[extropy-chat] economics of scarcity to economics of plenty

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Mon Oct 31 06:50:40 UTC 2005

On Oct 30, 2005, at 10:04 PM, Jack Parkinson wrote:

>> Jack, why is full employment defined as success?  Is not
>> the goal to have machines do our work, freeing us to do
>> whatever we please?  That is what I would call economic
>> success, even if everyone does not achieve it.
>> spike
>  ...
>>> Lines of robots producing cars and trucks while the former employees
> watch
>>> daytime tv and worry about paying their power bills is also not  
>>> economic
>>> success... Full employment is economic success...
>>> Jack
> Why is full employment defined as success?
> Because the case above represents only an economic success from the  
> point of
> view of the company. It is still a scarcity scenario. True economic  
> success
> might be considered as win/win/win - company/individual/society - the
> economics of plenty.

Sure.  Ideally  one doesn't need a j-o-b or equivalent to partake of  
the bounty.  How exactly we get there from here or whether it is ever  
possible to get there are fine questions.

But even without that it is not in any way better to use less  
efficient and more limited means simply to keep everyone employed.

> In the situation in the automated factory above, if the economic  
> success of
> the company is balanced by a disaffected, unemployed, or welfare  
> group of
> individuals - then net economic benefits to society are nullified.

There is no meaningful entity named "society".   Being able to  
produce more wealth with less resources and effort is a net win  
regardless of distribution problems.

> The
> technology is not being used to allow freedom, leisure and family  
> quality
> time - it is being used to deprive one section of the community of  
> a chance
> to make a living - while at the same time empowering another  
> section to ask
> society to feed, clothe and house the unwanted workers - why would  
> that be
> efficient!?

I don't see any disjoint sections here necessarily.  Maximization of  
wealth seems to me to logically include maximization of all human  
potential to add to that wealth.

> Similarly, mega corporations are wasteful for the very reasons they  
> pride
> themselves on being efficient - the bigger the company, the less  
> percentage
> of tax they are likely to pay and the more tax payer handouts they are
> likely to receive -

This is an often challenged canard and is not terribly relevant to  
future economic forms.

> bigger companies accrue less benefits for society as a
> whole than smaller companies do. At worst they move offshore,  
> contribute
> next to nothing, encourage sweat shop labor and become almost  
> parasitic in
> some societies.

One of the fastest ways that developing countries quickly move up the  
ladder is by offering cheaper labor.  Very quickly the type of labor  
offered is more and more advanced.  Very meager wages here can be  
much sought after riches elsewhere.  There are abuses but there are  
also a lot of win-win situations.

> Smaller companies contribute much more to society, they
> employ more people for less gross earnings and are hence more  
> economically
> efficient by this reasoning.

You seem to assume a zero sum wealth model.

> As big businesses reduce their work-forces in the interests of  
> efficiency -
> a hugely inefficient drag and burden on the rest of society is  
> imposed - the
> incomes of the poor must come from somewhere. If big business is
> *efficient* - that somewhere is maybe you and me...

Not necessarily.  Retraining, distribution of benefits without  
predatory government practices can lessen the strain as the economy  
needs fewer and fewer human workers and of more rarefied skills and  
knowledge.  Paying for everyone who can be retrained to go back to  
school as long as they perform reasonably well there is MUCH better  
in my mind than today's welfare and such.  I do believe that there is  
a real problem as technology advances and I am not convinced fully  
that a *really free* market would fix it by itself.  We have traveled  
too far and too long in an unfree market to even get there from here  
in a believable fashion and then it is a theoretical krap shoot  
whether the problem would be resolved.  But I am utterly certain that  
limiting technology and fighting against increased efficiency is not  
only not in the solution space.  This purported cure is much worse  
than the disease.

- samantha

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