Archive for the 'Happiness' Category

100% UNEMPLOYMENT

June 30, 2010

100% UNEMPLOYMENT

A few hundred years ago, workers rebelled against the competition of machinery. They feared loss of their jobs, and starvation.

Fast forward to 2010. The Japanese, fascinated with robots, are creating multipurpose robots in human form. They have highly automated warehouses where the only humans in sight are bemused spectators. The obvious trend is to fewer human workers and more machines/robots/computers.

Fast forward to 2410. Automated machines/robots/computers do all the work, unguided by human hand, with only a few people to tell them what to do, to make, to design, or to solve. What will people do with their time? More important; how will people earn a living?

Personally, I like to work, to solve problems, to meet challenges or even just work up a sweat. I get great satisfaction from the final success of my labors, mental or physical. So how do I get such satisfaction, now that I’m retired and don’t need to work for a living? Believe me, it’s easy. I’m as busy as ever, doing things I choose to do, setting my own goals. Until my mind crumbles, I won’t be bored.

So this might give us a clue as to how those people in the 25th century will earn a living. Somebody will have to invest in all that machinery. Only capitalists will have incomes. So they will all have to become capitalists. They will live on the returns from their investments. They will have plenty of free time to pursue their own interests. A technical type like me might devote his time to scientific research, to learn what makes the atoms and the universe tick.

COMPETITION VS SECURITY

June 26, 2010

COMPETITION VS SECURITY

The free market provides us with ever more clever goods at ever decreasing cost. This seems to please each of us, as a consumer. Like everything though, this comes with a cost; it requires each of us to compete, as a producer.

Many try to game the system by shutting out competition. It often doesn’t work, but whether it works or not, it requires coercion. 100 years ago, the unions used violence, coercion, and intimidation to organize workers and force employers to negotiate for wages and working conditions. Police and governments turned a blind eye to this blatantly illegal coercion.

In the course of the 20th century, governments passed laws empowering unions to organize and forcing employers to negotiate. However, by the end of the 20th century, American workers, feeling that competition suited them better had largely lost interest in unions. What union power remained was mostly in unions of government employees.

Individualism and meritocracy are fundamental to the American culture. Many immigrants chose to come here because individualism was in their nature.

Other lands have other cultures. A Japanese worker traditionally has worked for one employer all of his working life. Employment is like joining a family for life, and loyalty and security replace the competition of US workers. I believe adaption of American attitudes is causing a lot of cultural stress in Japan.

Many Asian cultures tend to be more communal in nature than European cultures. In deed, European cultures tend to be more communal than the American culture. There should be opportunity everywhere, but especially in America, for people with all sorts of cultural attitudes to exist and cooperate.

Economics is about individuals doing what they can, within their means, to satisfy their particular wants. Their ultimate goal is not goods, but satisfaction or happiness. If they are happier living without the stress of having to compete, they should be free to do so, so long as they don’t resort to coercion (including coercion by government).

They may find that this means settling for less in material wealth. This is what economics is all about, setting priorities and living within your means. I don’t expect civilization to evolve into one “best” culture, but rather into one world where many different cultures can freely mingle and cooperate in trade together.

Personally, I have taken the individualist, competitive approach in my work. I have worked for many employers, given each one my best efforts, but stayed within the type of work I could truly enjoy. I acquired a breadth of experience far greater than I could have found with one employer, and found that each time I left a job, I was qualified for a greater choice of jobs than the time before. In an inflationary economy, I have twice taken significant pay cuts to move to a new job. Each time I felt that I would be happier with the move, and I was.

In a free market, there is a place for each individual. Now, where can I find a truly free market?

HOW WE SUBSIDIZE THE POPULATION EXPLOSION

June 19, 2010

HOW WE SUBSIDIZE THE POPULATION EXPLOSION

Having children is not a random accident. It is the direct result of a deliberate act. Other animals, having more sense than humans, refrain from sex when times are bad. But people, in the worst of times and the worst of situations, go on reproducing. In fact, there is a very strong relation between wealth of parents and the size of their families; the poorest families produce the most children.

There are cultures which consider children as an old age pension. This is most common in the poorest areas of the world. In such a culture, there is a definite economic advantage to large families, but essentially, parents are breeding future slaves. That’s not a culture of freedom and as old cultural traditions die out, parents may find themselves abandoned in their old age.

In richer areas of the world, governments actually subsidize children. In the USA, children count as tax deductions. Public schools are supported out of general taxes so education is “free”. The cost is socialized. Public schools may provide free lunches. If you live on welfare, your income increases as you have more children. Dependent children will help to qualify you for food stamps.

In short, government, by trying to protect children from poverty, is subsidizing their parents, making it easier to breed and burdening the taxpayers with the results. This is, of course unfair to the taxpayers, and to the children.

So how many children should each family produce? In a system of freedom, parents should make that decision. But that decision should be made with the realization of full responsibility to prepare the children to become self- supporting adults.

The world is getting crowded. At some point, any additional population will reduce the living standards of everybody. If your thinking is authoritarian, you might call for forced limitation of family size, as China did for many years. If your thinking is inclined to individual freedom, you must accept the right of families to decide. But we shouldn’t tilt the families’ incentives by subsidizing their children. With freedom to choose comes responsibility for the choice.

WHY GROWTH?

May 29, 2010

WHY GROWTH?
It seems the whole world is obsessed with growth. Certainly, among the truly poor, living from hand to mouth or actually starving, there is a desperate need to make life at least less perilous and miserable. But the “poor” people in the USA live well above that level.

For most Americans, I see a real need to pause and evaluate our quality of life. For all our relative wealth, why aren’t we happy? How many people are enjoying their lives? Not just a few moments here and there, but all day, working, traveling, eating, tending to house and home, doing the big and little chores of daily living?

Not many, from what I can see. All around me, I see stress, insecurity, lack of sleep, and people always hurrying, behind schedule. We set impossible goals and then fret that we can’t achieve them.

At some point, you might think that people would say, “Enough”, retire, and enjoy the rest of their lives. However, when asked how much people want, no matter how much they have, the answer seems to be, “more”.

Technology marches on. New gadgets, comforts, and conveniences roll off the production lines. Methods improve and more work is automated. Less labor is needed to produce more goods more cheaply. Will our hunger for “more” ever reach a limit? How long can we sustain full employment? Will robots replace us and leave us all unemployed? Will growth finally stop in this future nirvana?

In one Science fiction story I read long ago, the main character was an all-purpose humanoid robot. The Robot was the sole support of his owner, who lived a life of ease. Does this suggest where we are headed? After a fashion, I think it does. But not in this century

Somewhere in the distant future, we may achieve a balance where we live off the proceeds of our investments, and work as much or as little as we like at whatever we care to do, with or without pay.

That’s what I do, now that I’ve retired. My “investments” are in a Social Security pension, a company pension, and my home. All of my work is unpaid. I’m happy and very busy. A life of ease doesn’t suit me.

But the security of being a capitalist certainly does reduce the stress.