Monday, November 28, 2016

The Monetary Economy is Doomed

Before the election I talked about how all those good factory jobs from the 50s-70s aren't likely to come back.  But that's only one threat to the working class.  In the next 20-50 years even low-class jobs are going to be hard to come by thanks to the seeds of destruction already planted and rooted in modern technology.

Back when I was a kid, when we went to the grocery store, all the cash registers were manned by people.  When you wanted to return cans and bottles for the dime deposit, you had to have an employee count them and give you a receipt.

That started changing in the 90s when U-Scan lines began being installed and recycling machines replaced the human at the counter.

The scanning technology is spreading to restaurants now.  At Chili's there's a computer on tables so you don't need to order from a waitress.  At some Panera Breads there are kiosks you can order from and get your food delivered to your table or left on a counter for you to grab.  I think some McDonald's restaurants have also been experimenting with this.  Which means that not even low-income jobs like fast food will be safe before long.

Amazon and pizza places are testing drone delivery, which threatens parcel and pizza delivery jobs.  In Nevada they have tested self-driving semi-trucks.  That could eventually replace truck drivers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg with advancements in robotics and AI.  So really not only are those blue-collar factory jobs not coming back, the subsistence jobs many people have taken to replace them are going to disappear as well.  To make it worse, the population is growing and people are living and working longer.

That means that our whole economy is facing an inevitable collapse.  Short of euthanizing hundreds of millions of people or shooting off an EMP that sends technology back to the Middle Ages, what can we do?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are good reminders that what drives most of our economy is conspicuous consumption.  It's buying those TVs, video game systems, toys, and so forth that keeps manufacturers in business and employing people.  Yet as we've already started to see when manufacturers move overseas, then less of that money is going to help American people.  Eventually you get an imbalance when the people supposed to buy the products no longer can afford to.

Adding to this is the greedy 1% and their new government (the kleptocracy as Offutt and others have called it) stuffing their pockets with cash.  They give us that crap about trickle-down economics, but the problem is the 1% already have so much cash just sitting around not doing anything and yet we're going to give them even more to just sit around in investment accounts or private hoards.  They don't seem to know or care that the more they squeeze the 99%, the quicker the monetary economy reaches the breaking point.  The irony is most of their "wealth" will then be worthless because most of it isn't backed by anything tangible.

Already there are signs of trouble on the horizon.  Chains like Ruby Tuesday have reported decreased earnings in recent years.  Why?  Because people can't afford to eat there very often, if ever.  One department store chain after another is either shuttering its doors or on the brink; Sears and its KMart subsidiary will be in bankruptcy before much longer after more than a century of business.  Why?  Because people don't have money to throw away at Sears; it's cheaper and easier to buy from Wal-Mart and Amazon.

To solve the problem, Americans are finally going to have to stop seeing socialism as something evil and embrace it.  Eventually we're going to reach the point where there simply aren't enough jobs thanks to advancements in technology and global competition.  Either we can embrace socialism or just devolve into a class war.

A few years ago I read one of those old sci-fi books that got turned into a movie in the 70s like Make Room, Make Room (ie, Soylent Green) and in it the government basically had to give people a stipend to sit around and watch TV and stuff because there was nothing else for them to do.  That's what we will inevitably have to do.  Maybe after experimenting with backwards authoritarianism we'll finally have the wake-up call that the old ways simply aren't going to work going forward.

If you want to think it's all bad, just think about Star Trek.  When people are freed from the monetary economy, they're free to pursue their real interests.  All my writer friends, how great would it be to not have to worry about going to a job and just write books?  When I was unemployed for most of 18 months, I didn't really miss the commute and grind of going to work; I just missed the money to pay for stuff.  Imagine if we didn't have to worry about that anymore?  And I could stop writing gender swap stories (mostly) and maybe try to find something more literary to write about.

The problem though is most people if they have no job to go to will simply sit around watching TV or something useless like that.  So obviously it wouldn't be all sunshine and roses like Gene Roddenberry envisioned.  Still, even now I think we have to believe in people and that given the chance people would eventually turn off the boob tube and find something more enlightening to do.

One thing is certain:  it's going to get worse before it gets better for most of us.

2 comments:

  1. I am retired and live very close to a national park. I was relishing the opportunity to spend my golden years checking out national sites. But the park camp sites are full at times that are convenient. Here's a vast national park with only a handful of camping sites. And heaven help you if you just camp by the side of a dirt road. Not allowed. So much for the outdoors. Now imagine when everyone is doing that retired or not. As far as writing, music, painting, arts and crafts, well guess what has happened to the junior colleges that used to be inexpensive havens for that? Our society just isn't set up for a large leisure class. And that's even if the wealthy and powerful are willing to fund a class of poor non-workers.

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  2. Manual labor type jobs will continue to be phased out. The only way to survive is to have a skill that people need and will pay for and even better if it's in demand. People who can adapt, will do well. One reason I went into something medical is because you can't move health care. I also think IT is a good field to get into. Every business needs computer support. Careers are just like selling books, you have to find a nitch that's in demand.

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