The New Economy And Where It Hid The Jobs
Yesterday I hinted at how the current lack of jobs is hiding an opportunity and a turning point.
The opportunity is removing the large organizations that have acted as middle-men and connecting people directly. In a way I’m a little confused about all the people who don’t know what to do next. If you have one skill and your neighbor has another, you can forget “the economy” and trade directly. If you’re not too deep in an urban area a small group of people could create their own self-sufficient economy. This is also behind the increasing number of online businesses (many fail quickly but a few create something new). As more people do this a new economy will grow to replace the declining old economy.
The turning point is reaching a new level of “work-optional” as a society. In the last century a growing number of people have joined a social class where they don’t need to work 10-12 hours a day just to survive, which is a game-changer. We’re still working through a few of the effects but we understand this concept now. Many people choose to continue working 12 hours a day to get the best that’s available today. Others are content to live like a king 100 years ago, which requires far less work these days.
With another great leap in productivity this could get to a level that would have been unimaginable 30 years ago. Natural resources and physical goods are a limiting factor, but many parts of our lives aren’t tied to these as much as they once were. Knowledge workers have less of an advantage now because even information is a commodity. But this is good for everyone because information grows without the physical limits that food, oil, and lumber have. Increasing productivity means that more will be available. And better information increases physical productivity too because we have less waste.
The only question is what we’ll do with it. Will we have a growing population to support? Will everyone try to get more and more, working hard to stay ahead? Will more people be happy with what they have and choose to work less? Since people don’t actually like “doing nothing” as much as they think, what will they do with work they don’t need to get paid for?
One way or another there are many changes coming. There is a lot of potential for the economy to grow, but there is also potential for people to be less attached to the economy. This is a theme I’ve been working on for years, finding how I can do my best work and make the most of it. I’ve also been building my business on the idea of making people far more productive so less people are needed and they don’t need to work long hours.
Personally I’m motivated to do a lot, not sit in front of a TV. I’m very interested in business so I’m likely to be doing things that make money for a long time. I’m interested in personal finance so I try to arrange my own finances like a fortress even though I could get by without it. But many other options are now available. When people get tired of waiting for someone to tell them what to do, maybe they’ll start taking advantage of those options.