[ExI] retrainability of plebeians

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Tue Apr 28 02:34:12 UTC 2009

On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 7:23 PM, Emlyn <emlynoregan at gmail.com> wrote:

> This is econ 101, and I think the really depressing thing is that you
> are right. In fact, I'm pretty sure that we passed the point long ago
> where most employed workers were doing anything real with their lives.
> I know that value is defined relatively in this context, so it is
> invalid to say what is real and not real value, but surely there is
> some difference between work which directly feeds another person, say,
> and work which is on the face of it entirely superfluous (eg: many
> faceless bureaucrat jobs in government and large industry)? Maybe
> tentatively you could say any particular job has a "reality
> coefficient", which is derived from how much impact would be felt by
> that job no longer being performed? Fuzzy. Sorry, this is difficult.
> I propose that pretty much all of the service industries are of this
> nature; they are in fact make work, magically appearing out of the
> ether based on a surfeit of labor that can do nothing else. I read
> that the hospitality industry is expanding here at the moment due to
> the availability of skilled workers coming out of the finance
> industry, for instance. I actually think most of the "creative" and
> professional jobs are also make work, but that's harder to argue.
> So, what I'm saying is yes, you are right that jobs get created. On
> the other hand, it is very difficult to argue that as a group, we'd be
> worse off if many of those jobs went unfilled. I would also posit that
> many people, given the choice between doing their jobs and not doing
> them, would choose not to do them, all else being equal (eg: if they
> were still able to live comparatively well).
> Now if you concede that this is all true, then we have a picture of
> many (most, I think) jobs really being about income redistribution.
> You do need a mechanism to allocate resources, of course. But, is
> making people perform what amounts to make-work really the best way to
> do that?

### I do not believe that most currently existing jobs in the less
un-free economies are "make-work". Sure, we could live without dog
groomers, phone ringtone composers and society bloggers but this
doesn't make them meaningless. Yes, there are life-and-death jobs,
like police, farming or asteroid watching (crucial for survival on
different time-scales) but there is more to a good life than simply
staying alive, and being able to buy frivolities is a part of it.

Of course, if a violent bureaucracy makes people waste their lives
without benefiting anybody, that is evil (endlessly buffing the bronze
effigies of the Dear Leader, cleaning Superfund sites, collating data
for Sarbanes-Oxley) but except in the most deranged societies such
jobs are not the majority.

> My worry is that we will get to a society of fully automated
> production, and yet we will still all be employed, in ever more
> unfulfilling and pointless paid work, with no mechanism to stop.

### I really don't think so. If you have an unfullfilling job and the
option of buying a robot who will do it for you (and this is implied
by "fully automated production"), you will probably elect to keep the
robot busy while you look for something fun to do.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list