Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Mass Unemployment II

In the economy with which we are familiar, competing corporations make profits by:

paying wages or salaries to large numbers of employees;
selling commodities to the purchasing public, most of whom have been paid wages or salaries.

In the world economy of Poul Anderson's The Snows Of Ganymede (New York, 1958):

"...only some twenty-five per cent of the adult population was even partially employed..." (p. 49)

- and they were:

"...the genius class which could still work..." (p. 50)

I would expect an education system that "...really fitted the needs of the individual and his society..." (p. 48) to realize and release the full potential of each individual and thus to increase the number of, by our standards, "geniuses" in society.

But the seventy five per cent are not generating profits for any employer either by producing or by purchasing commodities. Who employs the twenty five per cent? They are doing the jobs that cannot be done by "...computers, automatons, and semi-volitional machines..." (p. 49). But this work does not, it seems, consist in producing commodities to be sold competitively to the seventy five per cent. So it does not seem that the genius class is employed by competing, profit-seeking corporations.

The strengthened world government, conserving natural resources and applying "rational economics" (pp. 48-49), must in this case identify those socially necessary tasks that cannot be computerized, automated or roboticized and assign suitable human employees to these tasks just as it assigns a citizen's allowance to the seventy five percent.

Further, that government is elected by the general population, not just by the occupied class. Thus, the (fully educated) public can participate in discussions about the allocation of resources and can by this means ensure that their own lives are as fulfilled as possible? At least, they have no reason to start smashing things up which, we are to understand, is what too many of them start to do!

I really am trying to understand Anderson's premises and to reason from them as consistently as possible but this subject matter is inherently controversial because of the conflicting presuppositions that we bring to it so I welcome comments from anyone in general and from those who agree with Anderson in particular. These few stories address issues that are discussed in fictitious historical texts by Wells and Stapledon.

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