A Helicopter Rescue of the Environment?
A challenging conceptualization of the downside of full employment?
A growing environmental awareness has focused attention upon many sources of pollution. Contaminates of water and air offer risks, though the pollution of the earth itself with unnatural chemicals, artificial fertilizers and insecticides, and even nuclear waste is no less alarming. Controversy surrounds the various environmental culprits with both allegations of exaggeration and under-estimation. We do not intend to traverse the plethora of environmental assailants here. We are hunting much bigger game.
Is it possible that the greatest cause of environmental damage is in the psychological habits of our mental processes; our habitually trodden mental pathways which need urgent modification? And moreover, could it be that misconceptions about the need for full employment are at the heart of it all? Now that must be heresy, surely!
There are two principle roles which employment plays in economic life. The primary and base function is to produce goods and services. Due to advances in technology, modern processes and artificial intelligence, the need for human input into this function is declining in terms of the time which needs to be invested in it.
On the other hand, employment is a source of empayment (usually called wages or income). The need for adequate empayment for all individuals is absolute, and denial of income is of course, a condemnation to poverty and is even ultimately life threatening.
Of course some care and attention to productive processes will always be essential. But the number of people required and the time they need to commit to it, has been declining for centuries. Indeed, this fortunate outcome describes the whole progress of the industrial arts.
So in our present mindset, “full employment” is both increasingly unnecessary for adequate production, and absolutely indispensable for an adequate distribution of that production.
The reconciliation of employment in being increasingly unnecessary in respect to one of its aspects, and continuingly indispensable in another, is the source of the mischief. The restoration of equilibrium requires either one of two eventualities. Either production must be so interfered with, inhibited and imposed upon that it requires the fulltime attention of all to achieve a sufficiency of it, or alternately, distribution must be facilitated independently of employment so as to render it increasingly unnecessary.
The first option involves so much intervention, bother, regulation, and inhibition of initiative that it is rendered unattractive. The second is outside of common consideration, unaddressed in all establishment media, and has a terrifyingly propensity to suggest that it offers “something for nothing”. This is where the aforementioned “psychological habits of our mental processes” comes in. If we have abundant product, and inadequate distributed income to buy it, is it OK to find another way to allow people to use it?
If as Shakespeare speculated, “all the world’s a stage”, is it OK if there are more seats in the theatre than there is money in the hands of the public just now to buy all the tickets, to print tickets for the unused seats and just give them out?
Distribution of income independently of employment is one of the great moral taboos of our present tribal superstitions. Distribution of income on the basis that one owns an enterprise (in whole or in part) is OK in tribal law, as it is differentiated as a dividend. So this is the reason that the owners of a corporation’s shares can get a dividend (a benefit without current effort), while the owners of their country (its citizens, electors, guarantors, and defenders of it with their lives in war) cannot?
As things stand just now, every Nation on earth is careful not to do a Profit and Loss Account such as all public companies do. This might show that a distributable profit was due to the country’s people. Such a payment cannot in our minds now be readily equated to a dividend on the basis of inheritance, and is often more readily perceived as a flagrant dissipation of property to which none have a legitimate right.
All this brings us back to full-employment as a persistent irritant in the economy, and the source of excessive resource consumption and ultimately of pollutants. If the only legitimate basis of empayment is employment, then infinite consumption of resources as technological prowess advances is pretty much a given.
We must use up all the resources necessary to keep us all fully employed, and this even though there may already be a sufficiency of production. We must fuel the vehicles which surge into and out of our metropolises daily, we must destroy the trees which furnish our paper products, we must burn the coal to construct the steel and concrete towers which are the temples of the our productive liturgy. The tidal surge into and out of the cities must be maintained with non-renewable energy.
In the most simplified terms, in the age of artisans and hand-craftsmanship a man would probably consume about three trees by turning them into charcoal, and about 200 pounds of iron ore in a year’s work producing plow shears, swords and pruning hooks. He would be fully employed for a year in doing this. For each man fully employed in steel-making today, he produces 100 tons of steel. He usually works less hard to do it as he has giant excavators and 200 ton trucks to get his iron ore and coal delivered, and automated processes and machinery at the rolling mills. The employment of the one is 1,000 times more expensive than the other, in terms of the resources consumed to keep him busy.
Not all occupations have similar mathematics, of course, but the trend towards using more and doing more per employed person is general.
It is cheaper to produce using modern technology both financially and in terms of labour and effort, so it is practiced to the maximum extent everywhere. In terms of consuming natural resources it is the most expensive system of full employment that has ever existed. Persisted with for long enough and the earth must become a slag heap of waste.
Conversely we might just tell much of the populace to stay out of the production system, and to voluntarily undertake activities of their own choosing. Beyond acting towards their fellows with goodwill and taking responsibility for their actions and relationships, they might employ themselves in their leisure as they may choose. But how could they then have the income they need?
The first National Profit and Loss Account ever done
is available in the Discussions on this website http://definedinstitute.org as the Prototype National Accounts. It shows that 20% of all consumer production cannot be purchased. Why? Because the total incomes of all Americans in 2014 were 20% less than the total consumer products produced and sold. Consequently, 20% of all production was only sold as a result of increasing debt. The additional money created as debt in 2014 amounted to $2.3 trillion. This was $7,500 for each person, or $30,000 per family of four.
In the 1860’s there was a civil war taking place in America. President Lincoln, representing the northern States, had the need to fight that war, and they had all the means of successfully waging it except for one resource. They hadn’t the money to fight it. So President Lincoln began creating the needed money. In all he issued “greenbacks” to the value of $450 million, and this without any debt being incurred.
Could peace be funded in a similar way? Could inactivity be funded, and leisure financed, to the extent that production exceeds the available purchasing power in the hands of consumers to buy it? While the answer continues to be no, advancing technology and improved processes must use up ever increasing resources in maintaining full employment for all. Is the greatest pollutant of all the waste, byproducts and resource consumption involved in the unnecessary activity of maintaining us in paid busy-ness?
There is a proposal that could answer this. It involves measuring the shortage of consumer incomes to buy the consumer products offered. This amount of money is then created in cyberspace as is current practice in creating money, debited against a National Balance Sheet, and then distributed debt and interest free to all in equal measures as a National Dividend.
Created only to the actual measured extent of the deficiency of consumer incomes, it does not produce demand pull, and not requiring repayment, it does not produce cost push inflation either. If helicopter money were given the dignity of being known as a “National Dividend”, and was dispersed only in the measure in which aggregate personal incomes were deficient to meet the consumer product offered, the resultant resource consumption and its environmental fallout might be significantly reduced.
If you try to write with a wide general audience in mind, your story will ring false and be bland. No one will be interested. Write for one person. If it’s genuine for the one, it’s genuine for the rest.