June 25, 2012

We're Doing It To Ourselves

We're not thinking about it, I can tell. We give it lip service, if that, and go our merry way. We're not going to change, and so whatever I'm saying won't mean much. Our own convenience means more than the bigger picture. We don't like libertarians, but we've been influenced by them just the same, because "it's not my problem" (the foundation of libertarian ethics) has moved into the central control booth in our lives. But hear me out.

We do our banking online. It not only exposes us to some degree of vulnerability, but it means less cashiers at the window, and less associates at the desks to work with. Bank doesn't have to hire as many people. Jobs are lost.

We do our bill paying online. It not only exposes us to some degree of vulnerability (I've had to cancel or change accounts for three credit card already, and it happens with regularity everywhere), it also means less people have to process the mail. No need for all these people opening envelopes. No need for all these people to process checks. No need for printers to print checks. No need for stamps. No need for the people who print stamps or sell them at the window of the post office. No need for the post office to have so many people. Jobs are lost.

They say "if I pay my bills online I am saving trees." But if you have any bills you pay by mail, just look at the little recycled symbol almost everywhere. Virtually no bills and billings are printed on "new" paper. The "save a tree" argument is bogus.

We buy things online. There still has to be someone to pack the order, ship it and deliver it. But who needs people at the counter? When was the last time you were at a mall or a commercial district? When you were there, did you notice how many people aren't behind the counters? Those jobs are gone.

Add this to the political climate and you have a problem. The big move is now to reduce "government spending" (not the military, of course, that would be unpatriotic), which will translate into cutting back government hours, government programs, and the people who run and administer them. Jobs will be lost. And the vicious, mean-spirited conservative will look at people from the Occupy movement and snarl "get a job." Exactly where that job is, however, remains a mystery.

We'd love to find someone to blame. But I think we're just doing it to ourselves.

There's a bit about public works in here...

Recorded during the Bush Presidency.


B.E. Earl said...

I understand, but what's the alternative? As long as the majority of consumers find online shopping and banking to be more convenient and corporations are saving money by automating processes, then the trend is going to continue.

I don't know what the answer is to the jobs issue. But those counter jobs you write of? They are gone and they ain't coming back.

RW said...

Consumers can determine what companies do. If there was a steady stream of people at the counter the business would get the idea. Of course it won't happen, because it isn't convenient and we don't like to have to actually talk to people or interact with them; because we're on more intimate terms with screens.

It also won't happen because people will always go for what is the easier option. So there's no way to stem or turn it around & I know that. But I've started to have less to do with the internet in terms of commerce wherever I can. Got to put my money where my mouth is. But to get rid of it totally? Not possible. I understand that.

Avitable said...

But it also means more jobs making computers and increasing bandwidth and programming online options and creating apps. So is it really a bad thing?

RW said...

Well that's good news for Asia.

Brian said...

At some point (and I think it is still quite a ways off) we are going to have to realize that a system that depends utterly on constant economic growth cannot persist forever, unless we find a way to practically and permanently spread out beyond this planet.

At some point, we are going to have to decide that what we have is good enough. That any increases in productivity (like those you describe here) are going to have to be returns to leisure time, rather than to profit margins. And would that be such a terrible thing?

Who wouldn't cut their work hours in half if they got to maintain the same standard of living? Apparently, nearly everyone, based on how we have failed to take advantage of exactly that opportunity in the last couple of decades.

I don't know why this is such a hard sell, but it seems to be.

sybil law said...

Lewis Black is awesome.
Also, we still need ditch diggers, I guess.
Man, now I'm all depressed.