The following essay, which was originally written I believe in 1995, concerns a subject area that has always intrigued me: the distinguishing of principles that underlie a context. In this case, the context is “employment.”
Whether what I say is correct or not, I’d still like to explore these matters. It isn’t until ideas are set down on paper and released that improvement can take place. I have no resistance to these ideas being improved upon – or refuted for that matter.
I believe that the following principles can be adapted to the work of creating largescale employment projects. At a time when the bottom is falling out of the economy, when we have automated people out of work and shipped the remaining jobs overseas, I think we need to seriously look at how we might put our population back to work.
Readers of this site know that an abundance program is being worked upon and may render this whole discussion unnecessary, but I still wish to have it for whatever benefit it produces.
(1) Work is a Function of Unworkability
The first principle underlying the creation of largescale employment projects is that work is a function of unworkability.
If we think about it, workability is invisible and only unworkability is visible.
Any tool or machine that works usually does not attract our attention. But the squeaky wheel does and it gets the grease. My computer, so long as it works, receives little or no attention from me. However, the minute it ceases working, I swing into action, attempting to fix it myself or having it repaired or replacing it.
I perform work on this machine only when it ceases to work. With the exception of preventive-maintenance programs, we usually do no other work on anything until it ceases to work; that is, until the situation becomes unworkable.
Therefore all largescale employment projects will in the first instance arise as the result of identifying a largescale instance of unworkability and then turning that unworkability to workability. We “do” work in order to turn an unworkable situation into a workable one. Put another way, there is no lack of unworkability, or what we call “problems,” and work addresses problems.
Examples of largescale instances of unworkability include global famine, disease, pollution, illiteracy, homelessness, etc. Unemployment is not a function of a lack of work. There is certainly no lack of work to be done.
(2) Value is a Function of Agreement
The second principle that underlies the creation of largescale employment projects I believe to be the notion that a change, solution, or opportunity has value only because we say it has.
Take for example the case of nuclear missiles. To the best of my knowledge, every intercontinental ballistic missile that I am aware of has only either sat in a silo or been launched up into the air to fall into the ocean. In fact ICBMs have value only because people regard them as valuable. They serve no direct useful function as, say, a car serves a function by transporting its passengers.
Some might say they serve the function of ensuring national security. I would argue to the contrary that they simply produce a condition of national insecurity. ICBMs have value because we say they do.
Moreover, though they serve no direct useful function in the same way that a car does, they are still massively funded.
What this principle demonstrates to me is that a new solution or opportunity shouldn’t be measured in terms of fictitious ‘inherent’ value, but in terms of the value that a reference-group attaches to it. If a country deems the ending of hunger and poverty within its boundaries as valuable, then money will be found to pursue those aims.
This principle gives us permission to allow ourselves to explore unheard-of or unthinkable opportunities and to focus our attention on how to create agreement around value rather than looking for non-existent inherent value. I believe that value is not inherent in a thing or event. Like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder.
(Continued in Part 2.)