Dumber than the second dumbest idea — “free college for all” — because I can at least imagine that program helping a few people (and hurting most) while jobs for all fucks everything up for everyone.
To begin with, most people are unemployable *in the present economy*. Just because someone has a job doesn’t mean that that person is employable — “suitable for paid work” — most who work are just live bodies filling in space that needs to be filled, like the kid stuck in right field because he can’t catch a pillow thrown at him. And then there are those who are unemployable because they consistently produce negative value: give them a dish to wash and they’ll break it; a car to transport things and they’ll run over people; a bank to run and they’ll start a nation-wide recession. There are plenty of those and the goal should be to keep most people from working, not to give people jobs they’re sure to fuck up.
The Pareto Principle: the 80/20 Rule
Once upon a time, an Italian renaissance man named Vilfredo Pareto noticed that ~80 percent of the peas in his garden came from ~20 percent of the pods. He looked around some more and saw that ~80 percent of land in Italy was owned by ~ 20 percent of Italian citizens. And 80 percent of the food was grown on 20 percent of agricultural land. This 80/20 is everywhere.
For instance, 80 percent of wealth is owned by 20 percent of population, and that’s typically true across all nations (aberrations are eventually self-corrected). Eighty percent of Microsoft Word users use 20 percent of its features, while 20 percent of users use 80 percent of its features. Twenty percent of employees generate 80 percent of revenue and vice versa. Twenty percent of people commit 80 percent of crimes and vice versa. You get the idea, the Pareto Principle is a law of nature and when you go against the law, you get something like the Killing Fields — disaster.
It’s always been this way, most people have been un or barely employable, regardless of era and regime, and that’s never going to change. Men sitting in basements jerking off and playing video games isn’t a unique symptom of our post-industrial society, it’s a variation of what men have been doing for centuries, except ours is less violent because the routine acts of violence are virtual rather than real thanks to Nintendo and Playstation.
Customer who is a Boeing engineer told me that she mostly goofs off at work (and she was concerned about what that was doing to her work ethic and mental health). The reason she goofs off is because her manager isn’t an engineer, he has an MBA and has no idea how long it should take an engineer to solve an engineering problem. He gives her, for instance, two weeks to complete an assignment she finishes in four hours.
So who hired the barely competent, hardly qualified project manager who is too lazy to ask his staff how long it takes them to finish a task? Incompetent human resources executives who hire incompetent human resource administrators who hire people based on degrees of questionable value (e.g. MBA) instead of their competencies. Beginning to see how 80 percent of employees in a business can contribute so little to a project yet keep their jobs, including executive ones? An aside: you can’t study business the way you can Math, Physics and Logic. Running a business is more of an art than a science — the context (e.g. regulations, taxes, weather, culture) is constantly changing and no two businesses are alike. It’s not like Math, where 2+2=4 no matter the weather, the tax laws, and who is president of the United States. In Math and Physics, a consensus is possible. In business, it isn’t and when someone insists it is, it leads to disaster, like nosediving demon planes. Now let’s get back to the question about the prevalence of incompetence in the workplace. From the New Republic’s investigative news article Crash Course: How Boeing’s Managerial Revolution led to the 737 Max Disaster, “the
Boeing assembly line that opened in 2011 had for years churned out scores of whistle-blower complaints and wrongful termination lawsuits packed with scenes wherein quality-control documents were regularly forged, employees who enforced standards were sabotaged, and planes were routinely delivered to airlines with loose screws, scratched windows, and random debris everywhere.
How about high school counselors, how many of them are good at advising students on coursework, college and career options, and life in general? Or do most regurgitate basic basic info that’s easily found online? Here’s a test you can give to a high school counselor, see how many can answer these questions off the top of their heads:
Identify the following schools, which state each is located and what each is known for:
a) Williams College
b) Bryn Mawr College
c) CalTech University
d) Harvey Mudd College
What percentage of counselors have an informed opinion about any of the schools listed? Now these aren’t some fringe schools that don’t matter, these are some of the most prestigious schools in the US that every competent high school counselor needs to know about to serve their students well
- Williams College — located in rural Massachusetts, considered one of the top liberal arts colleges in the US, ranked number one liberal arts college several times by US News World Report’s annual college rankings
- Bryn Mawr College — located in suburban Philadelphia, a “Seven Sister School,” one of the top ranked women’s colleges in the US
- Cal Tech University — located in Pasadena CA, considered by some as the top engineering research school in the world.
- Harvey Mudd College — located in Southern California, the top science and engineering liberal arts college in the US.
What’s the point of having a high school counselor who doesn’t spend two weeks a year to learn about schools most aren’t familiar with so he can properly advise students on college options so that each individual’s personality matches well with the spirit of a particular school? If he’s too lazy to do his work properly — hey fucktards, read at least the annual US News college rankings so you know what is and isn’t a safety school or a good match for each college bound student — should he be advising students on career and lifestyle choices? Are these the same fucktards who tell every student to go to college regardless of personal interest and test scores so a bunch of kids grow up to be broke and confused adults who wasted their most productive years getting bullshit degrees from bullshit colleges? Is bad advice that ruin people’s lives what taxpayers are paying for?
