Global Greying and the Economics of Abundance

The good folk at Pieria asked me to write a piece on demographics, so I did. Last week, also on Pieria, John Aziz wrote this on ‘The Economics of Abundance’:

Which got Frances thinking:

A future in which we can all grow old comfortably, perhaps, and lead those 32 cubed working lives we were promised?

Alas, I don’t have time to give much brain power to Frances’s thought experiment this morning (I will tackle it at some point) but you might. Any ideas?

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9 Responses to Global Greying and the Economics of Abundance

  1. That’s certainly where I was going with this. I was heading towards abolishing pensions, providing basic income for all and allowing people (of any age) to choose whether or not to work. If we can produce most or all of what we need for very little money, basic income doesn’t have to be very much. Of course, we have to sort out the ridiculous housing problem and the energy scarcity problem – but if we can address those, living costs in the future should be far lower than they are today and few people will need to work. The world can afford to become a very large retirement home. Welcome to the twilight of the human race – and the dawning of the age of robots.

    I think I shall write a post on this at Pieria.

  2. Pingback: Global Greying and the Economics of Abundance - Rick - Member Blogs - HR Blogs - HR Space from Personnel Today and Xpert HR

  3. Fat Jacques says:

    I’d dispute that the current welfare system incentivises working and that a citizen’s income doesn’t.

    In our current welfare system, any income gained from working is reduced by benefit withdrawal rates, which may exceed 100% at some points. Hardly an incentive for (legal) work.

    In a citizen’s income/dividend/basic income system, payments would be made to all, and not removed if income earned. Perhaps that system my incentives work more. It will be worthwhile to do any work no matter how little, or how poorly paid; it will increase total income for the worker.

  4. In marvelling at the general direction of travel (superfluous labour, commodity abundance and deflation), we are in danger of ignoring the political dimension – i.e. the decisions we make about how we transition to this blessed state.

    For example, the debate around a basic income boils down to the share of GDP that should be allocated to this, and the mechanism for allocating the dividend of ongoing growth. It is important to recognise that there are widely differing views on how a BI would work, and that these views ultimately reflect political beliefs about the distribution of wealth. Class will not necessarily disappear in a post-scarcity world.

    Similalrly, we need to address the nature of capital when the link to labour value has (apparently) been broken (the nth degree of alienation), and how this impacts on monopolies and rent-extraction, e.g. the growth of “intellectual capital” assets.

    • Rick says:

      Agree, David.
      Class is very persistent and even if the robots do create wonderful abundance, the distribution of the resulting wealth and leisure time will be very unequal.

  5. GrumpyLecturer says:

    Rick you have made an old man happy.

    This debate hurtles me back to the smoke filled rooms of pubs and union halls of the 1960’s and 70s which I tended to inhabit. Arguments about the relative economic benefits to be had from a free market economy matched against a mixed economy a corporatist state run on structural functionalist lines. Durkheim, Weber and Marx provided the backdrop and Harry Braverman’s Labour and Monopoly Capitalism, published in 1974, stoked the debate to new levels.

    Oh those long lost days of youth when the world was there for the changing. Now 45 years on the exuberance of youth gone you look back and think ‘those were the times to be alive’ realising sadly they will never see the light of day again. The world I see now is populated by self-centred, greedy, anything for a fast buck, businesses ethically and morally moribund employers and workers struggling under the yoke of politically organised consumerism. Workplace debates reduced to the banal. Endless articles about the ‘process of work’ of ‘better team working’, ‘wonderful leadership’, ‘excellent performance appraisals’, and ‘stupendously effective feedback’. I cringe pour myself a large whiskey and role a fag and remember the smoke filled rooms of yesteryear when workplace arguments had some academic bite about them. No one won no one lost let’s do it all again next Friday night.

    So what brings me to comment here well it’s the term ‘redistribution of wealth’. To find a discussion on ‘redistributing wealth’ even if it is to be equivalent to the minimum wage of today, to those millions of unfortunates who no place can be found for in an advancing technological and global capitalist world. ‘Redistribution’ requires some form of a centralised organisation. It brings the works of Durkheim squarely to the forefront of the debate. Low and behold centralisation means Weber returns to the fray and I am sure we can work poor old Marx in somewhere along the line. Structural functionalism brings other societal structures into the debate. Debates on work and society may at last be elevated to a more interesting and meaningful level than the bollocks associated with ‘team working’ et al.

    Somehow I know this will not happen but I live eternally in hope. Another whiskey and a fag and a shake of the head are always the option as one tells tales of proper work and proper workers to the grandkids.

  6. Pingback: Historic hours worked | Left Outside

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