Friday, December 1, 2017

Does Education "Get in the Way" of Productivity?

Once, such a question wouldn't have even been necessary, since education has consistently added to tradable sector output gains in the past. Now however, the answer isn't as simple. One could say "it depends", since education often contributes to input requirements for final forms of time based product which are limited by their very nature. In these instances, education can contribute to excessive input, in relation to output.

How important are time based products to us as citizens, and what makes them important? Today's quality time based product, often comes with societal taxpayer obligations - many of which materialized when a larger percentage of the population held full time work with benefits. Decades earlier, extra taxpayer obligations didn't seem as burdensome as they do now. But since less work today is remunerative on those earlier terms, we'll need to reconsider in the near future, how we create the experiences and applications we desire from time based product.

After all, it's not possible to duplicate the nature of our time, and today's demands for time based product include excessively exacting terms. Still, the cumulative gains of education and productivity, play into knowledge based activities in numerous ways. Consider why a better understanding of the trade offs in education and productivity options is so important, given what these choices imply, for potentially more equitable divisions of knowledge based labour.

Recall that aggregate output of high skill time based product, depends in part on what consumers and service producers want. However, some high skill providers are better positioned than others, to protect (politically speaking) their particular divisions of labour from institutional adjustments to the status quo. Consequently, high skill knowledge providers who are well compensated, may elect not to implement technology (such as "digital cloud" spread of knowledge from one machine to another), in part because of how it would affect the nature of their human capital investments and educational institutions.

Hence education can "get in the way" of productivity, but there is also a dedicated consumer base for the practice of high skill knowledge, on these quality signalling terms. For instance: We recognize that the services of physicians are greatly valued by many individuals, in spite of any perceived shortcomings on their part. Consequently, finding more productive organizational patterns for human capital, will also involve shifts in perspective, regarding the nature of product quality and definition. When time based product is at stake, by no means is educational need a matter of simple linear extrapolation, in terms of productivity trade offs. Yet it's not so much that one's scarce time obligations are "required", or not. Ultimately, what's at stake is how we could potentially make room for both technology and human preferences, to better represent the experiences and applications we seek through direct involvement with others.

That said, what about time based product which could already be replaced by robots? In other words: To what degree would otherwise existing personal interaction, actually be missed by producers and consumers? This question isn't just a part of abstract discourse, for the elites of our institutions. It's a vitally important concern for all of us, as we need to make room in our economic circumstance for our most basic preferences and aspirations. Nevertheless: Where time based product doesn't provide useful experiential content, here's where automated replication can especially contribute to productivity and greater output, on the familiar terms of the status quo.

However, we are also concerned with achieving productivity gains via the non traditional lens of personal production and consumption preferences. Even though we can't duplicate the scarce time we already have, we can make better economic use of all our time in defined equilibrium context. In order to generate new wealth based on human capital, it's necessary to organize mutual time priorities internally, as basic economic units. Otherwise, it would be difficult for a wider range of workers to gain options for sharing the technological gains that have become integral to to time based product. Presently, those gains mostly accrue to knowledge providers with extensive human capital investment via traditional educational routes.

Education also gets in the way of productivity, due to the fact that we can't measure the input of human capital investment, in relation to the output of time based product. Taxpayer support and fiscal tools have been able to cover these gaps up to a point, but no one should not expect this coordination process to work efficiently for a full range of income levels. Even though no one can reasonably expect to measure the actual skill involved in each time product interaction, we would still be able to accurately measure the time by which lower income groups could coordinate for knowledge use settings.

At an aggregate level, the greatest productivity gains would gradually accrue, as time value and preferences "purchase" the time value and preferences of others. Since this new wealth is compensated through human capital investment cycles (economically linked educational connections), no debt or fiscal formation is necessary for what was previously part of public goods. Education in these instances would not need revenue from other existing productivity, because "learning while doing" can create its own wealth - much as what occurred on non economic terms in the past.

Today, distinctions between desired final product in which time scarcities can be safely removed, and final product where personal time is important, are being missed. Consequently, discussions regarding income inequality and lost productivity are more difficult to follow as well. This post actually began as a response to a Brookings op-ed from Jay Shambaugh and Ryan Nunn, "Why Wages Aren't Growing in America", where they write:
For wages to grow on a sustained basis, workers productivity must rise, meaning they must steadily produce more per hour, often with the help of new technology or capital. Further, workers must receive a consistent share of those productivity gains, rather than seeing their share decline. Finally, for the typical worker to see a raise, it is important that workers' gains are spread across the income distribution. If wages are rising but the increases are all going to the best paid workers, the typical worker doesn't see a gain. Two of these conditions have not been met, which explains the fact that productivity has risen while the median wage has barely changed.
Already I have written, how we will not always have the option in the future of ("suitably") rising aggregate wages via increased output, because of the ways in which a services dominant marketplace in turn limits output - especially in relation to output potential during tradable sector dominance. This is why I also suggest that instead of worrying about stagnant wages, we can do a better job of structuring non tradable sector activity in ways that more closely match the monetary potential - and the time potential - that we actually have in the present.

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