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Most of the comments here focus on how people aren't trying hard enough to get jobs. This article indicates that the jobs don't exist and that the problem is likely to get far worse. You can try as hard as you want to get a job - if no one is hiring, you aren't going to get one.

The reality is that as time goes on, the world's needs can and will be met by fewer and fewer people. This should be a good thing, but it won't work under most existing economic systems. Our entire economy has to change to accomodate the new reality that a significant percentage of the population will be unemployed.




A major fault line in the current economic system is the concept of 'right to work'. The current structure presumes that the right to receive a proportion of economic goods of a society should be strongly associated with employment. But with most jobs are already meaningless from the viewpoint of economic productivity, the 'right to work' ethic concentrates power in the hands of the managerial classes in charge of job placement, who are very good at inventing new ways to pretend that this is all economically beneficial.

The truly horrendous problem with all of this is that our standard of living is statistically quite high so the system is sustainable for a long while, until it eventually collapses under it's own weight of pointlessness.


'Right to work' is a specific term used in the US to designate labor legislation used to cripple unions and shouldn't be confused with a general 'right' to employment.

The choice in terminology had me very confused on the first read.


> But with most jobs are already meaningless from the viewpoint of economic productivity

I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just wondering if there's any research that's quantified this idea. I have no idea how you qualify meaninglessness and economic productivity.


"But with most jobs are already meaningless from the viewpoint of economic productivity"

That's highly debatable (the word "most", specifically). I've heard the argument before, but there is a reason we have labor productivity statistics that try to quantify this.

"A major fault line in the current economic system is the concept of 'right to work'."

This isn't just a fault line, this is the foundation of market economics for the purpose of human welfare. You participate in the economic system by trading your resources, e.g. land, labour/time, capital, and knowledge.

At first glance, we seemingly never have enough time in the developed world, so lack of jobs implies there seems to be a problem in the distribution and renewal of knowledge.

If a market can't work for the world's exchange problems, we're currently fucked as to a lack of functional and pareto efficient alternatives.


> there is a reason we have labor productivity statistics that try to quantify this

Productivity measures have been pretty screwed since services became the dominant labour form. If my dog groomer decides to charge me an extra 20% then her productivity has gone up by 20% - she is now producing an extra 20% of services per hour.

> But with most jobs are already meaningless from the viewpoint of economic productivity

I have no proof of this at all - just an anecdotal gut feel. For every content producer where I work, we have 2 agile coaches, a LEAN coach, 2 marketing types (who are probably the really productive workers - promoting and protecting an established brand monopoly), 5 ops and dev supporters (in an unreachable call centre somewhere in the world), and then an endless pyramid of middle and upper management overseeing all this process. Within this context, no one every got a pay upgrade by volunteering to reduce the size of their empire.

And, also within this context, there is a lot of unhappiness that I put down to lack of meaningful labour output making the world a better place. Meanwhile, my leisure time productivity has exploded - I consume whatever media I want in whatever form I want whenever I want. I'm at the lower socio-economic end of my tiny middle-class ecosystem but my diet would be the envy of the kings of yesteryear.

My point being is that we already have too much stuff in the world, and the existing system of trading labour for putting food on the table just encourages more stuff. I would agree that we are far from pareto efficient and are, in fact, trapped in a scheme where scarce resources like primary goods and human time are wasted. But I have no idea what the solution might look like.


> Productivity measures have been pretty screwed since services became the dominant labour form.

That's not accurate. Productivity is at its most basic a measure of aggregate output for hours worked. That works for any kind of economic activity as it all boils down to dollars vs. time/person (blending in management and administrative overhead).

> If my dog groomer decides to charge me an extra 20% then her productivity has gone up by 20% - she is now producing an extra 20% of services per hour.

That's not how it works. Presumably if your dog groomer did that, she'd either be really good, or you'd switch groomers. Or if there were a scarcity of groomers, you might choose to groom your dog less often.

The amount of money made for the hours worked has to be viewed in aggregate as part of the overall market. If all businesses in a region raised their prices by 20%, and worked the same or less hours, that would be a sign that there's been a gain in productivity, because it eliminates opportunity cost and marginal utility tradeoffs and looks at the complete domestic market for all goods and services in an area.

> I have no proof of this at all - just an anecdotal gut feel. For every content producer where I work, we have 2 agile coaches, a LEAN coach, ...

I feel you. There are countless individual cases of waste and overhead in the private and public sectors. But I think this has almost always been the case in organized human endeavours. Think about the 1960s and 70s where there were football field sized rooms of typists, or layers upon layers of "strategic planners" (GM used to have a hierarchy 21 levels deep). Or the pervasiveness of sustenance farming in the early 1900s vs. the productivity of today's farmers. It really has gotten better.

In our industry for example, where I work (Pivotal) we do extreme programming and carry that philosophy of smaller teams, customer speaks with one voice, to content and product design. We will pair on each role, one from our company and one from the customer, so on a given mobile app, web content project, or web app (and I mean real commercial ones, from brands you probably know): 2 product managers, 1-2 designers, 4 developers/ops of which one is the anchor, maybe up to 2 part time QA. Maybe some support marketing people surrounding this team, and maybe 2-3 senior execs/managers around it between the customer and our own management. That's it. We can get a lot done in a few months.

I have also seen teams of 120 people attempt to do the same amount of results of our small teams in double the time.

Productivity stats mix the both and weigh down the whole sector, but imagine when the small team approach becomes widely used? This is what we are seeing more and more with IT outsourcing where the traditional outsources are getting slowly squeezed. It'll take many years, but it's hard to unsee better ways of working.

I agree that capital and headcount represents power in many large organizations but with the appropriate competition incentive and leadership, agility and time to market and cost are usually what lead to coups to the old order.

> Meanwhile, my leisure time productivity has exploded - I consume whatever media I want in whatever form I want whenever I want. I'm at the lower socio-economic end of my tiny middle-class ecosystem but my diet would be the envy of the kings of yesteryear.

I think that statistically in the USA, leisure time is mostly flat / slow growing the past few decades, and actually shrinking for those with more education as they work longer hours . Some interesting data here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/06/how-did-...

This seems to correlate with my theory in the OP that we have a knowledge distribution problem in the labour market. Fewer people know certain specialized things and need to work longer because of it.

> My point being is that we already have too much stuff in the world, and the existing system of trading labour for putting food on the table just encourages more stuff... But I have no idea what the solution might look like.

One person's stuff is another person's food - even if there is waste, someone does have to actually make/harvest/move/package/market the stuff eventually. But I get your point.


> This seems to correlate with my theory in the OP that we have a knowledge distribution problem in the labour market. Fewer people know certain specialized things and need to work longer because of it.

This might be the case, but I also think that the more complex work gets, it gets harder to split it between multiple people without a lot of organization, so it's "easier" if one person just works longer.


Modern (market/captial) economies aren't an all or nothing system; tax law, regulations, and social programs are very influential and the diversity among policies for various 1st world countries show the "market" economics is a fluid force that is channeled through the framework of rules we create and modify.


> Most of the comments here focus on how people aren't trying hard enough to get jobs. This article indicates that the jobs don't exist and that the problem is likely to get far worse.

The reality is that BOTH are true.

There is no law stating that each generation of humans should have it easier and with more resources available to them. My generation is facing this crisis, and the default response is to complain. Which is fine for a few minutes or days, it's good to vent. But at the end of the day, that won't change anything. It's time to get to work, even if "work" is 20-30% (random number) tougher than what our parents dealt with. Assigning blame doesn't solve anything.

That being said, I definitely agree some sort of Basic Income strategy will be necessary going forward. Perhaps soon.


Speaking for myself (as a 22 year-old recent graduate) -

I was brought up to respect my elders and to consider society as a mostly-altruistic, benevolent mass of humanity with a conscience bent more towards justice and meritocracy than corruption and inequality. I believed that the older generation who shape and structure society through government, industry, and academia were doing their absolute best to set future generations up for success; after all, what else could be the ultimate aim and goal of life once you marry and have children of your own?

Now, I'm not so sure this is the case. It seems like there is a lot less to go around, even for the older generation. I used to see teenagers bagging groceries and working menial service jobs. Now all I see are 50-60 year olds, and I wonder "how the hell did these people end up working minimum wage, 11pm shifts at the grocery store at age 58?". I see my landlord barely getting by on social security, rent income, and a sales job, unable to retire at age 65. Ageism is real, with layoffs at major companies (IBM, HP, etc.) affecting older workers disproportionately, many of whom are not yet able to retire and who don't have the time to retrain for a rapidly-changing economy that demands dramatically different skills than it did 20-30 years ago.

So ultimately, I find that many in the older generation are simply trying to make ends meet in an environment of scarcity that is new for the US, with the youth subsequently becoming disillusioned because the system seems to be set up against them.

Of course, as inequality grows, the shrinking proportion of families with money are largely exempt from these worries. But you would think "they" (the nameless, faceless, despised rich) would find it in their interests to give back to society; to give back to a system that had rewarded them with comfort and prosperity. To make sure it didn't rot from the greed, sloth, misplaced violence, weak guidance, and weaker morals that did away with the mighty Roman empire.

It's all a matter of perspective though: at least we're not being conscripted to go fight in Vietnam or WWIII, which is the ultimate manifestation of the old using the young for profit and self-serving agenda pushing.


You don't see the people who are doing much better than their parents. The more self-aware of them know that there is nothing good that comes out of drawing attention to their good fortune. The less self-aware just assume that's how it is for everybody and don't think it's remarkable.


> The more self-aware of them know that there is nothing good that comes out of drawing attention to their good fortune.

I'm part of this trend and I hate it. I have to be careful who I tell anything to. Many people dislike me for it. The world is so weird. I spend so much time pursuing utility via automation. It's so sad to see it mostly alienate people. Just as all of this stuff is becoming so easy and accessible. It has definitely crushed many childhood ideals. At a young age I observed a world in which people had to work too hard and couldn't focus on making good choices. I wanted them to have more time. Not less. It seems as if more and more people are entering a doom loop. Less aware. Less optimal. More time working. Less time learning. Less aware...


Please do tell re: automation. The first thing that comes to mind is trading. Or cue cards a la http://archive.wired.com/medtech/health/magazine/16-05/ff_wo....


Just software development in general. I started programming to get my math homework done faster.


Sure, but if people were moving up on aggregate, we would see the middle class growing as children of the poor made their way up. Instead, we see the middle class shrinking, the poor growing, and the wealth collecting to a smaller proportion of the population as families are being pushed down due to the recession.


Be careful with the word "aggregate", it obscures a lot of the complexity of what's going on. In aggregate, for example, the average person will remain...average. That's not a useful conclusion when looking at absolute wealth (which nobody really cares about anyway - the working poor today have more information available to them than a corporate CEO did 20 years ago, yet it doesn't do much good for them), nor is it all that useful when predicting how to raise your social status (which a good number of people do care about).

