Piketty, Hayek, Marx, Pareto. The supercritical Matthew effect. Informational feedback Matthew effect.
What the hell is growth, and who does it? Do we care if only the minority does it? Is it a problem if technocapitalist god kings rule over a blasted landscape of diseased stunted serfs, or is that totally cool? If cool, is it sustainable? If not sustainable, does that really matter? Or should we just go out with a billionaire yacht orgy on the swollen acid oceans then turn the lights off with nukes?
A staggering 96 per cent of America’s net job growth since 1990 has come from sectors known to have low productivity (construction, retail, bars, restaurants, and other low-paying services were responsible for 46 percentage points of total growth) and sectors where low productivity is merely suspected in the absence of competition and proper measurement techniques (healthcare, education, government, and finance explain the remaining 50 percentage points):
We often hear that our big jobs problem is that workers without college degrees don’t have the skills needed for “today’s economy.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this chart (from Autor 2015), and I want to suggest that our problem for the last 15+ years has been basically the opposite. For some reason, the economy isn’t creating enough high value-added jobs for college grads and this is messing things up for everyone else.
In the 1980s we seemed to be headed toward a knowledge economy, with rapid employment growth among technicians, professionals and managers. […] But from 1999 to 2007 (and arguably beyond) something really unexpected happened. Growth in the share of highly skilled occupations plateaued while low skill job growth accelerated sharply. There was no increase in employment share above the bottom third of occupations. The economy just created a bunch of low-paying, low-skilled jobs. During the same period the 2 decade-long rise in the college wage premium abruptly stopped growing (Beaudry, Green and Sand 2014) and the rise in demand for non-routine analytical and interpersonal skills, ongoing since the 1970s, leveled off (Autor and Price 2013). […] What happened to the knowledge economy?
There are two explanations that hinge on technology, one secular and one cyclical […]
Nation of Slaves is Charles Stross’s pleasing employment-obsession rhetoric:
There are two tests I’d apply to any job when deciding whether it’s what anthropologist David Graeber terms a Bullshit Job.
Test (a): Is it good for you (the worker)?
Test (b): Is it good for other people? […]
When he prescribes full employment for the population, what he’s actually asking for is that the proles get out of his hair; that one of his peers’ corporations finds a use for idle hands that would otherwise be subsisting on Jobseekers Allowance but which can now be coopted, via the miracle of workfare, into producing something for very little at all. And by using the threat of workfare, real world wages can be negotiated down and down and down, until labour is cheap enough that any taskmaster who cares to crack the whip can afford as much as they need. These aren’t jobs that past test (a); for the most part they don’t pass test (b) either. But until we come up with a better way of allocating resources so that all may eat, or until we throw off the shackles of Orwellian Crimestop and teach ourselves to think directly about the implications of wasting a third of our waking lives on occupations that harm ourselves and others, this is what we’re stuck with …
The Coasian flip:
As software eats the world, and companies get smaller and we enter a networked economy - as the Coasean flip takes place - there’s a sharp end:
TaskRabbit workers paying the cost of the company pivot. Neighbours of Airbnb letters soaking the externality of strangers in their space without choosing to accept it. Drivers who used to be employees being encouraged to be independent Owner Drivers - still in City Link livery - bearing the risk of the company’s capital expenditure and future success… without seeing any of the potential upside.
And then that risk being cashed in, on Christmas Day after the turkey, invoices unpaid.