The nights grow chill, the shades of autumn peek through the greenery. As November approaches, ’tis the season for dweebs to come out of the woodwork, threatening to create jobs.
If you’ve never had one of these before, the basic arrangement is that you’re expected to invest a lot of time and energy into helping out a business, but—and this is the sketchy part—without assuming any ownership over what you make or do. Contrary to what you’d expect, it’s not a partnership. Your work doesn’t earn you a stake in anything. There might be a piece of you in every widget you make, but they’re the company’s widgets; you have no say over them. Instead you take orders from a supervisor and every week or two they pay you a set amount, which is always less than what they think your labor is really worth. This way they end up with extra money, called “profit,” which they either reinvest or spend on themselves.
What’s peculiar about the job creation dweeb is that he observes this arrangement and concludes that it is the workers who are somehow indebted to him. Whereas the great families of the Renaissance gave back to the world by sponsoring great works of enduring beauty, the modern job creation dweeb believes that it is incumbent upon the public to pick up the tab for crumbling bridges so that he can invent new and ever more pointless ways for people to work for him.
For example, it’s someone’s job to manufacture truck nuts—those giant plastic testicles that tacky people hang from their rear bumpers. For these to exist, someone must have been compelled by economic necessity to get up every morning, go to a factory and invest their life force into the production of novelty ball sacks that the world could, perhaps, manage without.
The challenge, indeed, for our erstwhile job creator consists in identifying some need or want that the market has not already met—or, failing that, to create a new one. Some of the jobs he creates, therefore, are in marketing, which is the dark art of conjuring scarcity from abundance. It is the job of the marketer to convince you that you are inadequate as you are; that there is a some gaping void in your life that can only be filled by some new-fangled product or service. Nobody obsessed about bad breath until Listerine invented halitosis in the 1920s. Ayn Rand has a famous shtick about a collectivist dystopia that relegates a budding genius to the position of a lowly street sweeper, and yet some of our most creative minds are currently occupied with the substantially less useful task of making people feel worse off for lack of things they don’t need.
Add to all of the pointless and destructive jobs those which are shortly to be eliminated by automation and you might be led to conclude that we could all be taking things a bit easier. What if, instead of creating all these modern conveniences that promise to maximize our time frolicking through summer meadows with our beautiful children we just, you know, stayed home and did that?
The job creation dweeb will happy to disabuse you of this notion. After dressing you down for being lazy, entitled and/or naive (he is a dweeb, after all), he will condescend to explain basic economics. People need to manufacture truck nuts because truck nuts generate capital, which they can then be exchanged for necessary goods and services—and perhaps someday, if you lay off the weed, you could have own truck nut factory, filled with happy workers who will be grateful to you for your hard work and…vision.
You probably have some capital of your own, so you may have noticed that it’s not a real thing. It has no intrinsic value. It’s an abstraction, an instrument that we created to measure value so that we don’t have to barter to fix someone’s wagon wheel every time we need eggs. Out of that, markets emerged, and out of markets a kind of artificial intelligence—the hallowed invisible hand of capitalism that fixes the value of goods and labor such that there is always someone there to supply a wrench when you need one.
It’s essentially a software program that we wrote to meet our needs based upon the flow of capital, and lately it’s been returning some pretty strange results. It values click bait over journalism, palm oil over rainforests, truck nuts over…staying home and not making truck nuts. But what of truth, beauty, and the leisure to enjoy them? Our deeper needs and higher aspirations? Like all the best things in life, they’re free—which is to say, the market doesn’t recognize them as possessing any value at all.
If that sounds like a bug to you and me, the job creation dweeb knows better. For him, the decrees of the market are as ordained. He’s a True Believer, and why shouldn’t he be? Like any religion, capitalism assures him that he’s special. His value to society is measured by his earnings, and he earns more than you. This is why these guys are always comparing their “net worth,” why Mitt Romney will casually bet you $10,000, or throw out that his wife drives a couple of Cadillacs. Without his six mansions, his penis would shrink.
The job creator’s deepest fear and most coveted secret is that we simply don’t need him; we need to make better use of what we already have. Any civilization that literally propagandizes new desires to its citizens clearly has a surplus that’s going to waste if its people want for healthcare or higher education; if their time is being whiled away on meaningless jobs that stand in the way of their true potentials. It’s possible to imagine a different operating system; one where capital serves the interests of the people, not the other way around; where businesses are worker-owned and surplus productivity, driven by automation, serves to provide everyone with a basic income, regardless of employment; an economy where the lines flow from side to side, rather than in a pyramid with a handful of dweebs at the apex. I am speaking, of course, of socialism.
How to get there? How will it work? There’s no road map for this, but the first step is to stop taking these dweebs so seriously. Their wealth is tacky, their plots are transparent, their grandiosity is comical. Their greed is driven by the status it affords them, and it only affords them status because we accept their value system. Stop believing in them, and they just might disappear.