What's really happening is that the class structure of society is being replaced entirely, similar to what happened during the industrial revolution. During the Renaissance, the class system consisted of landed aristocrats => merchants => guilds => working poor. The Industrial Revolution raised the productivity of certain industries so much that the owners of these machines displaced the previously wealthy class, leading to a class system of industrialist/financiers => unionized workers => non-union & service workers.

What's happening now is that "software is eating the world", and displacing the existing networks of production throughout the economy. That's leading to a class system of "those who own the data" (entrepreneurs & executives of large tech companies) => "those who work with the data" (software engineers, and likely hardware engineers & material scientists in the near future) => "everybody else". This transition has just begun, in the grand scheme of things; I'd estimate that we're at the equivalent of around 1900 on the Industrial Revolution timetable. The big losers likely won't be the middle class, who are probably the best positioned (in aggregate - see, it obscures a lot of relevant details) to move into the engineering class. The losers are likely to be the formerly wealthy, the descendants of the former owners & executives of old-line corporations. The landed aristocracy didn't make a great showing during the Industrial Revolution, and it's unlikely that the country-club set will make a great showing during the Information Revolution.

Pick where you want to be in the new world order, and work hard to get there. One thing capitalism definitely does reward is action. The old economic order has just been blown up, but few people realize it yet; that makes it the best time to build the new one.


I like the thrust of your argument, but from my perspective in Singapore/Asia, that's not quite what I see.

Big corporates are aggressively moving to dominate technology niches, while still dominating their existing verticals.

* All the banks have strong deal/shopping apps

* Property developers are continuing to build ever larger malls while investing in Amazon-like marketplaces (see Matahari Mall)

* Every big corporate is investing in external startups or growing internal startups and innovation divisions

* Practically all the big startup successes in Singapore, Indonesia and China are owned, often quite directly, by well-connected families or the state

Everyone's aggressively responding to the tech upstarts and trying to control their own turf.

The US-educated scions of well-connected families are especially responsible for techologising their behemoth family businesses and launching modern apps. New local players will have difficulty competing with old money's new generation of leaders.

In other words, what I see here in Asia is the entrenchment of old money. The market is saturated with new entrants, but the leaders are those who are backed by old money, simply because of the firepower that those connections give them. I think this is fundamentally different from the situation in the Valley, where more disinterested VCs (rather than old money) back the new horses.

My assessment is from the gut rather than statistical, so I'd love to be given an alternative view.


> I like the thrust of your argument, but from my perspective in Singapore/Asia, that's not quite what I see...The US-educated scions of well-connected families are especially responsible for techologising their behemoth family businesses and launching modern apps.

This is exactly correct. The GP's post reminded me of The Coming Transformation, a report by VC firm Formation 8: http://formation8.com/resources/the-coming-transformation/

The report draws a similar comparison between the decline of the landed aristocracy during the Second Industrial Revolution and the coming decline of the industrial aristocracy due to "software eating the world."

However, Formation 8 is taking advantage of this opportunity: one of their partners is the scion of a Korean conglomerate, and he's no doubt leveraging his family ties to obtain buy-in from many other HNW families from all over Asia:

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-03-05/why-formati...

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-25/sun-yat-se...


>What's happening now is that "software is eating the world", and displacing the existing networks of production throughout the economy. That's leading to a class system of "those who own the data" (entrepreneurs & executives of large tech companies) => "those who work with the data" (software engineers, and likely hardware engineers & material scientists in the near future) => "everybody else".

Unexplained data: $3500/month one-bedroom apartments in San Francisco. If technologists are on top of the hierarchy, why can't they get society to give them easier access to better housing?

Counter-hypothesis: because the rentier-owners of land, natural resources, and financial assets are actually still the ones on top.


They do get society to give them easier access to better housing. That's what the rent is for. Being "on top of the hierarchy" doesn't mean that they can get access to everything for free; it means that they have enough money that they can spend it and write it off in exchange for the things they want.


I have not heard that tech salaries are nearly high enough to write off Bay Area rents as a negligible expense. Property-owners win again.


> Sure, but if people were moving up on aggregate, we would see the middle class growing as children of the poor made their way up.

Eh, what you really want to look at is a series of cohorts moving on up as people grow older: a lot of US population growth is from immigration (legal and otherwise) who tend to have less income (which is why they immigrate), and from children born to recent immigrants (who have substantially more children than rich people in this country).


Ok, do you have the statistics at hand? What do they tell us?


Look at employment figures by age group and labor participation rate. You'll find that older people are working longer because they can't afford to retire.

Also, Google "calculated risk blog" and read the last 2 months or so of posts. Pay careful attention to the posts about reduced GDP due to demographics, as well as new household formations lagging due to structural economic issues.

TLDR Ain't nobody moving up in any cohorts. 70% of people make less than they did 12 years ago.


That sounds like it would only apply if the relative population growth of each group was similar. The statistics say it's not, even with child-mortality rates, the poor outnumber the rich and that gap is increasing in number.


Peter Norvig's Economics Simulation is informative in this case. Without forced redistribution, most OECD nations will become 3rd world eventually. It's a mathematical certainty. Even with forced redistribution, the rich still get and stay rich.

http://nbviewer.ipython.org/url/norvig.com/ipython/Economics...


Am I missing something? It seems like all those transactions are merely exchanges, and no wealth has actually been created (i.e. new ipads, hepatitis treatments, Taylor Swift concert tickets, food grown, etc.).


Norvig uses the term level of wealth to describe what's being exchanged. I think that covers wealth being created (or destroyed, which, y'know, also happens, eh?)


>I was brought up to respect my elders and to consider society as a mostly-altruistic, benevolent mass of humanity with a conscience bent more towards justice and meritocracy

Interesting. Do you see this as more of a failure in your upbringing, or of a failure of society to live up to your expectations? Has this realization changed your political thinking in any ways?


I think young people should always respect their elders, even though they can and will be wrong at times. Doctors, engineers, politicians, teachers, parents - they're all fallible.

I don't think my upbringing was a failure - I think it's pretty normal to be extremely idealistic when you're raised in a middle class, educated bubble like I was. Most of my friends had great, successful parents and I think we all just assumed that if we followed the rules, got good grades, kept our noses clean, and went to college like our parents wanted us to, that we would be happy and successful just like them.

That was the magic formula for their generation. In fact, it allowed my mother to come to the US, get a good job at ROME Corp (later acquired by IBM in its heyday), and to pull her family out of poverty in Taiwan, where they had been so poor after her father's death that they had been forced to put 2 of her younger siblings into an orphanage. A college education allowed my dad to start his own law practice and to take out a mortgage in California, back when real estate was something people lived on, not invested in.

Now, this paradigm of education=prosperity has shifted dramatically, leading to disillusionment. My domestic friends all want to go into either tech or finance, and some (with degrees from good universities) can't find any jobs. Many of my very intelligent, driven international friends are being forced out of the US post-graduation because nobody wants to sponsor them, when in many cases they would be 10x better than a domestic candidate. The ones who stay are the lucky ones with connections at large companies that are willing to trade visas for favors and personal connections. But sometimes I wonder how lucky they really are to be staying in the US with the trajectory we are currently on.

Politically, the financial crisis and subsequent great recession has had a profound impact on me. When I studied economics in high school, I loved it because it presented such a clear path to efficiency and utility: free markets with no regulations, no distortions, no bullshit. Then 2008 came along, and I began to hear my parents argue about how they were going to afford to continue to pay for my high school, or send me to college. I didn't realize the magnitude of the event (the great recession) at the time, but became more aware of it as I started to look at the job market in college. My studies caused me to wonder why our system was set up in such a way that something so terrible could happen on such a large scale. How people were blinded or refused to see what was going on beneath the surface of the economy; how those who were supposed to protect us and our families from financial catastrophe failed miserably.

Politically, it made me realize that we need to have a strong government to regulate the greed of the free market, and that when that system of checks and balances fails, people lose their jobs and their homes. They get sick. They become homeless. They rely even more on an already-weak state. Some die.

My senior thesis was on the denationalization of currency (Friedrich Hayek's idea) through blockchain-based virtual currency, which would essentially end the government's control over the supply of money and put it into the hands of a regulated currency market. So that's where I ended up - tear down the current festering system, put better regulators into power, and let them steer the unparalleled engine of the free(ish) market. Not completely revolutionary, but definitely a bit weird and radical.


>I think it's pretty normal to be extremely idealistic when you're raised in a middle class, educated bubble like I was.

So if you have kids someday, would you hope to raise them to be "worldly" or to have lived in a protective bubble?


This touches me. I am 55, and I think this is a very astute observation. To me it seems the downfall of the 50+ generation was either caused or exacerbated by the financial crisis. On the other hand it seems that the top class wasn't really affected, on the contrary their wealth has grown substantially. That money must have come from somewhere. Politicians do not seem to offer real solutions, and the media seem to be obsessing over details instead of big picture issues. My generation may have given the greedy ones and sociopaths too much leeway.


And it is up to your generation to do a better job of it (no pun intended) so run for office!


I'm afraid I don't have the money to devote my life to politics and I'm much too idealistic to be a good politician.

In any event, I've come to the conclusion that the best way to influence the system is to have a lot of money to throw around. Then you can hire a guy to go make speeches for you and spread your message, you can buy scientists to publish research that supports your agenda, you can buy lawyers to silence dissent and block action, you can buy your way into meetings of the other elitely wealthy that really decide where investments flow, how the economy works, who wins and who loses.


And that, in a nutshell, is the problem.

We are the government, and if you choose not to help make it what you want, it gets made for you by people who don't appreciate your point of view.

Look no further than the "hell no" Republican tea-party caucus in the US Congress for a really visible example of people making the government the way they want it made while we sit on the sidelines.

You don't do it for the money, you do it because you believe the world can be better than it is. And if you do it right you can completely nullify the impact of people with a lot of money that try to force it to be different.

My grandfather told me that when the country was threatened by a Japanese invasion, the young men and women flocked to sign up to preserve their way of life. But when their way of life is threatened by their lack of participation in the governing of the country, they do nothing.

He was particularly disappointed with the youth of the 60's who would rather "drop out" than take their passion with them into public service and actually pull the US out of its sillyness in Vietnam.

Its a time horizon thing, one of the greatest strengths of Martin Luther King was that he could help people see that while it would take time, more than they wanted, they could achieve meaningful change. But if someone believes themselves to be helpless, they will live up to their own expectations of helplessness.


"We are the government"? Come on, we're not in high school social studies class here. The government of the country I live in answers to bankers and oil companies, with the democratic process providing little more than a glossy sheen of respectability.

There is no meaningful difference between a process I cannot influence and a process which could theoretically be influenced if I could put more time and money into it than I actually have. Either way, it is best regarded as an immutable aspect of the universe, damage to be routed around if possible and accepted if not. If the system were amenable to change it would already have changed.


Eh, i've personally affected local elections with both money and door knocking. But in that case, i'm one voice in thousands. At the national level, i'm one voice in 320 million.

