Why do we need Jobs?

Published by marco on

You’ll very often hear politicians, pundits and pretty much everyone talk about “jobs” as the be-all, end-all of the economy.

But why do we all need jobs? To stay busy?

Jobs are a means whereby the needs of a society are provided by its members. People have certain needs in order to survive—food and shelter being two of them. We’ll get to others later. A society is filled with people, each of whom need food and shelter.

Let’s imagine the beginning: each member fending for itself. There is no need for an economy, no need for trade in this world. Each member has the exact same jobs as every other member: to find food and shelter.

If you don’t, you die—either from starvation or from the elements.

But already we see that each individual won’t be fending for itself. Parents will fend for their children until those children can fend for themselves.

Already, we see groups forming. Some members are willing to do jobs for other members because of an emotional bond.

This group grows larger than just the nuclear family. It encompasses not only children but parents (the grandparents of one’s children). Perhaps the group grows more—but at some point, the ability of one or more individuals to provide the needs for all other members is stretched to the limit.

At that point, the extended clan will likely group up with other extended clans who are feeling the pinch, as well. They form a tribe. Together, they are able to use means of obtaining food and shelter that exceeds what they were each able to do individually.[1] This partnership improves things for everyone.

In such a society, what is a job? Everyone does what they can so that the tribe survives. Older people tell stories and warn about stuff they’ve seen that no-one else has (e.g. rattlesnakes); children learn to be able to take their parents’ place; some hunt; some gather; some farm. This is simplified, but such a society doesn’t really need money or trade or jobs.

The story is also still only about survival That’s the goal of this society, so far.

Other goals will follow, presumably—though it’s not really clear what those goals are, is it? Does our society really have bigger goals than survival and propagating itself? Sometimes, it seems that “jobs” is a goal, but that doesn’t sound right, does it?

Upon reaching a certain size—and having increasingly lower emotional bonds between members—the issue of fairness arises. Fairness is hardly a problem in smaller groups: a parent will take care of a child, a sibling will care for a weaker sibling.

Maybe some members are perceived as “not pulling their weight”. A tribe with any morals will want to measure this feeling rather than just go with its gut. How can this be measured?

Also, there are certain things that people would like to have, but that the tribe is not willing to grant (e.g. a certain spouse, a larger house, a nicer weapon, etc.) Other members are pulling their weight and more—and want to be recognized for it.

In other words, how does the tribe confer status? When can a member stop contributing during a day? When is enough enough? If everyone decides for themselves, then there is a risk—nay, a likelihood—that things go to hell quite quickly. The amount contributed by each has to be coordinated so that the society’s goals continue to be satisfied.

There is also the notion of resiliency: to what degree should the tribe plan for the future? How much work should it invest now in order to be able to handle possible, extraordinary situations, like a drought or a storm or a flood?

Who decides all of these things? Who decides how much of each person’s skill should be exercised per day? How much of the fruits of that person’s labor should be stored? How can the tribe compare the different labor and outputs? What about trading with other tribes? How does that even work?

At some point, there has to be a quantification of contributions. That’s what we call money. What you do in order to obtain money is called a job.

Do you see how money comes up as a way of being able to compare the labor of teaching children vs. hunting for food vs. maintaining lore that will protect the future of the tribe? It’s a means to an end, not the end itself. It’s the same with jobs: the labors must be performed regardless, or the tribe—society—collapses.

With more and more—and more—people, there always have to be more jobs for them all. Why? Well, because the fairness question comes up more and more. Why would some people have to work for their money whereas others don’t? Just because their labor isn’t required means they get to cruise along without working?

Well, why not? Why would we create labor where there is no need for it? Psychologically, there is a danger of a split between those who work for the tribe and those who do not. This is dangerous and must be managed. Giving everybody a job is one way of managing that. But it’s a crude mechanism.

When the tribe gets really big, you have to get fancy in order to create more jobs. That’s when you start to create needs and desires in people so that they want to pay for labor that wouldn’t otherwise be necessary. That’s the core of our consumerist society.

To make any sense, each job must be associated with a different amount of money in a way that the tribe thinks is fair. You can see that our societies do a terrible job of associating money with usefulness to the tribe. It’s almost perfectly inverted. The most dispensable labors like acting in films, playing sports and managing finances are remunerated the most. The most indispensable labors like nursing, farming and teaching are remunerated the worst.

There are those even lower on the totem pole: criminals and malcontents, for whom the tribe finds positions that don’t pay at all—slave labor.

This is also assuming that jobs are the only way to allocate resources. The concept seems sound—it’s considered a law of nature by most—but maybe it could be mixed with other concepts, like acknowledging that when a tribe has more than enough to go around, it can afford to let some members be idle, either because they’re incapable of contributing or because there’s nothing to do.

That is, a society as advanced as ours has a tremendous amount of resources—more than enough to provide everyone’s basic needs. But the allocation strategy envisioned by money and jobs doesn’t anticipate what to do in this situation. It just drives mindlessly forward on the path dictated by its
simplistic programming. A more enlightened society would consider discarding its simplistic model for a more sophisticated one that matches the more-evolved and wealthy situation.

The problem, of course, is that the “jobs” model put not only all of the money, but all of the power with it, into the hands of a small elite. The tribe is split, quite literally, between the haves (more than enough to survive without a job) and have-nots (barely able to survive, even with a job).

What most politicians really mean when they say we need jobs, is that if people think they need to have jobs and there are actually jobs available, then people can be convinced to blame themselves when they’re still poor relative to the elites.

Unwilling to embrace a new paradigm, most politicians—even people, in general—make little to no distinction between what kind of jobs society needs. These jobs are there not to provide actual value for either the laborer or the tribe, but to fool everyone into not pulling back the curtain on the inverted remuneration strategy outlined above. In essence, it’s a way of guilting those who’ve contributed a large percentage of what they have (the have-nots) into thinking that they’ve still not done enough.

A job is a means to an end: providing the basic needs for all of its members. While jobs were a good way to do this for a long time, it’s no longer clear that they are even a good way, anymore. At least, not in the manner that the concept has been manipulated by the elites.

Maybe there’s another way to provide the necessary services for all members. In a society as large as ours, those services have expanded from food and shelter—survival—to include medical care (also survival) but also education. Why education? Why, so you can get a better job, of course! We need to be informed. Why? So that we are good citizens and can elect “good” leaders and move society forward…toward what? We still haven’t seen any goal beyond mere survival.

But even without examining what the actual goals of our society are, we can still see that “jobs” is a primitive concept that should be re-examined in light of current conditions (tremendous wealth and resources). Once we’ve got everyone sorted again—as we had in the beginning—we can think more clearly about what the hell we’re actually trying to accomplish with all of this activity. If we’re trying to accomplish anything at all, beyond mere survival.

[1] Also, grouping up into tribes eliminates some recessive-gene ugliness that resulted from not enough cross-breeding.