• Posted: Feb 01, 2009 13:09:31
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"Hey, Billy. You too?"
"Yeah, me too."
"What we gonna do? I got bills to pay."
"I don't know, my friend, I really don't know."
Tens of thousands more received pink slips this week. No more regular pay checks, not from this company, not from many companies. The problem is felt intensely on a personal scale. The routine of life, with all its meager rewards has come to an end. And the outlook is cold. Connection has broken. Confidence drains. Gnawing doubt suffuses gut and every waking thought. The train of life has departed and workers have been left alone on the platform with no hope of boarding another train any time soon. Anger flares briefly, but no favorite food or touch of loved one will quell the restlessness of sleepless nights to follow. Connection has been broken. Connection has been broken.
Economists speak of a market for labor, but few workers think of themselves as a marketable commodity. Most hook into a job, assume it's for the long haul, and build a life for themselves on the routine of it. And when that connection is broken the psychological consequences are devastating.
What can be done for those afflicted? And is there a way to plan ahead to minimize the consequences of such disruptions?
On a global scale, the solution has been to go where the jobs are. Workers leave families and travel thousands of miles to foreign countries and brave sometimes horribly unhealthy conditions to be able to send a paycheck back home to loved ones. On a personal scale, that is the consequence of a global free market system for both labor and commodities.
But what if, on a local scale, economies were planned to achieve full employment for all who would join the community? What if such economies were planned to be largely self-sufficient and self-contained, where most of the necessities of life were produced and distributed locally using local labor and resources? What if world trade were limited to the unusual, the scarce, and the amusing? Why should local economies be so entirely dependent on resources or customers from abroad that local economies totally break down when world trade slows to a standstill? Why should local businesses that support local lives be shuttered because services or goods they produce locally can be had much cheaper imported from afar?
A big debate is brewing over the language "produced in America" contained in portions of the upcoming economic stimulus package. Free marketers fear a resurgence of protectionist policies and point to that phrase as potentially initiating the trend. But look at the current consequences of unregulated global free trade. Even developing countries, the primary intended beneficiaries of free trade policies, are staggered under the weight of the slowdown. The problem is not free trade per se but what is being freely traded. If a good or service can be produced locally in support of full employment on a local level, then it has no business being traded globally. That is trade policy that can be sustained. That is trade policy that supports full employment. That is trade policy that will substantially limit the devastating consequences of job loss on a personal scale.
Friday, January 30th, 2009
7.4 mm 35 mm