Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Services Production and Personal Identity

James Pethokoukis is concerned - and rightly so - regarding a future which may not hold enough jobs if no policy action is taken. In "Why the Right resists thinking about the jobs threat from automation", Pethokoukis highlights several pertinent quotes in this regard. Erik Brynjolfsson stressed that there's no economic law which means everyone benefits from technology, even as the pie continues to grow. Data points to this possibility, as median income and GDP haven't grown in tandem with total wealth since the nineties. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, it could be that we've got about a decade to set a clearer path into motion, before the next wave of automation is adopted.

Fortunately, efforts for long term economic inclusion can begin while job numbers have greatly improved. One might liken such a process to repairing the roof while it's not raining outside, particularly since production reform never occurred during the Great Recession years. The crisis which was "too good to waste" was partly lost just the same - lost to dithering over whether recovery should take place fiscally or monetarily. Even though growth is finally occurring on monetary terms, vital services remain fiscally defined. That prevents some of the most important economic growth of all, because it is difficult for government to fund services needs without taking on more obligations for special interest wants as well.

Even though automation will produce much of what individuals need in the years ahead, it's important to make services production central to what people want. In other words, the future isn't just about reimbursing special interest wants, but making certain services product has a chance to fulfill wants for all income classes. An inclusive economy in which everyone provides for societal wants, ensures that people have enough money to pay for all those automated needs, as well.

How to think about services in a production capacity? When services mostly exist in a secondary (dependent) context, their formation is inevitably cut back when governments tighten budgets. This is why services need to be monetarily provided, through compensated and coordinated time use. Services are too important as product formation, to be given over to the vagaries of "right" neighborhoods, "right" cities, "right" family wealth formations, "right" insurance policies or "right" government deals. If there is to be reliable work and a context for meaning in the near future, services and knowledge use need to be a part of this reality.

Only stop to consider how time use matters at a personal level, to realize what is at stake. Most individuals have a strong desire to provide something unique for others. What's more, everyone needs to be able to do so on terms that do not compromise too much of one's individuality. This is what reciprocity is about - discovering the give and take that generates positive social relationships.

In an era with top down services definition and automated production, far too much reciprocity has been missing in action. It is too easy to assume that people can remain civilized through education, while allowing a fraction of the population to do the important work. But it simply doesn't work this way. For humanity to endure, all individuals need to remain an active part of working environments, and the social environments that naturally follow.

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