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Full Employment

Wilton Ivie  Published in:  The Northwest Technocrat, 4th quarter 1989, No. 317

FULL EMPLOYMENT has been widely ballyhooed as a corollary of prosperity and social well being. It is the hope of the politician, and almost full employment is the hope of the businessman and industrialist. It is also a desirable social condition from the viewpoint of the moralist. Furthermore, full employment is in agreement with the social objectives of the engineer, but not in the same sense as for the other three.

The politician in office wants full employment for his constituents. Full employment means that they are all getting an income and are thus able to pay taxes. It also keeps them out of mischief, especially the kind of mischief that leads to social change or even to a change of political administrators. Employment stabilizes people in an area so they do not move around and learn as much about what is going on elsewhere. There is nothing like full employment to tranquilize the people and a placid population is highly desirable to the politician.

The businessman wants full employment, but not quite. Employed people mean customers with money, and what good is business without customers with money? But the businessman wants just enough unemployment so that he can be choosy about the employees he selects for his business. In other words, if employees are relatively abundant, their price value goes down and there is a wider choice. Few things irk a businessman more than to have a scarcity of available employees, which means that he has to take what he can get and has to pay them high wages.

The moralist wants full employment because full employment means that people are earning a “virtuous” living and have more money to contribute to the collection plate and to the charity drives. But he does not want them to have a very high income, otherwise, they might begin to enjoy this life too much and not look forward with enough eagerness to the hereafter.

Politicians have promised the American people full employment — in the near future and around some corner — maybe. This is not, however, an inconceivable goal considering the politician’s capacity for creating boondoggling employment. But, we ask, why should upwards of half the working population be employed at jobs that are not socially beneficial? It matters little whether these created jobs are strictly make-work relief projects, whether they are in unnecessary government employment or whether they are in government subsidized enterprise. They are, for the part, socially wasteful occupations financed by government credit. Boondoggling might be considered a socially useful activity only if the welfare of the society demanded that everyone is fully employed. But, if work is considered merely as a means of production, and not as an end in itself, there is not much to be said in favor of boondoggling.

The engineer has a different concept of full employment. To an engineer, full employment means the balanced-load operation of all energy-consuming devices in the area at a high load factor. When the principal energy-consuming device employed to do man’s work was the human engine, with a per capita rating of one-tenth horsepower or less, there was something to be said in favor of full employment for the human being. In those days, the only way to produce more was to work more human beings longer. Toil was essential to survival.

But there has been a fundamental change in the type of energy- consuming device used in production and service. The first shift away from the human engine was the employment of other kinds of animal engines, such as horses and oxen. Even the dog came in for a share of this energy conversion. But, so long as men and animals were employed to do the work, it was impossible to concentrate enough power in one place to do a really big job. When such a job was attempted, it usually bogged down in the face of the tremendous task of maintaining the engines, of which fuel (food) was the principal item.

Changes In Operation

With the successful development of the steam engine, the concentration of power was advanced. Much bigger jobs could be contemplated. The cost of maintenance went down. The bulk or mass of the engine per horsepower became less, and the factor of fatigue that plagued the human engine was eliminated.

Something else also happened. This was a change in the mode of production and management. When the human being was the principal prime mover, only a small amount of work gravitated to him. This meant that the typical enterprise was in or around the home. When the steam engine was set up, a larger amount of work gravitated to the site of the engine. As a consequence, factories came into being; and the human engine moved to the factory to serve merely as a secondary energy-consuming device to supplement the work of the principal prime mover, the steam engine. When internal combustion engines and hydroelectric power entered the social scene, man became still less important as a prime mover. Today, he is doing less than two percent of the work being done in manufacturing industries.

As power became concentrated into larger units, industrial enterprises became larger and tended toward monopoly controls. The free individual enterprise of the human-toil era gave way to corporate enterprise which soon began to sabotage free enterprise and individual initiative. Corporate enterprise despised free competition and set out to abolish it. If you doubt these statements, we challenge you to venture forth with the objective of starting up a new enterprise unit in competition with some established corporation. Based on the testimony of numerous disillusioned free enterprisers, these are some of the interferences that you will encounter:

In the first place, the politicians who are in the pay of corporate enterprise will strangle you with license fees and permit requirements. Then you will run up against the problem of getting materials, supplies and services, which will be almost impossible to obtain once your more powerful competitor learns of your ambition and uses his influence. Then you will run into marketing difficulties. Distributors will be warned by corporate enterprise not to handle your product. But supposing you survive all these hazards and do threaten to become a successful competitor; you will be bought out by your competitor and thus cease to be competition. That is the main purpose of cartel combines — the abolition of competition. This is, however, another story and does not concern us so much at this time.

Since the human being constitutes but a minor fraction of the energy-converting capacity of this Continent, he can be all but ignored in the technological design for full employment. As a prime mover, his rating is so low, his cost so high, and his behavior so unreliable that every time he can be displaced by an electric motor or engine an advance in efficiency, productivity and quality follows. So the technological design for full employment would reduce human toil to a minimum and employ more kilowatt-hours.

