Timesizing® Not Government Upsizing
[Commentary] © 2000-2013 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire™, Harvard Sq POBox 117 Cambridge MA 02238 USA (617) 623-8080 - HOMEPAGE

Makework
Definition= what you get when you perpetuate an arbitrary 1940-era forty-hour workweek
which predated most automation (and you don't even want to think about robotics!)

              Click for REALMS, for CASES, for HISTORY; also for WORKWEEK history

        If we have any vision for humanity beyond working more and more hours for less and less pay despite more and more worksaving technology, then we must ponder the pervasive makework that currently distorts our society and economy, in both the public and private sectors. We estimate some 60-70% of government today is makework (or 'makeup,' meaning entitlements or hand-outs to make up for not having nearly enough "full-time" jobs - defined as an outdated 40-hour week - for anywhere near the hundreds of millions of citizens who need them). And in the private sector? Think of the tens of thousands of one-car trains, semis - tearing up our highways instead of on our rails coupled onto thousands of others. Think of virus writing and checking, adware writing and blocking, malware writing and extracting. Think of all the irritating unnecessary software upgrades. Think of all the tatoo parlours and the tatoo removal clinics...
        As you might guess, there's a huge government tax burden weighing on taxpayers from all this bogus busywork dreamed up just to perpetuate a frozen pre-computer workweek. And the irony is, it's unnecessary because at any time, we can replace "makework" with "sharework" alias worksharing (and 20 US states are in a position to do just that). and then move on to sustainable Timesizing.

        Today, the world's largest economy, in both the public and private sectors, is soaked with makework, and taxpayers are getting soaked for both, as corporation after corporation threatens to move to another state along with its jobs - unless it gets tax breaks. The prevalence of makework, in both public and private sectors, makes clowns of our claimants to low environmental impact and our critics of luddism. It's nothing but massive socialism - for corporations and top executives - yet they keep kidding themselves, and us, by misnaming it "capitalism" and calling it "efficient" and "productive." And of course, military makework is a huge favorite with self-styled conservatives.
        Now that socialism-communism has supposedly died with the Soviet Union, self-proclaimed "capitalists" are free to lunge for government subsidies. But they've been doing it all along. The old capitalist-communist, right-left, conservative-liberal, Republican-Democrat split that absorbed us for so many years was. and is. mere distraction.
        The Frenchman, Frederic Bastiat, was laughing about private-sector makework 150 years ago. His "Negative Railway" (see Heilbroner's Worldly Philosophers 6th ed. p.180) had planned breaks to provide more work for porters and railmen. We may like to dismiss it, but to this day, London has a plethora of unconnected railway stations (Victoria, Euston, St. Pancras... - and Paris, Gare du Nord, Gare du Sud... - and Vienna, Eisenbahnhof Ost und West) and Americans can't just laugh at "old Europe" because ... Boston's North and South Stations STILL do not connect! - and what's up with New York's Penn Station and Grand Central Station? Then there's the discommensurate gauges in British history and all the transfer work involved in linking to the Great Western RR's 7-ft gauge. Rumor has it that Australia STILL has discommensurate gauges and plenty of transfer makework at Alice Springs. Then there's Bastiat's Petition of the Candlemakers (p.181) who wanted the windows of Paris shuttered permanently and Mandeville's Fable of the Bees (p.180), which praised profligate work-providing spending over frugal penny-pinching.
        Now we must face the real problem all along - the contrast between our jerrybuilt downsize/makework capitalism (dba corporate socialism) and the efficient timesize/sharework capitalism that, apart from isolated examples, only surfaces in wartime when big "capitalists" have to cut the rhetoric and seriously centrifuge their unspendable, astronomically concentrated spending power.
        A couple of examples of our makework type of capitalism? (click here for fuller list) - and let's make it tough, let's keep them in the private sector. How about American litigiousness. How about "meeting-itis." How about our computer virus industry, checking & creating. How about our conversion from thousands of single engines each pulling hundreds of cars (railroads) to hundreds of thousands of engines each pulling only a single car (trucking). How about telemarketing, spam, junkmail and the number of times you've changed health insurers in the last two years because your employer keeps getting acquired.... How about our desperate proliferation of invasive advertising, of marketers, of "middlemen," starting with that flood of inefficient paperpushers in health insurance itself, or the bloating army of private-sector tax preparers with a deep self-interest in making sure every "tax reform" makes things more complicated? And simply owning and renting didn't provide enough jobs, oh no - we had to invent condos and timeshares, with all their burgeoning paperwork and middlemen.

        The difference today? Our makework capitalism is functionally equivalent to corporate socialism with government forever getting sucked into the economy by big companies seeking taxbreaks and subsidies to offset dwindling markets and prop up inflated stock prices. Sharework capitalism, usually appearing only under great stress, does one thing that makework capitalism never has the strategic or long-range sense to do - it withdraws technologically superfluous labor hours from the job market (usually by mobilizing for war) and thus harnesses market forces to do what only Henry Ford and a few others ever had the brains to do in peacetime = reinvest massively in our own markets via our own employees' pay and benefits - ALL our own employees, not just the top executives who never have the time to spend a fraction of their "earnings." But sharework capitalism is not wedded to war. There's an intelligent version of it too.
        Sharework capitalism's huge potential for getting the government out of the economy and dismantling decades of government regulations and programs vainly set up to compensate for the colossal but never-fully-admitted technological disemployment of the last two centuries has never been realized, because it has only surfaced during wartime when the government is everywhere anyway. But only sharework capitalism has the possibility of building on our separation of Church and State, religion and politics, and separating State and Market, politics and economics. Makework capitalism is always in too many self-generated crises to really cut government, as it swings between more makework to maintain consumer spending and less makework when CEOs get into their periodic fixation on Efficiency and forget where their markets come from (ultimately, their own employees). Democrats proliferate makework on the excuse of helping the poor and helping business development (i.e., jobs). Republicans proliferate makework via the Pentagon on the excuse of boosting national security and helping business development (i.e., jobs). Both are irrelevant, both are beside-the-point, both are pathetic.

Click here for examples.


For more information, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, which is available online from *Amazon.com and at the Harvard Sq Coop (3rd floor) and Porter Sq Bookcellar (basement), Cambridge, Mass.

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