The Future of Work

It’s generally assumed that the biggest issue this election is job creation. That is interesting given how the economy has already created 14 million jobs in the last six years.  More interestingly, as we’ve pointed out, we’re getting close enough to full employment that it’s hard to imagine where enough workers will come from.

Then again, it isn’t hard to imagine a job shortage. As we also have pointed out, the key issue when it comes to jobs isn’t trade deals or unfair labor practices – it’s automation. Robots build our stuff, computers file our paperwork.

If we want to seriously talk about jobs, the first thing we have to realize is that the short-term is probably covered by the coming worker shortage as Boomers retire. That’s the good news. Over the longer haul, however, automation of various kinds will replace more and more workers. That will take careful attention to what’s going on as well as a completely new definition of “work” to get us through the other side.

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Progress and History

There’s no doubt that the United States is in a period of transition. But from what to what else? Through the last 16 years the economy has been tough on everyone – except the very wealthy. The most recent few years have been a time of terrible social upheaval. Pessimism is understandable.

Yet if we look back through history there is a lot of good reason to believe that everything does move in cycles. Business cycles which seem permanent eventually give way to better opportunity. Social upheaval does usually reach a consensus and progress is made.

Hope comes naturally by taking the Barataria view that cycles are real and that the economy is really nothing more than a social arrangement. Sure, it’s the dismal one with all the numbers and the brutal one that defines rich and poor. But at the heart it is only about turning our personal “values” into a socially convertible “value”. How it changes through generations and lifetimes defines us even as we define what this thing called an “economy” really is.

This essay is a continuation of the previous piece, Spring is Coming! as a cycle on my personal political philosophy and read of history.

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The Next Economy – An 8 Point Plan

The beauty of election season is that every citizen has an opinion and they get to voice it. Because we are a Democratic Republic, it’s usually up to the candidates running to propose very specific platforms for the voters to judge. But these are often thin on details – either because they are hard to pin down before they are fed into the complex process of making sausages, er, laws or because candidates are full of hooey.

Both are usually true. Promises are one thing, delivering quite another.

Barataria has taken the position that the economy is turning over, indeed that there is a new economy replacing the one that gradually failed. The turmoil is what has voters so angry as no one seems to be in charge. It’s also Barataria’s position that complaining without proposing a specific solution isn’t all that helpful, so here is the Barataria platform.

It leaves aside a lot to focus on one thing – turning over our economy into the next one. How do we build a dynamic system for everyone? Here are my immediate thoughts.

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Careful What You Wish For

Is the Federal Reserve nothing but a tool for big banks? According to an op-ed by Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT), it sure looks that way. The presidential candidate and hero to millions of progressives made the case for an audit, tighter controls, and other measures to rein in the nation’s central banking system.

There are clearly problems with the Fed and it’s very mixed charters to tame inflation, encourage full employment, maintain the value of the US Dollar, and regulate banks. The more presence and power the Fed gains the more this is an important issue. But today’s “progressives” aren’t in a mood for just reform – many are in a mood to “End the Fed!”

While that position is understandable it’s horribly misguided. But it’s a great highlight for the tension inherent in not-that-subtle difference between a “liberal” and a “progressive”.  And it’s ultimately a rather irresponsible position that Sanders is taking.

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Failing “Facts”

As I prepare for a seminar on economics for today’s progressive, this particular post has come back to haunt me.  It’s a bit subtle but hurts like a sledgehammer if you think about it.  The bizzy whirl of my life as I prepare to announce my plans requires a repeat – and this one is standing out.  Enjoy!

Back in the 1950s, people who studied complex things like economies felt they were making real progress. The general belief was that by understanding how it all worked we could even things out and usher in a new era of continuous prosperity that would benefit everyone.

Some of the underlying “facts” that were identified at this time have been accepted as simple truths. Growth is always good, and economic growth always flows to workers, making their lives better generation by generation. There’s only one problem lately – some of the “facts” appear to not be as true as they used to be. That means that the underpinnings of modern economic theory are all being questioned and, perhaps, if we don’t keep our eyes open the new era of prosperity will be far more elusive than anyone thought.

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