Friday, May 29, 2015

Contemplating work, agriculture and our employment future

For most of humanity's existence, finding food occupied the bulk of human activity, and was surprised when researching this post to read that four years ago agricultural activity still accounted for 1/3 of human employment globally. But less than 2% in countries like my own, the United States:

As of 2011, the International Labour Organization states that approximately one billion people, or over 1/3 of the available work force, are employed in the global agricultural sector.

Source: Wikipedia Agriculture--Workforce

Doubt much has changed since, though guess there's a lag in someone actually figuring out such information, so will go with those figures.

Less than 2% of the workforce needed in my country for agriculture? Versus the bulk of humanity if you go far enough back? And it occurs to me that what most people call "work" has changed dramatically.

So what is work?

While I would like to call it human effort, especially difficult human effort like writing something that people find informative, I think functionally employment is needed for a useful definition, and money. So I'll say that generally when people use the word "work" when it comes to employment, they mean efforts done in some kind of socially limited contract for someone else, for some amount of money.

When you consider how societies shift as to employment it makes sense to me it's driven by: who pays whom for what?

You could find someone making lots of money restoring antique furniture, or writing, or making a lot less, restoring furniture, or yup, writing. Actually you often see people making nothing for writing. Like me here.

When people DO make money for writing it's all about the market.

The good news with this assessment is that employment in the future will be driven by what people with money need other people to do for them, and how much they monetarily value it, as well as, of course, what other people are willing to do on a limited contractual basis.

So robots will no more necessarily unemploy everyone than agricultural machinery did.

What does unemploy people?

Other people unwilling to release favors.

I came up with a favor definition for money, seeing it as merely a social IOU, which is an abstraction enumerating a favor. But if a group of people simply gather IOU's without releasing them by using them--that is, buy something or hire someone--then that system is broken.

That doesn't impact normal savings like a rainy day fund or retirement savings though as eventually the bulk of that will be released. Only a tiny percentage of people can just lock up vast sums of money indefinitely with no pressure to release that money. That is, have vast hoards of wealth which they do not need. And that doesn't include investments either, like into new businesses, as that helps drive the system. Am talking about money that is in essence simply locked away.

People who somehow gather favors without ever releasing them, end the system, for those favors.

So vast concentrations of stagnant wealth may reflect a flaw in the abstraction of the monetary system, and apparently lead to vastly higher unemployment, presumably because fewer people are able to pay other people to do things for them.

What people do for each other on a limited social contract seems to expand as possibility expands, if unconstrained. Which is what happened as agriculture dwindled as the bulk employer and you can see the vast array of jobs available today.

So then I can postulate that unemployment is actually an indicator of a problem in the flows of the monetary system. It reveals it. Fascinating.

That's not really intuitive. But IS consistent with prior ideas, as I considered how Henry Ford greatly helped the global economy.

And it really is kind of odd, as I'm saying that those who give favors doing things for others, and receive the social IOU that we call money in return, if they don't allow others to do them favors and hand them money in compensation at a high enough level, they shut down the monetary flow for those favors. It's kind of an odd thing to contemplate.

So there can be a hitch in the monetary system. Vast sums of abstracted favors can be received by some entities which not releasing them back, constrain job creation.

Good news though is that even in a totally automated society people can be fully employed--finding things that strangers can do for each other on a limited contractual basis.

So each of us simply must find things we wish to do, which someone wants done, to establish limited social contracts which both parties find agreeable, to get to a monetary exchange. Yeah, people will keep doing that indefinitely.

James Harris

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What I mean by center-right conservatism

People can toss around words without clear meanings which I think can be problematic, as you get things that might seem weird, like I claim to be a Progressive, but also see myself as a center-right conservative.

But what does it mean to be conservative?

Well I'm going to explain what I mean, as I see it as focusing on society, where a far right conservative sees society as most important. In contrast, I will assert, a far left liberal sees the individual's rights and freedoms as most important.

So a far right conservative would say you must do what it takes for your society to survive and thrive, even if that means you lose out as a human being, like even if you die as a result. Or maybe have a miserable life with no hope or happiness if your society deems that necessary.

While a far left liberal would say that the individual is most important and that all members of a society should, well, get everything. And that individual freedoms and rights trump the needs of society, which should always bend to the needs of the individual.

I take a position away from either side, which seeks to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of society, while leaning more towards society, like seeing protection of the United States of America as more important than protecting every individual American.

Which allows me to say that our soldiers can be sent off to war to protect us, while from the most liberal position, not only should there be no war, but no persons should ever be asked to give their life for others, as those others are no better than they are, and no more important.

Different societies can have a variety of rules, where some of them are rather arbitrary, and from far right conservatism, it doesn't matter. To a far right conservative you do what you are told, and your society makes the rules and you MUST follow them to the letter without question. But from center-right conservatism, the needs and rights of the individual matter more than arbitrary rules and restrictions.

To some the arbitrary rules of conservatism are what makes it evil, as it seeks to crush out dissent, or force people into accepted roles. At its limits conservatism is about control: Forcing each member of a society to be a cog in a social machine, with a purpose dedicated to that society above all else.

