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With the market up and the recession over for nearly a quarter, it sometimes seems that what we call the economy is impossibly detached from the lives of the people who live and work in that economy. It is.

Not only has the Chicago School Economics that's dominated the last three decades presented a deliberately simplified view of the world that has helped Republicans to love capitalism to death, we've learned to measure our progress by abstract values that have almost no impact on anyone. That's how America can have two decades of "steady growth" during which the average worker's salary lost ground against inflation, health care costs (and worker's share of that cost) skyrocketed, pension benefits went the way of the dinosaur, and the disparity between rich and middle class grew into a ever-broader gulf. On the other hand, Japan "suffered" through a scary, scary "lost decade" in which unemployment, wages, pension benefits, and health care either held steady or improved.

The question becomes, by measuring GDP are we measuring anything of worth? Are we measuring something that accurately reflects the economy? A growing number of economists think we need to change. Instead of measuring consumption as the mark of a strong economy, why not measure the quantity and quality of employment?

The recession has brought output down to 2006 levels in most rich countries. That’s not good, but... Only a culture obsessed with always having more stuff and services could be seriously troubled by so modest a decline. ...

Unemployment is a much greater evil. Human dignity is lost when workers who want jobs cannot find them. Chronic unemployment is also bad for future economic growth, as idle workers lose skills and motivation. In comparison, a few days less holiday or few more months delay before buying a new car look trivial.

The biggest problem facing the United States may be that the people trying to solve the problems are those who have bought deeply into the ideas that brought on the problems. If we don't shake free of our obsession with a kind of market purity, that business is always the right solution, that deregulation is always a net positive, and that increased consumption is always good, we have problems too big to be measured by any statistic.

Obama’s economics team is made up almost entirely of professional insiders. Such choices make it easy for critics to say the administration has borrowed a narrow economic worldview from Wall Street. And the established figures are likely to close the door on the next John Maynard Keynes, who was a professor but pretty much an outsider when he came to prominence in the 1930s.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I blame the obsession with growth (11+ / 0-)

    When you really think about it growth is just a synonym for waste. A sustainable society really needs to get beyond growth.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:03:07 AM PST

    •  Suggestion #1 (7+ / 0-)

      Screw "wall street."  An unfair game, totally open to cheating and manipulation, set up to reward the rich and corrupt, and suck everything out of the peasants, and we've hooked our collective fate to theirs.  Makes as much sense as living off of planned casino winnings at the Corleone Family Resort.

      Until we stop worrying about what effect policies will have on the stock market, we're screwed.

      And good luck to us all with that.

      So basically, we're screwed.  Given the events of the past few weeks, I appear to have lost all the hope I worked so hard to build up.

      Dark Have Been My Dreams of Late

    •  Well, growth is not just waste; (7+ / 0-)

      the growth in the human economy since our species originated has not all been waste. Growth produces goods and services we all benefit from. But our measures are almost all either input measures or proxies for desirable outcomes: health, happiness, freedom from want.

      Because it is often so hard to measure what is important, we assign importance to those things we can measure.

      The perverse way in which we measure means that a Katrina results in an increased GDP or an epidemic of polio in the 1950s that put people in iron lungs improved the GDP, while proper engineering and immunizations will result in less of an improved GDP. (As you intimate, waste is measured in GDP!)

      Apropos of this thread, I recommend Douglas Rushkoff's Life, Inc. How the world became a corporation and how to take it back.

      Joe

      In a world, and a nation, in which so many politicians are utterly without merit, Sarah Palin stands out: she is singularly meretricious.

      by CitizenJoe on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:17:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I fear we may have been so successful at (3+ / 0-)

        providing health, happiness, and freedom from want by capitalist means as to assure a human population too big for the planet to sustain.

        It was too much, too fast with a complete ignorance of what happiness really is.

        Therefore growth unchecked and motivated by profit may indeed lead to the ultimate waste.

        Something as well to consider.

