Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hopes, Dreams and More, Re Economic Access

As it becomes clearer that some areas in the U.S. still face poor economic conditions, greater clarity is needed, in terms of what is ultimately at stake. Yet economic access is about more than just having a job, or even a relative degree of financial security. How does economic access contribute to prosperity and well being?

Broadly speaking, economic access can be thought of as having reliable means to tend to the basics of life, as well as one's obligations to others. What's more, the beginning point of fulfilling basic needs is necessity, before it really becomes possible to pursue life aspirations and the most challenging forms of work. And meaningful work is not necessarily the same thing as a stable job, with the usual perks and benefits.

However, since many products deemed as life's necessities haven't benefited from innovation, populations are held hostage on the lowest rungs of the hierarchy of needs for no good reason at all. Too little room remains in the marketplace, for knowledge use options that many were better suited for, and had hoped to be able to pursue. Broader forms of knowledge use capacity and experiential product have been limited by design.

Other problems with economic access revolve around population densities, which make it difficult to effectively organize for services creation where it is needed most. Even though the digital realm makes it possible to reconfigure organizational densities, this process has not yet begun. Limitations of primary knowledge use to prosperous regions, is also expressed in growing divisions for real estate values.

Why hasn't a proactive response to arbitrary marketplace limitations already taken place? Where limits exist, so too opportunities for economic access. Many in academic settings steer clear of the economic arena in terms of direct action, which is understandable given the possibility of exacerbating problems even further. Unfortunately, however, other groups are also not well positioned to generate better marketplace outcomes. When knowledge use is mostly limited to student or "interested observer" roles, negative externalities continue to multiply. And as those externalities worsen, policy makers resort to reactive responses, instead of those that could be helpful or proactive.

Despite these problems, economic access as societal dialogue is difficult. Those who remain connected have busy and involved lives, which are far removed from family, neighbors and citizens which do not. They cannot afford to give much consideration to those who are marginalized, just as many who lack economic access, no longer have sufficient confidence to remain in dialogue about the situation.

Indeed, these circumstance help to explain why I'm so grateful to have this blog, as an outlet to be heard. Blogging means being able to air my concerns at a personal level which is often not possible in daily life - or other forms of social media for that matter. Still, it was late in life before I finally gained the courage to write with intent to publish. Among the things I have to be grateful for, are thousands of dedicated authors (and more recently bloggers), whose arguments I considered for many a decade, before daring to voice my own.

In fairness to today's institutions: how could anyone have known, how important it would ultimately become, to link knowledge based specialization more closely with local economic patterns. Even though time based services production could continue solely from the vantage point of prosperous regions, it's a process which would only make economic access more difficult as time goes on. People are habits of ritual and routine, and meaningful work needs to be generated where individuals are able to live out their lives. In many ways, work is the center of one's life. Yet communication with others tends to be lost, when individuals are deemed incapable of providing work that matters.

Meaningful activity - especially that which occurs on economic terms - keeps us grounded in the present. It provides means to not become lost in reminisce about the past, or needless worry about the future. The ability to stay connected to work, is a constant reminder as to the value of respect, for oneself and others. However, organization for work capacity has changed. Whereas separately existing product often demanded work in teams or groups, the best forms of time based product tend to take place on more personal terms.

Work also contributes to a dynamic and civilized society, per the arguments of Adam Smith. Recently I've begun rereading a book I much enjoyed before, "The Mind and The Market" by Jerry Z. Muller. However, due to much uncertainty which existed in my daily life at the time, a lot of the book's contents were forgotten, and I expect this read to be more rewarding. Some of Smith's reasoning could also apply, to a time based marketplace and the vast economic potential such a marketplace would make possible. From page 61:
The division of labor was made possible by the ability of men to exchange their labor or the products of their labor, Smith explained, and the greater the extent of exchange, the more labor could be divided. The systemic exchange of labor and the products of their labor Smith termed "the market". Thus the greater the extent of the market, the greater the possible gains in production...The principle that set the market into motion and kept it going was the inclination to satisfy self-interest through exchange.
Say what one will about skills capacity or any (supposed) lack of it, mutual coordination for skills capacity at local levels would maximize the time based product that is actually possible. Doing so is all the more important, when other forms of resource capacity have often been been arbitraged to take full advantage of scale. The even scale of time use (as symmetrically provided) not only provides a steady means of economic activity, but also a greater dispersal of knowledge use over time.

Those civilizing tendencies which Adam Smith emphasized, could be regained through the direct interaction which is time based product. Knowledge use as economically reinforced at the level of individuals, could reduce much of today's group separation and polarization. When more work prospects become available for economic activity, fewer individuals resort to taking advantage of others, simply because they reason that they don't have to.

Even though Adam Smith wrote for a world somewhat different from our own, his arguments for economic trade as capable of improving humanity, are just as relevant today. I only wish I could argue for free trade with a fraction of the eloquence which he was able to employ. Sometimes, perhaps it is necessary to lose a measure of economic freedom, to once again understand how important it really is.

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