We don’t need more jobs, we need more meaningful jobs

A way too brief history of work

Yuval Noah Harari reasons that humans dominate the world due to their ability to “cooperate in extremely flexible ways.” Humanity’s capacity to organize and specialize has made humans uniquely potent.

Job creation since the 1980s

In the past 50 years, competitive industries have shed millions of jobs while producing more goods (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Advancements in biotechnology, digital technology, low code, and automation have facilitated doing more with less. These industries continue to find ways to boost margins. Fast-food has discovered new margins with new digital ordering systems and operational efficiencies. Distribution warehouses have nearly entirely automated their workforces with robots and artificial intelligence. Grocery stores have even hired robot floor cleaners.

How can we create more jobs

The American administrative glut is counterintuitive. One might expect with the rise of digital technologies that middle management could be streamlined. Unlike commoditized industries, at least until the pandemic, however, the knowledge economy experienced a long lull in productivity growth. Firms resisted adopting new efficiencies that emerged in the internet economy. Until an industry is vulnerable, corporate structures provide little incentive to innovate.

A better economy means fewer jobs

The coronavirus pandemic has offered a limited window to penetrate the formidable moats of higher education and healthcare. Higher education has been an uncompetitive space for decades. The truism went that a college degree was the key to a middle-class living. Elites factored in college as the best way to preserve the mores of a liberal society. The fallacy went unchallenged as student debt rose to 1.6 trillion dollars. Meanwhile, colleges were free to continue investing in new sports stadiums, luxury lounges, and administrative waste. While the value of their degree continued to decline, students’ only alternative was to skip college and condemn themselves to a market that often required college degrees.

Less means more

The bulwark of American job growth is threatened. The fantastic growth of education, traditional corporates, and healthcare is sunsetting. Where the next spurt of growth in jobs will come is unclear. Yet, it is sure that the call to produce more jobs in the post-pandemic world is not the right approach. The popular mode of subsidizing inefficiencies may prove impossible soon. Governments themselves are struggling to maintain their monopolies (see BTC price).

Kafka’s Penal Colony
Kafka’s In the Penal Colony: Tragic Unquestioned Meaningless Work

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