The world is falling under the spell of nationalist populism (must work this time), and the only spirited opposition are basic income-worshipers. Both sides offer catastrophic non-solutions to wrongly defined problems. And neither have any idea how to fix the economies, even though that is the ultimate source of people’s anxieties.
- Nationalist populists utilize security fears and build on people’s addiction to punishment and tribal thinking. They use fake threats and fearmongering to gather their flock and solidify their power – while they scapegoat foreigners to distract from their own economic incompetence.
- Basic income populists utilize economic insecurities and build on people’s sense of compassion. They use the fake dilemma of whether basic income promotes idleness to make some vague point – but their idea also happens to give enormous power in the hands of politicians. They focus of unemployment and ignore the damage basic income would do to political systems – by providing the wrong incentives alongside unlimited power to political leaders.
Neither of these two ideologies have any idea how to fix the economies, even though that is the ultimate source of people’s anxieties, exactly because they regard economic planning as default and its mistakes as unmovable obstacles we have to find a way around.
In Harvard Business Review Diane Mulcahy (Why I Tell My MBA Students to Stop Looking for a Job and Join the Gig Economy) makes the point that full-time employment is so costly that people should stop coveting it and just join the gig economy.
“The problem is, jobs aren’t what they used to be. Growth in the number of jobs is stagnating and full-time jobs are both insecure and risky. Companies no longer make promises of either professional or financial security to today’s workforce.
Full-time employees are the most expensive and least flexible source of labor, qualities that make them unattractive to corporate America and Silicon Valley startups alike. Our policymakers have perpetuated an outdated labor market structure in which companies pay the highest taxes for full-time employees, and are required to provide certain benefits and protections only to full-time employees, which means that hiring an employee costs significantly more (30-40%) than an equivalent independent worker.
/emphasis our own/
Notice that her analysis takes the immense taxation and overregulation of full-time labour as granted – and suggests that we simply try to find a way to live with this government failure. She suggests to grow more flexible, adopt the appropriate mindset and just roll with it. We should stop trying and refocus ourselves to be and stay flexible. Everyone, whether it suits their attitudes and life situations or not.
I am fine with flexible work – just like many in our generation – although that may come back to haunt me later. We don’t know about the pension systems of the future (if any), but they will be definitely unrecognizable to today’s employees. But not everyone is comfortable with uncertainty. In fact, that is what sets off a lot of “white, working class” people – and many others who end up voting for the populist who mentions this insecurity often enough – and then goes on to blame something or someone for it. But populists on both sides have the wrong definition of the problem, and thus arrive at catastrophic solutions. (OK, I was kidding, they had the “solutions” first.)
For those who prefer to employ the same people, full-time – and for those who prefer this kind of certainty – full-time jobs should be available. But at their own terms. At any term that is sustainable. A government can only force an employer to offer ever-growing perks to full-time employees – but it cannot force them to not go bankrupt. Or not to look for alternatives when full-time employees became a costly luxury.
The evaporation of full-time employment is a problem that was created by governments. They achieved this massive government failure by:
- making full-time employment so costly it evaporated,
- by stepping in the way of innovations (because they are not the old solutions), and
- by letting old industries growing on the heads of governments by skillful lobbying and heartbreaking narratives.
The resulting companies ceased to be purely entrepreneurial entities and became political-business hybrid monsters that write the rules they play by. And people today call that “capitalism”.
The possibility that economies should not be managed at all falls on a blind spot for both basic income populists and nationalist protectionist populists. But that is the only solution now. We should bring down the obstacles – not find a way around them. And we definitely shouldn’t give politicians more powers to tax or deport people in the name of false solutions.
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Featured image: May 1st Garment Factory, 1970s Budapest. Photo by Sándor Bauer, Fortepan.hu