The marketplace for skills value, is often confused with a marketplace for time value. But in reality, time value is only a subordinate concept. A marketplace for "special" skills value in today's institutions, is beginning to crowd out many activities and thought processes which individuals know to be vitally important. While capitalism gets much of the blame - and even the measurement of GDP, neither of these are at fault. Rather, the fault lies with the fact that time value has not been considered as the resource it actually consists of. In this post I'll briefly touch on three major reasons this needs to change: the preservation of knowledge use, personal identity and social identity.
Time needs economic value, in order to maintain knowledge use. Indeed, it is the broadening capacity of knowledge implementation in the marketplace, which makes its preservation possible. Time value is the vessel which holds further capacity for experiential knowledge use. When budget realities crowd out experiential dimensions in knowledge, knowledge sets may hold little value for the actual circumstances at play among the individuals in question.
Since time value is often cancelled out in favor of skills value, people are compelled to make hard choices re which knowledge is allowed, in the brief time allotments a skills based marketplace makes possible. Consequently, further evaluation of broader realities doesn't seem possible, which leaves society in a constant struggle for "only truths". This keeps knowledge from progressing to the degree that would otherwise be possible, given changes in local circumstance, conditions and public perception.
Without a marketplace for time value in its own right, the value of our economic identity is more likely to be called into question, in relation to the skills which others hold. We may come to believe it is impossible to utilize our own skills sets, if they do not match the time use context or "appropriate" content as expected by given institutions. Whereas a marketplace for time, would allow us to match our working speed and mode of interaction with that of others. Arbitraged time value at a personal level, would also represent further economic growth than is possible, in settings which require (basically) single "settings" for time use speeds.
When slavery was abolished, that was a great step forward - both for society, and also the potential of human capital. Even so, societies unfortunately lost the recognition that economic worth needs to remain internally based. Each individual's time value represents a blueprint for wealth potential - albeit one that cannot afford to be continually broken by present day institutions. A marketplace for time value would give the average person - not just society's "winners" - a chance to be recognized and compensated for identity based aspects of one's life.
In the twentieth century, most individuals came to believe it was necessary to sell the use of one's time to others in incremental units, according to profits that others already held, aside from time value. But in order to take this route, it was not possible to acknowledge time value as a potential source of wealth creation in its own right. And when resources from the earth had to be dug up or used before knowledge could even be tapped, people began to question whether too much was demanded from our planet. It's not that too much was demanded of the earth, but that there was too little direct utilization of our own internal economic capacity. There is little overutilization of the earth, essentially. There is mostly the underutilization of our personal time value.
The loss of time value, also means a loss of reasoning for maintaining vital interpersonal relations. Without adequate context for time value, everyone gradually loses their ability to reciprocate with others in ways that feel trustworthy. This particularly means problems for those with insufficient access to work either early in life, or later in life with inadequate family structure to fall back on. Indeed, those in the prime of their lives had a better chance to bounce back after the difficulties of the Great Recession. Even though many are fortunate to still have personal relationships among family and friends, most folk still need economic relationships, in order for their personal relationships to remain strong.
People are social animals. Given the present lack of a marketplace for time value, recent generations have been withdrawing from social life - particularly as experienced in physical reality. Worse, institutions have encouraged individuals to provide services for themselves, instead of finding ways to keep time based services a vital part of economic activity. As a result, many individuals end up trying to be self sufficient for practically everything...in a supposedly complex services economy! It has become demeaning to depend on others for things that do not have clear delineation in the marketplace.
With no marketplace for time value, any dependence on charity or help from others can start to appear as personal weakness. A lack of ability to produce goods or services through personal resources, oddly translates into the need to pretend there is "no problem". Gradually, people refuse assistance in ways which make little - if any - sense to others, in order to preserve self respect. Who wants to be a "moocher"! Recent news related examples which come to mind - what have unfortunately become long term cultural adaptations - are altogether too stark for this post. Suffice to say - on a gentler note - perhaps that's why the elderly or disabled neighbor down the street still insists on climbing the ladder to get work done on top of the roof...
A marketplace for time value, would gradually allow the world to make a bit more sense than is presently the case. Only consider the differences between arguments, at the extremes of political right and left. As to the former, one can expect to hear "You are not entitled to anything. The world owes you nothing. Stop playing victim and get a job!" Few jobs close by? Hmmm...
Also unsettling is the erroneous conclusion from Matt Bruenig, that everyone ought to therefore be paid, just for being alive. In a sense that is even worse. How can he suggest with a straight face, that a universal basic income is better than capitalism? Like Peter Boettke: when I come across basic income arguments which are taken quite seriously, I recall that the task at hand is all the more important. Here's Boettke's post title: "This is just not very good--and that should tell us something important about our educational tasks as economists."
Of course, the challenge of rediscovering meaning through work, needs to be taken on by everyone - not just economists. There is a quote attributed to Marcus Aurelius which illustrates what is needed: "The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious." Indeed. Presently, there is little that is obvious about the value of one's time. Just the same, everyone should have started well before yesterday, to discover what that value might hold.
Otherwise, too many people will be born into this world in the near future, only to be told, "Oh by the way we don't really have any challenges left for you. We don't need you to do anything or assist anyone but here's some money so you can have a place to live and plenty of food to eat." And that would supposedly be the "good" outcome! What kind of life is that? While some who are already "beat down" by reality might cast a resigned vote in favor, I find it difficult to believe that any child - still hopeful for their future - would ever submit to such an abject loss, at the very outset of life. Why should they have to?
Much more is at stake than the minor "fix" Bruenig suggests - let alone the monetary impossibility of doing so - for a labor market which will only face more uncertainties. This is really about starting over, and making sure there are good reasons to get up in the morning. Blaming capitalism for what has happened, is not going to work. In fact, doing so is a complete cop out, instead of an honest attempt to think through a still looming problem of hidden unemployment which extends well into the future.
I should have known this post would end up with more than three reasons to create a marketplace for time value. If anyone started to count, you have more patience than I... After all, this is a subject which would easily fill books. However right now, time is of the essence and the basic gist of this message needs to be repeated as often as possible. All the more so, given that populations which have been denied the economic value of their time for too long, are in the process of disintegration. So, a recap is in order for the three reasons.
First, time needs economic value so that people can preserve knowledge by using it, instead of treating it as deciphered truths brought down on a tablet from the mountaintop. Second, people need a chance to restore their personal identity, which is often not possible when identity is subsumed in the identity of other institutions. Further (third), people always need economic reasons to keep coming together in commonly held physical realities. Otherwise, individuals can completely lose perspective, how to get along with one another.
There is absolutely no reason why the "best and the brightest" should have to make invalid, the skills sets of everyone else - especially in local economies where personal interaction matters most. Frankly, without a marketplace for time, the potential outcome for personal endeavor is frightening in the extreme. There is little difference, between the prison walls where people go when they are no longer considered trustworthy by society, and the prison walls of the "consolation prize" where people are slowly abandoned in their homes by a world that sees no use for them.
Allow people to start over. Allow individuals to help one another through the knowledge based gains of earlier centuries. Provide a small wage so that everyone can be included in the process, and create local investment systems to help individuals rediscover wealth creation on more personal terms. It's the least we can do, to preserve knowledge, social identity and the vital means of traditional production which has removed so much physicality and repetition from labor. The human capital which we hold in direct relation to one another, holds wealth potential which present day institutions can only dream of.