Thursday, September 25, 2014

Can Aggregate Time Use Become Productive...Again?

Lack of real participation in the economy as a whole, remains a primary problem for the people of many nations. As individuals slowly fall away from any representation other than limited consumer roles, countries now suffer the vagaries of primary (fossil fuel) commodity availability and related political circumstance. I know it's only the opinion of a blogger but still...the current political mess which is starting to build up, never should have happened in the first place. Rant time...

It is the mistake of many a nation, to refuse their citizens the right to take part in primary economic roles - particularly the important services roles of the 21st century. One often gets the impression that certain folk in high places believe that value lies anywhere other than the productive capacity of people. It has been the mistake of governments, countries and other assorted nimby factions to blithely assume all will be hunky dory, if anyone who does not "measure up" right out the gate can be left out of the process altogether.

Had it not been for these kinds of elitist assumptions and fierce denials of innovative options, citizens had the chance to build a reality which would not have included the kinds of problems that are now surfacing. Had it not been for power mongers of all stripes who wanted nothing to change, growth would not have been stopped in its tracks. Citizens could have built a world in which their input matters even more than the fossil fuels that nations so rely upon. After all, central bankers in the U.S. sent out a message that people didn't matter, when they shorted aggregate spending capacity just because of a spike in oil prices, and the Great Recession was the result.

The problems of the new secular stagnation could still be overcome, by allowing individuals to locally negotiate for production roles in the services capacities that are important to them. This is a stabilizing growth option which has the potential to return economies to the earlier growth trajectory, because it generates what has been a missing marketplace. No "perfect" form of political organization can really measure up to local systems of coordination. Today's institutions cannot make productive use of knowledge for needed services to the degree that local economies would be able, were they given the chance.

There's no getting around the fact that aggregate time use has not been considered as a source of productive value. Hence, much of time and educational investments are increasingly left out of the economic equation. Some nations continue to put their "extras" in prison, while other groups just keep killing off the undesirables who get in the way of the latest power grabs. As Rana Foroohar said recently of the U.S., "Something is very, very broken in our economy."

When economic representation (aggregate time use) was largely a matter of land management, people had natural connections to resources - hence ways to be productive on their own terms for the full length of their lives. To be sure, their productivity may not have appeared substantial to others but at least the connections with resources in their own environment had not been completely broken. Hence those existing options could often generate means for survival.

Whereas today, our productivity tends to be defined on the all or nothing terms of employment by others, or else it requires a consumer base capable of supporting overhead for self employment. Since agriculture was transformed in the 20th century, few have considered how important it is for all to remain productive based on their own interactions with given resource sets wherever they live. Today, the primary resource sets that institutions utilize are knowledge and people. Commodities of all kinds are - and should be - the frosting on the cake. Just the same, fiat money tiptoed toward the reality of human potential, only to back off as it became more difficult to use people as mere loan recipients.

The lack of resource use options in local environments is the critical missing component of today's economic systems. That missing element could be recreated by reimbursing local groups as they seek ways to assist one another, and remain economically viable for one another. What's more, education needs to back this process instead of working against it. And most importantly, these group efforts would need to be recognized for the direct source of wealth creation (through direct time use matching) that they would in fact create.

Economic systems such as these could provide new hope for the many places which continue to lose control of their destinies. Some places around the globe can scarcely afford to lose any more than they already have. New economic beginnings need to be defined on simple monetary and social terms that people can get behind and support. Such systems need to provide sufficient benefit to individuals so that all have a chance to develop the character which others also need, to lean upon.

Again, this post was one of those times when I had originally planned to write specifics re how people could learn to help one another locally. Except all of those notes got tossed, as I found myself drawn back into some of the important elements of the bigger picture. It's hard not to think about the primary issues right now, as negative world events continue to escalate.

Our time use - for all of us - has to be productive on monetary terms, if we are able to keep the very part of humanity which got us this far. Without the inclusion of our aggregate time use potential, it is hard to see how human capital will remain the catalyst for growth which it was so capable of, until the Great Recession. Do people still have the ability to build a better world? It's a question which all of us will need to respond to, if an affirmative answer is ever to be found.

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