There are more workers than jobs and with the growing population that reality grows with no prospects for returning to the paid labor force and jobs matching.
Robots do more work and will do more in the future; from computers to 3D production by computers, goods and services will be delivered without the hands of humans. The future work is in inventing, maintaining, and operating robots.
Capitalism is better than feudalism but it does not meet the needs of modern economic reality.
So, what comes next in the evolution of work?
Before we speculate, let's recognize that right now the need for labor to undertake thousands of necessary public and private endeavors in the country is profound. The problem has been the re-allocation of our tax dollars from military spending to training teachers and improving public education, to repairing our roads and bridges, to upgrading our dismally dated transportation system, to inaugurating alternative energy projects, and so on. The reform of our tax system would go a long way toward freeing up money, too. The money is there. There are many worthy things that need doing, and there are many people who will gladly do them in exchange for a living wage, but there is not the collective will to invest the money in the people, our social institutions, and our infrastructure.
Of course, Don, you are correct. The breakdown of the infrastructure began in the 1970s when tax money allocation changed from the post-WWII era to the creation of great wealth at the expense of the middle class. Production in the U.S. continued to rise, even as the wages stagnated.
The Income Gap spread starting at about the same time.
Yes, if the Make-Work Programs, such as FDR instituted, the roads, bridges, ports, and other repairs were done, we could put all our working-age people to work. That takes a Federal program supplying money and the state getting the funds to do local projects. National highways need a lot of work.
Going to my 1st cousins' reunion last Friday, I drove old familiar roads that were so dangerous I couldn't drive the speed limits. The deterioration began because the railroads that used to haul grain to market have been torn up, and heavy trucks drive the old farm to market roads.
We badly need reform. However, in the long run, we will have more population than paid jobs. My remedy was to work for myself, which is what my children are doing. They make good money and like their work. Laura owns her business as does her husband own his. They live in the forest of northeastern Washington state on a little farm. They are content with their lifestyle and happy to be out of the rat race.
Anecdotal, to be sure, but an indication of one way to remedy our problems.
Wow, so George W. Bush actually helped lower the income disparity, Joan. Or at least he did for the first two years, after the economy and the stock market crashed, reducing the net worth of the rich people who had their money in stocks and such.
Ye Gads! Poor old GW Bush was doing the right thing until he realized what the consequences were of his policies and he reversed the trend.
Obama has not accomplished anything to reduce the spread. That is my quarrel with him; he is such a nice guy, handsome face, enchanting smile, funny sense of humor, and is bought and paid for POTUS.
As someone in the I.T. field, in a relationship with someone in the I.T. field, I don't see the problem here. Many other technological advances have caused drastic changes in the distribution of the workforce. How many people are farmers, nowadays?
Right there with you, Don. And the freaking Republican congressmen (or at least the one who's challenging my district congressman) are all about spending a hell of a lot more on the military.
Of course my congressional district is at least 60% African-American and Latino, so there's no way in hell it's happening. Still, it's idiotic that one of the two major parties is still busy pushing the agenda of greater military spending and slashing infrastructure and education funding.
Small-scale (and artisanal) farming is actually on the increase in many areas, such as in Vermont, as more and more people appreciate the value of localvore consumption. Vermont now has the highest number of farmer's markets per capita in the country, as cheese-making, beef and lamb and pig raising, berry farming, free-range egg farming, and organic vegetable production have risen markedly in the last ten years or so.
Sure, but what's the percentage of farmers in the US, now, compared to the first half of the 20th century? I'm pretty sure that the recent increase in small-scale farming (vertical farming and rooftop farming also look interesting) is just a wobble on the trend line.
Also, you should probably go with localtarian, rather than localvore. The online vore community has ruined the use of that suffix.
Joseph, at the founding of U.S.A. of the entire paid labor force, 85% were in some form of agriculture. Today it is less than 2%.
Sources for 1840–2010 charts:
1840–1900: Robert E. Gallman and Thomas J. Weiss. "The Service Industries in the Nineteenth Century." In Production and Productivity in the Service Industries, ed. Victor R. Fuchs, 287-352. New York: Columbia University Press (for NBER), 1969.
1900–1940: John W. Kendrick, Productivity Trends in the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press (for NBER), 1961.
1950–2010: Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts.
Yeah, that's around what I was thinking. Hell, if you're looking at the southern six of the original thirteen colonies, the difference is probably even more significant. Most of the industry was in the north, before the Civil War.
When I was in China in the 1980s, 85% of the labor force worked in agriculture.
Employment in agriculture (% of total employment), China,
Source: Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook
Joseph, It is too soon to have the data on the present figures on farming. At least, my usual sources have not published this new information yet. You are quite right, there is change in the air.
Yes, it probably will be able to discern the numbers of localtarians in upcoming data.
Many of us are becoming localvores and we may see our numbers in the stats as well.
Will it come anywhere close to even half of a percentage point of the workforce, do you think?
I don't think that most of the US population is even vaguely aware of this sort of stuff, and I don't think they'll change their buying habits. You'd be amazed how unaware of any social issues most people are.