Sunday, August 16, 2015

Services Markets: Getting Started is the Hardest Part

How to think about lifelong employment and security for local groups, particularly since both goals have proven to be unreasonable for large groups? There is something about the attempt to concretely define "hows", which can lead to uncertainty. I don't often explore my reactions to a previous post, but this time it seems warranted. After all, how do I know what would "work"? I don't. Even though I've explored ideas for spontaneous association since more than thirty years earlier, some haven't evolved to the degree that I'd hoped.

In many respects, "how" to create a better marketplace is what people need to discover for themselves - particularly for services of all kinds. But no one has given anyone a chance to do so. Governments were left with the job. Hardly anyone is happy with the results, and political struggles over the results become sillier by the day. Why - then - if no one likes what government has done, isn't the marketplace given the chance to do a better job? Where are the supply siders who would like to see this happen?

While employment needs to be addressed on structural terms, it is not the only issue at stake, for there are related social and economic concerns which need to be considered in a common approach. People from all walks of life are seeking meaningful employment and meaningful lives, and some are better positioned than others to be doing so. In all of this, many need to generate more stability for their later years than they can (safely) gain from today's stock market - let alone Social Security.

Much about our life trajectories can be summed up as hoping that others will (eventually) be there to help us along when we need it most. However this doesn't always turn out to be the case in spite of one's best efforts, and there are too few solutions from either government or the marketplace for basic human needs. Thus far, when governments and markets provide the actual time of individuals, those skills sets and time value are indirectly positioned in high priced environments. This - for the basic need of someone's time, in settings where the wage levels of full employment cannot possibly expect widespread access.

Getting a rational marketplace started - for people and the value of their time - is the hardest part. Indeed, people would likely be dumbfounded at first. Many an individual would have to go back to square one in their minds, with questions such as "How would you want to help others? How might you help yourself first so that it becomes possible to do so? What stands in the way of your doing so? Would it be possible to overcome what stands in your way? How motivated are you to reconnect with others and find more purpose in your life?"

Even though one may find support in answering these questions, too much of the (extremely important) economic context is still missing. In lieu of appropriate economic context, one more often finds moral rationalizations for the limited marketplace which does exist. Hence one finds plenty of discussion as to why something is right or wrong...why this or that policy maker is "evil" or not, but not enough about how to transcend those perceptions. Despite the fact that knowledge has been freely shared for centuries, few dare speak of long standing knowledge options which could contribute to the workplace outside of present day dictates. Resignation all around - even if unspoken - includes giving up on any decentralized approach.

But without more widespread use of knowledge for problem solving, nations are too likely to continue down the path to excessive reaction and closed doors. When knowledge lives in a centralized world without a sufficient marketplace for time value, too many individuals lose their own sense of worth as a human being, and centuries of logic start to fly out the window.

Sometimes it seems as though both political and economic dialogue have become caught up in an endless feedback loop that keeps playing over and over. When I hear discussions in which the protagonists are supposedly labor, government and free markets I am dumbfounded, because the human economic element is completely left out.

The real challenges of the present for the services marketplace, seem as though an unspeakable subject - incapable of providing solutions. Even William Baumol, who decades earlier fixed his gaze on services sectors and declared them a productivity disaster zone, basically dropped the subject afterward. Just the same, it is this broken services marketplace - which desperately needs to be freed - which makes people assume the worst, regarding the forms of capitalism which have provided tremendous benefits for humanity.

There is a natural impulse for non tradable sectors to make what is necessary in life, a struggle to achieve or maintain. But these sectors have placed roadblocks in the way of success for so long, that central bankers the world over seek to "destroy" those burdens with tight monetary policy. This form of monetary policy is the worst reaction possible, yet no one has stopped the process. Reform the non tradables sectors. Don't limit innovation to marketplace sectors which are not essential for survival. Give the services marketplace a chance to start anew.

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