You can change local stuff pretty easily. If you want to scale up to state level, you need to be state level worthy. The guy who owns 100 hotels controls tens of thousands of jobs, and his voice should carry more weight, about some issues at least, than mine alone. It's up to me to get a few thousand friends to counter his voice.

Yes. The feds are heavily influenced by oil and finance people. but every person's life is heavily influenced by oil and finance. Are they unethical? At some level, sure. Do they understand the national system better than anyone else? yeah. yeah they do.

There is no magical oracle we can consult for the right answer. we stumble along in the dark trying out different stuff. an 80% right solution is better than nothing. Given the size, the system is pretty nimble. If something sucks, we change it. Sometimes it takes a while for the million voices to come into harmony and say things like everybody deserves equal rights.

I get where you're coming from. You feel like you have no say and no influence. That's largely true. You're a nobody. but your influence is not zero. You can affect local stuff greatly today. You can join with others for larger scale political change. Realistically, it's a pain in the ass and you probably have better things to do with your free time like laundry or coding or whatever. But people do it. you can to, if that's what floats your boat.


Sure, local issues are a whole different matter - my comments above were about the national government. I could see getting involved in local land-use or transportation issues if there were an opportunity which didn't involve becoming a public figure or exerting an effort disproportional to the potential results. For the most part, however, politics seems like a really slow and wasteful way of accomplishing social change, and I'd rather spend my oh-so-painfully-limited hours on projects offering a better rate of return.


So here is the question for you, if you were an elected representative of your country would you give your vote or influence to bankers and oil companies? If so, and you clearly seem to despise that, why would you do that?

   > There is no meaningful difference between a process I
   > cannot influence and a process which could
   > theoretically be influenced if I could put more
   > time and money into it than I actually have.
The problem with that position is 'I', 'I', and 'I'. Is there no one else in your peer group that feels as you do? Maybe just one or two? Is there someone who is willing to be the person in office if you will help them get elected? Someone you can trust to behave in a way that you can respect and one which is free of external influence? Nobody took your ability to change the world away from you, you gave it away! Now take it back, if only in a very small arena. See if you and your friends can get one of you elected to a seat on the city council (or what ever the city's governing body is.) Have you ever tried? If not, why not? Sure being a city council person isn't going to change the world over night but it will show people what you are made of and it will show others what you stand for, if you aren't alone in that (and I don't think you are) they will come to your aide. You can inspire them to do that. All it needs is a willingness to day "I'm tired of the way this is run, I'm going to see if we can change it."

That is what I love about the Tea Party (not their politics but that they decided to do something about what they felt). In just under 10 years they have become a strong voice in national politics. Many of their members were brought into office by people just like you, passionate about what is wrong (in their opinion) with the way things are done.

Tell all your friends you are running for city council. I dare you. Tell them what you stand for and why you should be a city council member instead of the people who are currently elected. Listen to what they want in their city and try to visualize a better world. If not you, who?


I will never be in that position, because I will never have millions to spend running for office. I would have to sell out first, just to get the money to become an elected representative, and then what moral grounds would I have for turning my patrons away?

It doesn't really matter what I or anyone in my peer group thinks; as long as the war on drugs continues, none of us will ever run for office or have any visible role in politics. But it doesn't matter, because the tech industry offers most of us substantially more significant opportunities to change the world around us than anything we could accomplish if we wasted 10x as much time on the political process.

You're right that local politics is different; it is still mostly sort of democratic and amenable to change on the scale individuals and reasonably-sized groups can hope to achieve. But the scale of accomplishment available is correspondingly trivial, and the timescale is just as slow.

I don't see that the tea party accomplished much as a grassroots movement. It looked to me like the established political power structure successfully co-opted the grassroots tea party during the year after it emerged and has been continuing business as usual ever since, using the "tea party" brand to give their existing agenda populist legitimacy.

I am very much visualizing a better world and doing what I can to help create it; I'm just not wasting my time trying to accomplish that through some sclerotic, glacial, anti-transparent political process. I'm just working to create the organizations I want to participate in directly, helping build mutual aid networks, and supporting community values around resource-sharing and skill-sharing. Hackerspaces and co-housing and open source software, these are the kinds of projects where my efforts can actually accomplish something to help make the world a better place.


> That is what I love about the Tea Party (not their politics but that they decided to do something about what they felt). In just under 10 years they have become a strong voice in national politics. Many of their members were brought into office by people just like you, passionate about what is wrong (in their opinion) with the way things are done.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brendan-demelle/study-confirms...

> A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/02/25/1189761/-Big-Tobacc...

> That a tea party themed PR campaign was proposed by Burson Marsteller back in 1992 is somewhat interesting, but certainly not surprising. And it in no way proves an operative connection between anyone.

> The other big find of the study is that the PR group Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which back then, did work for big tobacco, split off and became Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, which is now behind the Tea Party. But the fact is, CSE wasn't just funded by big tobacco. Like all these groups, they were funded by a whole host of big, right wing corporations. Here's just a partial list of CSE's corporate clients/supporters:

> The Tea Party idea may have been the brainchild of right wing corporate PR groups. But it was only possible with the help of the corporate television media. And not just Fox. Whoever pulled the trigger on Operation Tea Party has powerful friends. If Occupy Wall Street had had such friends, we'd probably be living in a different country by now.

One argues it was the brainchild of a PR group, the other argues the first group is wrong but powered by Right Wing Media.

Either way, the Tea Party but was astroturfed into existence by rich people.

"I" do not have access to billionaires who back my interests.

The problem is not getting elected but rather how the elections are structured. Pretending otherwise is simply perpetuating the system.


In my opinion, you are conflating cause and effect, but per an earlier comment I made it is incorrect for anyone to believe that their passions are not shared by others. And when those others have more money than time, that is how they "help."

If you run for office in the US, you will form an organizing committee. And you will put in your organizing documents the things you believe should be true about the world that aren't (this would be your platform) and because that is a public document, it will be published by the State or Federal elections commission with all the other platforms out there.

And you will be surprised, perhaps pleasantly so, perhaps unpleasantly, that your "agenda" or platform may line up with what some billionaire thinks is the right thing as well, or maybe they just want to use you to steal votes from another player in the race (this is politics after all) and you will get donations to your committee from weird sounding names like "Higgly Piggly Partners, LLP" which are people who generally want to remain anonymous and want to help you get elected. Some of those people might be billionaires. You probably won't know but it is always good to ask what they hope to achieve by getting you elected.

And there were a number of people who ran as Republicans in California found that the Koch brothers donated money to help their elections. Did it make them tools of the Koch brothers? Maybe some of them but certainly not all of them. And if some billionaire donated to your election campaign would you suddenly do anything they said?

Look no further than the county clerk in Kentucky to see that once you're elected you are really really hard to fire, even if you don't do your job. There is nothing that says you have to do the bidding of your donors, the worst that will happen is they won't support your re-election efforts.

Politics is people. Its people collectively trying to achieve a goal, some for themselves, some for the group. Whether you are in a company or a government or on an island competing for a million dollars, politics is the process by which negotiation, decisions, and change is effected. It is perfectly legit to say that you don't understand how it works, but it is incorrect to say that you cannot participate. And sometimes participation can lead to understanding which can lead to great things. But you won't know unless you try.


I've tried, all right; that's what led to the understanding that it is a waste of my time. Months of work on a marriage-equality activist group built up a lot of public support, and then the whole thing got co-opted by the existing political establishment. All the energy disappeared, the work was wasted, we were nowhere closer to achieving our goals. The wheels continued to turn, but very, very slowly. It was eight more years before marriage equality finally happened. I'm really glad I didn't waste all that time working on activism.


> In my opinion, you are conflating cause and effect, but per an earlier comment I made it is incorrect for anyone to believe that their passions are not shared by others. And when those others have more money than time, that is how they "help."

If its okay with you, I'll go with the people with doctorates in the field over your opinion on the internet.

Out of curiosity, how many academic papers would it take saying you are wrong before you'd believe me?

> If you run for office in the US, you will form an organizing committee. And you will put in your organizing documents the things you believe should be true about the world that aren't (this would be your platform) and because that is a public document, it will be published by the State or Federal elections commission with all the other platforms out there.

You seem to be operating under the delusion that I don't understand how it works. I do. That is the problem.

> And you will be surprised, perhaps pleasantly so, perhaps unpleasantly, that your "agenda" or platform may line up with what some billionaire thinks is the right thing as well, or maybe they just want to use you to steal votes from another player in the race (this is politics after all) and you will get donations to your committee from weird sounding names like "Higgly Piggly Partners, LLP" which are people who generally want to remain anonymous and want to help you get elected. Some of those people might be billionaires. You probably won't know but it is always good to ask what they hope to achieve by getting you elected.

No, I won't be surprised.

There was a good guy I know that tried this sort of thing, no billionaire would back him. In the end, people like me and his millionaire brother did. It amounted to nothing because enough "other people" funneled money into the election to "anonymously" send out mailers that implied his brother was a "Chinese citizen" and his campaign was funded by money from China.

Similarly, a councilman with platform similar to what I'd like failed to get elected.

How you ask?

Well, first they slanted the system to prevent the guy from getting elected. There was a court case that found the voting method violated the population's civil rights. They then found a guy with the same name and a different middle initial to split the vote. He's been used as a proxy in such votes before. He'd have won except for the 4% of people who voted for the wrong guy. [ Remember, the proxy doesn't actually do anything other than get his name on the ballot. So his contributions are basically payment for services rendered. ]

I could go on about all the other things money has bought that I've seen first hand if you like. Shall I?

> Politics is people. Its people collectively trying to achieve a goal, some for themselves, some for the group. Whether you are in a company or a government or on an island competing for a million dollars, politics is the process by which negotiation, decisions, and change is effected. It is perfectly legit to say that you don't understand how it works, but it is incorrect to say that you cannot participate. And sometimes participation can lead to understanding which can lead to great things. But you won't know unless you try.

No, Politics is money and the ability to buy people to do your dirty work for you.

No one is going to give me $3+ million to lie to people to win a single congressional seat. However, they are perfectly happy to do that for people who hold the sort of views. How much do you think the opposition raised? Less than a million.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/04/04/th...

But hey, money doesn't matter. The ability to hand a man a large chunk of money to run as a candidate whose sole job is to put his name on the ballot to confuse people [he didn't actually use any of his campaign funds to campaign, fyi].

But hey, prove me wrong. Go right ahead. Go find some nice district where there are some large incumbent players and run for city council against their interests. See how far that gets you. [ Hint: They'll hire a guy with a single character difference in the name, fund half a dozen candidates with larger treasuries than you. ]

Hell, I'll even tell you what happened to the last guy so you know what to expect.


I am really glad you invested some time and effort into making things better, and I'm sorry it didn't work out the way you wanted it too. But it sounds a bit like you're sort of "one and done" here on trying things, is that the case?

It isn't easy, and it takes a while to learn all the tricks that you have to be aware of, but anything worth doing is like that right? I hope you won't give up trying, learned helplessness is a terrible terrible place to be.


