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Realms of Modern American Makework
alias featherbedding, cousin of luddism & guaranteed minimum income (Bucky Fuller, Robert Theobald...) - click for INTRO, or CASES, or HISTORY
And WAR, oops, of course we meant Defense, is number 1 (see below). Nothing puts the lie to the lofty illusions of "efficiency" and "productivity" suffered by today's economists, B-school profs, CEOs, analysts and self-styled hard-nosed capitalists (ha! more like whining corporate socialists) like the following list of current areas of artificial job creation, alias "makework." Makework has become so necessary to the frozen-workweek economies around the world, that it has spilled over from the public sector into the private sector, in mega doses, confirming the contention that it's quite impossible for a rigid-workweek economy to come anywhere close to efficiency, let alone ecological sustainability. Here are some of the areas of contemporary, institutionalized busywork, padding, featherbedding, and even no-show jobs in American, and other "modern" economies (and as usual WSJ stands for Wall Street Journal and NYT for New York Times in references) –
Suffice it to say that the number of areas in our society and economy that are distorted by the job insecurity resulting from our tragic choice of discretionary makework capitalism instead of automatic sharework capitalism are legion and often so taken-for-granted as to go unnoticed.
- First and foremost, the supposed "conservative's" makework campaign, WAR, dba Defense, for example, the huge and bloating US military-industrial complex, including all the jobs and fortunes in our arms industry that must(?) be preserved, cover term: "Pentagon" - Eisenhower warned us in 1959 but it was already too late. As a Pentagon official commented in 1975, "If you touch the military budget, we spit (i.e., lay off in this case) bodies" (p.153, Fred Vigman's 1976 "Collapse of Western Civilization"). This type of makework kills and maims workers, an advantage in terms of increasing medical makework and reducing labor surplus and the need for non-medical makework, but a disadvantage in terms of the loss of dead workers' consumer spending and system-adaptibility-enhancing diversity. So war simultaneously increases employment and decreases employees while increasing production to be used briefly and destroyed quickly in decreasing other economies' workers and consumer spending. In the U.S., war boils down to the Pentagon and the misleadingly named "intelligence" agencies, together the root and core of the military industrial complex, parasitically onerous when Congress votes it more money than it wants (see "Pentagon gets $1B it has no use for," Boston Globe frontpage article on 10/24/1998).
War is the biggest, most wasteful, least ecological and most system-undermining realm of modern makework (though hardly "modern") because it is favored by self-styled "conservatives" who are, of course, nothing of the sort (see also pages 9 & 32-33 in Gore Vidal's "Decline and Fall of the American Empire," though Vidal glosses over war's key function in converting labor surplus into labor shortage, thus harnessing market forces to raise wages, deconcentrate the national income, and thereby convert it from investment money into spending money, thus boosting the consumer base and all the rest of the economy that it supports - and "incidentally," when as usual more men than women are killed, war strengthens male domination by making them a scarce commodity and women a surplus - Islam dealt with this by replacing monogamy with quadrigynous polygamy) -
add to this billions of unaccountable tax dollars lavished on our secret intelligence services to stoke civil wars all over the world, such as $3.5B "foreign aid" every year to Israel, such as $6B by the early 1990s to "destroy El Salvador" (according to US Rep. Joe Moakley - but only $½B since then for rebuilding it) - and never mind the untold billions our kleptocrats have wasted over the centuries in destroying Haiti and all the other little countries that we've so nobly "helped" (Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, Iran, etc. and going back, Hawaii, Philippines, Mexico...) - "free-market capitalist" Reagan and his quiet huge socialism for weapons manufacturers more than tripled the US national debt into the 3-trillion zone from "socialist-Democrat" Jimmy Carter's mere 800-billion zone, and now "capitalist-GOP" Geo.W.Bush has tripled it again up to 9 trillion in 2007 (with $477B deficit = nearly half a trillion, in 2004 alone) -
add to this another sidecar on the juggernaut of Monster Military Makework: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - see 8/19/2002 - take for example the billions of dollars of taxpayer money (increasingly from the poor who would otherwise be dynamically spending and bolstering a genuine economic recovery) now wasted on the boating hobby of maybe 12,000 yacht owners at most, to keep obsolete naval waterways, such as the Intracoastal and the Okeechobee, dredged and properly signed. They benefit only people who could easily afford to maintain them themselves and could conveniently do so on a toll-canal basis. Isn't it curious that in our huge conservative rush to privatize government, we have somehow failed to privatize the exhorbitantly expensive maintenance of these yachting waterways? Defense? What naval vessel can navigate these low-draft waterways above the level of a dingy? -