        Suddenly it's Christmas The longest holiday. When they say 'Season's Greetings, They mean just what they say It's a season, it's a marathon Retail eternity

        by Pescadero Bill on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:45:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pescadero Bill, phonegery

          and most of us were sold on the lie that more stuff will make us happy. But I don't think most people who have insufficient food or water, and whose children more than likely die in their first year are very happy.

          And I doubly agree on the population-bomb.

          But it's also the case that the wealthier nations have lower reproduction rates, and in the most prosperous, best educated nations, it's often below replacement levels--so it looks like prosperity might be a tool for population control. (Yes, I know that having six billion "Americans" would be very bad for the planet!)

          In a world, and a nation, in which so many politicians are utterly without merit, Sarah Palin stands out: she is singularly meretricious.

          by CitizenJoe on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 12:18:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  In a consumer economy ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Simplify, enhydra lutris

        such as ours, I think waste is the primary driver of growth.

        But you're right that I was being overbroad.

        "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

        by Demi Moaned on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:46:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree that waste is (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify

          a major driver of growth. And growth is a major driver of waste, in a particularly vicious cycle.
          Joe

          In a world, and a nation, in which so many politicians are utterly without merit, Sarah Palin stands out: she is singularly meretricious.

          by CitizenJoe on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 12:09:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  "Growth" is an excuse for accumulation of power (9+ / 0-)

      It's a rationalization.  It's a lot like the way those "C Street" jackasses see Christianity as justification for grabbing power and wealth while discounting personal morality and responsibility.

      Socialism (aaaaiiieeeee!!!) is a useful perspective from which to address some of our problems.

      Growth can be good, so long as it's benefiting most of the people effected by the particular growth mechanism, or it can be bad.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:19:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, man, good to see you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Simplify

        Long time!

        "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

        by Demi Moaned on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:49:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  and as an extension of what you just wrote, (3+ / 0-)

        "free trade" is simply a tool by which to more completely accumulate and concentrate both power and wealth. "Free trade" is only free from constraints to move all labor into the very cheapest labor markets on the planet, benefitting only those at the very top, while completely screwing (and dismantling) the middle class and removing all protections brought about by the labor movement in this country.

        The last 30 years have been nothing more than a relentless and headlong rush to remove every protection put in place by the New Deal, to destroy labor, and to essentially abolish the troublesome, pesky middle class which thinks it deserves to live with a semblance of the comforts of the opulent owners.

        We have succeeded in essentially repealing the 20th Century. We are now back in the Gilded Age.

        And unless we reinstate the 20th Century, we are screwed.

        Why, for example, are these discussions nearly always bereft of any mention of the utility of tarriffs as an essential tool to restoring and maintaining some measure of economic justice?

        "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

        by flitedocnm on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 12:07:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  "growth" = cancer (6+ / 0-)

      Until we incorporate nature into the calculations, it will always be wildly erroneous. What we call "growth" is the destruction of the planet, pure and simple. Unless we curb growth right away and incorporate nature as a reserve and as a public good, detailing and quantifying all the services we take for granted, we will be lost.

      "The survival value of intelligence is that it allows us to extinct a bad idea, before the idea extincts us." -- Karl Popper

      by eyeswideopen on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:43:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The tragedy of the commons, eh? (4+ / 0-)

        Except in our case we have public policies that actually encourage the despoliation.

        "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

        by Demi Moaned on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:48:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We have buried the MYTH of the "tragedy of the (4+ / 0-)

          ommons," but it rules us from its grave. All you Austrian Libertarians, jah, even you, Arnold, chime in here, but even WikiWorld has letthis articlestand.

          It's only the skulch that rise to the top of the septic tank that is the "financial industry," that invents and creates nothing but air and despair, that are a danger to the Commons. Although of course as the culture gets huge and faceless and the human-to-human emotions and exchanges get subsumed in mass phenomena, the Commons gets morphed into "just another asset class to be raided."  

          The thing about "growth" is that our poor old body politic has neither the immune system nor the stabilizing, negative-feedback, homeostatic processes to keep that "growth" from killing us.

