The System

So, here’s a quick description of how “the system” is broke. Spoiler Alert: It’s not Obamacare or Welfare.

Every economic system, be they capitalism, communism, whatever, is designed for the benefit of society. Instead of people living in isolation and being responsible for every life task, thus preventing them from specializing in anything, every economic system has people cooperating with each other and performing specialized jobs, to improve the net benefit to society. A farmer can just focus on perfecting farming. A blacksmith can specialize in blacksmithy. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestickmaker all focus on their specialties.

With every generation, the tools and techniques improve. We now have individual farmers operating powerful tools, performing the equivalent work of 1,000 farmers from yestercentury. If we follow this line of thought for a while, the economic system continues to require that every person work for a living, and yet the efficiency of each person increases, so we overproduce. After some number of generations, we reach the point where only 1 in 1,000 people needs to do any work in order to support all of society, and then 1 in a million, and then we have the logical eventual conclusion in a society where machines do all the work. They self-operate, self-repair, they self-invent, self-construct. Humans are unnecessary except as consumers. Jobs are unnecessary. But our economic system was originally designed to reward people only for their work. Somewhere along the path, the economic system was required to adapt, break down, and fail.

In present times, we are somewhere along that path. College grads increasingly stay at home with parents because they can’t find jobs. They take jobs in retail, operating cash registers, cooking fast food, driving taxis, because they are required to get a job and there isn’t enough work available in the world to keep all those people gainfully employed in their specialized areas.

But even THESE jobs are being ever more replaced by machines, or human labor reduced due to increases of efficiency, tools, or process.

People recognize the problem and debate “how to create jobs,” usually arguing over distribution of tax breaks and tax burdens. “Tax the rich,” “Give tax breaks to ‘job creators,'” “Cut welfare.” This entire debate is narrow minded and near-sighted, and misses the bigger picture, demonstrates a misunderstanding of the actual problem, and a lack of wisdom. All of these arguments assume a fundamentally functional system that merely needs tweaking of operating parameters. They neglect to address the root cause of the problem.

We have Dilbert jobs, where employees show up to do useless work just for the sake of being a body that collects a paycheck without poverty or criminality. We have 9 guys standing around watching one guy with a shovel, holding the plans upside down. A few weeks ago, the gas company sent their guy to my house to inspect the pipes. He used a sniffing device, and found a gas leak. He informed me, “That pipe right there needs to be tightened. I’ll call the guy with the wrench.” So I commented, “That must be a union job.” He said “Oh yeah. It is.” 20 minutes later, another guy came in with a crescent wrench and tightened the pipe. I had lots of wrenches right there with us in the basement, and of course, the first guy could have carried one of his own. That’s not the point. The point is, the union protects the jobs for the sake of keeping two men employed doing work whose sole benefit is to pay the men for non-criminal activity.

Don’t get me wrong – unions are very important to protect human rights in situations of exploitation and abuse. But the flip side is that not all union activity is about defending human rights and fighting exploitation and abuse. As demonstrated above, unions often protect jobs for the sake of protecting busywork. When machines are able to do the jobs more cost effectively than people, unions step in and protect peoples’ busywork jobs, opposing the machines. They fight to KEEP useless busywork, opposing progress.

A hundred years ago, a human was required to make the elevator go up and down. A human was required to light and extinguish the street lamps. Bowling pins were stood up by hand. Phone calls were connected by human operators. These jobs were all eliminated, and we as a society are better for it.

I consult at a robotics company. It is annoyingly common that we have some buyer ready to buy some robots, and then some union gets involved due to perceived threat to jobs. (A threat which is highly arguable.)

We should not be opposing progress. We as a society should get our shit together, and LET these useless jobs get eliminated, and FIND something productive for those people to do instead.

If you cannot imagine any big picture goals for the human race to accomplish, that would make you proud of being a member of the human race, then I pity you. I would like to take all those people doing useless busywork, and get them back in school, and performing arts, and developing the tools to detect and prevent extinction events such as the next big asteroid, and global climate change. Wait. If you cannot imagine big picture goals that make you proud to be part of the human race – just go watch some sci-fi. Faster than light travel. Discovery of extraterrestrial life. How about a little bit of species habitat redundancy – colonize another planet so the human race isn’t extincted when the Sun destroys Earth. Nevermind the Sun destroying Earth in some billions of years – WE are certainly going to destroy it ourselves if we can’t get control of global climate change and global overpopulation. Working on THESE problems would make me proud to be part of the human race.

“The System” of capitalism is broken because it is fundamentally designed to perpetually increase efficiency of material benefit in society, and cannot remain functional when approaching extreme efficiency of material benefit in society. There is no choice about it, the inevitable conclusion is that you must adopt methods of wealth distribution disconnected from free market consumerism.

That means you have to pay people for jobs that the free market doesn’t demand. For now, this mostly happens by Dilbert jobs, Government jobs, Busywork jobs (some of which are protected by unions), Government Grants and subsidies for various projects, and the tiniest category, much smaller than any of the aforementioned, is Welfare programs, including Social Security and Unemployment and other programs.

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