International Workers’ Day: Profitable Work Will Be Automated, The Rest Will Be Left to Us

What’s abundant and what’s scarce? The question matters because as economist Michael Spence (among others) has noted, value and profits flow to what’s scarce.What’s in over-supply has little to no scarcity value and hence little to no profitability.

What’s abundant is unprofitable work, commoditized goods and services, and conventional labor and capital (which is why wages are declining and yields on capital are near-zero).

What’s scarce is profitable work, highly profitable niches that are immune to commoditization/ automation, and meaningful work.

Everyone wants an abundance of “good paying” jobs, but employers can only afford to pay employees if the work being done is profitable. Paying people to do unprofitable work is a one-way street to bankruptcy.

Those who want the government to fund “good paying” jobs forget that government tax revenues depend on profitable enterprises and the private-sector wages they pay.

(Borrowing from our grandkids to pay public-sector wages today is immoral and financially unsustainable.)

If we look at urban slums and impoverished rural communities, we find the problem isn’t a lack of work that needs to be done–it’s a lack of paid work and a lack of profitable work.

Businesses have pushed unprofitable work onto the customer. Paying people to pump customers’ gas is not profitable (if it was, some corporation would be doing it). Rather than lose money by paying employees to pump gas, the industry shifted that unprofitable labor onto customers.

A great amount of useful work is not profitable and can never be profitable. We need to differentiate useful work from profitable work. One example that illustrates the difference is building and maintaining bikeways to serve commercial areas. (By this I mean bikeways not devoted to leisurely rides through parkways but bikeways that one can use to reach grocery stores, banks, post offices, cafes, childcare centers, etc.)

The work of building and maintaining safe bikeways is clearly useful. Safe bikeways have multiple benefits for commerce, communities, the environment and for individuals: safe commuter bikeways cut traffic congestion, improve the health of the bicyclists, lower healthcare costs, boost small businesses along the bikeways and reduce air pollution.

Safe bikeways (i.e. those which are dedicated to bikes so riders aren’t sharing the road with semi-trucks and autos wandering over the pavement while the driver is texting) are win-win-win, yet they can never be profitable unless bicyclists are charged a toll, which defeats the entire purpose of the bikeway.

Impoverished areas are impoverished because there are few highly profitable scarcities to fill and few people with the surplus income to pay for profitable services. Taking money from one community to fund make-work jobs in another community (the essence of government redistribution schemes) deprives one community of income while providing a temporary injection of income in the other community–income that is controlled by a government that is itself controlled by lobbyists and privileged elites.

Redistribution schemes act as bread and circuses to suppress social disorder, but they don’t address local scarcities in a sustainable way or foster the expansion of long-term solutions to a lack of work.

There are two fundamental solutions to a lack of profitable work. One is to pay people to do useful work that is not profitable and do so with a labor-backed crypto-currency that isn’t borrowed or taken from some other community, and the second is to nurture community-economy entrepreneurship that works within decentralized networks and groups rather than through central states and global corporations.

I explain how these solutions work in my book A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All.

Slums that get Universal Basic Income transfers from the government remain slums. All the work that needs to be done isn’t being paid,soit doesn’t get done.

Communities that rely on global corporations sink quickly into impoverishment when those corporations pull up stakes and move to cheaper locales or automate the profitable work.

Communities that foster small-scale entrepreneurship, local efforts to address local scarcities and paid useful work thrive in ways that contrast sharply with communities dependent on bread and circuses and global corporations.

The model of expecting global corporations and Big Government to solve the scarcity of paid work is broken. Paul Mason does an excellent job of explaining why in this article from mid-2015: The end of capitalism has begun: the rise of non-market production, of unownable information, of peer networks and unmanaged enterprises.

Isn’t it obvious that we need a new system?

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  • Dr Mindbender

    People need to stop doing unprofitable work!

    They deserve to be abused, in wages, and deemed SUB HUMANS, ( by spoiled, self-aggrandizing FOOLS) until they learn to fight back and with-hold their worthless Labor!

    Sorry, but without those pumping the gas ( doing the work) the corporate executives DIE. Now, since YOU do not comprehend, if, the people are not given living WAGES … Wall Street (NYSE) is going into the Abyss. Imagine, 1-Million of the Worthless Burning down Wall Street?

    How much are they worth Now, pinhead?

    Now, how USEFUL is that LABOR! Can you even think in the Quad-Trillions, in damages? Better figure it all out, birdbrain, because I can assure you, those at the TOP are the MOST USELESS and can easily be replaced.