          And the policies are written by the folks who embody the self-amplifying "positive-feedback" processes of regulatory capture and purchased "rule of law."

          Maybe check out this articleon the inutility of "gndp" as a measure of anything of real value. And I love the "target 3% annual gdp growth and all will be well" notion. Kind of like telling the fat guy that he should "target a 3% growth in body fat every year," as a way to health.

          "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

          by jm214 on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 01:00:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I both agree and disagree. (0+ / 0-)

        If the plan is to stay on this planet then obviously we need to live and produce in sustainable ways. If the plan is to spread to the stars, then a certain amount of unsustainability could be tolerated. I know we could not migrate the whole population to other worlds but we could import depleted raw materials from space and engineer our way out of some environmental consequences, though not all. Most likely scenario of course, involves doom and gloom.

        •  Gotta say, off-planet is a pipe dream (0+ / 0-)

          We're stuck here, together.

          Gotta work it out here somehow; it'll "work out" somehow in any case. If we colonize off-planet in the near future, that's bonus.

          Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

          by Simplify on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 09:17:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The economy is a tool to serve people. (20+ / 0-)

    It seems that our measuring tools dictate that the people serve the economy.

    What good does it serve if it doesn't better our lives?

  •  2 problems (12+ / 0-)
    1. The biggest problem facing the United States may be that the people trying to solve the problems are those who have bought deeply into the ideas that brought on the problems.
    1. Our president takes his advice from the people who brought the problems.

    No public option, no re-election. It's not complicated.

    by mrobinson on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:04:43 AM PST

  •  The chickens are coming home to roost..... (14+ / 0-)

    ....after a generation of DEREGULATION = GOOD; UNIONBUSTING = GOOD; TAX CUTS for WEALTHY = GOOD; etc., etc. it's no woder we are in the mess we are in and that there is very little possibility that it will change.

    Obama’s economics team is made up almost entirely of professional insiders. Such choices make it easy for critics to say the administration has borrowed a narrow economic worldview from Wall Street.

    "...if my thought-dreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine...." {-8.13;-5.59}

    by lams712 on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:04:44 AM PST

  •  TARP made it real clear (14+ / 0-)

    that the people leading this country (in public and private offices) have completely decoupled from Main Street.

    Really, the whole design of our economy (decades in the making) looks like it was imagined by Salvador Dali. Except, Dali had a soul.

  •  We need to go back to Adam Smith's (19+ / 0-)

    observation:

    What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

    We economists I mean. The rest of y'all get it.

  •  as long as their portfolios are on the up (5+ / 0-)

    things are A-O-K!

  •  There is too much Field of Dreams mentality (6+ / 0-)

    i.e. If you build it, they will come.

    Some much policy is directed at bettering the economy as if the natural outcome of a "better" economy is a better life for the people.

    There isn't much thought put into making sure the secondary effect - a better life for us all - actually happens. Measuring employment levels, income levels, and income disparity show much more meaningfully the impact of policy decisions.

  •  great front-page economics discussions today n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder

    A terrible beauty is born. --W.B. Yeats

    by eightlivesleft on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:08:16 AM PST

  •  We have not adapted to technology (8+ / 0-)

    and thus are still stuck with things like the 40 hour work week (a depression era relic introduced to combat efficiency of the times) and commuting to work when almost all ffice work can be telecommuted.

    Couple those with a lack of a single payer health care system and a lack of truly transformative investments (ie manned space exploration) and you get where we are today.

    On top of all of that, our government completely ignored a globalizing world.

    •  When you listen to some of the morans in (5+ / 0-)

      both the House and the Senate, you despair for the educational system in this country and for the country as a whole.

      Inhofe, Cornyn, Wilson, Foxx, the list goes on and on.  These people are simply ignorant and possibly not even very intelligent.  Yet we elect them time after time.  It's very discouraging.

