Permanent Joblessness

March 24, 1994

* In response to Column Left, "Face Up to Permanent Joblessness," Alexander Cockburn, March 15:

Cockburn at least has the honesty to quote Karl Marx and unabashedly argue some nonsense from the same old idiotic Comintern party line. Cockburn still has not learned the most elementary things about economics. His understanding is still no more sophisticated than that of a Luddite.

If job losses because of increased productivity produced "permanent joblessness," then the Luddites would have been right. When 90% of human beings were engaged in subsistence agriculture, the thought of a society where only 3% to 6% were engaged in agriculture would have been absolutely horrifying. Obviously, we do not have 84% to 87% unemployment. All those extra people found jobs because there were new products and new industries. It evidently does not occur to Cockburn that any new things might be invented in the future, or that many present industries might still be expanding.

Jobs are not "found" things. They are not a finite resource existing in a fixed quantity, which must be "distributed" in some fair and equitable manner (through shorter workweeks and similar manipulations). The growth of human wealth and the secular increase in real wages can only occur because of increased productivity; and increased productivity inevitably means that at some point some people, as with 87% of subsistence farmers, get thrown out of work. Marx was talking about the "industrial reserve army" at a time when unemployment was often as low as 2% or 3%. It is the Marxist nostrums of people like Cockburn that have produced periods of unemployment from 10% to 20%, which is now standard in Europe.


Van Nuys

* Cockburn's prophetic commentary on the future of global downsizing and corporate irresponsibility trumpets the call that the working man/woman (blue collar, white collar or no collar) must heed. What happened in the Balkans with regard to geography is now happening to the working community: a breaking up of family, communal, civic and economic unity. This Balkanization of the working community is not a product of governmental action but the unleashed force of crass capitalism without any moral or communal underpinnings. Capitalism for capitalism's sake!

We as a nation have enshrined a new nationalism: not defined as a group under philosophical and political ideas, but a hollow structure of economic well-being. An economic well-being that in turn is defined by statistics and statistical models. Where our schools, towns and cities are subsumed under the corporate well-being of what business might exist there. This can manifest with the weirdest of logic: Company X buys company Y in a small town Z, where company X must either scale back company Y or break up company Y in order to pay off the purchase of company Y! The small town Z is economically decimated for the well-being of company X.

So where will this new nationalism lead us? Balkanization of the working community will lead to an economic Bosnia where all sides involved are losers.



Los Angeles Times Articles