Ken Clements 1996 Published in: Technocracy Digest, 3rd quarter 1996, No. 321
Ken Clements is a member at large from Colorado
The Effect Of Downsizing On Society
Now that downsizing has become a household word, and now that everyone knows that the word itself simply means “you’re fired” what are the results of such vast unemployment?
In times past, a layoff from a job was usually because of a slowdown in business or a breakdown of equipment, or any one of a number of reasons which could change in time and the laid-off worker be recalled to the job.
But not now. Downsizing means that the jobs no longer exist. The workers have been replaced by machines, which do the work and produce a saleable item much more efficiently than can human workers. Therefore, the owners can sell the product at a much lower price and, by so doing, increase the volume of sales and make a greater profit for those owners.
But here we run into a problem which is unsolvable as long as we operate under the archaic price system which has prevailed for centuries, and which did work after a fashion as long as human and animal labor formed the basis of our economy.
Boiled down, it simply meant that a few people in control of land and other natural resources could build up fortunes while those who labored for them could do little more than make a living.
But now — now in the last years of the twentieth century — we are coming into a new age, an age which must deal with the fact that there cannot be such a thing as gainful employment for many thousands of workers who need paychecks in order to survive.
Downsizing is inescapable. Just as the McCormick reaper replaced laborers swinging old fashioned scythes, or cradles as they were then called, so modern technology has replaced assembly-line workers in all types of industrial production.
Now we face another fact: even if the operators produce goods at a very much lower manufacturing cost due to modern technology, to whom will they sell these products? Certainly not to unemployed workers.
So what must these workers do in order to live — to feed their families, to make mortgage payments, keep up insurance, and pay the costs of educating their children?
The above problems cannot — repeat — cannot be solved under the price system.
Even in the best of times in the past we could never have full employment, so how can we think of such a condition now?
In the past, and to a much greater extent now, there have been, and are, people who state that each invention, each forward step into the technological age, provides more jobs and adds to employment.
We have little to say to such people, and will bid them goodbye now for they are not looking at our present dilemma with an unprejudiced eye. Perhaps they can’t; they may not have the intelligence to look facts in the face.
The problems facing us, not just in the future, but right now, are too great to be solved by politicians. We do not hesitate to say that our present so-called democratic system must be exchanged for one in which goods and services, all of them, are produced and distributed in a scientific manner, a system in which each human is entitled to the necessities of life regardless of the amount in which he contributed to the system.
As we go further into the downsizing now in progress the problem becomes more profound. So what happens if we continue as we are?
There comes a time when taxpayers cannot pay into the system enough money to pay for social security, Medicare, employment insurance and the many other expenditures we make in our efforts to keep the Price System going. What then must follow?
Are you ready? Then here it is:
Chaos follows the breakdown of law and order, for starving people will rob and even kill for food. There will be riots in the streets of our cities. We have already seen what can happen when small groups arm themselves and decide that they are preparing for war with our federal government.
The best book available at this time concerning the downsizing problem is one written by
Jeremy Rifkin. The book is called The End of Work. The author spoke on television (Station CSPAN April 2, 1996). He highlighted some of the problems which exist as a result of modern technology. However, he didn’t seem to have any idea of how we can solve unemployment problems.
He suggested that we might have to go to a 25-hour work week, thus sharing the work among more employees. What follows then? Shall we go to a 20-hour week? — a 10-hour week? It is obvious that this sharing the employment by shortening the hours will not work. Rifkin quotes many people, politicians, labor leaders and others who advocate this method. Even that philosophical genius, England’s Bertrand Russell, was quoted as saying, “There should not be eight hours per day for some and zero for others but four hours per day for
There will, of course, always be a need for human labor as far as repairing the damage done by a hurricane or some other natural disaster, but there will be little or no need for such employment as assembly-line work in manufacturing, for today’s technology has created machines that do all this work. These machines appear to be able to think, guided as they are by computers.
An article, “No Help Wanted,” was printed in the May 1993 issue of Playboy magazine. The article, by Charles A. Carami, said that technology soon will have taken over practically all factory work, and that the greatest status symbol of the 21st century will be for anyone who has a job.
What happens to workers who have been fired, laid off, or, if we want to use the modern term — downsized?
Some of them send out résumés to companies in the line of work with which they had past experience. Probably some of them find new jobs, but most do not. Some seek work of any nature just so there is a paycheck with it.
After savings are used up, unemployment insurance has run out, and no job has been found, what then? It is a problem that each downsized person must face. Some go on welfare as the last means of providing food and lodging.
It is a shame and worse than a disgrace that this situation exists in America, the richest country in the world.
Living conditions can only get worse as we struggle with our Price System.
Technology has smashed the Price System, and it is up to us to adopt a new way of producing and distributing goods and services.
For over 60 years Technocracy Inc. has shown that it was only a matter of time until the present critical situation arose. Now it is here.
Up to recently we have seen the industrial downsizing of workers. A much greater impact will be felt with the automation of service industries — banking, supermarkets, gas stations, to mention only three.
We cannot adapt to this new technological age if we continue with the old worn-out price system — using money as a means of exchange, expecting that there will be enough demand for human labor to furnish employment for an ever–growing population.
We must change to the scientific method in the production and distribution of goods and services, by which means each human will be assured of the necessities of life from the cradle to the grave.
We do not have a choice in this matter. We do have a chance for survival. It is up to us to make the change that can guarantee that survival.