      •  Thought Experiment: Estimate the Cost of Contact- (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        divineorder

        ing all their constituents and explaining the situation to them enough that they'd vote for rational reps.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:33:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  truly transformative investments (ie manned space (0+ / 0-)

      exploration)"  If we're going to continue with capitalism and growth, then the MI budget needs to be shifted to space exploration.  New green energy businesses won't be enough to replace investments in War & Oil, nor will it employ all the people depending on income from these enterprises. If we want to live in peace, replace our energy supply with renewables, deal with climate change/environmental issues globally, return to rational scientific thinking/improve education, employ people exiting the MI complex, then we need to stimulate the economy with space exploration and rebuild our infrastructure transferring soldiers into a new reconstructive work program.  We need to build a base on the moon, tap into new resources in our solar system, develop new launch capabilities.  We must begin to prepare other places where life on earth can be transferred, especially if we do nothing to manage unsustainable growth and a destabilizing environment.

      Find your own voice--the personal is political.

      by In her own Voice on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 07:32:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Except That - (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, phonegery, divineorder

    The market has taken a pretty severe tumble of late -

    The markets swooned in June/July - then continued climbing.
    They are sputtering now after the Dow passed 10,000 again.
    Oil is down significantly in the past month.
    NYMEX crude futures are down from $80 to almost $70.

    The risk of a double dip is hardly over.

  •  Here is a REAL simple measure (6+ / 0-)

    Because the Idiot Children that are the media need numbers:

    The REAL wealth index.

    The annual GNP per capita income of the median 80% of the population adjusted for inflation.

    That's not earth shattering folks, but it factors out the psychotically wealthy, since they really don't seem to contribute to the actual economy of a nation.

  •  Americans Grow More Pessimistic on Economy, (4+ / 0-)

    Nation’s Direction

    http://www.bloomberg.com/...

    Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans think the economy will improve in the next six months. They are pessimistic that the government will succeed in reducing unemployment or lowering the budget deficit.

    A year into Obama’s presidency, only 32 percent of poll respondents believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 40 percent who said so in September.

  •  Gross National Happiness (8+ / 0-)

    is the measure that is being used in Bhutan. I know that many in the Western World, with their focus on GDP and other economic indicators, laugh at this, but I think we should look more carefully at this model.

  •  Yeah, that last quote is bullshit. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, In her own Voice

    FDR got Joe Kennedy on board, because he was astute enough to know that he needed to root out the crooks who had been gaming the markets and therefor the economy.  And, that it would take an insider to have any hope of even spotting them.

    Obama appears to be following that same approach, and it has been nothing but "Wall Street Insiders are running the Administration!"  Meanwhile, in about eleven months of work, there are signs that the economy is stabilizing instead of burning completely to the ground.

    Perhaps Obama's only political mis-judgement so far was to opt for putting the fire out first, and hauling in the arsonists later.  Personally, I suspect he would have been much better off letting the fire turn into a world-wide disaster, and then he could have addressed re-building the house instead of trying to save it.

    A much easier course of action for economic simpletons to comprehend.

    •  Ownership's Had 70 Years to Make Sure That (6+ / 0-)

      mistake of the early Great Depression is never repeated. They've been making certain for decades that the next crash was going to take down the people and leave ownership stronger, not more vulnerable.

      Mission accomplished!

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:28:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, they certainly are not easing up now! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        divineorder, QuestionAuthority

        After all, if there were no taxes on business, and everyone could be made to work for free, why, then the economy would flourish!

        We've made progress toward these goals, but we still have a ways to go! Even Reagan, Bush, and Bush couldn't get it all done, but they put a good dent in it, especially that second Bush!

        Ah, for the glory days of St. Bonzo, convincing everyone that we had to emulate the Japanese house of cards in order to compete!

        The memories!