> But it sounds a bit like you're sort of "one and done" here on trying things, is that the case?

I listed two instances and offered to go on.

I don't see a value in posting my life story on HN given I prefer to be mostly just left alone.

> It isn't easy, and it takes a while to learn all the tricks that you have to be aware of, but anything worth doing is like that right?

The problem isn't "tricks", the problem is anyone who actually stands up to anyone worth standing up to doesn't have enough money.

The only real route to "success" I have is to make $5-10 million and being willing to spend half on being elected. No one is willing to spend that money on the congressional level.


> You don't do it for the money

That doesn't put food on the table or keep the lights on. Going into politics is very very high on the maslov hierarchy.

But I'm sure my landlord will nod approvingly when I say "Oh, I'm not going to pay rent this month, I'm in politics you see. Changing the world. Don't got time for rent."


Also, the idealists who go into politics aren't necessary good for you and me. They tend to have one-track minds, focused on a small number of issues (sometimes just one).


Yes: WAR ON TERRORISM !!!!


Please spare us your platitudes. Money is speech in America, as long as that is true "we" are not the government.


> We are the government, and if you choose not to help make it what you want, it gets made for you by people who don't appreciate your point of view.

http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FPPS%2FPPS...

> Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.


"We are the government"

That's a mythology we are told to pacify us. It has no factual connection to reality.

You're arguing the authority of traditional religious doctrine to people who've already left the faith, that strategy will not work. Try another strategy. Or consider you could be wrong, and join us.


I am old enough to have watched Anna Eshoo go from a rinky-dink Santa Clara county supervisor (with only a 2 year associates degree in English) to a Congressional Representative. Her path was pretty straight forward, she was interested in politics, she cared, she hung out with the Democratic committee groups and then got her ticket punched for the big leagues in 1988. (I voted against her).

Trust me, if she can make it all the way to Congress on passion alone, anyone can.

   > That's a mythology we are told to pacify us. 
   > It has no factual connection to reality.
Sadly it is what people would like you to believe because it keeps people who care out of the way, but it is factually untrue. At any given instant in time you are not the government, but over the span of time you absolutely are. Civil rights, the Suffrage movement, Gay Marraige, Health Care reform, these are all things that are driven by people through instititutions that are designed to give them the power to affect change over time.

There is a folk story, I think it is originally Chinese about a worker told to move a large boulder out of the road. He says "Can't you see, no man could move that rock it is too large!" and another man steps up and says "I'll move it." The second man picks up a rock hammer and walks to the boulder and taps it until a piece breaks off in his hand. He carries that to the side of the road and then goes back to the boulder. The next day the rock is gone.

The moral of course it that what you clearly cannot do in an instant, you can often do over time. That is the power you wield. And it might take you 5 years of hanging out with the local party bigwigs, then another few years of local public service, before you make it up to the big leagues, but if you care you can do that. We take high school students and train them to be Neurosurgeons in 15 years, but nobody expects that they can say "Hey I want to be a neurosurgeon!" and instantly become one, why is it so surprising that you can't just decide you want to be president or governor without any training at all?


Start local. You absolutely can get into office if you've got some good ideas and you get people around you interested in what you have to say. Get in at the smallest local unit of government you can, whether it's the town council or water board or whatever.

You'll discover how much relationship-building goes on, and how that leads to bigger and better opportunities to make a change in the world.

Guess what, it isn't easy, but it's absolutely doable. (Not for those who call it all a myth, of course.)


I don't mean to offend, but this seems quite banal (maybe it's just how insincere it sounds in face of what most people have to go through on a daily basis to tread water).

It's as if the only way of bringing effective change (for some definition of such) along any social economic dimension (read: ways resource allocation) dimension is running for office. Its laughable to think, pandering to the status quo will improve the situation.

Sure, what we have now may be what is currently running on the OS of collective human behaviors with a high resource load, but it doesn't really stand in the way of people trying to think/experiment and bootstrap other methods grounded in the realities most people have face everyday, as compared to a more fortunate few.

As things get worse for some of us, it can also the best motivation for one to pursue other ways of being.

Well then again, maybe if the US Treasury sells a couple trillion T-backs to the Federal reserve and a couple more rounds of QE will solve all the problems the world faces, again!


Excuse me, one slight objection: the American political system is not a natural result of "the OS of collective human behaviors". It was designed to be exactly as bad as it is, and damn any human nature to the contrary.


Well, OS's are usually designed, at least everyone that I have encountered… and US system is no less designed than any others in so far as they are quite suboptimal at resource allocation, but better than say 10k years ago.


> So ultimately, I find that many in the older generation are simply trying to make ends meet in an environment of scarcity that is new for the US, with the youth subsequently becoming disillusioned because the system seems to be set up against them.

Hey, welcome to the adult world! Do you think, if you asked the older generation to describe one another in confidence that they might say the same?


This is why young people need to vote.


?

Voting for the corrupt does nothing but legitimizes the process. Only money matters.

Come up with a real solution because voting isn't it and I'm sick of hearing the same faulty advice.


At a minimum, vote AGAINST the corrupt. If that means your vote gets wasted, so be it - if you're worried about legitimizing it, instead legitimize your opposition. If there becomes a sizable (and measured!) block of disaffected votes that politicians can try to grab, maybe they'll just do that.

Not voting just legitimizes the view that you complain but don't act.

(And if you're sick of your options being so bad, start trying to get different voting methods in place locally in the interest of getting them in place on a larger scale. First Past the Post is a terrible voting system)


Preferential voting, or "how to vote for your real choices and not throw away your vote"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schulze_method#Comparison_tabl...


This is a good example of a common sense reform that strengthens every ideal that we are supposed to hold dear in this country, but that threatens the establishment powers therefore stands zero chance of happening.


..uh well with a defeatist attitude you've just validated a self fulfilling prophecy without even trying.


Do you know why money matters in politics? Because it buys votes. Politicians are willing to sell their opinions for money because it is expensive to run a campaign convincing people who are otherwise apathetic to vote for you. And that is were most political campaigns are won because most people who aren't apathetic about an election have already made up their mind before the campaigns' marketing efforts even start up.

It all comes back to votes.


Yeah, and if you don't vote you get what the money wants without a fight. If you work to create things like Uber, to solve a first-world problem such as "mediocre taxis" you should be able to work towards a communication system that can combat traditional marketing and its effect on voting patterns. Otherwise, you're just admitting it's "hard" and you don't want to work on "hard" problems...


>> work towards a communication system that can combat traditional marketing and its effect on voting patterns

We already did something like that. Obama got elected due to some internet based marketing innovations. Guess what happened next ? both parties copied those methods(AFAIK), and now we're at the same point, where resources matter.


Yup. A few lines of code and an app can totally bypass decades of psychological research regarding marketing.


Worked for open-source software. In a relatively short time (10 years +/-?), the traditional capitalistic model which worked for centuries seems to have been supplanted to at least some degree. I was thinking of several things: 1) Modern technology to provide direct communication, 2) Sheer numbers of people in each age cohort and 3) The desire to effect change.

Social media can slaughter a movie in a day or two. I would think it would have a useful effect on its users, assuming they were willing to make the effort.


Open Source was the capitalist response to Free Software, capturing the cost reduction of shared and unpaid voluntary work and reselling it as closed systems. If anything, it underlines the point that any change will be subverted and used against its originators.


For one of two paries that are essentially the same? Obama made a lot of big prommises before getting into power. He hasn't followed through on many of them at all.


A common reaction, but I find it inadequate.

You might find both major parties to be not good enough, but that in no way implies their policies are the same. Policies MATTER. Disappointed that Obama didn't do as much as he promised? So am I. Bothered by his reactions to things like Snowden? Ditto. But don't mistake those issues as being exactly what the other party would have done. [And for those that hold more conservative views, while recent Republicans haven't done much for actual limiting government and reducing spending, make no mistake that their policies would be notably different than Obama's or a fully Democratic Congress].

Policies matter, and policy differences matter. Don't mistake unhappiness as making the alternatives indistinguishable - all that does is reduce accountability and exacerbate the problem. (And this is true for liberals, conservatives, and those that don't hold such binary opinions alike)

We're definitely drifting off-topic, but I feel this is relevant to issues like the linked article in the HN space:

http://www.vox.com/2015/8/27/9214015/tech-nerds-politics


Well good luck to you.

I think differences in policies are irrelevant given the current setup. If Obama's two terms have proven anything, it's how ineffective the system is. You don't see leader's, in any other field stand at the podium and sigh, groan and just look as frustrated/helpless as he does.

And telling people to vote for this kind of ineffectiveness (14 years now in the middle east, just to pick one issue) is like telling Snowden to keep his mouth shut and soldier on.

The political class feel like the medallion based taxicab union just waiting to be subverted.


I didn't say vote FOR the madness, I said vote against it. Even if that's voting for third party candidates. A vote is a metric. Non-voting gives them no reason to care about your opinion, while a vote (even for no one) means you act. [And once you consider policies, I think it's better to vote for a less-bad option that can win, but if you disagree, by all means vote 3rd party]

And I'm comparing voting in this case to not voting and just bitching, or taking up arms and revolting. Neither seems like a better option. If you have a third option that you feel is better, please share.

A question I like to pose: If the US system is truly unsustainable (American-style democracies are rare and have all failed save one...so far), AND you don't really believe that there will be some sort of country-wide rebellion, then what is a future you can believe in, and what do you think gets us there?

So far the answers I've gotten are:

* Country fractures * Dissolve the Senate * Adopt a Parliament system * Greater empowerment of Prez.

Mostly done not per the constitutional means, but just done, and everyone agrees to let it stand, kind of like the creation of West Virginia.

Though mostly, I get blank looks. It's not an easy problem.


> A question I like to pose: If the US system is truly unsustainable (American-style democracies are rare and have all failed save one...so far)

What possible concrete definition of "American-style democracies" is there for which this is both true and meaningful (e.g., its trivially true but clearly not meaningful if the definition is so narrow that the US is the only "American-style" democracy that has ever existed.)


(NB: All of this is my understanding, and could be completely in my head. Grains of salt recommended)

An american-style democracy (also: presidential democracy) involves the following:

* Separate executive and legislative branches

* A checks-and-balances system

I believe Chile had such a system, but collapsed because they didn't have an amendment system. Whenever the US helps set up a democracy (which we've done in both heavy-handed [Japan, Germany] and more advisory means [assorted African countries, etc]), we DON'T suggest our system, but instead a parliamentary one.

The number one issue (IMNSHO) with our system is that both the president and the legislature have equal validity, so if they have a dispute, how do we decide who legitimately represents the interests of the electorate? An example of that sort of roadblock caused The Dismissal in Australia, but we have it much worse.

