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A More Human Economy: The Jobless Future and the Medium Chill


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Jan 17, 2010
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New Jersey
I’m not sure if this is just serendipity at work, but just after I wrote my piece on the ‘human economy’ I stumbled on a couple other pieces that tie into what I’m trying to say really absurdly well. As a reminder, here’s what I was driving at:

Jobs are great, but welfare should be used to thwart the inherent economic uncertainty of a capitalistic, global society. People should not lose their insurance just because they’ve lost their job. Universal healthcare would go a long way toward allowing people to be more independent, more entrepreneurial, and less risk-averse in their private ambitions. I think that in the emerging service economy – with more and more people working outside of the normal constraints of office and industry jobs, as freelancers and contractors – this will become even more important. Far from discouraging work, the right kind of welfare can do just the opposite.

IÂ’ll call it the Human Economy for lack of a better term, but I envision a world where the old status quo relationship between boss and worker is largely a thing of the past, where free markets and smart welfare programs and a green infrastructure combined with personal technology and peer-to-peer interactions create a truly vibrant, innovative economic future.

So I want to say a lot more about the next two pieces, but I need to collect my thoughts a bit more first. Briefly, though, Douglas Rushkoff has an interesting piece over at CNN on the jobless economy. He asks:

The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ all the people who are rendered obsolete by technology, but how can we organize a society around something other than employment? Might the spirit of enterprise we currently associate with “career” be shifted to something entirely more collaborative, purposeful, and even meaningful?

Alex Knapp does a good job bringing Rushkoff down to earth a bit, noting that the piece “suffers a little too much from what I think of as “information class myopia”, in which writers about technology, who spend most of their days involved with gadgets and electronic media while creating intellectual property for a living confuse their own experiences with universal ones.”

For a more grounded take on the concept of full-employment without focusing on creating new jobs, I recommend this piece by Peter Frase. In a response to Will Wilkinson, who is arguing for a move away from wage labor toward a more casual, deregulated market, Frase writes:

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