Monday, March 21, 2016

Some Notes on Employment and Production Rights

While the U.S. Constitution includes thoughts from the founders regarding inalienable or natural rights, the meanings of those rights have always remained somewhat open to interpretation. For instance, from "Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution" by Jack Rakove:
Americans entered the Revolutionary Crisis confident that they knew what their rights were; after independence, they modified those ideas only modestly. What did evolve, far more dramatically and creatively, were their ideas of where the dangers to rights lay and of how rights were to be protected.
Given that America began as an agrarian nation, there appeared little need to explain an individual's right to produce goods which held economic value, so as to enable one's survival. For the most part, citizens of the new nation already held close ties to production, in the form of land. Despite these agrarian beginnings, some recognized that not everyone would become a landowner, hence should be (somehow) accounted for. For instance, from a letter which Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison (ht Bonnie Carr):
Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural law. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If, for the encouragement of industry, we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be furnished to those excluded from the appropriation.
Jefferson recognized that the right to some form of economic access was paramount, even as the primary production of the day existed in land ownership. Today, however, production rights are defined less in terms of land ownership, and more in terms of time value which includes knowledge use. There's only one problem, given this major shift in economic activity. Aggregate time value has yet to be perceived as necessary for populations as a whole, for either economic access or production means.

As a result, governments now find themselves beholden to those who claimed early stakes for the production of high skill time value. Was one's time value given as a "common stock" as well? Might those existing claims also represent a violation of natural law? The trade-off for knowledge based wealth capture, was that policy makers had little choice but to generate entitlements for others, so that citizens had the chance to stake their own claims on highly valued skill. Much of 21st century politics can be thought of, as an ongoing struggle for high skill services needs, from those previously assigned production rights in knowledge use. Those claims on knowledge based services production, have done much to shape the present day economic landscape.

Let's suppose a charitable interpretation of government's extensive involvement in today's economy. In this interpretation, entitlements (which are now long term budget issues) were attempts on the part of policy makers to be fair and just. However, by declaring some time value not worthy of use, a bottomless pit was generated, for the time value deemed important. Since high skill time value became as important as private (physical) property, it was as though too much property was deemed barren. And yet governments still decreed that "produce" (time based product) from the "special land plots" be shared with as much of the population as possible. With much of today's equivalent of private property "off limits" for productive endeavor, is it any wonder that democracy is threatened?

Thus far - for much needed employment and revenue - policy makers are concerned about reclaiming "lost" tradable goods production which has moved to other shores. However, few have seriously considered the looming non tradable sector problem which is already close to home. Further: how do policy makers rationalize that international corporations should return with "jobs for all", given the fact it was never rational before, for anyone to expect a guaranteed job "just because"?

Just as it is unrealistic for citizens to expect a job or knowledge based service from someone else as an automatic right, it is unrealistic for policy makers to expect tradable sectors to take the losses that would accrue, through U.S. relocation when there are no longer sufficient supply side chains for production needs. A "right" to a job is unrealistic, in the sense that private employers can't be expected to hire more individuals than they actually need. Indeed, employment on such terms would mean a loss of rights, to those who end up forced to employ.

Governmental budgets have become so overwhelmed by subsidies for skills and entitlement claims, there is little remaining fiscal ability to assuage recessionary conditions through further employment or infrastructure. By the same token, it's not reasonable to expect an increased tax base, beyond the government subsidized employment that has already occurred. Far greater efficiency could presently be had by all, through economic environments which remain in a state that makes it possible for individuals to generate production through their own (time based) means.

For economic growth and stability to be recaptured, individuals will (once again) need the right to produce for one another on economic terms. It has become difficult to utilize democracy for knowledge based services needs, given the backlog of investment for knowledge based product which has yet to enter the marketplace.

Fortunately, property rights for knowledge use can be created which need not impose on the existing knowledge use rights or valuations already held by today's professionals. Unlike physical private property, time based knowledge is capable of replication. By hiring time value in mutually supportive settings, citizens would finally gain the chance to recreate personal responsibility for themselves, and for others as well.


  1. To be sure I understand your point clearly, it seems like you're saying that rather than having a right to a job, we have a right to make our own jobs. If that is the jist, and I probably don't do it justice with the brevity, I agree with you 100%. Vending cart bans, business and professional licensing regimes and other regulations that make the cost of entry prohibitive are in serious need of reform. I have a post about TSA and carriers (bus lines) corruption on my blog, and the lengths politicians go to to stomp on little guys to protect their cronies, confiscating property without a warrant, hearing or other due process.

    1. Thanks for the link, I remembered your earlier post and the arguments once I started reading, and this is an excellent example how the business world does not protect its own. Saying the business realm should be more "free market" does not quite get to the heart of the problem, either. It seems that what is needed is an overarching business structure (local) which protects the rights of those who work together to do so on a small scale without having to worry of having their jobs crushed by the fact someone else has scaled up. Presently, this is not really addressed at the national level, and the state level is where I worry most for the reasons you addressed. All of this is highlighted for me now, because Kevin Williamson in a recent gated National Review article, talked about the degree to which poor areas in our country are little more than white trash which need to be destroyed. Areas in need of economic rethink seem to be a blind spot for economists in general and now we are paying the price with horrible articles like that! The right to create our own jobs needs more attention, and I will work on it in my next post - again thanks for the link as it will also be helpful.