As I understand the various parliamentary systems, in general, the legislature is voted in, forms a majority by agreement, appoints a Prime Minister, and seats the various Secretaries (or whatever titles). Laws are written (by and large) by the bureaucracies, not the legislators. Should the Prime Minister lose the ability to get results passed, a new election is called for. [Anyone that can correct me here, please do - it's been very hard to find what happens inside the "majority forms a government" phase]

Compared to American-style democracy, a parliamentary system has fewer roadblocks, and more empowerment to the govt agencies to suggest their own rules (subject to the requests made by legislators.


Voting for the lesser evil at the end of the day is non representative. It devalues the vote. It sends a wrong signal to establishment and to candidates.

The undecided voter is constantly bombarded with this "get out the vote or the republic will fall" fear-mongering line to push elections one way or another. At the end of the day it's a form of gaming the system.


FWIW, I used to feel the same. I voted my conscience, even when that meant voting third party or not-on-the-ballot write-ins.

Then we had Bush v Gore, when I had voted Nader. I got to see (In my opinion) a lot of bad decisions, and a lot of Constitutional violations. I felt responsible. (Was it my vote that made the difference? No. That doesn't make me feel better, because it was the concept that I backed that let this happen).

So now I vote for someone I can accept. I still value anyone that votes their conscience, as as I've argued above voting at all, even a "wasted" vote, is more meaningful than not voting. But I myself feel responsible for too much to do it when the stakes are high.

I'm not addressing not voting when you don't understand/know the issues - that's a separate discussion.


Well, Obama is only the President. Congress alone has the power to write laws and pass them. The current congress we have is not particularly interested in governing.


In Australia everyone has to vote. I think this is as it should be - voting isn't just a right, it is a duty. But of course the entire system is flawed because it seems to make no difference who you vote for. Team A and Team B play exactly the same game.


But the important thing for a given demographic is for that demographic to get enough members to vote. Because if politicians see that a good chunk of their base is 18-25 year olds, guess what their policy is going to be directed towards? After all, there is a good reason that it is political suicide to touch social security -- quite a few seniors vote.


Then it's your job to make one of those parties not the same.

Howard Dean's time as DNC chair showed you the blueprint for doing this. It was working. That's why they kicked him out.


> to consider society as a mostly-altruistic, benevolent mass of humanity

There is no mass of humanity in that way, just like "HN believes..." or "Reddit thinks..." is mostly impossible to say. Some folks of that generation did/do act in mostly-altruistic, benevolent ways, and some of them did/do not. The generational argument is a very clever red herring that shifts blame from a broken system to the previous generation -- print this comment out and put it somewhere safe; your future children will be blaming your generation, too.

> "how the hell did these people end up working minimum wage, 11pm shifts at the grocery store at age 58?"

Lots of times, sheer boredom. Folks like us might do freelance coding or something in our old age, but there's not a good market for freelance people managers (which a great deal of those 58-year-old bag boys probably were -- why not ask them next time?) Also, big grocery stores are typically union so it's not actually a terrible career for the kind of work it is. Your generation has a different idea of what a "good job" is, so that's probably informing a bit of your reaction too.

> I find that many in the older generation are simply trying to make ends meet in an environment of scarcity

Most people are simply trying to make ends meet. Some saved more, some saved less, some earned more, some earned less, but in the US if you worked and paid taxes, you'll get the bare minimum (social security + medicare) and won't ever starve or go cold. If your desire for retirement is more than "won't starve", start saving today and always live below your means.

> with the youth subsequently becoming disillusioned because the system seems to be set up against them.

Every generation back to the ancient Greeks felt that way. There's basically always been a counterculture movement based on youthful disillusionment, some more successful (hippies of the 60s) and some less (#occupywallst). But it's not anything new. This should tell you something important: the system is the problem, and the system is adverse to change. A lot of those hippies turned into middle managers.

> But you would think "they" (the nameless, faceless, despised rich) would find it in their interests to give back to society

They absolutely do. The top 1% of earners pay 50% of federal taxes. Those social programs I mentioned above that will keep you eating, clothed and warm even if you don't have a penny to your name? Thank the taxpayers, of whom top earners comprise disproportionately. Almost all charitable foundations are made possible by the rich. Did you take any grants, subsidized loans or scholarships? If so, thank taxpayers (mostly top earners) and private donators (again, mostly top earners).

What's weird is that you understand the effect ("greed, sloth, misplaced violence, weak guidance, and weaker morals") but totally misunderstand the cause. Yours is the first generation of "everyone's special" come to adulthood. Instead of looking at the rich person and saying "wow, I want that, how can I get that for myself?" (and then doing it or at least trying), they'll say "wow, I want that, he has it, f* that guy". It's worse than greed, it's covetousness - wanting something so much you'd take it from someone else. That will be America's undoing.


It was just my opinion, I was not attempting to speak for anyone but myself, much less my generation. My upbringing was extremely different from that of millions of others in this country, and I have no right to put words in their mouths.

I'm not sure if Medicare/Social Security will exist when I'm 65.

I work for a living. I don't say "hey fuck that guy" because he's rich, I say "hey fuck that guy" because he's a greedy sociopath who is fucking up the fabric of our society, a society that I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of for the past 22 years and that I would love to raise my kids in one day.

I don't have anything against Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Michael Dell or people of their ilk - they're geniuses who excelled in bringing a fantastic product to market, and they were rewarded for that. I would love to emulate their success.

But the top investment bankers who were intentionally obfuscating the market through complex securitization and interest-rate manipulation? The CEOs of Moody's and Standard & Poor's who were intentionally misleading investors and prioritizing profits over quality and integrity? The people whose job it was to regulate these markets, stop oblivious consumers from taking on a $500k mortgage on $50k yearly income? The oblivious consumers and investors themselves? The government who set a precedent of propping up failed bets with taxpayer money? The ones who were not adequately punished for the pain and suffering they caused? Yeah, fuck all those guys.


> It was just my opinion [... ]I have no right to put words in their mouths.

That's fine. But let's not pretend yours is a unique or unusual opinion.

> But the top investment bankers who were intentionally [...]

So here's another good example of the red herring that's been skillfully thrown your way. They could only do what they did because the system let them. Then they got slapped on the wrist a little (if at all) because the system doesn't punish itself.

And let's not forget: most of the people complicit in all that stuff were regular folks humping a boring job trying to make enough money to not go broke. By headcount, guaranteed those sub-$40k-a-year regular folks outnumber the terrible fatcats 10,000-to-1. They're responsible, too, but you don't see people demonstrating in front of their local mortgage broker's house. So when you (the global "you") talk about IBs ruining America and so forth, it rings pretty hollow to me because the system that let them do it in the first place is what you should blame. As long as you're distracted from that fact, you are no threat which is why knowing how to think is so important (colleges will try to trick you into believing that's what they're teaching, but they're not. Your first exercise is to figure out why they're not).

Tangent: my favorite example of this method of distraction is Obamacare. All this discussion about how to make it so everyone could afford an asprin at the hospital, and when it was all over nobody had bothered to ask why an asprin at the hospital should cost $15 in the first place. Why not? Because that's not a conversation the system wants you to have. $15 asprins build hospital wings and buy fancy new machines and pay administrators 8 figure salaries. We do not talk about the asprin.

Anyway, my point is that calling out the rich or the 1% or whatever is stupid, because they give back way more than their fair share (by the numbers). When someone/something says you need to direct your hate over that way, your first reaction should be to look and see what's the other way. The system that let banks go too far is the same system that's burying young people in student loan debt. Except this time you can't walk away! You and I both know this, but now we'll tab over to our editors and keep coding and making money and paying bills and moving on with our lives. This is why the system is the system, and we are not.


> "The people whose job it was to regulate these markets, stop oblivious consumers from taking on a $500k mortgage on $50k yearly income? The oblivious consumers and investors themselves? The government who set a precedent of propping up failed bets with taxpayer money?"

I explicitly called out the regulators and the irresponsible consumers in my comment. Come on man, at least read what I have to say if you're going to form such a long and complex argument against it.


> The top 1% of earners pay 50% of federal taxes.

I think you mean "federal income tax" (and even then, have the number too high.) Which isn't the same thing as "federal taxes", or even federal taxes on income (since it excludes federal payroll taxes, which are the most significant federal taxes on income for a very large segment of the income-earning population.)


Yes, of course. My sibling comment clarifies.


I don't know how important is it for the overall argument. I may be just nitpicking, and your "go do something about it" message is great. But...

> The top 1% of earners pay 50% of federal taxes.

Don't they have 80% of the income in the US? If so, that's not doing their part.


A good question but no, they don't have 80% of the income. Let me flip the question though - should the bottom 40% of earners pay taxes proportionate to their share of income? Because they don't pay anything at all (federally). The point is fundamentally flawed.

> The top 1% of tax payers pay 38% of all income taxes yet only have a 20% share of total AGI. [0]

It would be easy to get into the weeds on this, so I'll drop this link and let you decide for yourself. There will always be questions like, is AGI a good measure of income %? (I say yes, because AGI-reducing writeoffs phase out very early).

There's a lot of "well it depends on how you define.." even within my own argument as you can see (do they pay 50% or 38%?) but my point should be clear enough. I hope :)

[0] http://www.financialsamurai.com/how-much-money-do-the-top-in...


>in the US if you worked and paid taxes, you'll get the bare minimum (social security + medicare) and won't ever starve or go cold.

So, how does that apply to our massive homeless populations?


"who don't have the time to retrain"

The reason why we hear and repeat that old people need to retrain, is because employers don't want to hire older people and knowing that very few can afford the time and money to retrain, and that it's politically permissible to discriminate based on "retraining" then you're going to hear a lot about how its really important to retrain and old people need to work harder and its all the victims fault if they won't retrain and much hand wringing about those darn victims bringing it on themselves. If we had a magical (online?) way to retrain old people, the mantra would insta-shift to some other made up reason why old people can't be hired and no one would talk about training anymore.

It the same thing with women or minorities who aren't cultural fits. Its not that there are no star wars fans in those demographics or that it truly matters, its just a way to say in polite company that blacks need not apply because of racism. Just go ahead, "change your culture" and we'll hire you. Oh you say that's impossible, oh so sad I guess we'll hire the white boy instead. What a shame we really wanted to hit our diversity quota, but, (shrugs shoulders) well you know how important culture is. I mean look at how important culture is at every other employer who coincidentally also doesn't hire black people. Oh it doesn't matter in the greater economy? We'll we're special snowflakes in this industry, you see, and you outsiders just don't understand, we really, really don't like women programmers or black programmers.


In some hand wavy statistical sense, those old people you see bagging groceries probably would have been dead 50 years ago. If that is true (I don't know if it is, I'm speculating), they aren't evidence of scarcity.

It's hard to measure quality of life, but if you look at things like housing, people in the US have more households now, with the average dwelling having increased in size (I'm sure McMansions pull up the average, but again, oversized houses aren't evidence of scarcity).


"In some hand wavy statistical sense, those old people you see bagging groceries probably would have been dead 50 years ago."

