Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Danger of Greater Productivity

In response to David Gordon’s commentary today at Mises.

Full employment could be guaranteed if every individual, by force of law, could consume only what he produced.  Perhaps Tim Jackson could expand on the ramifications of this ultimate end to his desired wishes.

Alternatively, we can all look forward to a job-sharing future – man becomes so productive through investment in labor saving devices that he works 10 weeks per year, sharing the job with 5 colleagues.  Forty week vacations for everybody!  Or we could all enjoy the option to retire at forty five, having “saved” the value of this productivity, thus allowing an earlier retirement.  What to fear of this productivity?

The reality is that the massive increase in productivity seen over the last several decades has all been siphoned off and spent by the political elite and those at their service.  Instead of each of us getting added leisure time (in the form of added time off each year or the ability to save for an earlier retirement), the added productivity has gone to provide ever-increasing leisure to an ever larger class of non-productive: politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, money-center bankers, degreed mainstream economists, government contractors of various forms, the war machine, the medical establishment, public schooling, and on and on.  The list is almost endless even before listing those on welfare and other various social transfer schemes.

Tim Jackson need not worry: as long as the juggling act continues, the political class will gladly add more weight to the backs of the ever-shrinking productive class.  Currently the productive are receiving the Sisyphean punishment that should be reserved for the deceitful king. 

The real problem starts when that weight finally becomes overwhelming: too few productive supporting too many non-productive (non-productive in all forms).  In the meantime, the capital necessary to continue investing in the labor-saving devices that Tim Jackson so despises is being consumed via these non-productive activities.  Sadly, even the productive will not fully escape the boulder running downhill over them.

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