Let’s look at teachers: how many of them have you had who were good, who made a positive difference in your life? How many didn’t make a difference at all? How many wasted your time? How many fucked you up, beat the curiosity out of you with asinine rules and demented pedagogy? Count them up. What percentage made a positive difference, is it closer to 20 percent or 80 percent? Or did they overall teach you to act, talk, and think more like a Trader Joe’s cashier than the CEO you dreamed of becoming? Are you even capable of asking a question — any question — other than perfunctory ones like “how was your day?” when you’re on a date, or do you mostly talk about yourself and repeat cliches because you spent a sizable chunk of your childhood in a:
dull and ugly place, where nobody ever says anything very truthful, where everybody is playing a kind of role, as in a charade where the teachers are no more free to respond honestly to the students than the students are free to respond to the teachers or each other, where the air practically vibrates with suspicion and anxiety, the child learns to live in a daze, saving his energies for those small parts of his life that are too trivial for the adults to bother with, and thus remain his. It is a rare child who can come through his schooling with much left of his curiosity, his independence or his sense of his own dignity, competence and worth. (John Holt, published in Saturday Evening Post, 1969)
Which sounds a lot like the Boeing work environment — sub “teacher” with “manager” and “students” with “staff” — the above cited New Republic article describes. Should we be surprised that our work environments aren’t much different from our school environments? Should we spend more money on to replicate dysfunction and incompetence?
What Sort of Jobs?
Let’s play along, what sort of jobs would the Federal government provide? Bernie says:
- As part of the Green New Deal, we need millions of workers to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure—roads, bridges, drinking water systems, wastewater plants, rail, schools, affordable housing—and build our 100% sustainable energy system. This infrastructure is critical to a thriving, green economy.
- At a time when our early childhood education system is totally inadequate, we need hundreds of thousands of workers to provide quality care to the young children of our country.
- As the nation ages, we will need many more workers to provide supportive services for seniors to help them age in their homes and communities, which is where they want to be.
So does Robbie the Rapist teach four-year-olds the pledge of allegiance? Should Fat Freddie be anywhere near a shovel? What happens when Sad Sally takes care of grandma? Mickey the Methhead promises to never jerk off again while at work. The US government already provides jobs to anyone of “working age” who wants one — that’s what the US military does and it’s still not meeting its enlistment goals — unless he or she:
- is a psychopath
- has an iq below 82
- is obese
- is mentally or physically ill
National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC showed that 39.6% of US adults age 20 and older were obese as of 2015-2016 (37.9% for men and 41.1% for women). According to Mental Health First Aid, “in the United States, almost half of adults (46.4 percent) will experience a mental illness during their lifetime,” with “half of all mental disorders [beginning] by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24.” Ten percent of the population have IQs lower than 82. Let’s not even bother to look up the percentage of people who are psychopaths, which I’m sure is waaaay underestimated. So are these minimum requirements for employment reasonable? Go imagine yourself having a threesome with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren if you think not. If they are, then what percentage of the US population is unemployable? Are we really going to let someone who is obese build a bridge? Or someone with an IQ lower than 82 to engineer a bridge? A chronically depressed caretaker to take care of the elderly?
The private and public sectors already employ many who don’t meet minimum US military requirements for employment. Meaning, most of the unemployed are probably the worst of the unemployable — they can’t wake up on time, they never brush their teeth, they can’t remember anything that doesn’t have to do with themselves, they’re pathological liars, etc. And some feckless politicians still want to guarantee them jobs? It takes a highly skilled and disciplined workforce to build and repair roads and bridges — work already done by the Army Corp of Engineers by the way — you can’t just let anyone have at it.
But Work Makes People Dignified
How so? According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 85% of workers in the world hate their jobs. A 2013 Forbes magazine reported that “work is more often a source of frustration than fulfillment for nearly 90% of the world’s workers.” The good news is that in the US, only 70% say they hate their jobs, comparable to the percentage of American kids who say they hate mandatory education. Am I missing something, is there something dignified about hating your job? Or are the government jobs going to be so gosh darn awesome that *everyone* is going to love them and turn into the model workers champagne socialists fantasize about?
It’s not a politician’s job to tell people what is or isn’t a dignified life, that’s playing God and will lead to tyranny. And we don’t force Puki the Pomeranian Princess to pull a sled in the snow to be a dignified dog. People can decide for themselves what sort of life they want to live, and for some, it’s going to be a life without work. You can still have a sense of purpose in life without going to work — think of all the retired grandparents who hang out with their grandkids and tend gardens.
Universal Basic Income
There are a lot of people who want to work but are unemployable. Like the journalist who is too lazy to fact check and too unimaginative to sense the implausibility of someone’s account; doctors who don’t wash their hands between patient visits; personal trainers who only talk about themselves during the entire session; Sociology professors who teach books they’ve never read; lawyers who don’t read contracts they’re paid to read.
The good news is that the next phase of automation will result in more of the unemployable employed to become unemployed. That’s a good thing because it’ll lead to a significant increase in productivity and — if we do it right — quality of life. Leaving a lot of people out of work, however, is a bad thing because they’re likely to riot as the Luddites did in the early 19th century when their jobs were replaced by industrialization. To reduce the likelihood of widespread social disturbance and to offset the economic effects of automation, we should aim to pay everyone — yes, EVERYone in the world — a living allowance. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s Freedom Dividend — $1000/month to every American citizen age 18-64 — is a step in that direction.
What Happens Next?
Technologically, we’re so close to providing universal healthcare without reduction of quality and rising costs. The automation of most healthcare work will significantly reduce healthcare costs and make it and many other services accessible to everyone. This will happen sooner than later if we stop using resources to fund policies that create disasters we have to clean up and start preparing people for a future without work as we define it today. A new world is around the corner, we should see what it looks like instead of turning around and running back to 20th century solutions — guaranteed jobs and free college — to 21st century problems.