Posted 2 years ago on Sept. 25, 2011, 10:32 a.m. EST by myne
from Fitzroy, VIC
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
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": http://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.