New York Times pieces on the Future of Work

 

It’s new economy week, and I’ve got a new op-ed in the International New York Times on the future of work that ran on Tuesday. It talks about my new research for the MacArthur Foundation on the new kinds of consumption and production that are developing. Hope you like it!

After the Jobs Disappear By JULIET B. SCHOR

BOSTON — In Somerville, Massachusetts, just across the line from Cambridge, is an institution called Artisan’s Asylum. At 40,000 square feet, it says it’s one of the largest “makerspaces,” or community craft studios, on the East Coast of the United States. A nonprofit group, it hosts craftspeople, artists and entrepreneurs, analog and digital alike. In addition to classes in traditional fields like woodworking, fiber arts and metalworking, it offers coveted rental space for creative types.

At one end of the space, tech whizzes are building Stompy, a 4,000-pound hexapod — a six-legged robot. At the other is a “bike hacking”... (read more...)

Young people need jobs

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With under 100 days to go until the November election in the US, we can expect to hear a lot more about jobs and employment. Both candidates claim they will “create jobs” but neither will go beyond anodyne discussions of how to get the economy growing faster.. They’re both devotees of the trickle down approach to employment – trying to expand production as rapidly as possible and hoping that the jobs appear.

For those of us who care about the degradation of the planet’s ecosystems, and climate especially, this brand of indiscriminate macroeconomic management is unacceptable. By failing to ask what’s being produced, we remain tethered to unsustainable patterns of production and consumption. We’re constructing a larger and larger hole to dig ourselves out of.

If we decide to look in more detail at the jobs shortage, an obvious place to start is with our youth. Young people are facing much higher rates of joblessness than other age groups. The International Labour Organisation reports that 75 million young people are now unemployed. Rates of... (read more...)

Economic Fallacies: wrong-headed ideas about worktime

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I’m just back from four days of workshops and public lectures in London, Paris and Brussels. There is tremendous interest in issues of worktime there. The London event was organized by the new economics foundation (nef) , and a research center at the London School of Economics (CASE). In 2010, nef did a very popular report called 21 hours calling for a 21 hour workweek.

I debated a conservative economist on the BBC World Service who called the idea “totalitarian” and “Draconian.” I think it’s a lot more interesting than that. We had overflow lectures and lots of interesting debate. The podcast of the nef workshop and lecture is available here:

http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=1297

Before the meeting,  I published a piece in the Guardian Sustainable Business section. Here it is:... (read more...)

Occupy Sustainability

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Apologies for my long silence. I’ve been busy with many things, including the Occupy movement.  I just published the following piece in the Guardian Sustainable Business section, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/blog under the title, Occupy Sustainability. Hope you all have a productive and happy holiday season. More blogs in the new year. Juliet

With the recent failure of the Durban climate talks, the collapse of carbon prices in Europe, and news that emissions grew a record 6% in 2010, it’s time to re-evaluate the economic approach to climate that now dominates the conversation. The creation of carbon markets, carbon offsetting and the valuation of eco-systems are premised on the idea that marketization and reliance on economic incentives will yield sustainable outcomes. Many environmentalists like these policies because they seem to work with, rather than against our existing economic institutions and incentives. But as market-thinking expands with eco- and carbon-footprints, an obvious question is whether economics in command has become part of the problem.

 

It’s... (read more...)

Video: New Dream Mini-Views: Visualizing a Plenitude Economy

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This fun animation provides a vision of what a post-consumer society could look like, with people working fewer hours and pursuing re-skilling, homesteading, and small-scale enterprises that can help reduce the overall size and impact of the consumer economy.

http://youtu.be/HR-YrD_KB0M

Originally posted on The Center for a New American Dream’s site.

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The Incredible Shrinking Economy: revisions to GDP since 2007 reveal bleak news

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Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released revised figures for the Gross Domestic Product going all the way back to 2007, and they aren’t pretty. The recovery is a failure; the economy is lousy; and the official discourse is in deep, deep denial.

