One may not agree with his overall approach, but the fact that we might be able to meet our basic needs with 30% of the existing workforce is good news for those of us wanting to spend more time on experiences than stuff. So how do we transition to a society where the other 70% can be supported, providing planning, support, cultural and other sustainable services and how do we tax and price a slower societal metabolism that’s sustainable? See 10 proposals for prosperity without growth posted earlier.
Making Do With More
by J. Bradford DeLong, former US Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary
Project Syndicate, 26 February 2015
In the United States, just three out of ten workers are needed to produce and deliver the goods we consume. Everything we extract, grow, design, build, make, engineer, and transport – down to brewing a cup of coffee in a restaurant kitchen and carrying it to a customer’s table – is done by roughly 30% of the country’s workforce.
The rest of us spend our time planning what to make, deciding where to install the things we have made, performing personal services, talking to each other, and keeping track of what is being done, so that we can figure out what needs to be done next. And yet, despite our obvious ability to produce much more than we need, we do not seem to be blessed with an embarrassment of riches. One of the great paradoxes of our time is that workers and middle-class households continue to struggle in a time of unparalleled plenty.
We in the developed countries have more than enough to cover our basic needs. We have enough organic carbon-hydrogen bonds to break to provide us with calories; enough vitamins and other nutrients to keep us healthy; enough shelter to keep us dry; enough clothing to keep us warm; enough capital to keep us, at least potentially, productive; and enough entertainment to keep us from being bored. And we produce all of it for an average of less than two hours a day of work outside the home.