brooklyn, NY 3 years ago

I'm afraid that you are mistaken about capitalism, friend. Corporatism is the oppressive construct that you are talking about. If we had been living in a truly free market, we would have never fallen into the recession that we are in now.

Tell me, who adjusted the artificially low interest rates that led to the inevitable housing bubble of 2008? Who bailed out Wall Street? Who printed billions of dollars to subsidize Wall Street's debt? Answer: The federal government. The federal government makes corporatism feasible.

The capitalistic free market, on the other hand, would have severely punished the corporatist goons for malinvestment and fraud. Furthermore, if the government had never lowered interest rates for banks and not encouraged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lavishly purchase mortgages, neither the recession nor this movement would have ever happened. So when you protest greedy fat cats, please keep in mind that Washington gave the greedy fat cats the green light to molest our economy.

[-] 1 points by woodfoe (25) 3 years ago

I don't mean to start a feud but I think your splitting hair over semantics. Washington didn't give anything to the greedy fat cats. It's the greedy fat cats who control and run Washington. They are just helping themselves to the cookie jar. Geithner, and Summers both have close ties to the banking industry and Obama takes marching orders from them. Capitalism or Corporatism, it's the same monkey behind the curtain. Personally I think we have the means now to live in a society that's not market driven, but one in which everyone shares his or her talents. It's just that we are so brainwashed into thinking in a market driven society, since that's all we ever grew up in. Thinking outside the box is hard to do.

[-] 1 points by AxeArgonian (3) from Brooklyn, NY 3 years ago

That is precisely the reason why a group of frustrated people called the "Tea Party" congregated last fall to choose more honest representatives. Granted, there are still numerous corrupt politicians at Capitol Hill, but the Tea Party did succeed at abolishing "earmarking", the practice of legal bribery within the halls of Congress.

Although I agree with you on the problem, I disagree with the solution. I believe that a truly free market could be restored, the gold standard returned, and a meritocratic atmosphere glorified. I'm not in favor of communitarian socialism on any level, because in my books it has always bred complacency, indolence, and backwards thinking. People should work to eat, not be fed in pampers by a nanny state.

Also, there is a significant difference between corporatism and capitalism. Corporatism benefits the exclusive few, limits competition among producers, and drives up prices. Free market capitalism benefits the most competitive producers and drives down prices.

On a side note, being a free market capitalist who loves competition, I always support local producers by shopping at mom and pop stores. I tend to avoid big chain stores that eat up the local competition.

[-] 1 points by soloenbarcelona (199) from Barcelona, CT 3 years ago

I believe you discribed and explained a mayor problem really well, and came up with a good solution. Hopefully you teach this at university and one day it will be happening. And hopefully that day is really soon. Thanks for your vision.

[-] 1 points by theOnlineGovernmentDotcom (97) 3 years ago

Capitalism breaks down when there is an slant in supply / demand or for things that just aren't profitable but still needed. For instance with health care, not only does everyone need it, but they will die without it. To make it worse, the supply/education of doctors is artificially and purposely limited by a group of existing doctors. You see the end result. For situations where capitalism is broke, that's when you need socialism.

As for creating jobs, I think giving made in USA a break with a fat tax cut for products / services that are 90% US-produced is one answer. Fund it with a hike for those companies who bypassed the union and sent the jobs abroad - they create unemployment and then expect not to deal with it.

I agree that American's need more worker rights. That's one key I see to the happiest countries in the world - worker rights are king. What is overtime? Most people I know work salary and then have to work 7 day/week and long hours. We don't have enough time to do anything but wallow in our fatness and eat at Mc Donalds.