Sunday, August 9, 2015

Unemployment: Whose Responsibility?

This post title is so basic - at least in terms of my priorities - that I checked to make certain it hadn't been previously used. For the most part, political and economic discussion in the U.S. has "moved on" beyond discussions regarding unemployment. While multiple forms of hidden unemployment (and/or insufficient employment) still contribute to societal problems, they are now mostly spoken of and dealt with in separate cultural contexts.

One reason unemployment still matters, is that its effects are starting to have unexpected cultural least unexpected to older individuals such as myself who assumed "all was well" at a young age! When people have employment options which correlate with earlier time investments, the results can make a difference over the course of a lifetime. It's when too many time investments begin to lead "nowhere", that everyone needs to pause and consider what is happening. When segments of the marketplace for skills value usurp too much of the marketplace for time value, it's not always easy to maintain respect or dignity, especially when others assume that the "losers" aren't trying.

Even in the (recent) years when unemployment became more of a priority, it was never really clear, who could assume responsibility for a more inclusive marketplace. Too many suggestions have instead gone the other way, in that calls for higher wages (relative to other conditions), signify a more exclusive marketplace. As someone who is sympathetic to market monetarist thought, I've often stressed that unemployment is neither the responsibility of central bankers or of governments. However, I have not believed that supply side representatives have done an adequate job of maintaining employment options - particularly since the Great Recession.

Perhaps more confusing, is the fact there is still no true voice for full employment, on the part of supply side interests. Indeed, too many already look forward to a future which doesn't include a substantial amount of human capital - or time value - in the economic landscape.

Further, a number of central bankers appear to have a guilt complex about labor force participation. Where some central bankers seem not to care at all about employment levels, others wring their hands as if unemployment was solely their responsibility - in lieu of governments, supply side interests or anyone else for that matter. Just the same, monetary and/or fiscal approaches to full employment are top down efforts which have little consideration of the relationships at stake in the marketplace. Even though government make-work or basic income arrangements are undesirable and unworkable, both keep coming up in public dialogue, because of the lack of supply side response regarding economic inclusion.

For those who insist full employment is "impossible", unemployment is still easier to address than poverty. Much of what appears as poverty in developed nations is a relative condition. However, the capacity to respond positively through production reform is limited in general equilibrium. As a result, it has become difficult for innovation to contribute to either income potential or the conditions that allow low income levels to remain gainfully employed.

While knowledge use systems need to address production reform, (local) full employment is a starting point by which to do so. Full employment is possible through the creation of a marketplace for time value. Individuals would be able to respond to the decision making capacity of other individuals, for mutual compensation and assistance. These decision making "muscles" would start out weak, and become strengthened by continued use. While there would of course be difficulties in doing so, many ongoing issues can be sorted out as they arise.

By far this is a better method, than top down "solutions" which attempt to impose long term directives for everyday, time based services interaction. In the process, individuals would be rediscovering the value of their time, in relation to the value of the time of others. This would also be a process of rediscovering self respect, and respect for others. Where personal time value once existed in relation to material resources, the present challenge is that of potential resource use for the mind.

The pragmatic part of me believes that unemployment can be addressed, because the same organizational capacity which employs so many in the present, could also be tapped for groups whose time value exists in relation to the time value of others. However, the emotional part of me believes that unemployment is still something which needs to be overcome, because no one should have to go through life with no valid direction or connection to others. Unemployment in many of its guises can be defeated. Let's just do it.

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