Thursday, June 17, 2010

Regarding jobs, the Cold War, and that chick from the Atlantic Monthly

Financial Times:

Mr Obama inevitably antagonised opposition Republicans by devoting almost half the speech to a clean energy future. As it progressed, Republican e-mails arrived with metronomic efficiency accusing the president of exploiting the emergency to impose a “jobs killing” national energy tax on America.

Always read "jobs" as "profits." You will notice that politicians and industry leaders never say "We need more profits!" -- even though that is the explicit purpose of our entire economic system. You'd think they would mention it, since jobs and public revenue and innovation and philanthropy and a better world for all are presumably contingent upon it. If wealthy people aren't adequately positioned to get a lot more wealthy at any given moment, then starving people will starve even worse! That's the moral force behind what we in these here United States call "freedom."

Jobs presuppose profits. This is because profit-making entities are the chosen vehicle for creating jobs. If they don't make profits, we don't get jobs! This leaves us with a lasting incentive to ensure that they make profits, even if we have to tie a noose around the global esophagus and set the world a-swinging to do it. We don't care. We need jobs!

This raises the question of whether the government can create jobs. Like any question of public policy, the answer depends on the effect that such "intervention in their economy" will have on those entities dedicated to ever-increasing profit. Any government action that contributes to or facilitates the procurement of profit is deemed "government by the people"; anything that doesn't is communism. If you never really got what the whole Cold War thing was about, now you do. Our relationship with China bears this logic out nicely: the country is nominally communist, yet integrated into the profit economy. So we overlook our differences on secondary concerns like human rights and political freedom; "economic freedom" comes first!

Around the time of Obama's economic stimulus, there was a sprinkling of apoplexy about how sponsoring public projects that both employ people and fulfill some useful purpose was by some economic classification not real work. Megan McWhatsherface, distinguished personality at The Atlantic Monthly, tried to explain to Dean Baker that if the government makes jobs, they're not real jobs; they're "make work" jobs, by definition. (Dean Baker mostly felt bad for her in response; what does it a profit a woman to gain a career if she comes off like an ass?)

This brings us back to Marx's observation of what "productivity" means under capitalism: it means making somebody else a shitload of money! Failing that, it is technically impossible to be productive; after all, you are doing work that could be making somebody else a shitload of money, and yet you are not. If the whole point is to make somebody else a shitload of money, then we desperately need as few examples to the contrary as possible, or else people might get the wrong idea.


Anonymous said...

dude, you are a psychotherapist for economics.

so much BS we've internalized, bringing it to consciousness is...challenging but essential.

Coldtype said...

Why did you have to remind me of that clown What'shername?

cemmcs said...

This is a great post!

chrisb said...

You really to have to savor McMegan declaring that she is the total arbiter of what is a "real job"