In the USA, in 1940 one farmer would produce food for 18.5 people. This was up from the 1920's when a farmer would only feed 4 people. In 2022, one farmer feeds 155 people. This is a phenomenal feat but not exclusive to Agriculture. The advances are surpassed in many other industries. Robots multiply faster than mice, do not have predators, are aggressive and are already all over the map of human activity and trending beyond. Only robots can make a microchip!
By 1940, the increase in productivity caused the introduction of the 40-hour week in the USA. Before that, people were working anywhere from 10 to 16 hours for a day’s wage. This reduction in working hours was another step, or rather a great leap forward in the emancipation of the people who sweat to produce what we all need and consume to survive and thrive.
The increase in productivity in the interval since the introduction of the five day week – eight hour day, is phenomenal, and certainly unprecedented in the history of humankind since the invention of the slingshot. Yet, hardly anyone speaks about reducing the hours humans labour for survival in the modern jungle. BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau made noises about it in the 2021 BC election but the people were too preoccupied with Covid to open their ears.
The “unemployment” rate goes up and down and our “leaders” play it for all it is worth for political gain. They extend payment of “unemployment benefits”, launch “Job- creating projects” (Remember “Kaynesian economics”?), and subsidize businesses to “create jobs” for the “unemployed”.
This is rich in answers but short on questions. Work is a means to address needs. If there are unemployed people, it means that there are no needs to be addressed by work for if there was a shortage of something, they would be working to produce it. One may easily deduce this from the reality that we are pressured hard to indulge in overconsumption. Virtually the whole mammoth communication system of the Society is primarily committed to making us “consume” ever more of everything, from potato chips to cruise ships. Legions of advertisers are working hard to make us “ever better consumers”.
Must we assume that the intelligence quotient of our “leaders” comes short of figuring out that the horse sense solution to unemployment is spreading the available work?
The above may reflect the influence Cleanthes had on a young me. His name means “glorious bloom” and he bore it proudly, for he was an effervescent chap and a classy beggar. He would challenge affluent denizens to show they were not incapable of “keeping a lazy bum like me in the lifestyle I enjoy”, he would assertively say. Pyrgos, a town of 30,000 lived up to Cleanthe’s expectations. We loved having him available on a park bench ready to fold the book he was reading and debate on demand any issue with anyone. We kiddos, would find a conversation with him more enlightening than the lectures of several schoolteachers. The Cleanthes’ Challenge undrlines the “Ethical Society”.
Alva Edison is quoted saying he never did an hours’ work. Yet he would even spend the whole night in his lab. But this is not work, it is pleasure, he would explain, the distinction being material. Labouring for money to buy a guitar or a hockey stick is work – strumming a tune or playing street hockey is pleasure.
The only conceivable “reason” for the simultaneous occurrence of “unemployment” and “over-production”, is to warn the workers about the merit of keeping our noses to the grindstone. It is the “system”, the modern inanimate slavemaster, exposing the consequences from refusal to play the Establishment’s game, those who fail to imitate the gerbil who keeps the wheel rolling to produce nothing. The politicians contribute to the game the Employment Insurance institution, causing the lineups of unemployed anxious to collect “benefits”, lest the people at large recognize that Market Economy has ugly facets. Incidentally, the original name was “Unemployment Insurance” but some PR genius spun the title to hide the truth.
In a healthy civilized society unemployment is non-existent because if there were unsatisfied peoples’ needs the “unemployed” would be labouring to fulfill them. If on the other hand, the peoples’ needs are satisfied there is no work to be done and this excludes unemployment because unemployment cannot be if there is no need for the work to be done.
John Maynard Keyness was a prophet of modern slavery – the King made Keynes Lord of Tilton for that ! He wanted people to slave in producing “waste” so as to obfuscate modern “slavery”.
It is essential to understand the simple truth, known since Diogenes’ times, that labouring to producing waste, is slavery. “Nothing more, nothing less” Humpty Dumpty would say.
There is a truism about Democracy attributable to several notables. When Thomas Jefferson uttered it,Thomas Paine jumped in to up them all.
The truism reads: “That government is best which governs least”.
Paine countered: “That government is best which governs not at all”;
Paine’s version portrays Democracy in its whole.
In a democracy the government does not “govern” – for it is the people who do that and two heads will not fit in one hat. Democracy is the lever, the handle of the tool by which the populace govern their soverign society, that is all.
Through Democracy the people tell the government what to do and what not to do. Like Lewis Carrol said: “The question is, ‘who is to be master’ — that’s all.”