No, some proportion of them would have been dead between 0 and 3 years old (which is what brings down the life expectancy numbers dramatically) but 100 years ago those 50 year olds would still be living to 60, just like they do now.


Life expectancy at middle ages has expanded quite a bit:

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005140.html

A 20 year old can expect to live well into their 70s rather than just reaching 60 (so an expectancy of ~55 years compared to 40 years).

But sure, the gains are mostly from early survival rates.


Fifty, and sixty year old's are not that old. I thought 50 was ancient in my twenties, but it comes quick. As to actuarial tables, we have not made that much progress in 50 years. I believe we added seven years to life expectancy, but that sounds high?

I do see guys my age in menial jobs, and I believe it's the economy. Companies just fired people. They fired them for various reasons, but technology made it possible. It's result of decling availability of good unions, or any unions--hence no real retirement. A changing workplace. Less jobs.

If anyone should be worried about their economic viability, I believe, young tech workers are high on the list. No unions. Training/work that can be farmed out. Training that can be learned over the Internet--well. I don't want to be an alarmist, but I know too many former Programmers. Too many unemployed/close to homeless Programmers from the 80's and 90's?

I see a trend towards doing well with less employees, and no one cares as long as they get what they want. What's App has a handful of employees? Twitter will never have the amount of employees they had a week ago, even if they do really take off. We are making programming/Web developement easier daily. I'm happy with DRY. I like Bootstrap. What will it be like in another ten years?

I don't have an answer, but I don't forsee a bunch of 50-60 year old employees bagging groceries. I just see the more Homeless. I believe it will get so bad, the rich won't be able to fully enjoy their wealth, unless they beef up entitlement programs? After all, driving your sport's car past homeless can't be fun, and then you have to think about where you can park it? It's kind of like eating a fancy dinner, while the person across the table is starving? And let's not turn into Mexico, where if you have some wealth, you can't leave the house unless you have body guards.

Got off track, but the future does not look rosey. I do think we need to resind some of these treaties that make opening up shop overseas so easy, or at least raise tariffs? I know it's selfish, but the way we are moving is scary.


> There is no law stating that each generation of humans should have it easier and with more resources available to them

There is no law that requires this, but looking at world economic productivity numbers and our industrial & technology base there's no physical reason that people shouldn't have it easier with more resources every generation. If there is no physical reason, that leaves economic, social, & political causes...


I don't think anyone is arguing that there are natural laws of "it gets easier with each generation".

But you're right, the wealth distribution during the economic rebound from the last recession has shown that the problem is sociopolitical in nature. I feel like we're headed toward another organized labor reform sometime during the next decade, not unlike that from a century ago.


> looking at world economic productivity numbers and our industrial & technology base

If we're looking at this globally, I'd bet the overall resources and opportunities available to the average person is up from 50-100 years ago. The developed/1st world is feeling some pullback from the rush of globalization, but it's benefiting the rest of the world.


We do have it easier with more resources. I'm gen X, and I wouldn't trade my upbringing for the previous generation. And gen Y had it better than I. We have FAR more entertainment; more control over personal transport; better materials for everything from clothes to construction; better occupational health and safety; FAR better civil rights; better levels of healthcare; better public understanding of health; the jobs that are available are better (more office jobs, less factory work); better access to shopping times (24-hour retail is a recent thing); FAR better communications options and quality (we have the internet!); better transport for dissemination of products, including international; better travel options for international travellers... the list goes on and on and on. In the west, we don't even have significant wars anymore - after 10 years in Iraq, the US lost 4k people. 10 years! And people still complain that the toll is way too high.

We absolutely, posititively, utterly have it easier right now than at any previous generation. Yet we've become so entitled that if life isn't perfect, then someone must have had it better previously.


I'm gen X too, and graduated into the recession of the 90's and have been lucky to be employed in a high demand field. You mention the stuff that we can buy, and that's part of the modern abundance that I mention that I know our society can produce, but I don't agree with our economic quality of life as a society.

It seems to me that the overall opportunities available to Millennials even 5 years away from my age drop off substantially. The hours that are worked for people that have jobs have increased, and the off hours are encroached by availability of instant demand emails, texts, endless other notifications. Looking at overall stats, the millennial group is at lower employment than previous generations and I personally don't believe that they're less willing to work hard than previous generations.

I've worked for startups with founders (from a generation or two before me) that were able to start fairly deep businesses from their 9-5 job savings and pensions - and now new business starts have been on a decades decline. I was able to work my way through college and now college wages have little hope of paying for a degree. Err I'm not sure how you claim that civil rights have improved with the uncovering and continuation of wide-scale surveillance that wasn't physically possible in the past...

There's no hard scientific proof in economics, but it seems like our society is more capable than ever, but the benefits are distributed more narrowly, while general wages are flat to declining, the risks individualized with lesser margins in the income, those all feel like fundamental reverses in important life areas.


> I'm not sure how you claim that civil rights have improved with the uncovering and continuation of wide-scale surveillance that wasn't physically possible in the past...

Try being black, brown, red, yellow, or a woman.

> I personally don't believe that they're less willing to work hard than previous generations.

I can't argue with your personal beliefs, but my personal belief is that they are less willing. I see gen X as being less willing than the boomers, too. I'm not comparing snapshots-in-time - you can't compare 20-year-olds to 40-year-olds to 60-year-olds effectively. 20-year-old boomers were more willing to work hard than 20-year-old Xers, and in turn the Xers more than the Ys. The boomers worked less hard than the generation before them.

> There's no hard scientific proof in economics, but it seems like our society is more capable than ever, but the benefits are distributed more narrowly, while general wages are flat to declining, the risks individualized with lesser margins in the income, those all feel like fundamental reverses in important life areas.

See my earlier comment about perfection. Just because we're facing challenges at the moment does not mean that earlier generations had it easier. When I hear the usual "it's so much harder now" stuff, there's never anything like references to things like conscription. Or the stigma of daring to be pregnant in public. Or the much narrower selection of food available. Or the lesser resources available for dealing with domestic abuse. There's a lot more to life than unemployment rate.


It's simply true that, barring disaster, the next generation will have it easier with more resources for cheaper. This is because worker productivity continues to rise.

More is produced with fewer hours worked. It's beyond me why it's taken as a given that the result should be a decreasing share of the number of people employed at a constant rate and an increase in the number of people unemployed, rather than say a decline in the number of hours worked per worker. It would be much better to shift to a 35-hour work week and hope everyone would edit Wikipedia or put on free musical performances with the extra time (or 40-hour weeks in the developing world), than shift another eighth of the population into poverty.


IMO depends on the type of job. In lower skill jobs you do see exactly what you're describing (more workers fewer hours).

In knowledge industries it's probably much more efficient to have fewer numbers of high performing individuals that are leveraging experience and domain knowledge as a productivity multiplier.


>In knowledge industries it's probably much more efficient to have fewer numbers of high performing individuals that are leveraging experience and domain knowledge as a productivity multiplier.

Then you would think they could receive larger amounts of vacation time than three weeks per year. Or that they could collect such fat fees as contractors that they'd only have to work part of the year.


Hm, I think the shift to part-time workers in service and industrial jobs is mostly about evading labor regulation of full-time workers and further eroding the remuneration, economic stability, and bargaining position of lower-income workers.

I would hope instead for more leisure at similar pay =/


This is the same problem people faced at the turn of last century.

The solution at the time was a mix between unionizing labor and adding regulation, like anti-monopoly laws, from the public side, and basically "inventing" the service, tertiary, sector and modern consumerism from the private side.

The problem with this solution now is that there is no quaternary sector in sight to absorb the displaced from the automation of the tertiary sector. Some researchers are talking about an "experience" sector that would be inmune, at least for now, to automation, but the volume of the current job market doesn't seem to indicate that it could replace the "service" sector any time soon.

Also the current market solution seems to be sharing economy businesses, which doesn't seem to scale from a social standpoint.


> There is no law stating that each generation of humans should have it easier and with more resources available to them. My generation is facing this crisis, and the default response is to complain. Which is fine for a few minutes or days, it's good to vent. But at the end of the day, that won't change anything. It's time to get to work, even if "work" is 20-30% (random number) tougher than what our parents dealt with. Assigning blame doesn't solve anything.

If there is only jobs for 90% of the population, 10% is fucked no matter what you do.

That is the reality we are facing. It isn't "harder" to work. It has become impossible for the entire working population to be employed full time.

That is a world of difference.

If the solution was simply to work 48-52 hour weeks, as you imply, people would do that.


"Nearly eighty years ago, John Maynard Keynes did the math on economic growth and concluded that within a few generations—by the time his peers' great-grandchildren came of age in, say, the 2000's—the persistent economic problem of too-scarce resources and too-few goods would no longer bedevil a substantial portion of humanity. He was right—even in the midst of our current hard times, he is right." (2009) http://www.bradford-delong.com/2009/01/we-are-live-at-the-we...


>There is no law stating that each generation of humans should have it easier and with more resources available to them.

No, but it's an absolute shame and a complete failure that this is has not been the case during the past 30 years with the resources and technology available to us and with the total wealth (of course distributed unequally) growing up.

I'm not talking about Third World either -- things might have been better there, but then again they started from a pretty low bar.

I'm about the US, Western Europe, etc.


Uh yes, there is no law, but the statistical or perhaps just plain old truth is that in the future there will be more resources available, and the idea that fewer people can tell everybody what is done with those resources is disgusting if they are deciding to take away lives or even severely (obviously relative, but I think everyone can understand how difficult it would be to live like the poorest of the world) hinder the livelihood of whomever.


This is nonsense. There are, in absolute terms, more resources available, but our economic system enables and encourages the hording of those resources by fewer and fewer people who will, in all likelihood, never use them in their lifetimes.


The "fewer and fewer" part is empirically incorrect. The millionaire+ class is growing, not consolidating. The narrative is seductive but it is a lie.


A growing millionaire class is not mutually exclusive with consolidation of wealth, if growth of millionaire class is less than reduction in middle-income class.


My generation is facing this crisis, and the default response is to complain.

I'm curious how you would rate the current crisis to what people have dealt with in the past. Is now worse than the stagflation of the 1970's?


There may be no law stating that each generation of humans should have it easier and with more resources available to them. But it's been a working assumption for a long time, and there does not appear to be any good reason for it to stop now.

modulo the Great Depression and a handful of other such cases.


>It's time to get to work, even if "work" is 20-30% (random number) tougher than what our parents dealt with.

...sounds like:

"Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy" http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/09/why-generation-y-yuppies-are-u...


I don't know why everyone thinks that article is great. Its just a fairly crappy opinion pice to me with no real researc or evidence.


> There is no law stating that each generation of humans should have it easier and with more resources available to them.

This is pie-in-the-sky thinking, but maybe there should be a law. Corporations have a legal duty to shareholders to make money. Why shouldn't our government have a legal duty to society to increase our resources and make things easier for each generation?


That kind of attitude invites a government to try communism (the government runs a bunch of businesses) or militarism (turn all the unemployed into soldiers; as for resources, use those soldiers to take them by force from your neighbors).


