The stupidity of the jobs argument.


This is not an example of Godwin’s Law. I’m not comparing Hitler to any current politicians and there has been no discussion I know of on the internet about the topic of this blog, at least not in the way I’m approaching it.

So, the jobs argument is beginning to seriously piss me off. Whenever there is controversy over whether a mega-dam, pipeline or mining project is being sold to the public by some politician or other, they often throw out the jobs argument. It’s a simple argument. It just states that we need the jobs, therefore we need this project.

Simply, that’s a stupid, ignorant argument but compelling to a lot of people it seems. There are jobs and then there are jobs. Not all jobs are created equal. Have you noticed that? Working at a fast food ‘restaurant’ is not quite on the same plane as working as the CEO of a large corporation. Both are jobs. Both are work, but they are so different in their importance and impact that any comparison is laughable.

More importantly, there are jobs that need to go. They need to be eliminated. They are not on the public interest. They need to go. For example, what if after WWII the people who worked at concentration camps and operated the ovens that killed millions of Jews and others argued that it was not acceptable to eliminate their jobs. After all, the economy was at stake and they needed to feed their families. Who would have the temerity to give such an argument any credence whatsoever? Those were jobs that needed to be eliminated and they obviously were. Unfortunately, we are now into the age of the cult of the job. But that’s the topic of another blog post. Back to my point.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the car was rapidly replacing the horse and buggy as the main form of personal transportation. Horse breeders were being put out of business everywhere. Buggy whip producers the same. Poor horse breeders, poor buggy makers, poor buggy whip makers. All out of work…except the buggy makers that transformed themselves into car makers. There weren’t many of them, but there were some.

I think that petroleum producers today are in the same situation as horse breeders and buggy makers were in the early nineteen hundreds. The ones who can make the transformation to producers of alternate sources of energy will survive, the others will die.  The people who work for them are in the same boat. Change or suck air.

 

 

4 thoughts on “The stupidity of the jobs argument.

  1. I agree that there is a simplistic approach to the issue of jobs today. You are right to point out that there is no equity between a corporate CEO and the restaurant waiter. Many people lament the income gap between themselves, part of the 99%, when compared to the vast fortunes of the 1%. For a whole host of reasons, they cling to their jobs in quiet desperation praying for a miracle [lottery win]. It has ever been thus!
    As for the debate around some jobs not worth keeping, or being replaced by new technologies, I urge people to read the following http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/19/our-automated-future. There is a great line in this article about the newest phenomenon called “reshoring” –
    “Reshoring reduces transportation costs and cuts down on the time required to bring new designs to market. But it doesn’t do much for employment, because the operations that are moving back to the U.S. are largely automated. This is the major reason that there is a reshoring trend; salaries are no longer an issue once you get rid of the salaried.”

    1. Thanks Paul. I think that the trend towards the elimination of jobs or the devaluation of the value of labour is irreversible. The location of labour confined within national borders is a thing of the past and really has been for decades. Capital has become transnational. Labour, though, is usually confined to locality. People don’t move around the planet to sell their labour-power in anywhere near the celerity of capital’s migration to all parts of the globe. We tend to stay put, capital roams free. Reshoring may happen, but, as you point out, technology will make that less than helpful for labour-power.

    1. Four day work week might end up being a no day work week. Finland has decided to go for a distribution of money to each of its citizens every month. Something like a basic income. Western capitalism has a problem if it keeps putting people out of work or devaluing work to the extent that it has been.
      See you next week!

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