Jobs = (Demand - (Stockpiled_Supply - War)) / (Automation * Good_Design)

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Nathan Cravens

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Jul 26, 2009, 1:38:33 AM7/26/09
to Open Manufacturing
was: [p2p-research] Fwd: a very interesting essay on the collapse of the roman empire: http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-July/003792.html

Paul, this topic I hope you will pursue further for publication in the Abundance Journal.
This discussion pinpoints more specifically why we need the alternatives we've discussed. 

Paul Fernhout posits:
""
We can assume "Automation" and "Good_Design" are increasing, which tends to reduce the need for "Jobs", all other things being equal. Mainstream economics suggests "Demand" is essentially infinite -- that is, if people have two cars, they want four cars, and if they have four cars, they want one hundred cars parked in their driveway, and then even that won't be enough, they will want a thousand cars, a million cars. Clearly, stated that way, mainstream economics sounds absurd, because people only have so much time and attention they will devote to acquiring cars
So, if "Demand" is ultimately limited once most people meet their basic needs for food, water, shelter, information, and some consumer items ("the best things in life are free or cheap"), or at least "Demand" is rising less quickly than improvements in productivity "(Automation * Good_Design)", then the number of paying "Jobs" will go towards zero. And as there are less "Jobs", and so more competition for them, the remaining "Jobs" will get paid less and have worse working conditions.

The absence of good "Jobs" creates a crisis in a society that only allows people with jobs to direct the market and take goods from it (thus, the unemployed will starve, or riot, or be on unrelated small and depressing welfare payments, see Marshall Brain's Manna or described in the Triple Revolution memorandum).

"War" can increase jobs by destroying any stockpiled goods or existing infrastructure, requiring more goods and infrastructure, or vast stockpiles of military might intended no never be used, but "War" has become too terrible to contemplate even as stockpiles of war materials beg to be used, and in any case, building a *need* for "War" into an economic system seems inelegant and unethical, especially when "War" can so easily mean Armageddon these days.

The above is the equation I would suggest is more worth exploring these days than the Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth" one. That simple equation is IMHO key to understanding the next twenty years of our society, especially with the emergence of more capable robots. It would be worthwhile to plot the number of jobs over time for all sorts of assumptions of curves of demand and curves of automation and better design. One could also add in some demographic aspects of changing population sizes which I have left out for simplicity. Remember, in the next twenty years, none of the resource constraints Peak Oilers worry about are likely to be huge, but nonetheless, the equation above might show jobs trending low enough to create a huge set of social problems. We have already seen riots in Greece and other places in Europe related to the trends that come out of that equation.
And the result is we either need a basic income for everyone to make the system work, or we need to transition entirely to a post-scarcity gift economy, or we need some other approach to move beyond mainstream economic culture or even the market (local 3D printing like Star Trek matter replicators and recyclers that can print their own solar panels for power and print more replicators, etc. augmented by peer production and peer services in some local exchange way perhaps).

Any one of those three approaches (or some combination) might work sustainably without requiring war (or other forms of waste like compulsory schooling) to destroy abundance. Someday, it will seem ludicrous to describe the twentieth century as having been mostly about using war and schooling ust to create the kind of jobs people don't need to do anyway and shape the kind of people who will be satisfied with jobs that are easily automated or redesigned out of existence. So, moving beyond the economic collapse model also means seriously rethinking the nature and meaning of "Jobs" or "work" in our society.
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Regarding demand, labor capital continues to diminish through process optimization, reducing incomes which regressively limit demand, collapsing capital. That needs to be crystal clear to the stakeholders that manipulate politicians--and it wouldn't hurt if politicians themselves could digest this notion--to sway activation of a basic income in the traditional sense. Even if the endless needs psychology from personal or community disconnection remains, no matter the demand or how far to the floor the gas pedal in pressed, the driver's worth is evaporating in spite user demand and product innovations, and yet the automobile is not entirely driverless, which still keeps classical economists in business however downsized. If Internet neutrality remains constant, we will see our driverless or effortless economy. A sort of synthetic capitalist fuel in the form of basic income and others can provide the gift-market synthesis in the transition phase to create a better engine for materials use than the existing worldview, one that encourages and drives universal peer production. 

Nathan


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