Friday, October 16, 2015

Knowledge Use: The Most Helpful Roles

Recent limits to long term growth are raising questions about the future of services formation. One reason labor force participation remains low, is the degree of work which presently takes place outside of economic representation. Timothy Taylor, in a recent post about women and unpaid work, writes,
The ultimate constraint which rules us all is that a seven-day week has 168 hours. A gradual reduction in the time spent on unpaid activities, which have traditionally been the job of women, is part of what makes society better off.
While Taylor highlighted developing countries in the above linked post, a wide variety of services have too little economic representation in developed nations as well - and not just for women by any means. For example, today's services institutions tend to shift unpaid services time to both producers and consumers, wherever possible.

Even though these organizations meet budget obligations by doing so, there has been a remaining economic imbalance where other individuals end up incapable of meeting personal and family budget obligations. This particularly matters for families which have only one individual with economic access. In many instances, a single family income should not be expected to meet the time based services needs of other family members. Equally important, is the fact that governments do not have the resource capacity to meet such imbalances, which are better addressed by providing (compensated) access to knowledge use participation by all family members.

Previously, services formation was difficult in low population densities, since full time work for specialized skills tended not to be a realistic option. Fortunately, it is easier now to pool knowledge based resources, which makes it possible to coordinate skills networks, anywhere. As skills use becomes "part time" in cities, more options for services diversity open up in low density areas. Consider this quote from an article Time picked up from LinkedIn:
In the past the complexity/impossibility of resource pooling made it hard for most companies to use independent contractors on any large scale, even though many could really have benefited from doing so. So consumers paid more than we should have for products and services provided by people who were full-time employees, but who didn't really need to be...
Independent contracting of knowledge based services (in a marketplace for time value) would particularly assist lower population densities. Even now, services provisions for both producers and consumers are mostly met in cities - a process which presents problems for developed nations and developing nations alike. Local corporations would make it unnecessary for individuals to live in highly populated areas in order to participate in - or access - knowledge based services.

Sometimes it is still too easy to miss the forest for the trees, in considering services marketplace potential. For example, Catherine Rampell unfortunately focused on the gender wage gap in a recent article, which brought a retort from Arnold Kling. He basically asserted that a degree in psychology helps no one:
I am sorry, but psychology is not a utilitarian major. It is a self-indulgent major.
Apparently (one would hope) Kling sees it this way because of the lack of job opportunity in aggregate - particularly given what is expected in terms of time and resource investment on the part of those who major in psychology. Even though his reasoning may hold in the face of budget realities and "wannabee" career seekers, my issue is that psychology needs a chance to offer more practical time based marketplace product than has been the case thus far - albeit in new social and cultural terms. As more digital classes become available in the future with lower costs, these forms of learning will hopefully translate into more accessible forms of skills capacity at local levels.

Knowledge based systems could eventually fill much of the missing services marketplace gap, with the societal rewards which hold at least the same value as wage rewards. Mental health is just one of many valuable maintenance functions which needs to be utilized for its potential in a marketplace for time value. In earlier posts I've written of a hierarchy of economic activity, where maintenance functions in all fields of endeavor provide a base foundation for everything else. In particular, when societies become uncertain about the primary building functions which normally fund services, maintenance product could especially benefit from a more direct wealth creation approach.

A marketplace for time value would allow maintenance functions to directly contribute to wealth creation. In terms of mutual local support, mental health assistance can be as simple as a willingness on society's part to compensate individuals for just spending time with others. Finally, anyone who is somehow marginalized would not have to remain constantly alone. Often, those fortunate enough to engage in knowledge work through their adult lives, don't recognize what eventually happens to individuals who end up expected to perform work without this additional meaning. For instance, consider the lyrics of an old John Prine song:
Someday I'll go and call up Rudy,
We worked together at the factory
But what could I say if he asks "What's new?"
"Nothing what's with you? Nothing much to do."
Why has it been so difficult to imagine individuals as capable of carrying out both physical and knowledge based work through the course of their lives? No one should have to be limited to one choice or the other, despite differences in IQ and ability. Perhaps an expectation to choose several aspects of both physical and knowledge based work, would be a good cultural adjustment. In all likelihood, a lack of connection to knowledge based work is also having negative effects on life expectancy.

As one ages, unfortunately there are too many instances when family and friends are no longer around on a regular basis. Even as the mental health roles mentioned above can help in such circumstance, the ability to remain economically connected with local community through knowledge based work, would probably be the most helpful role of all.

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