It’s a common phrase on the front lines of class conflict: “Why don’t you just get yourself a job?” It comes up when people talk about employment, poverty, or wages. I am often surprised by the amount of glee taken when people complain not just about the homeless or the unemployed, but about people working for minimum wage. The question is often asked, “Why am I paying their tax bill?” “What do you mean I should pay for public transit? I have my own car”, “Why should they get anything more than they already have? I worked hard for what I have. I deserve it. They don’t. I’m a self made man”
I hear that and I think to myself, maybe they’re a manager who just had to fire somebody. Maybe they’ve just passed one too many strapping young panhandlers on the street. Maybe they’ve just had a look at their T4 slip. However, all the maybes in the world doesn’t make them any less wrong.
No one, not one single solitary person, “gets themselves a job”. Every job is dependent on someone else. In order to have a job, you need a company to work at. In order to have a company you need customers to sell to and suppliers to buy from. In order to keep using the labor and capital that your business depends upon, your customers will need to give you money. Money is little else but a giant confidence game we invented to distribute goods and services. Those Good and services are worth what people will pay for them, but the opposite is also true. A dollar is only worth what you’re willing to trade for it.
We’re in an economic crisis right now because a lot of financial institutions suddenly had to stop lying to themselves about how much they were worth. Pretty soon, more and more people will also have to stop lying to themselves. Companies are shutting down right now because they can’t pretend they’re making anything anybody will buy. All that is left will be thousands or even millions of people re-evaluating their place in society. I think that’s where the solution to the crisis lies. Premier Gordon Campell wrote on Twitter today that he was looking for unfiltered ideas on how to create jobs in this new economic landscape. I believe I have one. Find out what we have to offer the world, and also find out what we want from the rest of the world. If anything comes from the myriad of stimulus packages being passed in parliaments and senates all over the world, I hope that at least some of those funds go towards creating new markets. This will require us to answer this question: What are we all doing here? When North and South America were discovered, people made their fortunes creating new societies there and bringing resources back. When the industrial revolution started, we made machines that could make items like clothes and fine china at rates previously unheard of. In the 20th century, we connected the whole world with automobiles, satellites, and computers. In this new century, we must decide what the next chapter of the human endeavor is. If we can find a challenge that can speak to our souls, it is there that we will find our future.