add to this an innovation in the "wars of choice" of the Bush regime. 2001-2008: billions of dollars get "lost" - they can't account for them - they don't know where they went. Note that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the most privatized of recent US wars. And note also that they were the least effective in reversing the Great Leak Upward and centrifuging the resulting Black Hole of Money in the topmost income and wealth brackets back into circulation, because although these were wars by and for the 30,000 wealthiest Americans, for the first time in history they refused to pay for them by continuing the tax reductions on the rich. The Bush regime invented the War That The Rich Do Not Pay For. So who pays? Initially (that is, during the Bush regime itself) no one. It is paid for on the supposedly infinite credit of the American government, which the wealthy claim to hate, but which they self-contradictorily depend on for their solidest investments, U.S. Treasury bills. But as long as they, who now are the only ones with money, refuse to pay themselves back with WorldWar2-levels of steeply graduated taxes, non-wealthy Americans are on the hook, but the more they are taxed, the less consumer spending they do, and the deeper recession ensues. So during the rapacious Bush regime, the USA went from a budget surplus and a hidden recession to a colossal record-breaking budget deficit, from sustainability to bankruptcy, and an impossible-to-hide depression - though they're still trying. The bankruptcy of the USA was, however, clinched by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act under the Clinton administration in 1999 which allowed the big U.S. banks to vacuum into the pockets of their relatively few wealthy executives during the next ten years the credit of tens of millions of Americans, and thus weaken the consumer base further. So Clinton crippled America, and Bush killed America. And now, it's all over but the momentum ... of nothing. There just isn't enough volume and velocity of circulation of the American dollar to support its value. It is trapped and essentially deactivated in the accounts of the wealthiest. It is finished, thanks to the colossal shortsightedness, envelope-pushing, and simple-mindedness of American plutocrats, who didn't believe in "If it works, don't fix it" and proceeded to undo the major legislation passed during the Great Depression to prevent such a thing from happening ever again, such as the Glass-Steagall Act which separated banking, brokerage and insurance.
- And taking up the slack whenever the US military-industrial complex flags in its subtraction of labor hours from the resumé-drowned job market, we have ...[drum roll]... JAIL -
the prison-industrial complex = Wackenhut Corp. and cronies, spreading like locusts, some the result of military conversion to peacetime uses, but wouldn't it be smarter to pound swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4), instead of prison bars? Let's see, what would be a good modern equivalent for "plowshares" in America today? Well, aside from the usual pleas to fix our bridges and hospitals before they collapse, how about highspeed intercity rail (and the retirement of all nuclear powerplants before we get Japan-style earthquakes)?!
- Incessant corporate reorganization by American CEOs - No matter how incompetent you are, you can always pull rank and distract critics and spread fear and confusion with a good ol' reorg (and looming "leansizing"). Poster boy? Maybe, Robert Palmer of DEC (Digital Equipment Corp.) after founder Ken Olsen retired?
- Education - which in the age of roboticizing technology vs. the luddism of forever-frozen workweeks has become a holding tank to keep young people out of the job market as long as possible, often with no obvious career track (let alone job, aka self-support) at the end (if 'end' there be). The educational system - vast, insulated, isolated and uncoordinated with the fast-changing job market. A specialized example of how the educational system functions as a makework recourse showed up in "More experienced applicants at business schools - Refugees from the dot-com [shakeout] seek graduate degrees," NYT 12/21/2000, C1. Here's another example, this time combined with another huge makework area, the arts: "So many acting B.A.'s, so few paying gigs," NYT 12/07/2005, E1. This article makes explicit the jobmarket-uncoordinated aspect of the problem, "Said Gregg Henry, the artistic director of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, a nationwide program involving hundreds [makework alert!] of theater schools, 'How do we effectively prepare our students for a career that has no interest in them being part of it?' " But then, increasingly, that's the problem for all educational institutions in the context of downsizing-addicted capitalism. And a more actionable description than "has no interest in them" would be "has insufficient demand for them."
