Sunday, September 29, 2013

With or without economic recovery, the issue is a jobless world.

If any country in the world is unprepared for the future of "George Jetson" jobs or no jobs at all (for the majority of people), it is the United States of America.

From the moment the first Pilgrims stepped foot on Plymouth Rock, the American dream has been all about work - hard work in most cases, and lots of it.  From birth till death we are bombarded by the message that only hard work matters, that the more you work the better person you are, and that there is nothing about the European system or anywhere else in the world that can compare to the industriousness of the American worker and the opportunities afforded by the American system.

How many times have we listened as our fellow citizen laugh at and ridicule countries that mandate five weeks or more of paid vacation, short work weeks or other methods to spread the work around?

The entire structure of this social construct is falling apart all around us.  Current estimates are that nearly 50% of all existing jobs will be made obsolete by automation, computer intelligence and real honest-to-god robots within the next generation - certainly by 2050 if not sooner, the idea that everyone needs a job to be considered a full and productive member of society will be functionally obsolete.

If you look around, you can already see evidence of the current value system falling apart at the seams.  Youth unemployment is at record highs, we are surrounded by Baristas with college diplomas, and the mature unemployed often have given up on ever finding work.  These people represent just the tip of this iceberg of social change.

Ask yourself - what would happen if you were unemployed and simply could not ever find another job?

Looking outside the USA we can see some solutions - but they aren't going to be easy.  Add in the famous American "work ethic", and it looks pretty much impossible.  Here are the main problems in a nutshell:

  • How do you distribute wealth and provide income for people if they do not have paid work?
  • What can you offer as a work alternative for people that will support their self esteem and provide the level of healthy social interaction that we currently receive from the workplace?
  • Who will buy the cars and washing machines and houses and electricity necessary for a healthy and robust economy when only the luckiest and best prepared among us can find a job?

Perhaps more important than these issues is the overall effect that a jobless America will have on the entire moral and cultural climate here in the USA.  Can we really afford a future where those few who have jobs are held up as the only people of value?

The time to begin preparing for these changes is right now.  


  1. I must say I enjoyed this post enormously. You make excellent points on the matter, and it is a somewhat bleak prospect if it were to happen as you say.

    Do keep in mind, however, that America is changing at a mind-blowing pace which suggests collapse before stagnation. The current structure is extremely temporary and the United States as an entity is impermanent. It couldn't persist in this form for long.

    I know that sounds awfully weird to say, considering Americans seem to be brought up to habitually think of the U.S. as the country 'too big to fail', but the Soviet Union fell apart within your life time. Several other states have been dissolved within that period as well and many were more stable than we presently are towards their last day. We're not facing something new, even in this country.

    We have a deeply unpopular government, rife with special interests, enmeshed in multiple wars, with a bloated military and vast surveillance systems dedicated to monitoring imaginary threats. This can't persist another ten years. Maybe not even five.

    Joblessness is only one facet of the collapse and smaller, more localized economies will emerge, given time to take the place of the greater system. If you want a working picture of what is coming, look to the somewhat overused but still accurate image of a living jungle. A mighty predator dies. Many, many small creatures eat its corpse, breed, and evolve. The cycle continues.

    Don't despair. I promise, you won't be bored by what's coming, job or not.

  2. Good comments all around. A person's worth is slowly being seen as more than his or her job. I have been unemployed for a long time and I have learned that my contributions as a volunteer are just as valuable as those made by paid employees. The only problem is how to live with no employment income. If so few people are going to be employed, we need to come up with a way that people can volunteer or engage in other ways to help society and at least be provided with the basics needed to survive.


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