Monday, 5 July 2010

Efficiency and employment are opposing each other

"In some parts of the country ... the public sector accounts for a third of the workforce. An urgent rebalancing was vital", wrote Damian Reece in The Daily Telegraph.

How much of the workforce should be in the public sector, then? We have to start from the premise that the public sector is a Bad Thing, which Reece only hints at by suggesting imbalance between the private and public sectors (presumably).

Here's the point. The only work that should be done is work that is directly relevant to social progress. Having a job to get money does not count as 'relevant to social progress', unless the work being done is in itself relevant to social progress. The work that needs to be done should be done in the most efficient way possible relative to the actual (ie not money) resources available. In many cases this means machines. Humans should only be doing socially relevant work that cannot be done by machines.

People in he public and private sectors all want/need to keep their jobs and there's a tendency to not be as efficient as possible in order that people may stay in work. The public sector gets criticised for that because it's tax funded and most people have no choice but to pay taxes, whereas in the private sector you allegedly have choice. This is a false dichotommy. The obvious essential service that the private sector predominates is food production and distribution. But food isn't produced and distributed as efficiently as possible, because people would lose their jobs - so it's the same thing as the public sector being inefficient to save jobs.

Until we decouple the need for access to the necessities of life from work and money, we are always going to have this problem. If we were so efficient that few if any people had jobs and therefore money to buy the efficiently produced goods/services, they would have to be given away. In our current system we create a cycle of consumption whereby jobs are made for people so that they can get money to buy the goods that are made for the large part to keep people in work.

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