Friday, January 24, 2014

Last Century's Wealth

Prior to the Great Recession, people of all walks of life (and income) shared a similar passion in many instances: finding the "great" bargain, whether by consignment shop, thrift store, or the fortuitous yard sale. Today, this recent pastime exists in a subdued form, and has shifted online as well. Even though a lot of shopping is digital now, it doesn't match the levels of product movement which took place for at least four decades. Individual shipping simply makes movement of some goods impractical. Not only have yard sales declined, but many a retail shop has closed in recent years, in cities and small towns alike. And even before 2008, flea markets - once another place for stupendous "finds", had already experienced their heyday in numerous parts of the U.S.

Indeed, where once several thrift stores existed on the nearby Main Street, the last one closed its doors some months back. As if on cue, a nearby pickup location for another thrift store quickly removed its collection box. For the donations invariably spilled out all around the large metal container box, before they could be picked up by employees of the non profit.

In the meantime, people are trying to figure out what to do with all the extra goods of recent decades, whether housed at home or in nearby storage facilities. So for anyone who is faced with the daunting prospect of organizing a yard sale, the question looms...will anyone come? Of course some customers will show, but mostly on the first morning. Just the same, it's time for me to put together what will be one of several more yard sales. Reasons? The same that most organizers have: making room to get around more easily in one's domain. This house is going to feel even larger than before (at least for just two people), after some of the extra years of taking on are pared back. Hopefully, customers will take advantage of a lot of clothes and collectibles which will simply be offered for free. That's the thing: even though they're still perfectly good...who really needs them?

The 20th century was really a production "wonderland" for factory product of every kind imaginable. Today, people of all political stripes continue to count on greater production capacity to provide a good life for millions. To some extent, today's latest manufacture and asset creation can translate into limited forms of services. But in and of itself, production of physical goods cannot continue the herculean task it once fulfilled, for 20th century services.

Perhaps the production transmission problem would not be so significant, except that most individuals now want more service offerings and less product. But in their desire to keep a tight grip on product definition and related financial support, governments have yet to come to terms with this basic fact. Therefore, services are created on government terms which only lead the middle class to complain about a diminished standard of living. All of this merry go round of nonsense also keeps monetary printing from any hope of tending to the plight of the unemployed.

While many aspects of the 21st century workplace will be redefined through automation, people still need to address the portions of services which would greatly benefit from social interaction and coordination - not just the miracle of robots for bottom lines. That's a task which - as far as I know, has yet to be started. In other words, services growth potential needs to be defined in free market terms: more direct, inclusive and locally responsive to all involved, than what is presently in use. We need to stop handing over the most vital aspects of our lives to "customer service" strangers who do not and will never know us. That especially holds true for anyone who is compromised in any way with such dealings and has no one around who can help them.

Services reform really needs to happen and soon, or far too many are going to lose aspects of the marketplace which contribute to overall well being and social inclination. Millions of individuals who presently have little ability to use their education or lifelong learning, could assist in the creation of a new and individualized services free market. Think people seem antisocial now? If the existing services marketplace is left to fend for itself while government even takes over marketplace terminology in TV ads to hawk a completely dysfunctional healthcare system, we haven't seen anything yet.

As people from all walks of life seek more services, a lack of direct (individual) services creation means services of every kind imaginable will continue to be throttled back. That's pretty much a given, if our basic approach to services is not reorganized and considered in its entirety. In the meantime, automation will continue apace and start to replace more job functions as they have been recognized for so long.

Time to think about what the wealth of the 21st century is going to represent. Because if it is ever to have a chance at being productive and meaningful, it really needs to take place on different terms than those of last century's wealth. The twentieth century was a great time for the shopping hunt, for asset accumulation, and "See the USA in your Chevrolet" as one commercial of my childhood had it. Much of this does not represent the daily realities and needs people experience in the present. What's more, people don't have recognizable ways to experience work realities that match the promises of their educations, let alone the social rationale for working with others.

It should not have to be the responsibility of monetary authorities to have to worry about aspects of the economy other than the actual function of monetary printing. Alas, this responsibility has nonetheless defaulted into their laps just the same, as governments the world over have refused to enter into real dialogue with their own citizens as to what citizens want and need the most in terms of 21st century product. As a result, governments - alongside finance structures, still try to continue the old course of asset formations as though the 20th century can stand in for the 21st.

People want to experience the world in ways different from even a decade ago, and too few policymakers have become cognizant of this fact. As a result, people struggle everywhere to define the marketplace in more usable ways, and economists are left to hash out the broader ramifications in macroeconomic terms. That's even as the public bemoans the ineptitude of policymakers, and yet continues to leave the job of defining economic destiny, to them. Clearly, this process isn't working anymore.

The job of determining how to make free and inclusive markets which work for everyone, belongs to everyone. We have to let go of the last century's definition of wealth, no matter how sentimental or solid it may have seemed, to some. The fact that governments have allowed knowledge based services to be determined by the few who can siphon wealth from production, has now spilled over into massive wealth limitation the world over. It would be bad enough if knowledge use limitations only affected developed nations and mature economies. But these services deficits, which also exist in the form of government deficits, are not affecting just the developed world. The services instability of the developed world, also makes it more difficult for developing countries which depended on the continued success of the developed world.

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