Monday, 8 April 2013 INDEX

Thinking is painful, not thinking hurts even more
The majority is not always wrong, but given time it will become so.

If you read the press or listen to the radio you will think our problem is a huge shortage of labour. We are constantly being told that there are too many welfare cheats, people adapt to a lifestyle of living on benefits and the pension age needs to rise because we are all living too long.

People believe these things because they are told them again and again. But they are not true. The real problem is mass joblessness and particularly youth unemployment. Think for a few seconds and you will realise the best way to help young people to get work is to encourage older people, or at least those who can, to retire.

But we don't just need to reduce the pension age. That's just a temporary sticking plaster designed to make things better at a time of massive economic crisis. In the longer term we need to encourage brave volunteers to live without work.

This is clearly obvious because in the current stage of the quickening technological revolution, jobs are being destroyed faster than they are being created. Machines are being developed that are better, simpler and cheaper at performing complex tasks. Everything from diagnosing illnesses to complex micro-surgery, is becoming easier and more effective thanks to assistance from sophisticated machines.

This is not the current wave of Fordism (or production line automation). These machines work on their own and can be programed (or program themselves) to perform highly individual tasks.

At the same time the new industrial giants (Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon etc) employ relatively few people. The evolving businesses do not create jobs in the way that they used to.

So we either need to work fewer hours (to share out the jobs) or some people have to accept they will have a lifetime without work.

The UK government's response (today) to this is to attempt to cut £2 billion payments to those receiving long term disability allowances, in an attempt to force thousands of people to compete for jobs that do not exist.

But perhaps you remember our old friend TINA, from the days of Margaret Thatcher? TINA stood for There Is No Alternative. In this case the TINA argument would be: The tax base can only afford to pay for a limited amount of welfare.

Again, this is complete nonsense. Over the last 30 years there has been a massive redistribution of income from the poorest to the richest. A fair tax system would reverse this trend, creating enough money for the sick and disabled to eke out a dismal lifestyle on state benefits.

Another popular misconception is the idea that if you tax too hard the wealthiest flee abroad to avoid your taxes. This is because you don't tax hard, you tax intelligently. Click and Tobin taxes could raise billions irrespective of the dwelling place of the super rich, so long as the economic activity that gives them that wealth takes place in the UK.

Posted by Jonathan Brind at 02:15
Monday, 8 April 2013 INDEX