Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is work necessary?

"Eighty-two years later, with the economy again faltering, it doesn’t feel like the economic problem is close to being solved. But—in spite of another world war and a growing world population—Keynes’ prediction is still roughly on target. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the U.S. economy is about 15 times larger in real terms today than it was in 1930. Per capita income is about about 6 times larger, and is on pace to be nearly 8 times larger in 2030. Nevertheless, as Mike Beggs has remarked, we still don’t have robot butlers to do our work for us and are still not close to the 15-hour work week Keynes envisioned. If we’re really so much richer, why don’t we feel that way?
Part of the answer has to do with how our wealth is divided up. As Lawrence Mishel points out, until the early 1970s hourly real compensation in the U.S. roughly kept pace with gains in productivity. That hasn't been true since then. Although productivity more than doubled over the last 40 years, what workers make in wages and other compensation has barely grown at all. Real weekly wages actually peaked in 1972 and real median household income has grown just 7% since then."

 With so many things changing nowadays, I do wonder how people will "make a living" in the future. Journalism, factory work, many other previously plentiful jobs are dying due to technological changes. When I was growing up, it was assumed that this meant people would just work less and still maintain their lifestyle. But that hasn't happened.  Now that many types of jobs are going missing, it adds more strain to our common notion of work.  Add to that the many jobs now that are done by collective action for free, just because people want to do it. Wikipedia, for example, while it has many problems, is still the astonishing result of free labor.  People do things not because they'll get paid but just because they want to contribute. But none of this gets renumerated.  Why not?  

What will be the future marker for recompensing labor? 

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