A high-energy, balanced load operation is the central idea in the technological design of social operations. The engineer would see that energy is utilized in the most efficient way so as to meet the requirements of abundant living for the whole population. Then he would smooth out the oscillations to an even, balanced load, operating 24 hours per day and 365 day per year. Surplus and inefficient equipment would be reconverted into scrap or something else more useful. The human engine, in so far as is possible, would be retired from productive employment.

Thus, we would have full employment of the most efficient energy converters on the Continent. This would result in a level of production which is impossible when a low-power, low-efficiency converter like the human engine is used. More goods and services would be available to the population and the human being would have much more time and opportunity for self-expression and enjoyment of living.

Politicians will not like this form of full employment. Their capacity for control of energyconsuming devices is limited to the control of inefficient human engines. The control of a high- horsepower engine calls for a technician, not a politician. So, politicians would have to fade out of the social picture in favor of those far more informed and far better qualified.

Businessmen will not like this form of full employment either since business is geared to the distribution of a scarcity. More efficient production would mean the end of scarcity and, hence, of business.

The moralists may not like it, for they would have to develop a dynamic new philosophy of living and place less emphasis on an escapist philosophy based on the concept of misery in this life and abundance and leisure hereafter.

A New Leadership

These old leaders must give way to a new leadership which is already here. The advance in science and technology during the past few decades has completely changed the conditions under which we live. The scientists, the technologist and the engineer must come forth and take the responsibility which social change is thrusting upon them. They must volunteer for this job or the march of events will require that they be drafted.

There are many people who cannot grasp this new concept of full employment, even after it has been carefully explained to them. Their thinking is still stifled with the superstition that man must work “to earn a living.” And these people will insist on asking this question: “How will people be able to buy the abundance that is possible if they don’t work to earn the money?” It is almost as futile to attempt an answer to this question — one which the people who ask it can comprehend — as it is to attempt teaching calculus to a moron. But we shall make an effort.

Our Stake In North America

Work is done in order to provide goods and services for human beings. There is little that can be said for work merely for work’s sake. So, work is necessary only that these goods and services may be produced. The more work, the more goods and services available, everything else being essentially equal. Man, himself, cannot do enough work with his onetenth horsepower to provide more than a minimum standard of living. So, in order to produce enough goods for a high standard of living, technology must be employed. Since technology is so much more efficient than man, it is fitting that man be retired and other engines employed to do the work. That accounts for the production end of the problem.

Since goods and services are of little use unless they are consumed by human beings, the next step is one of distribution to the consumer. Manpower does so little of the work that it would be foolish to attempt dividing up the purchasing power on the basis of the human energy expended. In any case, it would not be adequate to purchase the goods produced by machines, even if much higher wages were paid. Furthermore, it would not provide a satisfactory means of getting purchasing power to all consumers. How about the children, the sick, the aged and the physically handicapped, for example? Obviously, a new basis of distribution must be used.

As North American citizens, we all have a stake in the Continent. This stake entitles us as a right of citizenship to a share of what this Continent produces, in the same way as a stockholder in a corporation is now entitled to a share of what the corporation produces, not on a basis of ownership rights. Things get out of balance when a few successful manipulators are able to accumulate ownership rights over most of the Continent and its produce, while the great majority of citizens are swindled out of their birthright. Therefore, adequate distribution means that equitable ownership rights in this Continent must be reestablished for all of its citizens. Then they will be able to draw upon the productive capacity for their respective shares of the produce.

The only problem then is to balance production and consumption — produce what the people want to consume in the quantities that satisfy their wants — and distribute it to the places where it is to be consumed. Technocracy’s Energy Accounting System is designed to accomplish these functions.

Technocracy Inc. has produced the only design for full employment, full production and full consumption yet offered to the people of North America. The politicians, the businessmen and the moralists cannot provide any of these. The most they can do is provide full employment for human beings, that is, if boondoggling, waste-work expenditures of human energy can be called full employment. But, they cannot provide full employment for the technology of this Continent. If they attempted it, the productivity would be so great that it would completely ruin the Price System.

We Must Choose

One argument that always comes up is based on the erroneous assumption that “things have been as they are for hundreds of years; so, why don’t we keep them that way and let well enough alone?” It would hardly seem necessary to point out that things are not as they were for hundreds of years. The large-scale use of technology is scarcely a hundred years old, and most of it has been developed in the last 50 years. It is this use of energy through technology that is producing social change.

Since Technocracy has the only blueprint for full employment in the only sense that makes any sense, it behooves all North Americans to investigate its program and to demand that it be installed. We do not have the choice of going on as we are. We must choose science and security or political compromise and chaos. The latter, of course, is not a choice but downright social suicide. It is just that serious, and that is why Technocrats are so persistent in their effort to get this knowledge to the North American people.

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