Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reading blogs in the middle of the workday

Responding to a typically incoherent Thomas Friedman column, IOZ says the following:
Tellingly, no one seems much interested in the fact that an industrial economy is by necessity pyramidal, that not everyone can be a[n] inventor (or innovator, as goes the preferred neologism) or CEO. You know, even in the Imaginarium of Doctress Rand, it is taken as given that the Atlases of the world must at some point employ and direct the debased lumpenproletariat; there are no illusions that every man is a genius. Indeed, the economy whose passing Friedman perhaps mourns too soon, for from my seat it appears to be sputtering along as before, only at a more modest clip, was not simply a Housing Bubble economy or a Financial Speculation Economy; it was a middle management economy, in which productive labor, accomplished elsewhere and more cheaply, was replaced in the employment world by the bullshit white-collar pseudojobs with which so many of you, reading blogs in the middle of the workday, are surely familiar. Such people were never actually doing much, regardless of their level of educational achievement, and because their jobs were, are, and will forever be extraneous, they are easily cut without the need ever to be replaced.
Reading blogs in the middle of the workday! Who would do such a thing? Next he'll be telling us that people shop from work! (What would happen to the economy if we couldn't shop online from work?) But seriously, I've been fond of saying for a while now that one of our dirty economic secrets is how little actual work is done by the fairly well-paid, so-called white collar worker, myself included. IOZ talks about middle management, that layer of general ineptitude and uselessness one encounters virtually everywhere. But in my experience, large swaths of office workers have relatively little to do (whereas others, I am well aware, work very long hours indeed). Of course, this is because there is relatively little that really needs to be done. The jobs that most of us have are utterly unnecessary. But we have to be kept working, or at work, don't we? Heaven forbid we have time to ourselves, without need to worry that someone is looking, and without need to worry that we'll starve. Meanwhile, that work that is necessary (which is generally not found in an office) could easily be spread around, so that no one would be over-worked or under-compensated. Such an arrangement should be within our abilities, and is, except that a certain ownership class, we'll call it capital for the sake of convenience, can't and won't have that. How would they maintain their rate of profit and accumulation? How would they maintain power? Have I mentioned lately that the Luddites were right?

At the end of his post, IOZ says (italics in the final sentence are mine):
Entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity are lovely words, but they cannot be taught, less yet can they be taught to students who cannot read, write, or add. Nor, in any event, does it make much sense to realign our national program of attempted-indoctrinated self-esteem and civic ignorance, i.e. public education, with the impossible conviction that every single American should own his own business, which uniquely produces the sole example of its own productorservice. In the world. Forever. Because of The Children. You cannot run a society of three hundred million people by requiring that each either invent the iPod or remain broke forever. Which rather brings up a tangential but dearly held point for the whole gang here at Who Is IOZ? Namely:

You cannot run a society of three hundred million people.
(Among other things, this point reminds me of a meeting I once attended--the topic was anarchism--in which one young fellow suggested that everyone should have iPods for free, as if in any plausible anarchist future it would be likely that society would be constructed in such a way that iPods would be mass-produced.)

This then acts as a placeholder for future posts about modernity and re-localization and Dunbar's number. Till then.

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