I love how Limbaugh starts off his rant by making sure his listeners know that he’s never heard of Douglas Rushkoff. Since Rushkoff is one of America’s most prominent intellectuals, no surprises there, Rushbo…
RUSH: I was just handed here a CNN story. The headline here: “Are Jobs Obsolete?” Who wrote this? Douglas Rushkoff. I never heard of Douglas Rushkoff. It’s a column. I’m gonna have to read this. The point of this is the whole concept of jobs may be “obsolete” in America now, which is the most amazing attempt to excuse Obama I have net seen, but that’s just at cursory glance. Yeah, get this, folks: “America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.” This is an opinion piece called, “Are Jobs Obsolete?” that appears at CNN.com by some guy named Douglas Rushkoff, who I’ve never heard of and he’s not identified here.
Okay, now, I found out who this Douglas Rushkoff guy is. He’s a “media theorist,” a media theorist, “the author of Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, and also Life, Inc.: How Corporatism Conquered the World and How We Can Take it Back.” That’s who has written the piece at CNN.com, “Are Jobs Obsolete?” He’s a “media theorist.” What the hell is a “media theorist”? Now, he’s got a Wikipedia entry, but everybody has a Wikipedia entry, just like everybody has a radio show. It says he was born in 1961, so he’s 50. He’s “an American media theorist, writer, columnist, lecturer, graphic novelist, and documentarian best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture and his advocacy of open source solutions to social problems.”
So he’s a “media theorist” who writes comic books. So it’s quite understandable here that CNN would give him a soapbox. Anyway, “Are Jobs Obsolete?” On the day Obama’s going to give his big speech on jobs! “The U.S. Postal Service appears to be the latest casualty in digital technology’s slow but steady replacement of working humans. Unless an external source of funding comes in, the post office will have to scale back its operations drastically, or simply shut down altogether. That’s 600,000 people who would be out of work, and another 480,000 pensioners facing an adjustment in terms. We can blame a right wing attempting to undermine labor, or a left wing trying to preserve unions in the face of government and corporate cutbacks.
“But the real culprit—at least in this case—is e-mail. People are sending 22% fewer pieces of mail than they did four years ago, opting for electronic bill payment and other net-enabled means of communication over envelopes and stamps. New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures—from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs,” and it doesn’t ask for a day off to take care of the cat.
“We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace. And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs—as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there’s something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned. I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand…”
(laughing) “I understand we all want paychecks—or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs? We’re living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That’s because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.” (sniffs) No, my nose started running. This is Douglas Rushkoff, “media theorist” at CNN.com.
“America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that’s even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings to get the empty houses off their books. Our problem is not that we don’t have enough stuff—it’s that we don’t have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.”
Wait a minute. “[W]e don’t have enough ways for people to work,” but yet he just said we don’t need people working. I shall nevertheless continue here: “Jobs, as such, are a relatively new concept.” Did you know that, folks? Jobs are a new concept, “relatively” so. “People may have always worked, but until the advent of the corporation in the early Renaissance, most people just worked for themselves. They made shoes, plucked chickens, or created value in some way for other people, who then traded or paid for those goods and services. By the late Middle Ages, most of Europe was thriving under this arrangement. The only ones losing wealth were the aristocracy, who depended on their titles to extract money from those who worked.
“And so they invented the chartered monopoly. By law, small businesses in most major industries were shut down and people had to work for officially sanctioned corporations instead. From then on, for most of us, working came to mean getting a ‘job.’ ... While this is certainly bad for workers and unions, I have to wonder just how truly bad is it for people.” See, workers in unions are not people. “Isn’t this what all this technology was for in the first place? The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ all the people who are rendered obsolete by technology, but how can we organize a society around something other than employment?
“Might the spirit of enterprise we currently associate with ‘career’ be shifted to something entirely more collaborative, purposeful, and even meaningful? Instead, we are attempting to use the logic of a scarce marketplace to negotiate things that are actually in abundance. What we lack is not employment, but a way of fairly distributing the bounty we have generated through our technologies, and a way of creating meaning in a world that has already produced far too much stuff. The communist answer to this question was just to distribute everything evenly. But that sapped motivation and never quite worked as advertised.
“The opposite, libertarian answer (and the way we seem to be going right now) would be to let those who can’t capitalize on the bounty simply suffer. Cut social services along with their jobs, and hope they fade into the distance.” Is that what we’re doing? That’s what we’re doing now, we’re just cutting loose people and letting them suffer out there? We’re cutting social services along with their jobs? I’ll tell you what, I think Obama is putting this crackpot theory to the test. Having a small number of people working to support the rest of the country is exactly what Obama’s doing. This crackpot’s theory is in process here of being implemented!
We’re all a bunch of guinea pigs here; we didn’t know it. Mr. Rushkoff here sounds like he’s sitting in some frat house after a night of too many hits on the bong, folks. He says here, “We start by accepting that food and shelter are basic human rights. The work we do—the value we create—is for the rest of what we want: the stuff that makes life fun, meaningful, and purposeful. This sort of work isn’t so much employment as it is creative activity. Unlike Industrial Age employment, digital production can be done from the home, independently, and even in a peer-to-peer fashion without going through big corporations.
“We can make games for each other, write books, solve problems, educate and inspire one another—all through bits instead of stuff. And we can pay one another using the same money we use to buy real stuff.” Yeah, that’s what we should do: Make games for each other, write books for each other, solve problems for each other, educate and inspire one another instead of doing stuff—and we can pay one another using the same money we use to buy real stuff, but… Well, nobody’s gonna have any money if they don’t have any. I don’t know. Again, Douglas Rushkoff. I’m sort of embarrassed this guy shares letters of my name.
You know, this Rushkoff guy needs to hear the story of the first Thanksgiving. He needs to hear how his way failed. He needs to actually… Anyway, it’s at CNN.com, and just came in over the transom. (interruption) Funemployment? Look, I’m not gonna make the claim that this guy is out there trying to help Obama (laughing), but on the day Obama’s giving his big job speech, this guy’s got a piece out there, “America’s productive enough they could probably shelter, feed, educate, even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working,” and we’re putting that theory to test here, folks. We are in the process of doing exactly that.
Thank you kindly, Jeff Newelt of New York City!