The largest entitlement program we have in America today is not Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. It's jobs. On both sides of the political fence, loud voices are screaming for the creation of jobs. And as Jeff Jarvis points out so eloquently in his own blog, that is not going to happen. Nor, really, should it. In the 21st century, jobs are an anachronism, a paternalistic holdover from an era we have passed through.
Jeff's point, and one that was made thirty years ago by every reasonable futurist, is that advances in technology have removed the need for many jobs through greater efficiencies, automation and productivity advances. We no longer need so much "labor." During the heyday of America, technological advance led to shorter workweeks, higher wages, and better benefits for the people who remained. Now the worm has turned.
In those countries we used to refer to as underdeveloped, undeveloped, or third world, labor is still cheap, and there are many jobs. The jobs are supporting emerging middle classes in those countries. They are now considered "developing." But is that true?
Those jobs come with a price. People in the Chinese countryside are separated from their families, and factory workers are jumping out of windows. As the job market improves, family structures deteriorate. In America, the divorce rate rose astronomically as we developed into a global power after World War II. Kids grew up with absent fathers, or none. We tore down the families and networks that supported us during the Great Depression by moving away from our roots for better jobs.
In many other countries, people do not wake up expecting to be given a job. They expect to create something -- be it a woven basket or a piece of music or a crop of bananas -- that has value to someone else, and can be traded for the sustenance they need to go on. Farmers, craftsmen, artisans, creatives still do this. They don't make money, but in many ways they are quite happy.
The rest of us moan and bitch about the economy and expect someone to hire us because we "need" a job to feed our families. If the private sector isn't hiring, we ask the government to create jobs. And then we bitch about the growth of the federal government and its programs.
I once created jobs.I did it for twenty years and it nearly killed me. I did it to feed my family, because I wanted to give my children a good education.
Let me tell you: it's not that much fun to be a job creator. When you create a job, it means you have invested time and money in a dream that is yours, You've found a problem and you are solving it. You have decided to create something of value. And then you share that vision with other people so they can help you realize it.
But often, they do not help. They bring their problems to the workplace, their boredom, racism, sexism, unwillingness to change, anger at the boss, and a whole host of other unpleasantness that isn't any fun. Yet they feel entitled to the job you have created for them, and to the perks that come with it.
Creating jobs also means taxes, paperwork, and regulations for the job creator. I am much happier without any of this, and still self-supporting. I believe this is the wave of the future.
Let's re-frame this discussion. No more about jobs. Speak only about value creation.
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