Thursday, March 14, 2013

We Don't Really Need More Jobs

Well, we do and we don't.  On capitalism some people must sell their labor to get any compensation, which means that radical advances in technology or efficiency can be catastrophic.  So on that system, yeah you need jobs and ever expanding consumption.  But is this what humanity needs?  We're struggling to sustain the level of employment needed for everyone to have a half way decent life as you can see in the image below which shows the labor participation rate from 1980 to today.



Some commentary from Buckminster Fuller:


13 comments:

gulliblestravelsdma said...

How are the people who don't have jobs supported?

I'm moderate to liberal leaning. I don't understand this particular philosophy. I have never felt I worked to justify my right to exist. I exist. There is no right to it. I didn't ask to be born. But speaking from personal experience, I do like to eat.

Jonathan said...

Well stated. I'm not sure who supposedly subscribes to that particular philosophy either.

I believe humanity is intrinsically wired to gain one of the highest forms of meaning and purpose through hard work and effort. In an effort to liberate ourselves from the "tyranny" of capitalism as some say, and to bring relief to the oppressed, people can become dehumanized after having their actions completely decoupled from their consequences, or have no ownership over their circumstances.

When you frame hard work and responsibility in terms of enslavement and oppression, it's easy to forget the positive intrinsic benefits of a system in which one works to eat, as gulliblestravelsdma pointed out.

In entrepreneurial parlance, there are two types of people in this world - producers and consumers. Producers bring value and are focused on helping others. Consumers are simply concerned about helping themselves and their own interest.

I think Richard Buckminister Fuller has another quote that is appropriate as well:

“I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.”
― Richard Buckminster Fuller

Minimizing one's need to work hard as a response to an overly materialistic society is piano top thinking.

Paul said...

Hey Jonathan -

do you actually believe the latter part of the following?

"Producers bring value and are focused on helping others"

I am happy to concede the first half of that not so much for the second half.

Jonathan said...

Paul,

I was referring to producers in the context of entreprenourship, or more specifically the soloprenour/small business owner not as socieity as a whole, large corporations etc. Their livelyhood depends on providing enough benefit to the end customer while building a sustainable business. Hince, successful entreprenours must ask "what does the consumer want" while the consumer simply asks "do I want this".

This can be stressful and quite difficult at times, but intrinsically quite rewarding both due to a sense of accomplishment, and also because of the altruistic nature of providing for the consumer.

It's this type of dynamic which is often ignored or not understood when reacting to the problems in our current consumersitic society.



Examinator said...

Jonathan,
As usual a well structured and intelligent contribution.
On the basis of a belief your statement [“….humanity is intrinsically wired to gain one of the highest forms of meaning and purpose through hard work and effort.” ] is unassailable.
I can't nor should I try to prove that you don't believe this .
However, I am entitled to point out the bias and it intrinsic lack of substantive(factual) proof as an absolute.
What you have described is classically known as the “Protestant work ethic!” .
From a genetic sense it is at best a elementary school perception in its over simplification.
At a finer level the best that can be said is that at the hard wired (genetically encoded ) there are a series of potentials called “instincts”. None of which are absolute and virtually impossible to quantify simply because there are so many influential factors involved. Hence we are at best talking in terms of very wide range (variations).
Even the 'self preservation' instinct often depends on circumstances and as such not an absolute.
It is provable that different cultures emphasis different ' instincts' , the evolutionary factors of this are obvious particularly in the more obvious physical phenotype.
These physical adaptations also effect the need to work to survive.

Cultures are largely different responses to their conditions for survival faced by various groups of people. It is also demonstrable that “ higher” and “meaning” are two highly subjective terms.
There are cultures that by most measurements at least happier more content to only do sufficient work to exist …. Amazonian tribes have been observed as being only involved in hunter gathering for about 2-3 hours per day and spend the rest of the time in 'social/ community activities'.
Like wise Tibetan monks spend most of their time in meditation of the meaning and function of life and mind.
Many of the shamanistic cultures are similar.
There are some that believe conquest and warfare is the way to Asgaard et al.
The point is that your argument is based on your cultural biases.
Meaning/ productivity is in the eye of the individual and is subject to the influence the prevailing culture.

Examinator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Examinator said...

gulliblestravelsdma,

while individuals don't have the need to justify their existence there is a purpose for life, to survive and maintain the existence of the species.
This means that society is for mutual benefit and inherently to be accepted as part of the society we are expected to contribute in some way.

Jonathan said...

Examinator,

I was a bit concerned when I had not seen your input for the last few days on this post, but fortunately you did not disappoint.

Obviously my views on the intrinsic value of work are heavily influenced by my Judeo Christian worldview. I was not trying to provide a defensible position from someone with a different world view.

With regard of bias - of course it's biased, just as everyone who makes any opinion about anything is biased. Just as your statement concerning my "intrinsic lack of substantive(factual) proof as an absolute". We have a different view on what is considered "data", "proof", "factual", and what should constitute valid information when forming an opinion or belief.

I am not referring to syllogisms based on pure logic, only pointing out that we differ in what is valid data, and neither one of us have cornered the market on what is the accepted definition of valid data a prori.

So in short - I would not expect someone coming from a different world view to come to the same conclusions as I regarding the nature of the "how" and the "why" people find satisfaction in work.

