Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another interesting "post-capitalism" link. On the end of "jobs".

1 comment:

Oli said...

Overall I think Robert Paterson's probably mistaking the joy of his own situation with being a wider trend in the economy.

Sure, it's great being a freelancer if you can pull it off, and sure there might be a growing number of people freelancing, but I don't expect this to be a dominant trend in the shape of the future economy.

I'm quite concerned at the moment about the idea that the 'long tail' is dead. Of course this is a simplistic and dramatic way of really saying that the 'long tail' doesn't universally apply to all aspects of the information economy.

In particular, there appears to be growing evidence that the increased efficiency of information flow around the world has a tendancy towards 'winner takes all' rather than fattening up the long tail.

This homogenising trend of the 'global village' would suggest that there will be large winning corporations that dominate certain markets.

We don't use (or dont know about) local e-market places but everyone knows eBay. This in turn makes eBay a great market - indeed a market where I'm just as likely to find a seller in Brighton as I would on any 'local' but not so successful eMarket.

We all buy things from Amazon, we all desire to own things from Apple, we all search on Google, we all move our money into bigger banks, we all pick the 'best buy' from a comparison website (especially if it's a big brand we recognise), and on and on.

Indeed, as you linked to, there's even evidence to suggest that academics are all linking to the same papers these days.

So, to me it looks like that the general trend will be towards fewer jobs in fewer larger companies that each try to organise our consumer lives in a particular way so that they dominate a particular market.

Then there will be those with jobs in the big companies, the lucky few who freelance and the jobless masses. This is where government will have to step in and provide work of various kinds (often very socially useful) to those otherwise jobless masses.

In such a (simplified) picture government grows, it doesn't shrink. Local economies only spring up to service the desires of the lucky ones with jobs or freelancing (e.g. coffee, fashion and organic local food).

Governments will constantly be balancing the growing need to raise taxes in order to employ more people, and yet not wanting to chase away the few massive global companies that are dominating key markets.

So, overall I think Robert Paterson's description of the future economy is a bit rosy.

I also think it's rather disrespectful to suggest that the power relationship that exists between employer and employee is similar to that between slave owner and slave or lord and serf.

Sure we don't have unlimited liberty, but certainly those of us lucky enough to live in a modern liberal democracy are free people in comparison to slaves and serfs. That's a big deal.