Finishing the Job

I have never wanted to get a job.

I have needed a job, applied for a job, gotten a job, been fired from a job, walked off a job – even loved a job - but I have never ever wanted a job.

And up until two, maybe three hundred years ago, nobody had a job. Most people worked their fingers to the bone, but they didn’t have jobs. They had “stations in life.” Few, if any, people had ever gone out looking for a job.

The industrial revolution created jobs.

In 1900, factories and farms employed 60 percent of the work force. By 1950, a half-century later, those two sectors employed 36 percent. In 2014, they employed less than 10 percent.
(first article cited below)

The tech revolution is in the process of eliminating the job. Men back on the factory floor riveting car parts together or shoveling coal into blast furnaces – that’s not happening anymore. It won’t happen anymore. President Josiah Bartlett told us that back in the early ‘0’s. President Obama kept reminding us. Candidate Hillary Clinton said she understood that and had some ideas to deal with it. Delusional Donny is selling the crazy idea that he will bring back hard hats and lunch boxes, moms in aprons, and #10 secretaries with fire-engine fingernails. Ain’t gonna happen.

There was an interesting trilogy of pieces in last week’s NYT Magazine, addressing this very issue.

First up, a piece about the most jobs available today. Unless you are able to prepare your children for a career in a field that requires people, this is the way most of them will make a living. The good news is that, reading through some of these job descriptions, you find evidence of folks who like their jobs, some who want to make them better, and a few who might do them even if they didn’t need the money. You should take care, however, to be certain that the careers your children prepare for aren’t liable to be overtaken by robots.

The robots were Joe McGillivray’s idea. That sentence reads like the opening line to one of my friend Tim’s wrily comic scifi stories. Instead, it’s the opening line of the piece on robots in the workplace. President Bartlett wasn’t kidding. That time he talked about – it’s here now. His successor and shouldabeen successor tried to prepare us. What would Delusional Donny have promised us a century ago when Henry Ford was talking automobiles and assembly lines. The good old days of picks and shovels and hayforks? A century later, we’ve got i-Phones and self-driving cars and robots. They aren't going away. I used to pay somebody to do my floors. Now I want a Roomba. And just wait until someone lays this one on Delusional Donny: Would-be immigrants could physically occupy jobs here from home. Home in Mexico, that is. Wall schmall! How the hell are we going to make a living?

Here’s one way. Free money. How? I don’t know, but I do know that, without adequate income, none of us are going to be able to fulfill any dreams for ourselves or our children. With adequate income, enough to take care of the necessities in modern America, we may be able to augment that with a career that we enjoy, even a job.

Worried about people taking the money and going full couch potato? I worried about that too, when this notion first floated over the transom. Then I realized that I was only worried about what other people would do. Because I do just fine. I currently have a very basic income from social security, and I do lay around on my couch watching TV. After 6 pm. Until then, I’m too busy. I write, I read, I communicate with people, I do household chores, I take care of business, I make plans. I have way too much to do to fit in a job. Besides, I’m 74.

Doing nothing is boring. Doing nothing is what people are left with when they don’t have a job and don’t have enough money to do anything else with their time. Teach somebody to fish and they can be a fisherman. Give somebody a fish, and they can share it with the fisherman and write about how good the fish is.

There will be plenty of things to do in the jobless economy. Let's start with the $15/hour minimum wage and see where we go from there. Heads up, people. The future has already begun.