    •  y'know, just because you believe he's (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      In her own Voice, divineorder

      keeping geithner, summers, bernanke et al close so that he can ... um ... i don't really know what you saying (use them to nail their best friends, with whom and for whom they have made literally hundreds of billions of dollars out of the malfeasances of the last 30 (and especially, last 10) years?) doesn't mean that's what's really happening. your faith is a cheery thing to see, but it's faith. i'll wait for some evidence.

      in the meantime, the loonies who think that it is "good for the economy" and therefore "good for the American consumer" and therefore "good for the American people" and therefore "good" if a CEO making $100,000,000 a year hires some enfeebled 70-year-old invalid at $60/day to lie on the floor and lick her ass clean every time she defecates ... well, those are the loonies who are running the goddamned show, not just here in America, but all over the world.

      and i want to make this absolutely clear: The Geithners, Summerses, Bernankes, and such of the world absolutely do believe in the appalling scenario that i just laid out there. any work, doing anything, for anybody, is "good", as long as somebody gets paid -- and it's especially good if the payment doesn't happen via the government. every single one of them, forced into the darkest rattiest corner of their ethically bankrupt philosophy, would start explaining to you that the MBA making 100,000,000 "earned" it, and that the invalid on the floor is better off licking feces and collecting a paycheck than she would otherwise be, and therefore "the market is working".  indeed, once having a personal ass-licker got to be more or less the norm amongst the preposterously over-remunerated, these ass-lickers would come to be recognized as legitimate employment perks of top executives, which would mean that $60/day would become a tax-deductible expense of the corporation, not to mention a cost that lowered the profits available for employee benefits and stockholder dividends.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:37:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      divineorder

      Meanwhile, in about eleven months of work, there are signs that the economy is stabilizing instead of burning completely to the ground.

      Assuming that it was going to.

      "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

      by enhydra lutris on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 12:07:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What is quality employment? (3+ / 0-)

    An honest question.

    I will not speak with disrespect of the Republican Party. I always speak with respect of the past. -Woodrow Wilson

    by Gangster Octopus on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:20:17 AM PST

    •  Upward Mobility, Health & Safety, 'n Liesure Time (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      divineorder, QuestionAuthority

      would be 3 good measures for start.

      All reasons I went to state government at a sacrifice of income.

      In the late 90's before the bust, the #1 desire of American workers was for more time off.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:30:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's all fine and good (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        divineorder

        But there are often trade-offs and quality of work is a very subjective thing.  So I think there is a bit of a danger in trying to define quality work.  After all someone has to pick up the garbage and work the dewers.

        I will not speak with disrespect of the Republican Party. I always speak with respect of the past. -Woodrow Wilson

        by Gangster Octopus on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:40:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Outstanding essay! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, MinistryOfTruth
    Definitely reflects my sentiments, quite substantially so. Thanks very much for this post!

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:25:07 AM PST

  •  The Economy is the OPPOSITE of the People (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    phonegery, divineorder

    Has been, ever since industrialization.

    The Repubicans use GDP because both Republicans and the GDP represent the economy and its owners.

    And just as naturally, both the economy and the Republicans are the opponents of the people. That's why the economy and the Republicans don't use measures of the welfare of the people.

    The welfare of the people is a cost and a liability to the economy and so to the Republicans.

    Measure adjusted median income, measure distribution of income and distribution of wealth, measure upward mobility, health, longevity and free time.

    And notice how Americans rank behind just about all the civilized countries.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:26:27 AM PST

  •  excellent question... (0+ / 0-)

    ...it's occurred to me for some time that our country's obsession with wanting more seems to dictate that the one and only determinant of how we're doing economically is based exclusively on...growth. Overall quality of life, including, but not limited to, expanding economic capacity, seems like a much better way for a society to assess it's relative standing.

  •  Bobby Kennedy's Quote about the worth of the GNP (10+ / 0-)

    Bobby Kennedy quote, March, 1968
    University of Kansas

    Our gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worth while. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

    (University of Kansas, 3-18-68)

    We need more leaders like this - economics is part of our society, not the other way around.

    Regards,
    Virginia Common Sense

  •  The MinistryOfPlenty (3+ / 0-)

    told me growth is good, they even have a club for it.