While to others, liberalism leads to anarchy, as it gives individuals too much freedom without accountability, and ignores the danger human beings can be to each other. At its limits liberalism is about complete freedom. And liberals assert the rights of individuals to make their own lives without interference, finding out who they are and what their purpose is, without in any way having to defer to others who they see as no better in any way than they are.

Finding a perfect center between these two positions is I think impossible. You have to be far right, right, lean center-right, or lean center-left, or be left, or far left.

If you lean to the right, like center-right, as I do, then you see preserving the State as paramount.

If you lean left, like center-left, you see preserving individual rights and freedoms as paramount.

James Harris

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Equality under the law

Some of the most thrilling words in the history of political thought for a long time seemed bittersweet to me:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

From the Declaration of Independence

Much has been said about Thomas Jefferson, and as I contemplated his political genius along with his contradictions I realized something: our world was better for the ideal.

What if instead he'd said, you know, it would be really great for everybody to be equal, but some of us are, and some aren't, and, um, I got slaves, so there.

The ideal of equality is a wonderful one, and in practice I find it easier for myself to grab hold of "equality under the law" which is something the United States took its time in getting. But it IS there now. And increasingly so, as new groups of people find protections.

Today I feel simply pride for a political framework which could shine a light in a direction that could move a world. And expressed my mature opinion in a tweet:

Back then I didn't capitalize in tweets. Kind of regret that now. It was a fad kind of thing.

Imagine our world if the Founding Fathers had eschewed ideal for a more brutal reality, or chased pragmatism about what they could make people actually do in their time, instead of vision for a better future.

To me the greatness in the American ideal is not in our reality but in our sense of promise for our future. And as each generation faces its tribulations and trials we are committed to our ideals, as one nation, one people, with liberty and justice for all.

We are "the people" of the United States of America.

So much political wisdom in our history, isn't there? And I relish it, here as I have so much from which to draw from as an American and I'm very appreciative of that as someone who can speak freely as I do here. And in my own way, express myself.

As a nation we are not just what we are now, nor are we what we were, as our best is yet to come I firmly believe.

We will get better. That's what we do. We are Americans.

James Harris

Friday, May 8, 2015

What I call political science

Did a post where I suggested that wealthy people might prefer to loan the government money through bonds than simply lose that money through taxes, because then they can get it back, which can lead them to push for more government debt, which I see as a hypothesis in political science.

And to me science is about a predictive framework, so it's interesting to talk about political science as the art of prediction in politics, which to me is a functional basis.

That is, I suggest to you that "science" is meaningless without predictive value, so political science is the art of prediction in politics, with the certainty that science brings.

If things I suggest in this post make sense to you, then you can be in this context a scientist, and I like that maybe politics offers a way for more people to experience the joy of science in a way relevant to themselves, and also meaningful to their society.

And first of all, a hypothesis does not mean necessarily true in science. Which gives me leeway to explore the hypothesis that wealthy people deliberately push national debts on the world to avoid taxes, without saying that must be the case.

Its value in a potential scientific theory is predictive, if it has value: What can we predict with such a hypothesis?

Well, we might expect government debt to be intractable, and rise regardless of economic reality. We also might expect to see behaviors that would increase the debt, like wars. And we might expect to see wealthy people flooding into politics to protect this system from being dismantled.

Notice, no mention of political parties or ideology. No need to worry about Republican or Democrat, or liberal or conservative.

That ability of science to simplify, or reduce a problem to simpler parts is something called reductionism. And for some people that might be something they hate about science which seems to suck the life out of things, reducing them to cold, hard, and maybe even, inhuman consideration.

One interesting thing I think that follows from this line of inquiry is the possibility that there is a maximum for tax outlay from wealthy members of a society with a balanced government budget. Then their monetary support of government would be completely by taxes alone, with no money that can be returned to them directly, as is possible with bonds.

That is a statement about a mathematical curve. Of course running a surplus might mean higher taxes for the wealthy in the short term, but not sustained indefinitely.

Government bonds are like money with a string attached, allowing payment for government services, and later yanking back the money which paid for them, even if the citizen benefited as well. While taxes do not have that return possibility.

The next thing that science allows is testing.

That is, in a true political science as I see it, which is a functional reality, you can test a hypothesis, in order to see if it's true. And there are multiple ways to test the hypothesis that wealthy people, for instance, actually get into politics primarily to keep their taxes low, by running up government debts, which in essence is like tying a string to their money, to yank it back, versus simply losing it, as they might see it, in taxes.

So what about people who claim to be political scientists, or political pundits or commentators, why would they maybe not call out such a system?

Well presumably wealthy people would be smart enough quite simply to pay them off in various ways.

And we could check that hypothesis as well, looking for monetary transfers of various types in order to preserve the hypothetical system.

And yet, this entire political science hypothesis, could all collapse if reality revealed, none of the above, or too low a level to consider the hypothesis to be correct.

So then, isn't science fun?

I love it.

The point of science isn't to win an argument. It's not to convince people of one thing or the other. The point of science is to get predictive certainty.

Like flipping a light switch.

James Harris