I'm perfectly fine with socialism, with the government owning robotic manufacturing and software providing basic/government services.


Who knows, maybe communism might actually work today. Technology and automation might be the key.


To play devil's advocate here:

Why should governments be beholden to the smaller half of its population (at least in most developed countries), if it comes at the expense of the larger half (and the one that is actually most involved in government)?


That holds until the cross-over point where the unemployed half is larger than the employed one.

Note that most unemployment statistics define unemployment as a subset of the whole population that both has no job and is not actively seeking one. That last criteria is rarely as objective as the first one.

In Greece, unemployment is currently 25% or so. 48.6% for 18-25.

There were 3,644,000 employed individuals as of july 2015. For a total population close to 10.8m. Employed people are far from the "largest half."

For the US, from the same source (all number Sep 2015), the numbers are:

Unemployment: 5.1% (Youth: 11%) 148,800,000 employed individuals out of 319m population... So 160+m people are not seeking work either because they're kids, retired, unable to work, inmates or have given up.

Source: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/greece/unemployment-rate


There are massive costs to the employed portion of the population exacted by the unemployed. Social Security is an obvious item, but consider other side effects:

* Desperate people are more likely to mug / murder people ==> Medical cost, psych therapy cost, security cost, cost of being afraid of who's going to get you for the $20 in your pocket. * People in shitty conditions are more likely to become drug addicts, funding criminal activity and being a burden on things like EMS / hospitals. Maybe the next time you need an ambulance it will be busy with an OD case. Or maybe the ambulance will run you over as you attempt to cross the street? Or even just the sirens interrupting your sleep at night, removing a few $ of value from your life without your consent. * For those who grow up in the poorer portion, they're less likely to get properly nourished, resulting in stunded growth, future health problems and diminished IQ (eg no omega3s in childhood) * Same security issues but with your kids and their kids comingling in public schools.


Because you can't legislate facts.


> each generation of humans should have it easier and with more resources available to them.

That is clearly the trend, ups and downs aside. The current generation appears to feel they have it harder than the last few generations. Not even close.


I wouldn't say we have it "harder," because I don't believe that at all. The opportunities globalism and the Internet provide us are almost infinite. But the long-term view doesn't look too damn good from an employment perspective. There is a real mismatch of skill development and what is actually available on the market; and the labor demand is not nearly as stable as it used to be (career opportunities are changing every 5-10 years rather than 20-40). There is a lot more variance and randomness going forward by any reasonable projection, and while that doesn't actually change the underlying resource allocation, people don't do well with unpredictability.


I think more accurately its that, as the recent article on telematics shows - that the stable availability of work itself is being slowly eroded.

We can continue down that track for a while before you'll get a sufficient population of disaffection for something drastic to "suddenly" become a movement.


> people don't do well with unpredictability

Neither do long term views, things are moving so fast that long term views are pretty meaningless.


> The reality is that as time goes on, the world's needs can and will be met by fewer and fewer people.

This is true, but I don't think it accounts for most of the youth unemployment we have seen so far. The jobs did not go to robots in America, they went to workers in China.

To answer another common theme: we can complain about CEO pay, tax cuts, stagnant wages, etc., but the reason for the pure and simple lack of jobs is not any of those things, it's just that those jobs went elsewhere.

And of course that affects you even if you were not going to work in a factory, because now the guy who was going to do that is trying to get through college and get a white collar job, so he's competing with you.

In turn, that means that going to college is now the baseline. So, after getting more people to get into more debt to get more degrees, maybe you find that you still can't get a job.


I am surprised nobody has mentioned a word that has been a huge help in my career, "certification". Some certifications are stupid, but many HR folks will ignore your resume if it doesn't have the magic letters they are looking for. I highly recommend going the lower cost self study route. Also, some certs are really interesting, even fun, to prepare for.


Meh, I had a PMP for a while. I let it expire because nobody cared. Besides, once you have the certification they milk you by making you earn continuing education credits (which for the most part cost money to obtain).


Thinking more of technical or trade certs that are not a money making scheme like pmp


> This is true, but I don't think it accounts for most of the youth unemployment we have seen so far. The jobs did not go to robots in America, they went to workers in China.

I think that that is only temporary though. Once the wages in China rise enough, the jobs will be probably given to robots possibly in America.


Robots in China, quite likely. Foxconn is moving to robots as fast as they can and laying off people as they do so.


Well buying robots will probably cost the same in China and America. But for US market, if you manufacture things in the US, you will shorten your supply chain and save on logistics. But yeah, your guess is as good as mine.


Yes. China is already running our of its cheapest new labor recruits. And while people haven't been looking many of the biggest African economies have started to get going. The time when you cannot outsource for cheap labor anymore is approaching fast.


> The jobs did not go to robots in America, they went to workers in China.

They went to robots in China. There was a very good video documentary on this in (I think) The New York Times not long ago, but I haven't been able to find it. This is close, anyway, and provides context: http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robot...

> The city of Dongguan plans to finish 1,000 to 1,500 “Robot Replace Human” programs by 2016, which (if done on a similar scale to the example above) would vastly increase production and improve quality while putting nearly a million people out of work.


They went to robots in China.

One interesting thing to watch in the next few decades would be this - if more and more robots are going to be used, then countries like China will no longer have the advantage of cheap labor. A robot in the US is more or less going to cost the same as a robot in China, so there are not many reasons to send jobs elsewhere.


> A robot in the US is more or less going to cost the same as a robot in China

I have no data to back this up, but my intuition tells me that a robot made in the US (with American workers) will still cost more to make than the same robot made in China. As I say, just a hunch (I don't know how much proportion of robotic work is involved in building a robot, though I imagine more and more every day), so let's wait and see.


In that case, all the American companies have to do is make the robots in China but have the factories that use those robots in the U.S :p


This is not accurate. Even with the jobs being sent to China, they still require fewer workers due to the efficiency of automation. If you look at the global pool of jobs, the trend is the same: fewer workers producing more output.


The world's needs are not being met. Only the needs of the capitalist who wants to turn a profit. I can think of a million and one things we should be doing but won't because of money.


>"I can think of a million and one things we should be doing but won't because of money."

So can I, a staunch anarcho-capitalist that believes we should have no state at all. I pay taxes and I expect the poor, sick and hungry to be taken care of. No questions asked, no complaints about budget.

But let's be honest... It's not capitalism or capitalists that are letting the poor starve. Just because there are greedy people out there, doesn't mean the government get's a free-pass on not fulfilling the duties we entrusted to it.


Sure. I expect that too. In fact I would be delighted to pay more taxes if I knew they were being well spent. The state has failed us in many ways (especially by being easily bought by the highest bidder) but that doesn't mean I don't believe a state like institution should exist... possibly one that is focused more on vital services and less on repression and power. I always find it curious how people like you and me want the same thing but have such divergent concept of how to achieve it (I tend more towards anarchism... maybe techno-anarcho-syndicalist who be a fair label but I don't like to pigeon hole). I'm not saying this to start a political philosophy argument but I do wonder how you expect the poor, sick and hungry to be taken care of in an anarcho-capitalist society?


I agree that there are a million things we could do, but at the end of the day,somebody has to be interested enough to pay for them. That was always the harder issue.

But if you have ideas that fit that criteria, please share. We need such discussions.


The point of BI is that the government doesn't actually need to be involved in centrally planning all of the things that need doing— it's a huge amount of unnecessary bureaucracy when many of them are things people would love to do given freedom from having to immediately "earn a living".

So the government doesn't pay you to pick up trash in the ravine near your home. The government pays you because you are a citizen, and as a citizen of a wealthy nation, you deserve the basics of life. If you spend that life consuming fast food and internet porn, that's okay. But given the time and freedom to do so, some people will choose to clean up that ravine— they weren't directly paid, but having their living expenses covered made it possible.


Currently people who work volunteer more than people who don't work. Further more volunteers give only an average of 3 hours/week. That's not much, in the context of our discussion.


I dunno about the metric you are judging volunteering on here. Do the people who don't volunteer and don't work have enough money to get to the place where they will provide the volunteering service.

As context and a little thought experiment:

I have just switched careers and have had to cut back on expenses to a bare minimum while I was learning the skills required to get a job in my desired field. I had decided not to work and focus 100% on learning. During this time I barely left the house and if I did I would walk, sometimes up to 10km, because I didn't have the money for even the train (food and rent come first). On the flip side my mother was a housewife while my dad worked (very traditional I know!) but she would volunteer in 3 different places because she could afford to (time and money).


I'm curious if such trash would ever be picked up. While I can imagine people being more altruistic once their needs are met, humanity seems to be really near sighted when it comes to subtle-yet-broad problems like trash. "Out of sight, out of mind."


You can always make more jobs. Just tax people that have money and give the money away to other people in exchange for participating in elaborate paper pushing schemes. Bureaucracy has been providing jobs for people as the technology progressed.

For example... No jobs? That's great opportunity to hire some people to help unemployed look for a job plus some people to educate the unemployed plus some people that would decide if unemployed deserves some material aid... you can also hire some people to audit those people and hire some more to build software for those people and for the auditors and so on and so forth.

As long as you can tax, you can invent bullshit jobs to have an excuse to give that money away.


Sure, or you can tax people that have money and spend that to invest in infrastructure, education, health care, etc., which also creates jobs.


Yes. But that requires some thought, decisions, why this not that. People will hate you.

Bureaucracy grows organically and almost no one notices and people are happy because they have more jobs.


Yeah, there's always some holdovers commenting from the era of easy jobs and easy money.

Underemployment should be mentioned in any discussion of job difficulty; in the US, getting a job as a barista or fast food is possible, but a horrendous waste of a college education.

It's really a shame that the US has decided to let its most educated generation ever suffer for its biggest strength.


>It's really a shame that the US has decided to let its most educated generation ever suffer for its biggest strength.

This is by design, of course. The more "educated" the society is, the more "menial" jobs they have to take. Wide-swath prescription of college degrees can't solve that problem (in fact, it creates it).


Plumbers and electricians make as much if not more than 'educated' jobs and are impossible to outsource. Education is great and today you can learn virtually anything with an internet connection but family expectations mean you are expected to go the college. 'The government is oppressing me with student loans' is pretty weak sauce and is par for the course lack of personal responsibility. Don't run up debt to major in art history.


>Underemployment should be mentioned in any discussion of job difficulty; in the US, getting a job as a barista or fast food is possible, but a horrendous waste of a college education.

But there have never been enough "good" white collar to employ the current number of Americans getting a college education. The difference was there were enough good, white collar jobs for the college graduates back then. But the number of college graduates has exploded.

You can train another 20k Physicists, but we wouldn't have any use for them.

And the quality of the degrees are lower too because colleges are accepting (and then graduating) worse and worse students.

Not everyone is cut out to do great things. There is no shame in slinging coffee.


>There is no shame in slinging coffee.

