Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Nostalgia for Lost Jobs

As usual, Virginia Postrel has a great link:Would you really rather be a miner?
The argument, heard often in tandem with a vaguely anti-capitalist or anti-globalisation bleat, is that those awful (fill in the blanks) have stolen our Jobs.
Which were Ours, you see, by - well, by what right, exactly?

Inheritance? Nope, that's the British Royals.
Guaranteed by the Government? Nope, that's the French, and nobody's buying their stock at the moment. Government's money comes from?? S'right - us Evil Capitalists (EC).
Provided by Family, Tribe? Maybe - if there is an underlying EC somewheres in there - think Ngai Tahu. If not, then when the somebody-else's dime which must be propping the whole show up runs out, so do the jobs.
Threats of violence? Maybe. For a while, and if you're running a mafia or gangsta type op, then that 'while' can be generations. But standover specialists aren't exactly your basic patent-filer types: real innovation comes from free spirits, as a glance at Peters' yardsticks may show. No profits, no surplus to intimidate others into giving you a cut of, no parasites. And where do those profits come from? EC's, again.
Technology? Sure. But all those wagon-wheel and arrow makers of yore seem to have become aircraft engineers, farmers become biologists, miners become mobile phone account managers. Look in the papers - how many of those job titles existed even 20 years ago?

Having just finished Evan Eisenberg's Ecology of Eden, I'm inclined to think that these 'Lost Jobs' reveries are another instance of the 'expulsion from Eden' myth which he dissects so well. Like, there never really was an Eden, so there's no place to go back to. But the nostalgia stems less from this than from the inability to accept that our own reality (Eisenberg's label is the Tower - exemplified by the large cities - largely human-created but containing an essential wildness of their own) is part of nature/world/universe, too. And part of our human nature (when circumstances permit, see Peters again) is simply to create stuff that never existed before.

So the Our-Jobs-Have-Gone moaners seem to have quite a lot in common with the Let's-keep-feeding-people-into-the-industrial-shredders anti-war protesters.

Yes, they (Jobs, tyrants) are gone.
No, they aren't coming back any time soon.
And really, do you all want to go back into that factory, or down that hole? Or, into that shredder?

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