First, the numbers. The last year of growth before the financial panic and subsequent economic collapse was 2007. Since then, the economy has actually shrunk. That’s right, real GDP was less at the end of last year than it was at its peak in 2007. We’re still digging out of the hole that Goldman Sachs and friends put us in.

Previous estimates were for a small level of annual increase (0.1%), but the revisions put the average yearly change between 2007 and 2010 at -0.3%. GDP fell in 2008 by 0.3%. It also fell in 2009, by a much larger 3.5%. And it has risen only 3.0% in 2010. In the first quarter of 2011, the original estimate of 1.9% has since been downward revised to 0.4%, and I don’t think... (read more...)

Counter-intuition 101: why recent bad economic news means it’s time for working less

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The economic news of the last few weeks has not been encouraging. In Europe, the various national debt crises remain unresolved, with a continued monopoly of banker-friendly austerity programs, and their predictable consequences of rising unemployment and stagnation. Debtor countries are being forced into the same financial orthodoxies that prolonged the depression of the 1920s and 30s, so we shouldn’t be surprised at the failures they will bring. More recession may also be the future of the countries enforcing these once-discredited policies, as weak demand across the region represses consumer demand, investor confidence, and government spending. In the United States the details are different, but the main story is the same. The country is experiencing continuing mass unemployment (25 million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed), further collapse in the housing market and an extremist political movement determined to slash all government spending directed at the people who are most likely to spend: the poor, the unemployed, and the middle classes. The outlook... (read more...)

The great light bulb and toilet controversy

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The recent headlines on Congressional hearings on light bulbs and toilets prompted the NY Times to do a Room for Debate feature, which I contributed to. They confine us to 300 words, so I didn’t get to say much, but for the record, here’s what I weighed in with:

Let’s re-write the question. The trope of “offended consumers” is a trap set by the PR folks at climate denier central: in fact, Americans are believe strongly in energy efficient appliances, love the financial payback, and appreciate the chance to help the environment.

Rand Paul, on the other hand, sure looks like he’s trying to provide a large and quick return on investment to his two largest campaign contributors. Those would be ARP, a repeated safety offender from the industry that is doing the most to stop the shift to clean energy—coal—and the Koch Brothers, notorious oil barons, climate deniers and stealth political donors.(read more...)

The 80% Solution

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The new year is a perfect time to resume my blog posts, which fell victim to a heavy schedule of speaking about Plenitude as well as two new courses at Boston College, where I teach full time. It’s a pleasure to be writing again, and to have the opportunity to send greetings for a good 2011. I hope you are healthy and thriving, despite the difficult political and economic circumstances in which the US and the world finds itself.

In the months since I’ve last written, I’ve become more convinced that the economic analysis in Plenitude was on-target. A major prediction, indeed premise of the book is that the labor market was unlikely to recover any time soon. This has now become the new conventional wisdom, in sharp contrast to the official story when the book was written, and for much of 2009 and even the first part of 2010. The punditry now reports that the unemployment rate is expected not to fall below 9% in 2011. Not much is being said about 2012. But sadly, we pessimists are looking too correct. At the current time, after a... (read more...)

Financial reform forgot the planet

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Sorry I’ve been unable to post lately. The semester started and I’ve got two new classes, including one entitled “People and Nature,” which I am teaching with a historian and really enjoying.

The good folks at Zocalo Public Square, who featured Plenitude during the summer, asked me to comment on the financial reform bill. What’s the most important thing it got wrong? Here’s my answer:

The conversation on financial reform has been dominated by questions of systemic risk, too big to fail, consumer rights and protections, confidence, and compensation excess. These are all important. But there’s another set of issues that are even more pressing, and that’s the relation between finance and ecological sustainability.

Right now, investment proceeds with virtually no concern for the effects of the investment — that is, the activities it supports — on the planet. Both corporate entities and international financial institutions like the World Bank are funneling money to build highly-polluting... (read more...)