Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

There’s work, but no jobs. What’s wrong here?

Posted May 30, 2011 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, 2 Comments

As we look at high unemployment figures in Northern Africa, or in Spain or in the United States, it should make us wonder what is going on when there is so much work to be done.

There are homes and schools to build; kids and adults to teach; food to prepare; new sources of energy to capture; the list goes on and on.  And yet, the work remains undone; millions remain unemployed.  How do you explain this?

In our dominant economic model, businesses create jobs.  In fact they own them. That’s why they can ship them overseas, or simply eliminate them.  Jobs are dependent on business growth, not on what needs to be done. Some might say that today many jobs actually depend on corporate advertising.  If enough people desire the latest computer toy or game, then there are jobs in Silicon Valley, or if enough people want to play with other people’s money in the stock markets, there are jobs on Wall Street.

Instead of businesses creating jobs, we need businesses that do the work.  Jobs will follow.  Actually, we as citizens should help businesses focus on their function in providing us with what we need, and rewarding them for doing so.  In some cases, this is already happening.

Some businesses in the housing system, for example, have started to focus on building sustainable homes.  This work could be expanded to retrofitting existing homes.  In fact, turning our cities into sustainable habitats would leave few without something to do.

Why are we so reluctant to get to work?   Perhaps we don’t know how—how to be active members of the cities in which we live—how to be citizens.

2 Responses to “There’s work, but no jobs. What’s wrong here?”

  1. JD Moyer says:

    May 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Marv, Are you familiar with Van Jones and his book The Green Collar Economy? Much of his work is along these lines (especially green/energy-saving retrofitting). Jones was smeared by the Right and the Obama administration dumped him. I agree with your point -- there's low-hanging fruit to be picked in terms of "work to be done" in the U.S. Even if these jobs were 100% publicly funded, they could be paid for by redirecting even a small % of the military budget. US citizens have been tricked into thinking the US military budget "protects national interests." In practice, it has only protected corporate and shareholder interests for decades.
  2. Marvin Brown says:

    May 31, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Yes, Van Jones's book, and work, is certainly moving in this direction. I have been thinking more about the nature of money and learning from those who see money as a public good, which should be issued by the government for "getting the work done." I tend to agree with those who argue that the government should not borrow money and pay interest, but should simply issue it. If the money gets the work done, then the jobs will follow, and with jobs, citizens can pay taxes to fund future public services.

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Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit workingethics.com for more information.

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