This essay is a non-economists’ (there’s not a bit of math in it) inquiry into the US employment losses which have been happening for about a half century. Businesses have been reducing workers and their pay in order to increase shareholder profits. Many ways have been used to do this, but more and more computers and robotics are replacing workers. Well informed economists fear that in a decade or two such automation may eliminate almost half of US jobs!
The worker reduction practice has been justified by economic theory which claims (though with dubious supporting evidence) that it maximizes productivity. This book argues that, even if this claim is correct, the practice damages the economy and the nation. Our economy is already massively productive, abundantly supplying our needs and desires. As the book title implies, no one needs nor wants such totally superfluous things as 1001 sex positions. Therefore, for the highly productive US economy to focus on more productivity is neither useful nor reasonable. The enormous US economy can provide a sufficiency for everyone, but only if everyone has a means of purchasing what is produced. To do this Americans need and want jobs and income. By diminishing workers’ incomes, and especially by diminishing the number of workers, this profits/productivity emphasis reduces consumer demand, thereby damaging the economy.
Ultimately, and paradoxically, sacrificing jobs and incomes to increase productivity is self-defeating. Ultimately, job losses must diminish productivity simply because the workers who make things are also the consumers who buy them, and without jobs and income there will be no one to buy whatever is produced. Poorer workers weakens demand; fewer jobs destroys it. Continuing to place profits and productivity above workers threatens the possibility of an economic collapse worse than the 1930’s Great Depression. Yet no business dare not follow the jobs reductions practice since they might be driven out of business by competitors who do follow it. The economy therefore seems to be on the brink of a disaster.
Some economists and others have suggested that, to prevent this, the government should give every citizen a minimal income; no questions asked; no work required. This essay gives several reasons why this suggestion is a bad idea. Instead it offers an idea for a program which will sustain jobs and worker income. If this idea can be developed and implemented it could help preserve the economy from the damage which the emphasis on profits and productivity has caused.