imho it's not too bad of an idea, IF the government also gains the means to finance it.
Let me put it in another perspective. I'm using simplified guestimates here, but the real number are hard to find (or decide upon)
If today's employees produce ten times more wealth than 100 years ago, and few have money left af the end of the month, this roughly means we use ten times more wealth.
1: how much wealth do we need?
2: how much wealth is spent on non-essential matters vs essential matters.
3: how much of that wealth is sustainable?
The answers quickly get counterintuitive:
1: We could live and prosper on less. How much less depends on itenirations: if everyone lived on less, employees would need/cost less, so costs would go down, etc..
2 & 3: The economy is a semi-closed system, so this is difficult to understand.
A luxury car is non-essential, but how much of it's cost goes back into the economy compared to cheap cars? Another example could be weapons systems or medicine. Most of the money circulates back into the economy.
But if we look at the in- and output of our economy the 'real' costs are clear.
Luxury cars don't take much more manufacturing effort to provide the same payoff as cheap cars- they both transport. Whereas weapons and medical supplies have a completely opposed payoff.
And whereas perks like luxury cars encourage some people to organise large groups of others, which we all profit from, weapons encourage people to organise destructive wars, which we don't profit from at all.
Examples like these show that the demand on finite resources of our planet as well as human life could serve as a guideline to deciding which forms of wealth we can afford and which forms we can't. Even if the results may be counterintuitive!
The currently en vogue climate change issue, as well as many other issues show that, in fact, a reduction of our wealth is not just needed, but urgent!
Keep in mind that only a third of the world's population is currently as wealthy as the average westerner. If everyone on the planet would their wealth according to the same standards, the 'real' cost of our economy would kill us all in a matter of years, not centuries. We're looking at energy and water shortages, pollution, degradation of agricultural production, medical issues rising from overpopulation, etc. This planet does have a hard bottom limit.
So if, using this 'real' cost as a guideline we manage to cut back on counterproductive production, how much of our time will be needed to produce the wealth we actually need?
A lot less. Imagine how many people work to support unneeded wealth? How many military? How many support agents, hairdressers, shoe salesmen, tax people etc. would we really need?
Even if and after we fill in the positions we now have a lack of people in (education, medicine, research, third world development,...) there will be a lot of thumb-twiddling. And obviously our current economical system is not capable of sustaining so many unemployed without significant changes.
The sort of proposal in the original post seems to be one way of accomplishing this. If we can start shunting people away from say flat-panel display manufacturing, marketing, sales and support, even if they seem to put a heavy cost on our society, acting now will give us time to develop an alternative economical stability.
You may choose to dislike the end of manufacturing based on political ideologies born in the industrial revolution, be they capitalist, libertarian, fascist, communist or socialist, but the fact remains that there are too many people on the planet for it to continue supporting our lifestyle. Manufacturing on the scale we now know it will have to go.
And nice as the concept of a service economy is, in practice people work in unneeded and destructive services and there is a lack of the services we need.
All jobs will eventually go the route of agriculture.
The twentyfirst century will be the century where mankind retires.
Pick up a hobby, there will be plenty to do. Just dont expect a paycheck.
Last edited by L2GX
on Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:07 am, edited 1 time in total.