September 21st, 2000


Terribly Unproductive...

Yes, another day in the great capitalist workplace... a wonder of the world. (It must be... think of how massive a project it is, somehow convincing entire societies to do the 8-5, just so that we can have 1000 different types of soap...)

If you've ever wondered why technology and automation hasn't freed us from most of our duties, so that we can work 10 hours a week and spend the rest of the time in artistic/philosophic/recreational pursuits... well, chalk it up to variety and the power of money.

Think about all those brands and types of soap out there... all of them requiring different production lines, different sales teams, different marketing specialists, etc... all of them competing hard against each other, trying to milk all the productivity they can out of their workers... and when that fails, getting them to work progressively longer hours. Since the employees are salaried, they work those extra hours for free...

Well, all of this is terribly inefficient, isn't it?! Yes and no... duplication of effort is, admittedly, very inefficient. However, the work that people do under these competitive situations is actually quite productive. Without some degree of competition, there is no impetus for change. Still, the waste is tremendous, and the net result is that our technology turns us into slaves. We're in a global economy, and there is always someone else somewhere else who is willing to work for less money (and work for longer hours...) than you. In order for your company to compete, they either need to move your job overseas, or they need you to work longer hours, more productively. The effects of global competition is only going to increase, not decrease... so get used to working overtime, bucko...

What solutions exist out there to keep things productive, without turning workers into slaves? Well, I can think of a few, but they would require a degree of global cooperation. How about global standards on labor laws that would gradually reduce the maximum amount of hours that people can work in one day? How about a global "minimum wage" that is locked not to a set amount of currency, but to what that currency could afford? (i.e. a "living" minimum wage.) How about allowing a certain degree of global cooperation in order to weed out unnecessary competition and inefficiencies, particularly for "commodity-type" products which do not provide a function essential to life and which do little to increase the growth of technology.

Is this socialism? Not exactly... is this modified capitalism? Yes. It's basically making the governments of the world committed to the idea of increasing global productivity, while making sure they have a commitment to a future where we all start to get our lives back.

This, of course, will never happen. ;)