Tuesday, August 23, 2011

time for inefficiency

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, pepinsky.blogspot.com
August 23, 2011
I’m listening to an NPR “Fresh Air” interview with Mark Levinson about his book: The Great A&P and the struggle for small business in America. As I begin this blog, Mr. Levinson is focuses my attention on the consequences of an cultural imperative for economic efficiency aka productivity aka real growth, in Levinson’s case learning lessons from the rise and fall of the first US national grocery market chain.
In Levinson’s and other current economic/political jargon, human labor is by definition inefficient. Levinson’s analysis of A&P’s rise and fall reminds me of E. F. Shumacher’s 1975 book Small is beautiful: economics as if people mattered, where he celebrated “appropriate technology,” since embraced as “intermediate technology” (see practicalaction.org). One of Schumacher’s principles was that the average machine should cost no more than three years the wages of the worker using it. He also celebrated an owner’s decision to bequeath his business to his workers with the condition that any time any of their businesses got to having 300 workers, they would in turn incubate another worker owned business so as to stay small enough to be democratically manageable. I have fond memories of this book. It has profoundly shaped my thinking. Today I’m left by Levinson thinking about how to create jobs.
Sustaining human labor is in liberal economic terms by definition non-competitive, inefficient, unproductive. Under the force of neo-liberalism, worldwide, joblessness of youth and pressure on elders to create and yield jobs (aka “fighting corruption”) drives political upheaval. The only path I see to creating jobs and relieving upheaval is inefficiency, where we support ourselves more locally to pay more among ourselves to enjoy the services of our own nearest, and by extension, potentially dearest. Perhaps one day in my country the national government will be relegated to collecting the most regressive taxes, as on property, sales, and tobacco taxes, and as in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, the primary income tax collector will be the municipality. One way or another, jobs will “recover” locally if at all. Global “recovery” will concentrate only wealth, not jobs. L&p hal

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