One of the strangest, and most persistent excuses for the expansion of big government in the name of compassion is what is now being called “post necessity economy.”
Apparently in the future, robots will do everything, and we need this big re-distributive economy to make sure that all those people made redundant aren’t starving the gutter.
There are so many things wrong with this meme it’s no wonder it’s a favorite of intellectuals and those suffering from a superiority complex, particular those “intellectuals’ who live in the insular enclaves of the left, like academia and bureaucracy.
In fact this meme has been repeated so often that most people just go along with it. They nod, sagely, and look concerned and say “oh, yes, we’ll need a big government to take care of all those people that technology is rendering unemployable.”
And yet, this is so broken it’s not even wrong. It’s a bizarre, often repeated shibboleth from a planet where the world is made of green cheese and where, whatever humans are, they’re not humans as we know them.
Let’s start at the beginning and examine the assumptions (and the smug) packed into this “Post necessity” meme:
1- We need a big state that looks after those who are rendered obsolete by technology.
Okay. Fine. I’ll bite. Let’s say this day will happen, but when? surely not now. If we were in an economy that had no room for unskilled laborers, why would we be importing gardeners and maids from countries where they don’t speak English? By the millions?
Perhaps the problem is something else. Perhaps the problem is not that our unemployed have been made obsolete, but that our regulations, laws, and in fact the apparatus of the big state make it almost impossible to hire people for starter jobs, in which they can get the experience for more complex jobs, and prefers instead to turn them into pensioniers.
So – point one, even if that wonderful “post necessity” (they used to call it “post scarcity.” I guess that’s hard to sell in this economy) economy comes at some point, it is not today. So why are we investing in a big state today? To give all those poor unfortunates jobs shuffling paper and arrange for other, less apt unfortunates to live their lives out while being paid to do nothing? What? For PRACTICE?
The fact is that those people now chronically unemployed don’t need big government to help them. They need to have big government remove high taxes, extremely complex regulations, onerous costs of doing business that steal millions from the economy. The latest of these regulations being Obama care, which makes it almost impossible for small companies to operate within the law and pay enough that their employees can afford the “tax” levied on those who don’t buy an extremely high deductible, low-accessibility health “insurance.”
This last is by no means the only or main hobble on the economy, but it is a very significant one and possibly the straw that broke the camel’s back.
2- The Amazing All Automated Economy Really Will Come, this time for sure, and it will strand lots of “low IQ” people who will be left without jobs to do.
You know the really funny thing? I think this is a meme dreamed up by people who don’t own any toilets. As Mike Rowe has shown, there is a lot of work to do that doesn’t involve understanding the intricacies of math or the nuances of language. (Whether that means these people are “lower IQ” or “lower ability” is something else. We’ll get into it later.”)
And I know they’ll say those are “demeaning” jobs, and sure some are. But they still need to be done. Others are not. And yet all of them need to be done. Or can be done. Or will enhance our lives by being done.
There are jobs, both pleasant and unpleasant that need what those ivory tower people despise. I have done manual labor. Some of it is pleasant, some less so. The least pleasant of those was ironing all of a hotel’s linen because I was cheaper than the ironing machine. (Which they did have.) It was done in a tiny room in the basement; it was monotonous beyond belief; it was hot, sweaty (it was summer) and humid from the iron; and I got blisters on my hands that burst before I formed calluses.
But I tell you what, I’d rather do that work again than be in an echo-chamber where I have to watch every word and movement lest I betray the different thinking their “diversity” can’t tolerate.
3- “Post necessity” — do let’s unpack that. What do humans need? Food. A place to sleep. (Arguably) A group to be part of. A mate is a fourth distant need, but most people will make do without if they have the other three.
A group to be part of could be argued to be “doing meaningful work” and “being valued.” At least this is a necessity to a lot of people. And btw, meaningful can be “enough to support myself.”
The way society is RIGHT NOW it’s very easy to achieve those needs at a level that far exceeds the luxuries of the noblemen in the middle ages. A part time, minimum wage job is enough to secure a room, a bed (arguably much cleaner than in the middle ages, let alone before) enough food to keep body and soul together (rice and oil is cheap, so are vegetables, actually) and most work will make you part of a group, even if it’s the group that works at the convenience store down the street.
And mind you, the way most people in the middle ages lived, even the drudge in the meanest kitchen or the beggar on the streets was already MUCH better than the live of homo sap when they took over Europe. (Meals might not have been as plentiful, but they were more regular. And danger was rather lower, even if epidemics were more common.)
All of which brings us to: we’ve been post necessity since pre-historic times. Arguably, agriculture did that. Did all those poor people who only knew how to gather berries and who were “too stupid to plant” die?
Nope. We still have their work-shy descendants in government bureaucracy today.
The main characteristic of humans is that they ADAPT. They create, they invent. One of the things they continually invent is a better life for themselves. Humans dream. They dream they can do something different. They dream they can create something new, something so amazing other humans will want it. It will become a necessity for those other humans.
Even if the great age of automated everything came tomorrow (it won’t. I’m grateful much of the difficult things are now made easy, but not everything or even most things will be automated ever, and than heavens, because if it were, you’d end up dying when the machines broke down.) we clever monkeys would find other things to do and need and crave.
4- But… but… the “post necessity economy” will put all those low IQ, low-adaptability people out of work!
Oh, holy d*mn. You know what? Sometimes I feel like I’m a secret agent. Or perhaps a double agent. You see, I can bend language around. I can even understand mathematics, if you give me a running standard, because I haven’t used higher math in years and I’m digit dyslexic. But I can also refinish furniture, plant gardens, install a wood floor and I’m soon going to learn to lay tile (as soon as currently overdue books are in.)
Most of the stuff I know how to do comes from following manual laborers around. Okay, not so much now. I’m not a cute pigtailed little girl, and they get antsy. Though sometimes some are congenial and explain what they’re doing as they do it. BUT they always did it until I was about fifteen.
And if you show the workman you know what you’re doing? Or tell him that you know exactly what is wrong with that pipe over there?
They become buddies. They tell you stuff.
What you quickly realize is that they are not in any way stupid. Certainly they aren’t dumber than people I’ve worked with at universities and publishing houses. They might be less interested in reading, less apt with language. But they are usually spatially smarter, better at figuring out what’s wrong and fixing it with no-nonsense.
But those are skilled laborers, you’ll say. What about the other people? The unskilled ones?
Well, when I was a clothes presser in Germany one of my workmates was a semi-literate Turkish maid. Common language was a bit of an issue, but once we figured out how to talk I found out she wasn’t significantly dumber than I. Not where it mattered to do her job, get on with life, dream of a better life.
She might not have aspired to writing novels, but the difference between human IQs is not that large. It’s more the specialties humans choose.
The assumption that these poor people won’t be able to shift unless the enlightened build a bigger state to look after them makes me wish to wretch.
These idiots view themselves as feudal lords, who should have power over “lesser beings” for the lesser beings good.
The smugness, elitism and in some cases racism (I’ve read more than one article saying this is why the government needs to hire black people disproportionately) implied in this decision that the “post necessity” economy needs “Smart people” to look after the less able ones is staggering.
Particularly when you consider many of the same people who proclaim this are having a lot of trouble adapting to the new world of publishing, or the press, or–
Humans were made to strive. Anyone who tells you anything else thinks you have a saddle, and they’re outfitted with the spurs to ride you.
The big society they’re so intent on building is supposed, most of all, to look after them and reassure them they’re the important ones.