Why we need more not less ‘unemployment’

The trade unions, the Opposition, and even the Coalition Government make a lot of noise about job protection and job creation, the reality is that Britain and all advanced nations need fewer jobs, not more.

Here are a few headlines from Metro, the London freesheet earlier this month:

September 2: 1 in 4 graduates fails to get work - this is self-explanatory


Defence cuts leave no way back, says Labour

This reports that 920 soldiers and 930 airmen and women are told they are being made redundant, 750 of them involuntarily; there could be a total of 11,000 jobs lost across the armed services by April 2015.

September 8: Towns in trouble where every third shop is shut

This too is self-explanatory.

This is ‐ or should be ‐ good news, especially the report about service redundancies, because the fewer servicemen we have, the fewer there will be to send abroad to be maimed or even killed in foreign lands.

Let’s see what other jobs Britain and the world would be better off without.

Fund managers

As the average fund manager performs no better than and often worse than the average parrot (no, that is not a misprint), the government would best serve investors by abolishing all managed funds and allowing people to manage their own funds, especially their pension funds.

Stockbrokers and investment bankers

Many people now manage their bank accounts at least partially on-line; there are some banks that operate only in cyber-space. As stockbrokers and investment bankers are mere intermediaries, the government could abolish all such jobs and allow stocks and shares to be traded only on-line through gaming websites such as Betfair, which would take a tiny commission for matching willing sellers with willing buyers. There would have to be ultra-enhanced security for such websites. An alternative would be for the government itself to act as broker, which would remove most of the security issues. Who needs the Stock Exchange?


The first thing one notices about economists is that like astrologers, they are not very good at their jobs. Like astrologers they “know” a lot of things, and are able to bamboozle ordinary people with mysticism, but are they ever able to make meaningfully accurate predictions?

There are, broadly speaking, two types of economists; there are free market economists and “Marxist” or “Marxist-oriented” economists. Obviously they can’t both be right. Economists are employed by the government, the banks and other financial institutions; some also work for the universities. There is no need for the government to employ them. Quite simply they could all be sacked.

Prison staff

Our prisons are full of people who shouldn’t be or who don’t need to be there. While people who are dangerous to the public have to be locked up, most prisoners are neither dangerous nor do their crimes merit lengthy sentences. First and foremost, those who are convicted of victimless crimes should be released, and furthermore, all such victimless crimes should be legalised.

These include all crimes relating to the distribution or use of recreational drugs, all crimes relating to consensual sexual relations between adults such as prostitution, and all crimes which do not have a real or potentially real victim other than the perpetrator. Driving under the influence of alcohol is a crime that has a potential victim, even on an open and empty road, but self-injection of heroine does not.

Those convicted of fairly trivial property and similar crimes could be put in the stocks for a day and pelted with rotten fruit. Those convicted of slightly more serious crimes, including assaults that result in minor injuries to the person up to say a broken nose or a lost tooth, could be flogged in public rather than locked up for months or a year or two. This would mean most of that vast army of bureaucrats known as probation officers could be sacked.

Those prisoners who have served their sentences but may still be considered a danger to certain members of the public, such as serial sex offenders, could be exiled to remote places, perhaps the Scottish islands where they could be allowed to amuse themselves with personal computers, TV sets, CDs, DVDs and all the booze they can drink on condition they stay away from major towns and other places where they may give in to temptation.

Social Security staff

The social security system is incredibly complex, and many people particularly at the bottom end of society, ie those who have few or no marketable skills, physical and/or psychological disabilities, serious criminal records especially for violence or dishonesty, substance abuse problems and so on, often find themselves caught in the poverty trap. Briefly, this means they are unable to find employment that pays more than the benefits they receive by not working. Furthermore, there are vast armies of lawyers, assessors, claimant advisers, investigators and even outright spies whose primary function is to keep these people in their place, ie at the bottom of society, trapped forever.

It would make more sense to totally dismantle the social security system, to sack the whole bunch of them, and to pay every citizen a basic income as a right. This would probably have to be done gradually, but it should be possible to achieve in a very short period.

The government could also abolish taxation and sack everyone involved in this side of state bureaucracy, because all taxation is unnecessary. If that sounds unbelievable, consider the following. Broadly speaking, the government can and does obtain funding from three sources: taxation, borrowing, and creating its own money ‐ the coin and note issue, and government bonds/credit.

The cheapest of these methods, by far, is creating its own credit. Taxation reduces the spending power of the public, and leads to less demand. Borrowed money has to be repaid at interest. Coins and notes cost money to mint and print. It is desirable ‐ and always will be desirable ‐ for people to have coins and notes in their pockets, both for convenience, and because they are hard money, but by the same token, most money does and should exist as credit. The government can in theory create an infinite amount of credit with the stroke of a pen; the problem of course is that if credit is created out of all proportion to the goods and services in circulation, hyper-inflation results. The solution therefore is simple, the government creates just enough credit to stimulate demand, debt-free. If at any time it creates too much, it can solve this problem simply by creating a bit less for a while. Some financial reformers already advocate this.

The problem we have at present under our so-called capitalist economy, is not a shortage of goods and services but a shortage of purchasing power. Companies, especially shops, don’t go bust because they have a shortage of goods but a shortage of paying customers. Clearly there is a shortage of purchasing power, but this shortage of purchasing power is not remedied by creating make-work jobs. To take an extreme example, the invention of the printing press allowed books to be produced in great quantity and far more cheaply than by hand. Suppose you wanted to produce an important broadside, an official notice to be distributed to every adult in the land. Would you hire a hundred scribes to work day and night and then give copies to couriers to convey to the citizenry? Or would you print it? Nowadays of course, you could do the entire job yourself; sit down in front of your computer, write and proof it, and then post it to an official website where not only every citizen of this realm had access to it but everyone in the world.

Admittedly, not all industries have benefited from science and technology as much as the communications industry, but it doesn’t make sense to employ a thousand, a hundred, or even two people to do a job that can be carried out perfectly adequately by one.

It is also a fact that so many jobs actually contribute nothing to the economy. To take just one example, to attend a Premier League soccer match on a Saturday afternoon will cost around £35. When one factors into that equation, travel, refreshments, etc, we are looking at £50 or £60 and up for the privilege of standing around and sitting around, queuing and bumping, perhaps in the cold and rain, and maybe even to cheer on the losing team.

Top soccer players, managers and trainers are paid more than architects, brain surgeons and research scientists, yet would Britain or the world be any poorer if no one ever played another soccer match much less watched one? True, a lot of people would lose their jobs, but that £50 or £60 you forked out to see Arsenal get hammered 8-2 at home to Manchester United could certainly be put to better use, as could the fees paid by the television companies, the money fans spend in the club shop, and so on.

This is a bit of an extreme example, perhaps a much better one would be to sack the leaders of the IMF and all the world’s central banks, shut down these banks, and allow genuinely nationally owned banks to create the credit their countries need without either recourse to borrowing or flying banksters around the world and putting them up in plush hotels at our expense, as with the current meeting in Washington.

[The above op-ed was first published September 26, 2011.]

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