    I could have 3 potential sock puppets in the making, one for torture (MiniLuv) one for fake economic progress while the class war rages on (MiniPlenty) and one for how the next surge in 2010 will really, really stop al Qaeda's 5 guys in Guyana (MiniPax)

    Orwell got more right then Nostradamus, apparently

    If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.' ~ George Orwell, 1984

    by MinistryOfTruth on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:35:42 AM PST

  •  Quality over quantity. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, Egalitare

    It is time to evolve. Thank you Devilstower, as always.

  •  How do you keep high wage jobs? (4+ / 0-)

    I am originally from India, and have for a long time felt we need to keep high wage jobs in US and have not been in favor of outsourcing. But the fact remains that for those jobs that does not need an immediate customer touch - marketing and sales, and things like the haircut, shoeshine, building roads and bridges, etc. - the water cannot be moved uphill. Low wage countries will have the wage arbitrage advantage. Unfortunately, specially with China and India in particular, and even Indonesia and Malaysia, the bandwidth of low wage seekers is so large that they will have this advantage for a long time - at least 20-30 years. Thus for many jobs that can be performed remotely, the wage floor will be set by poor countries - garment district prices will be those of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, or China; electronics assembly in Malaysia, Vietnam, etc.

    This was not the case earlier - Riccardian advantage allowed for countries to specialize in certain products, and more developed countries could be at the top of the chain. However, with the internet allowing easy flow of information - you know where to get the best price for even the most exotic items - say a Kyocera ceramic refill for their ball point pens. Also with international travel, movement of both human resources and capital has been much easier than the 20th century. Indian IT companies regularly send IT crews to US for initial scoping of projects. Many US VC firms are setting up posts in Bangalore to explore investments there - see Khosla Ventures for example.

    Finally, any intellectual property developed within the geographic boundaries of US - how do you keep it limited here when it is so easy to copy or reverse engineer it almost instantaneously? You could invent it here, but the bulk of the manufacturing jobs will move immediately abroad.

    One solution is to invest in technologies which will require much more advanced manufacturing techniques that will take longer to copy. Green chemistry, human machine interfaces, some forms of renewable energy - coupled with some sensible trade restrictions which allow the indigenous industry some breathing room to grow. All the developing nations - China in particular - do install some form of protectionism, and we need to move past the false debate of capitalism vs. socialism and be able to see what we need to do to keep jobs. I am not optimistic, primarily because the Democrats in both houses are mostly spineless when it comes to defending core values. One whisper of "socialism" and their spines melt faster that the Himalayan glaciers!

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    by Suvro on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:44:04 AM PST

    •  Great exposition of the results of a global (0+ / 0-)

      economy.  Thank you.

       The higher on the economic ladder a country is, the lower the birthrate tends to be.  If there are also difficult and expensive to replace manufacturing facilities and infrastructure, then the importation of labor is necessary.  

      Justice, if not pursued, does not exist.

      by phonegery on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 03:28:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually there are exceptions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        phonegery

        The population pyramid is indeed inverted for most Western nations and Japan. It also includes China because of its one child policy - one child for two parents for four grandparents.

        However, the population pyramid is normal for India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and USA - the latter because of constant or increasing birthrates of certain segments of the population, as well as huge influx of immigrant populations into the workforce. See US Population Pyramids.

        Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

        by Suvro on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 10:58:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Brilliant! (5+ / 0-)

    This a fresh perspective on an essential issue. It is the best thing I've read in a long time, because you focus on values. It's time to ask that hard question, "What is it that we truly value and are willing to work toward? Is it the concept of capitalism or is the well-being of all the people?"

    I would love it if we could stop calling people consumers and start referring to ourselves as citizens. To me, being called a consumer is demeaning and implies I'm little more than a tiny percentage point in some big corporation's marketing plan. The identity of citizen is dignified; the identity of consumer is not. This is my latest pet peeve, but I think it fits with what you're saying here.

    Thank you for encouraging and contributing to an essential conversation.