The shame isn't in the work, the shame is in having no money to do anything: get a decent apartment, raise a family, go on vacation, provide for a spouse.


Expecting to provide for a spouse is outdated now that women are in the work place. They increased worker supply, driving down wages.


>They increased worker supply, driving down wages.

True, and the switch in economic focus from manufacturing to services hasn't helped much either. Makes me wonder how single people raise kids when the average wage/salary anticipates 2 earners.


>There is no shame in slinging coffee.

I was raised to think this - there is absolutely no shame in working for a living. This scene from Girls basically sums up millenials and their relationship with work for me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgK_tPnGfcI


> Yeah, there's always some holdovers commenting from the era of easy jobs and easy money.

Ironically, this complaint always seems to ignore that a ton of jobs in the "easy jobs" era were shitty menial jobs. Factory work in shitty conditions and similar. These are the jobs that have been automated away.

And, strangely, this kind of comment also ignores that women weren't anywhere near as significant a part of the old workforce... and the ones that were had signficantly reduced opportunites available and were legally paid less than men.


> in the US, getting a job as a barista or fast food is possible, but a horrendous waste of a college education.

Maybe. Not all college educations are created equal. Got a major in philosophy? You're not useful to the economy, there are no jobs and no one is wasting your education. Of course the example here is facetious, the point is this: If you have a college education/degree in something that is not marketable to the economy, the waste is not the economies fault, but that of whomever pursued that education.


I would posit that many businesses don't know the great value of a graduate with a good philosophy education. Critical thinking, clear writing, and persuasively advocating a position are all essential to business management.


I agree entirely. I majored in philosophy, as well as biology. I currently work in biotech.

The more useful of the two majors, even taking my career into account? Philosophy. Understanding the principles which govern the properties and flow of ideas/arguments/concepts is far more important than the particulars, which can be memorized and understood as needed.

The cliche is that philosophy teaches you how to think, and it's true. Of course, philosophy isn't the only way to learn how to think, but it's a good primer.


I got my undergrad degrees in mechanical engineering and philosophy. I'd say the philosophy degree was for sure worthwhile for my life and career.


I agree that the educations aren't created equal, but consider what these kids were told going into college: a college degree = a good job.

The nuance of "the economy can't support liberal arts majors" didn't crop up with gusto until after the economy crashed, and isn't even true-- the economy can't support a bajillion physicists or electrical engineers either, nevermind that most people aren't cut out for it.


> The nuance of "the economy can't support liberal arts majors" didn't crop up with gusto until after the economy crashed

I'm not sure where you live/work/play, but I've been hearing this since I was in high school in the 90s. There was a strong push for us to get practical, applicable degrees - business, accounting, CS/IS, engineering, etc. unless one wanted to become a professor of liberal arts.


A philosophy major is not a poor financial instrument because it's not financial instrument at all. Education has aims other than making investors money.

As a practical matter, philosophy is typically studied by those who will go on to law school, a Masters in something employable, or as part of a minor or "core curriculum" alongside a trade.

In most of the liberal arts and humanities - particularly philosophy, a graduate from a reputable institution will have extremely sharp critical thinking and writing skills. A philosophy major's daily grind is very similar to proof-based math. Across the disciplines, people are mostly writing papers that argue positions. Particularly at top-tier institutions, those papers are held to a high standard for quality of argument, evidence, and style. It may not correspond directly to an efficient way to turn capital into more capital, but it's hardly a "waste."


I would love to believe tha is true, but whenever I hear modern philosiphers (Alain de Botton comes to mind), they seem to study other classical philosiphers rather than come up with their own ideas. Its like the diference between an author and someone who reads books.


In order to make any progress, you have to understand the ideas that come before you, lest you make the same mistakes. It's the same in STEM. That being said, the idea that there's no new philosophy is ludicrous. I recommend David Lewis as a very original, modern philosopher.


Sure, but a good author is someone who has read many books. Standing on the shoulders of giants and all that. (I admit that I don't know much of modern philosophers, but I find it hard to believe they are not making good use of those who came before.)


Just reading about philosopy makes them as much f a philosipher as me.


I really dislike this kind of judgement of non-STEM majors. I used to make these kinds of judgements myself. The problem is the quality of education in America. Outside of certain, well-defined technical fields our universities have largely become degree mills.

A high quality education in philosophy or English, makes for effective communicators with excellent critical thinking skills. Outside of the very best universities students don't get that kind of education.

A STEM major isn't necessarily the answer either. It's often a struggle for highly educated math and science majors to find work in their industry. Sure they may have a leg up on getting certain jobs outside their industry, but it's by no means easy going for them either.

"American students need to improve in math and science—but not because there's a surplus of jobs in those fields."

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/the-myt...

Fact of the matter is that, there are largely just fewer jobs to go around. Part of this is that the older generation is working longer, not vacating their positions. Some of it is efficiency gains from software and other modern technology have let companies do more with fewer people, leading to a smaller workforce requirement.

We're very quickly nearing a point where not everyone needs to work full time in order to support our population and in fact not everyone CAN work full time in productive work. As a planet we're going to have to make some serious societal and economic decisions.


> The problem is the quality of education in America.

That's quite a statement. By most standards, US has one of the best (but not the cheapest) education systems in the world. But don't worry, even in Europe, non-STEM majors, especially the likes of social studies, are pretty much worthless.

Simply said, what do such majors really give you that you couldn't learn by reading books? Abstract reasoning? Worse than most STEM. Understanding of life? Living life gives you that. Social skills? People with good social skills usually got them during their teens, whereas people with shitty social skills won't get them through a degree. Critical thinking? Well, given the state of the world and the quality of public discourse, it's not working.


I majored in philosophy, albeit with mechanical engineering, and I'd say that my philosophy education has been much more helpful for my consulting career. True, my ME degree got me the initial interview -- but almost everyone who interviewed me was very interested why I decided to pursue philosophy.


>the waste is not the economies fault, but that of whomever pursued that education.

I'm willing to place at least 75% of the blame on the recipient, but I try not to discount the previous 12+ years of "education is our greatest asset" propaganda targeted towards children.


Even for 18 year olds with an inclination to think it's all bullshit-- nobody will ever present you with an alternate viable path. It's always "You don't want to end up a loser right? Sign here..." and next thing you know the creditors are calling looking for their $X0,000.

Classic peer pressure techniques apparently count as sagely advice when coming from high school guidance counselors


> The reality is that as time goes on, the world's needs can and will be met by fewer and fewer people.

The crucial line is when basic needs for life can be met by a minority of the population, and that line was crossed decades ago thanks to the industrial revolution.

> This should be a good thing, but it won't work under most existing economic systems.

Almost the entire world operates in an economic system that assumes, as a starting condition that not every person needs to work on providing for needs. That is how innovation can happen, and new industries can develop, like the entire entertainment, sports, and computer technology industries to just name a few.

> Our entire economy has to change to accomodate the new reality that a significant percentage of the population will be unemployed.

There is no evidence that improving the productivity of existing industries leads to long-term unemployment growth. In fact the evidence shows that the nations with the highest productivity gains are also the nations that have the highest standards of living and lowest unemployment.

The secret is innovation. Nations with growing productivity can innovate and create new industries, which create new jobs to "soak up" the new population.

On top of this, global population growth is slowing and will basically stop--and maybe even reverse--within the next century. At that point, improving productivity will be the only possible way to continue growing standards of living.


>You can try as hard as you want to get a job - if no one is hiring, you aren't going to get one.

True as far as it goes, and I too am concerned about the future of work, but I'm skeptical that we have ever seen, or will ever see, a future in which "no one is hiring". Today, there is tremendous demand for certain occupations, even as others are being hollowed out.

The difference from historical expectations is that the rate of change between who was hiring last year and who will be hiring next year is growing, and quickly.

People "trying hard" to get jobs in technology almost certainly can do so. People "trying really, really, really hard" to get jobs in heavy manufacturing in the American midwest are probably going to have a hard time (as are would-be blacksmiths, weavers, scribes, typists, telephone operators and many others).

Said another way: the direction of the "hard work" vector is more important than the magnitude. Said still another way: "work smarter, not harder". Said yet one more way: "make something people want."


> Today, there is tremendous demand for certain occupations, even as others are being hollowed out.

While that is true, these certain occupations tend to have a skillset or a depth of knowledge that most (not all) "classical" (here used as non-STEM) educations do not provide. As we progress forward, it becomes legitimately disingenuous to put green-behind-the-ears college students on an academic path that will undoubtedly lead them to unemployment at the end of that road.

And I hate to break it to you, even occupations that still enjoys a demand in hiring such as software / native-app engineering / web development are also to become more scarce as greater droves of students enter these fields and a global economy allows employers to find offshore work for cheaper.

> People "trying hard" to get jobs in technology almost certainly can do so. People "trying really, really, really hard" to get jobs in heavy manufacturing in the American midwest are probably going to have a hard time (as are would-be blacksmiths, weavers, scribes, typists, telephone operators and many others).

At what point do you begin to discredit everyone incapable of getting a job with "you aren't trying hard/smart enough" ? This is a bit of a hypothetical question - I'm not taking shots at your argument, but its something that is very important to ask of ourselves and of others.


>there is tremendous demand for certain occupations

The problem is that if you redirect all youth into these occupations, you will likely find yourself with more supply than demand. Software engineers are well-paid, well-treated, mobile, etc. because there are relatively few of them. This will not be the case when the default state of any 18-year-old is to become a software engineer.


And we know this because that is precisely what we got with college graduates.


I get nervous the way an argument like this makes efficiency a goal unto itself. Is that really what we want the future of society to be? Billions of software engineers, interspersed with some baristas, janitors, and gig economy workers scraping by?

Part of the point of BI schemes is to free up huge swathes of people to legitimately pursue the arts in all forms. Putting on dramas, creating music, learning for its own sake, philosophizing, cleaning up the environment, editing Wikipedia, working on open-source, etc... none of these things contribute much immediate economic value, but they do, I believe, make society incrementally wealthier in a way that creating the next derivative iOS game just doesn't.

The whole business of college as job-training vs. learning to think is an interesting one. There was a great piece on it in Harpers recently: http://harpers.org/archive/2015/09/the-neoliberal-arts/?sing...


> Said yet one more way: "make something people want."

Or for a less general form, more aimed at the future employee than the self-starter: develop skills to produce what people need.


Just like I hear there is a huge demand for software engineers from the taxi driver in Dublin. "Well my mate says he can find them, but they want too much money". I have a couple of payrises in the last ten years, the only reason I earn more is by switching jobs.


"When you know your passion and you're unwilling to live by somebody else's rules, you can make your own way. And don't misunderstand, this is not about breaking rules, this is about producing results.

Ignore the job description and produce results for somebody, I promise you, you won't be ignored. People will change the rules for you if you can produce outstanding results."

- Tony Robbins https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140527113908-101706366-if-i...


>the world's needs can and will be met by fewer and fewer people

Perhaps, but jobs also exist to fulfill wants, and there's no end to those.





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