The broth economy
It wasn’t long ago, that if one was letting a room out in their home, or driving a cab on the side, that these stopgaps indicated ‘tough times.’ One was hurting if one was forced to live by these terms, just to get by.
Now, it seems, the West has pinned these vantage points as normal. The work-week hasn’t gotten any easier for many encamped within the thumb of the income bell-curve, and arguably, despite ramping technology, certain aspects of life have become harder.
A little 1930 essay by John Maynard Keynes is interesting when one considers work-life in the 21st century. Always the Malthusist, Keynes saw population growth calming & innovation rising allowing people to shed vast amounts of their work by 2030. Furthermore, this new-found time would pave way for a whetted appetite for leisure.
His mis-predictions leave many scratching their heads in wonder: have we missed something? Or did Keynes simply misjudge mankind’s trajectory?
Imagine a hypothetical family-of-four, who, instead of letting out their spare room, but quite the opposite, had each working parent with twenty work-hours to spare, in a given week. Certainly, one could say:
“Wow! This family is living on Easy Street.”
But instead, the market for supplemental income is the one that’s booming. Trending companies like Uber & Airbnb provide the means for many whose head is just at the waterline.
Despite low population growth, a charging stock market, and technology that continues to kill nagging inconveniences, America has to ‘gig’ just to keep up.
What on earth could explain our perpetual work-force enrollment? It’s tough to say.
One conjecture is that the western world is on a never-ending merry-go-round of consumerism. This assumes that we’re all living under a pathological spell, living in a Girardian mimesistopia, where having enough to get by isn’t the goal any longer. In this world, mankind is playing catch-up, ad infinitum.
There’s no indication that Keynes saw mankind to be wired this way. Despite having been privy to the ‘Animal Spirits’ whereby people inject their emotions into the market, outright lemming behavior probably would have been an unlikely character summation for Keynes to bestow on his fellow Man.
Certainly, whatever the reason, work remains for nearly all of us.
Work, as we know it, is roughly two-hundred years old. Jobs didn’t exist that long ago, and only farming is a relic from the days before it. Two-hundred, when placed as numerator over the large number that is mankind’s evolution, reveals this: work has only played a mere pittance of a roll in our overall history.
So while we invent time-saving technologies, yet can’t abstract away the stopgap that is the modern work-day — even a little bit — a wonderment remains: what’s tripped us up in reaching what should be, and what Keynes predicted, the next chapter in our evolution?
It may be that we’re in a rut, due to our insatiable appetites for neighbor-mimesis. It may be something even more fundamental. But one thing looks certain: the day where leisure eclipses work is one far off in the future.