    An inclusive perspective for a changing world: Spiritual Persistence

    by sunflight on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:45:15 AM PST

  •  Earlier this year ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, divineorder, msmo1918, enhydra lutris

    ...the French (I know, I know) President Nicolas Sarkozy (I know, I know) put Joseph Stiglitz (Yes! I know, I know) on the case of finding an alternative to GDP for measuring economies. He set up the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. The report  came out three months ago. [CAUTION: 292-page PDF]

    Said Stiglitz:

       "GDP has increasingly become used as a measure of societal well-being, and changes in the structure of the economy and our society have made it an increasingly poor one. ... In an increasingly performance-oriented society, metrics matter. What we measure affects what we do. If we have the wrong metrics, we will strive for the wrong things. In the quest to increase GDP, we may end up with a society in which citizens are worse off ...

       "Most governments make a fetish out of it. If you take one message out of our report, make it avoid GDP fetishism."

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 11:47:47 AM PST

    •  Well, translation off? Should it not read: (0+ / 0-)

      "In the quest to increase GDP, we may end [have ended ?] up with a society in which citizens are worse off ..." ?

      Single Payer is the Moral Option. Educate for single payer today.... Visit Physicians for A National Health Plan www pnhp com

      by divineorder on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 02:04:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  How to place an empirical monetary 'value' (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    QuestionAuthority

    on human endeavour and what constitutes 'quality of life' and what society owes its individual members will in all probability be the most crucial 'change' that creating a sustainable planet will impose on the human race.

    Re-defining how we measure 'economic growth' does not even begin to address the question.

    How do you define 'dignity' for example?  and how do you measure 'jobs' or 'employment', by what yardstick?

    Am I, writing away alone in my solitary room and not making any money until or unless i can persuade the marketplace to purchase my work, even though it is replete with knowledge and wisdom, less valuable to soceity than someone  working away at a conveyor belt making widgets for machines (although that is probably beign done by robots anyway) for an hourly wage?

    Seems to me that a quantam leap in man's understanding of what constitutes a productive/constuctive life valuable to the overall society is in order.  Poetry and art versus pumping and drilling for oil?

  •  A big shift in thinking (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    enhydra lutris

    is probably not possible. The ground must be prepared first.

    Let us begin by expressing all our major measurements by the median and not the mean. The shift to the average American from on average American's would have a subtle but major effect.

    Let us also begin the reeducation of the different purposes of business and government.

  •  "Market purity" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    phonegery

    is a fraud as either motive or as explanatory for events.  

    "Markets" have been attained through military force, maintained through police threats/actions, enforced through political repression, and excused through intellectual/cultural production.

    This is history, not theory.

    At some point we need to stop accepting/promoting the figleaf of economic theory, again either as motive for behavior or as explanatory of events, over what amounts to sheer, brutal theft.  

    Anything less is to continue obfuscation and apologetics.

    IOW, admit greed, admit theft, admit violence that are not secondary issues but endemic in Western history, and wonder whether this is a sound basis for a society.

    More jobs that amount to wage slavery, in furtherance of greater waste, more environmental destruction, and more economic stratification are not necessarily the answer to any problem we face.

    Please don't feed the Security State.

    •  Then, when the greedhead order goes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      enhydra lutris

      into the toilet, it's the reviled anti-market-purity government that picks up the pieces, through direct appropriation and redistribution of wealth upwards.

      The fact that "markets", in the Chicago School (ie fascist) sense can even be talked about with a straight face at this point is less of a testament to their necessity or worth than to the wholesale corruption/dumbassery of the political and cultural orders.

      Koolaide.  We swim in it.

      Please don't feed the Security State.

  •  Clarify please.. (0+ / 0-)

    What does measuring GDP have to do with measuring dignity or quality of jobs?

    Are you advocating quality over quantity, i.e. you are willing to take fewer jobs in our economy if the jobs we do have are of higher quality?

  •  This is important (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    phonegery

    because GDP misses a lot of important production. It misses volunteer work, work you do for yourself, and it counts terrible hardship - thus the joke that a middle aged man having a heart attack and a divorce is a hero of the new economy.