    • DiveshopinGoa

      So the next time you pull in for gas just sit and wait for some one to come out and filler up, check the oil and clean the wind shield. Then sit back and watch the corporate executives die/ laugh whatever.

      • Dr Mindbender

        You will all see , because they will “all” destroy themselves. They have made “war” and mass murder profitable. They have made killing an Industrial Machine, and it is profitable, baby! Look at the Trillions in Welfare given to the Military Entitlements Program Simply, You idiots will exterminate yourselves; because you are all too stupid to live. God must truly be Ashamed!

        Some Gas Stations still have “full service” and they are tipped for service. The Tips make
        the worker more than the Corporate Minimum Wage Garbage! You do not comprehend reality; however, I will explain it to you. The Parasites ( corporate executives) eliminated “said jobs” so they could EAT MORE PIE!! Screw the Poor, Feed the Rich, and this is GD Law in Satan`s Kingdom. Learn it, pinhead!

        Now, “if” you greedy little piggies want to keep stuffing your faces ( I mean you are an unholy brood and I cannot understand how God allows your kind to live) it will end up WAR on YOU.

        • DiveshopinGoa

          Your negativity levels are off the chart. You might want to have that looked into.

          • Dr Mindbender

            If you`re happy in this world, there is no hope for you. Sorry, but I have empathy for my fellow humans. You are not important. You are just another slave! Keep your happy and GET BACK TO WORK!

  • Dr Mindbender

    Your entire article is BS and that is why YOU have a WELFARE STOCK MARKET. Government has to pay and Bailout Bankers, Billionaires and Corporations! How much Subsidy goes to Corporate Welfare ! How much goes into giving corporations something for nothing! GD Parasites!

  • jo6pac

    American Airlines gives employees a raise and wall street goes crazy. I wonder if wall street can over throw the ceo?

  • Brabantian

    An EU-funded survey says more than 50% of EU youth are ready to join rebellion & revolution … they apparently see voting as a pointless sham. European-Union-sponsored survey of ages 18-34 was called ‘Generation What’.

    “Europe’s youth don’t care to vote – but they’re ready to join a mass revolt … Around 580,000 respondents in 35 EU countries were asked the question: Would you actively participate in large-scale uprising against the generation in power if it happened in the next days or months? … More than half of 18- to 34-year-olds said yes”

    • Dr Mindbender

      Obviously, Crony Capitalists cannot read, because they would know their days are numbered if they could. The youth may be more intelligent than the older generations who sold their souls for debt slavery. Hopefully, something Massive comes from these numbers.

      • Juliecperkins

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  • Dr Mindbender

    To: All Crony Capitalists, Far Right Republicans, and other Parasitic Corporate Entitlement Filth!

    Come on, Defend the $20-Trillion, or so, given to wall street in welfare entitlements!

    Jesus Christ … That is more than all the “welfare programs” combined and thrown into one pot! And, that does not even account for all the back door, FED, bailouts and market welfare QE dole! Nor, does it account for all the “Corporate Subsidies” for Walmart, Mcdonalds, Health Insurers, Businesses, and Bankers! That`s some Capitalism, birdbrains!

    Crony Capitalists are lost in their own delusion. You are, by far, the largest parasites on the planet! Congratulations!

    No … Why would you, “crony capitalists” respond there is not a GD thing you can say to even try and defend your filthy abominations! You are just “lucky” that most people are ignorant sheep, because if they were not, you, and your ilk, (crony capitalists/repubs) would be skinned alive! The French did not tolerate poor little Marie, but Americans tolerate Wall Street and Corporate Government … Dear God!

    The Only time you Idiots ( crony capitalists/republicans) come out of the sewer is to carp about the poor getting a GD food-stamp! Guess what, pinheads, the Money Belongs to the People ;and therefore, it should go back to the People! However, most of you are too impaired to realize that your party of clowns exported the peoples jobs to slave labor. Allowing Jobs to be Exported to Slave Labor was Treason. Now, if you cannot take my Insults, well, kids, what will you do when you ( most of you right wingers believe in God) have to account to God for all of your Evil? I see Fire in your future! Oh, and read Revelation 18, because God has Much worse to say about your Ilk.

    “And, whatsoever you do to the least of them ( the poor) you`ve done to me.” -Jesus
    The Rich Man went to Hell … You idiots should know the Rest. Figure out the Camel and Needle, yet, pinheads? Hey, to any “sane” literate person it is obvious that those who take from the Poor and give to the Rich are not going to Heaven.

    Just a Fair warning to you, Birdbrains!

    • Lynettemcarr

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