Yes, you can have it

A stable world, no unemployment, a social compact where no one is forgotten:

It has been so on Himeshima for 40 years and suddenly, faced with the most alarming economic downturn since the Second World War, everyone from the central Government in Tokyo to the country\’s biggest industrial conglomerates is desperate to copy its secret: work sharing.

The island\’s magic formula amounts to a four-decade experiment in job preservation, a running agreement by employees to sacrifice wages and regular working hours for the sake of keeping everybody in work. Everything on Himeshima — the local bureaucracy, the ferry company, the prawn farms, the clinic and the care home — joins in.

However, you can\’t have it all. There is a cost to not allowing the gales of creative destruction to run through such a society.

Even though wages have remained more or less the same for decades,

That\’s the cost of a static society. It\’s static.

The one thing that makes capitalism worthwhile is that it\’s the only system we\’ve ever found or tried that leads to a sustained and continual growth in the living standards of the average bloke. One to two percent per year, year after year, decades and centuries. Average incomes in 1750 per capita were roughly what average incomes were per capita in AD100. Now they\’re, in those places that have had some variant of capitalism, for some period of time, around 12 times that 1750 level. At least.

No, you can\’t have it all. Make your choice please.

4 comments on “Yes, you can have it

  1. “Average incomes in 1750 per capita were roughly what average incomes were per capita in AD100.”

    Really? That’s a fascinating statistic! How did you come up with it? (I’m not being snarky, I’m really interested – how the hell does anyone know what the average income per capita was in AD100?)

    Tim adds: Economists like Brad Delong have been trying to calculate such things. Angus Maddision is another. Try here “http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/” and have a search around. Greg Clark is yet another.

    Call it around $600 per head from roughly the invention of agriculture to the invention of capitalism. (OK< maybe up as high as $1,000, as low as $400 at times, but no sustained and continual rise for any length of time).

  2. Interesting about Himeshima.
    I recall an argument with a lefty (maybe anarchist, it was long ago) who bemoaned the fact that 80,000 people used to work in London docks and then (1970) it was down to 20,000. I pointed out that efficiency cuts job numbers; should the employers have kept the same number?
    Yes, he said, they could have cut the hours worked by 75%.
    Different planet, those people.

  3. Except it won’t be our choice, Polly et al will inflict it in on the rest of us. or maybe, just maybe, we could send them to Himeshima and then they’ll leave the rest of us alone to get on with our own lines,

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