    If I watch my own kids, there's no increase in GDP. If I pay someone else to watch my kids, the GDP gets a bump. GDP benefits from natural disasters and shoddy goods that have to be continually replaced, from wasteful energy use and from throwing perfectly good items away. GDP places no value on food I grow for myself.

    It doesn't have to be this way.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 12:10:20 PM PST

    •  GDP is a way of (0+ / 0-)

      convincing the rubes that they live in the greatest country in the best of all possible worlds.

      The French had Louis the XIV as the aim and embodiment of justice and goodness.

      We have GDP.

      GDP is big for the same reason that even local newscasts in depressed podunkville dutifully report WallStreet gains and losses as the be-all end-all economic indicator.

      It's class war propaganda.

      Please don't feed the Security State.

    •  Exactly, GDP is a terrible measure (0+ / 0-)

      We should be focusing on the GPI, although there are other alternatives as well. But really, GDP was a terrible choice that was chosen in the 1930's, when economic improvement did matter, but now is coveted by the media, politicians, and businesspeople everywhere.

    •  Like trashing the vehicles that were turned in (0+ / 0-)

      in the cash for clunkers program.  Why wait for planned obsolescence, when you can pay people to turn in usable vehicles to be junked.  The increased MPG required was from 1 to 10 MPG better than that of the vehicle turned in.

      Justice, if not pursued, does not exist.

      by phonegery on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 05:24:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  People do not need jobs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thejeff, phonegery

    I forget who said it, but it sums it up perfectly:

    People do not need jobs. People need food, shelter, and health care.

  •  But how does one measure the quality of a job? (0+ / 0-)

    I've always thought job satisfaction was a highly personal thing and after being both an employee and an employer have learned that different people can hate or love the same job.

  •  Importance, what importance? (0+ / 0-)

    GDP is a measurement.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It is no different from a thermometer.  It tells you if the economy is getting warmer (growing, producing jobs, producing more profits hopefully), or getting colder (shrinking, losing jobs, losing profits).

    The thermometer has no bearing on the temperature just as GDP has no bearing on the actual economy, it just tells everyone where it is going or not going in relative terms.

    We mock what we do not understand...

    by Tea Bag You on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 12:21:01 PM PST

  •  Excellent topic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    phonegery

    This discussion is so needed.

    GDP growth makes some sense as a metric for developing countries, where it can mean access to better food and some "luxuries" (refrigerators, phones, etc.).  Even there, its only useful if it is distributed across the population, but thats a different discussion.

    GDP makes no sense whatsoever as a metric for developed economies.  If we were to all go out and buy paper plates tomorrow instead of eating off our china, we would raise our GDP, though I doubt anybody would count that as in improvement.  

    Life went on through Japan's lost decade.  People sacrificed Prada for no-name goods, and 100 yen stores for household junk became popular, but people weren't noticably less happy.  The drop in housing prices may have actually helped the formerly priced-out young.

    The most important step we can do today is to stop using GDP growth as a measure.

  •  Very hard to measure a lot of these things. (0+ / 0-)

    And even harder to interpret.

  •  We may be seeing a turn around on President Obama (0+ / 0-)

    's position. I was watching Elizabeth Warren on TV last night when someone asked her if Obama did the right thing to save us from total collapse. She just said "YES". No if, ands or buts. But now she thinks he has to do the same for employment. What people don't realize is that we have to operate the way we are "set up". Everything is based on banking and creating new companies or growing them on Wall Street...  (all jobs, jobs, jobs).

    Another system may be fine but if we didn't fix the only one we have we could have 60% unemployment (for instance). Really, we were headed over a cliff and about to take other countries with us.  

    A miracle is simply something we cannot understand, or explain yet.

    by Crispian Day on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 02:43:10 PM PST

  •  NOW! (0+ / 0-)

    Bring our troops home NOW Mr. Wartime President!

    We mock what we do not understand...

    by Tea Bag You on Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 05:53:45 AM PST

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