However, with regard to the Tibetan monk, Amazonian tribes, etc. I believe our views would be quite similar. I believe one can find deep satisfaction in striving or "working hard" for many things which are not related to work. Learning, developing skills, providing assistance to another, etc.

I also am not arguing that one needs to put in a specific number of hours per day or week towards providing for one's needs. In fact, like the Amazonian tribe you cite, I too strive for needing to "work" only a few hours per day.

I am not aware of a tribe or culture in which being lazy and contributing nothing for the betterment of oneself or one's community is indeed a good thing.

Even biologically speaking, as you and I well know, if we do not challenge our body with activities which stress and challenge our bodies, our health can quickly decline.

In fact, I am rather surprised that naturalists/humanists/materialists do not draw a correlation between the determent of people mentally/emotionally/neurologicallywhen the level of effort required to work is completely decoupled from their financial circumstances.

Chad said...

And for those of us who believe in God, Proverbs 14:23 - All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty and 18:9 One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

There are no defectors in those tribes you spoke about Ex who thrive to be more, much more? May I assume that these folks still have dirt floors and no indoor plumbing? Not saying that is bad, but at the same time you get out what you out in.

Like a previous poster, I do not understand the philosophy and obviously I am not a subscriber to it either. At the same time, it does bring up an interesting point when you ask how many hours of each day does the earner work for others or for gov't? Sadly today that is in excess of 40% for the earner group and more along the lines of 60% for the wealthier among us which should be outrageous. If those numbers could be reduced significantly then so could the number of work hours a person would have to work.

Examinator said...

Jonathan,
Absolutely(!).
I guess the point was to illustrate the difference between a belief and fact.
The two aren't necessarily always mutually exclusive.
i.e. I still have my weekly lotto ticket. Even though I know that the chances of winning are 39 factorial against, an 'F'ing gianormous number.
However, that knowledge stops me from spending half my income on reducing those odds.
The problem comes into play when an individual focuses on the belief and allows to belief to become a barrier against facts. As an example I draw your attention the catholic Church's view and response to Galileo's cosmic view and that it s contradiction to their proof i.e. biblical verses (variations on Zoroastrianism creation myths.
One could even cite the Israeli national myth of Massada and Jewish determination (they were not Judeaist in the real sense they were in fact a break away sect. That attacked orthodox (for the time)Jews.
NB in the secular context one could point to the resistance to Tectonic Plates not accepted valid until l the mid 1960's!
The real issue is when, like Chad he justifies his 'myopic humanitarianism' by verses in the Bible, which in them selves are disputed or contradicted elsewhere in the Bible; out of context;out of proportion ignoring the origines of
Jonathan,
Absolutely(!).
I guess the point was to illustrate the difference between a belief and fact.
The two aren't necessarily always mutually exclusive.
i.e. I still have my weekly lotto ticket. Even though I know that the chances of winning are 39 factorial against, an 'F'ing big number.

Examinator said...

Part 2
However, that knowledge stops me from spending half my income on reducing those odds.
The problem comes into play when an individual focuses on the belief and allows to belief to become a barrier against facts. As an example I draw your attention the catholic Church's view and response to Galileo's cosmic view and that it s contradiction to their proof i.e. biblical verses (variations on Zoroastrianism creation myths.
One could even cite the Israeli national myth of Massada and Jewish determination (they were not Judeaist in the real sense they were in fact a break away sect. That attacked orthodox (for the time)Jews.
NB in the secular context one could point to the resistance to Tectonic Plates not accepted valid until l the mid 1960's!
The real issue is when, like Chad he justifies his 'myopic humanitarianism' by verses in the Bible, which in them selves are disputed or contradicted elsewhere in the bible; out of context; or its origins or original intention.
By contrast look at the way the Tibetan 'book(s) of the dead', their sacred texts are revered.( insights rather than interpreted literalistic dogma)

The ultimate difference is that they don’t proselyte and manipulate to enforce their views on others i.e. as the Republicans, Uber Christians do …
Take your hot button Abortion for example. They are not accepting of other's rights to have one yet they let that dominate their choices of a government that is arguably 'unchristianly inhumane in most other aspects.” . As I say to my sister in law virginal nun who lives with us “ if you don't want an abortion don't have one!... I don't interfere with your beliefs or try to make them illegal even though I think what the Catholic church or even your new Pope (personally)has a lot to answer for( see his association with the military Junta and their stealing of children et al. Crimes against Humanity (? ) )
The point is a nuanced one that emphasises not the absolutes i.e. Belief phooey! Fact Yahoo! ( one or the other) But a balance of both is on average human.

D'Ma said...

Exterminator said, "while individuals don't have the need to justify their existence there is a purpose for life, to survive and maintain the existence of the species.
This means that society is for mutual benefit and inherently to be accepted as part of the society we are expected to contribute in some way."

IMHO it is wrongheaded thinking that some of society should do nothing but please themselves while the rest of society supports them. As a responsible adult I should provide for myself. It is not owed to me by anyone else. If that was not clear in my previous statement that is what I intended. I believe that those who are able bodied should contribute positively. And no one owes it to them to support them if they refuse to.

Thomas Watson said...

I couldn't agree more. All the fixation on creating jobs in America is outdated and misguided.