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View Diary: Skeptical of Recovery? Report to the Ministry of Plenty (43 comments)

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  •  That's the New Economy job equation (1+ / 0-)
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    DBunn

    All the cool New Economy jobs that Clinton promised us are like that. Biotech, nano, green energy, even the New IT jobs. Small numbers of employees, often with large numbers of advanced degrees between them, working like crazy, being "productive" enough that more employees (domestically) are not needed.

    Productivity means doing more with fewer employees and/or less costly employees. That makes for higher profits, which we all know is the ultimate goal of this system.

    It brings all kinds of fantasy and science fiction stories to mind. Ultimately maybe we have one "knowledge worker" sitting at a computer making all the decisions and clicking the icons that send a million slaves off fabricating the chips in some third world superfactory while another million slaves mine the materials in some other hell on earth. (A more powerful version of the Head Librarian in Sean McMullen's Souls in the Great Machine maybe.) Perhaps that person could even double as the one who operates Cheney's and Rumsfeld's military space platforms, obliterating whole societies with concentrated laser cannon fire when the slaves get unruly or too many refugees are sitting on land where resources need to be pillaged. (Like the "Wizards" in Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series.) Why worry about one person having all that power when the productivity equation is so perfect? (Mordor was probably a model of productivity, too bad J. R. R. Tolkien was too stodgy and blinkered to realize that—One Ring to Rule Them All was the efficient solution after all, the clear path to higher productivity.)

    I'm not sure who is supposed to be the customer in these scenarios, or how they are supposed to be able to keep consuming the products of all this productivity. In that sense the "innovative financial products" that the big banks were all playing with are a fumbling step toward a final solution—since they actually produce nothing, but can be bought and sold for many times the value of whatever physical assets they're loosely linked to. So they point to the next step of monetary evolution where money is free to disconnect from anything physical and keep multiplying in the form of more and more arcane instruments in an endless pyramid based only on itself and the imagination of its owners, with no need for (bad) customers or (worse) workers. The Holy Grail of the labor-despising class.

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