Dangers of Stagnation

 

Alexander Liss

 

03/19/2009

 

 

 

     In a market-based society, there is a considerable drive for predictability and stability of goods or services and goods production or service providing processes. Such unification leads to mass production, use of capital intensive tools and methods and, as a consequence, to efficiency and growth of wealth of the society.

     There is a special element in this process – humans, who perform series of standardized operations during standardized periods of time. They are called workers, service providers, etc.

     Around this a special social structure exists. It includes jobs and required skill-set. It includes special culture, where a member of one group gets a job and gets paid for work, and a member of another group takes care that the job does not deviate from set parameters in spite on challenges of ever changing world.

     Business owners and managers want to have a pool of sufficiently skilled humans in a good shape, who want the jobs that the business could churn goods or services.

     Union leaders and politicians want the same pool of sufficiently skilled humans in a good shape, who needs the jobs, that they could be elected and protect needs of these humans.

     In spite of famed work ethics, something should force humans into this pool of individuals, who need jobs, because working is not easy - no one is paying for fun activities.

     Hence, the very fact that the society is stable means that there is a force of necessity, which sweeps humans in such pools. It is simple – humans in those pools cannot afford to be without a job for a long time, they do not have a cushion to sustain themselves without a job. While they have a job, they have all they need; shortly after they lose the job, they are in a dire state.

     Thus “having a job” became a basic concept in their lives and when politicians want to get support from these people they talk exclusively in terms of jobs - having, losing, paying well, etc.

     In the same time, well-to-do in the society never speak about themselves and never think about themselves in terms of jobs. They are after opportunity, income - growth of personal wealth. This is a more humane language, than the language of jobs.

     Obviously, a large portion of population of the society is in a disadvantaged position. People in this group have no negotiation advantage; they are as commodity, as resources in market-based society. This is why there is a “human resources” department; this is why economists lump together materials and humans in their models – their analysis fits the same pattern.

In such situation, a peculiar set of concepts emerged. Humans seek not opportunity to advance, but instead seek equality that they are paid the same way as others in this pool. Humans measure their contribution to the society not in terms of results, but in terms of time worked.

This set of concepts is shared by all players. Business owners and managers stopped seeing humans as humans, but as exchangeable modules in a business mechanism. Humans stopped seeing themselves as perpetually expending, growing creatures, but as creatures happy, when they are not suffering.

No wonder, that time and again demagogues emerge ready to take advantage of this inhumane situation, ready to grab political power and impose inhumane order on entire society.

Hence, a market-based society, which in its essence is growth oriented, has a stagnant component, which threatens its very existence.

One should not underestimate the resilience of this stagnant component. It survived through various crises, and it exists in spite of society’s experience with various other social forms, which could support production of goods and providing of services.

The nostalgic idea of returning to craftsmanship and small businesses cannot work – this form of social organization cannot support large market. In addition, a social structure has to survive through various crises inflicted by external circumstances or by dynamic inherent to the market itself. Only large entities, with large reserves could survive through crises.

Obviously, existing economic and political mechanisms do not support transition of this stagnant part of society into a more dynamic one. This stagnant part is against human nature and many want to change it, but so far all attempts to change it failed.

Socialism is no help. When a market-based society flipped into a socialist society, the new society was inevitably more stagnant. Instead of making the stagnant part more dynamic and growth oriented, socialism turned the entire society into more stagnant. To provide at least some support for growth, the socialist society inevitably turns to militarization and aggression against its neighbors.

This was seen in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Iraq. It is seen now in Iran and Venezuela.

This stagnant part in the body of market-based societies is not only inhumane it is dangerous to the stability of a particular society and to well-being of the global society as a whole. It is stable, and hence, it will not go away on its own.

Smart and concerted efforts are needed to modify a market-based society in the way that this stagnant part is reduced and potentially eliminated.

The society should start with the system of concept – the mind should be cured first.

Instead of jobs, people should think of opportunity and income, of accumulation of wealth that one’s children have better start.

Instead of equality people should think of equal opportunity, which inevitably leads to inequality, but to better life.

Instead of being paid for time worked, people should think of compensation for skills and efforts, which an employee provides to an employer in a timely manner.

Such healthy thinking should lead to change in speech, relationships, and everyday feelings.

The next thing is to treat own skills, as a business treats service, which it provides. Skills have to be perpetually updated and marketed with aim to gain more income. This is a position of growth, of personal expansion. In time, when it is difficult to find an employer, who would pay for use of old skills, one should have new skills to offer.

     This change in attitude will meet resistance from some politicians, trade union bosses, some managers, some business owners, and some “intellectuals”, but this has to be done.

     The presence of stagnant part in the body of the market-based society is not sustainable at this point. Rapid technological innovation and expansion of global market makes this stagnant part dangerously fragile and prone to social unrest. The society has to allocate perpetually increasing share of its resources just to maintain stability of this stagnant part, which is inhumane to begin with. No society, even a rich one, can afford this for a long time.

     This is the place, where perpetual government intervention is needed. It is doubtful, that this transformation could be done without it. Through tax policy and direct subsidies, the government should support adult education, which helps in acquisition of new marketable skills.

     The result will be more dynamic and more competitive society with fewer social tensions.

     Most of all, this is a moral imperative to transform the society into a more humane one.