Why does the Timesizing program stress training and downplay education? Because education started as training back in the monastic schools and the early universities, but as the monks and magisters wormed their way toward monopoly, wealth and prestige, they gradually shifted from training for outside jobs to training for their in-house pecking order, what Fred Hirsch in Social Limits to Growth calls "positional goods." The whole operation became more self-referencing, more "ivory-tower." So -
The idea was that you could gain seniority (on-the-job aging) the hard, slow, honest way by experience out in the real world, but take a shortcut and gain accelerated-aging equivalency in a few short years of kissing up to the magisters and getting "degreed" by them. So they got greed and you got de-greed while they exploited the bejeejuz out of you. The American medical system still does it. Basically a degree, especially from Hahvahd or Yale, gives a potential employer a CYA (or rather, "cover his ass") excuse for taking a chance on you. If you mess up, all he has to say to his boss is, "But he was from Hahvahd" and Boss will stay calm. The makework aspects of post-secondary education have now spawned a second generation with every minority stepping up to the plate to grab a rung in this ivory-tower pecking order. First came Black Studies, then Womens' Studies, then Holocaust Studies, then Native American Studies. Now "Gay history joins the curriculum," letters to editor, 4/03/2002 NYT, 4-12. Each new department creates jobs for members of its particular minority and tuitions rise accordingly. If we quit straining to keep people busy for 40 hrs/wk and just shared the vanishing work as technology rushed in, we'd all be on a more level playing field from the gitgo and we wouldn't need all this anxious jostling and jousting. Education is getting less and less effective as makework anyway, as we persist in ignoring the population-control imperative. See "Unemployment in China and South Korea - Young, bright and jobless - How two economies are facing the graduate problem," 6/21/2003 The Economist, 35, which states, "This summer China will produce its largest ever crop of university graduates: more than 2m, 46% up from last year.... So dire are their job prospects that 27,000 of them have applied to take exams for only 2,500 available civil service jobs.... Overall, the jobless rate in South Korea climbed to 3.2% in May/03, but for those aged 20-29 it was 7.1%." Then there's "Young people feel a chill in Japan's hiring season - Japan's young people may never reach their parents' standard of living," 4/01/2002 NYT, A3, which states, "A decade ago, four job openings awaited each Japanese high school graduate looking for work.... There is now barely one.... Frequently, college graduates are taking jobs that once went to high school graduates." But it's not only yellow hordes in distant lands. Right here in wonderfulwonderfulwonderful America, "Have degree, may travel - Many recent graduates of Boston-area schools would like to stick around - But with today's harsh economy, it's not easy," by Beth Greenberg, 4/07/2002 Boston Globe, City Weekly 1. And then there's "Aerospace industry's money-mouth disconnect," Aviation Week & Space Technology 5/20/2002, which states, "The same companies crying about their need for technical talent aren't hiring - or even interviewing - new engineering graduates trying to find jobs this year." And then of course, post-9/11, "Students graduate to uncertainty - Firms trim campus recruiting following attacks, downturn," 10/19/2001 Boston Globe, C1, which states, "Employers expect to hire 19.7% fewer new college graduates in 2001-02 than they hired in 2000-01." Of course, things weren't so great even before 9/11 and we could just keep sending the kids back for degrees in another subject, as in "Law school calls as economy slows - Dot-com dreams give way to hopes for a stable career - Uncertain economy spurs interest in law degrees, 8/24/2001 NYT, A1,C1. But then, the more lawyers, the more litigation, and that's already one of our really BIG American makework areas (see above, #2). So should we extend that higher education another 10 years or so and set retirement age 5-10 years earlier? - or quit straining and just lower the workweek.
- "training" = efficient, real-world.
- "education" = inefficient, training for prestige, for "positional goods."
- A sub-realm of makework that has giantized to absurd levels is ... student loans. Student loans are subdivided into interest-bearing and interest-free-till-you-graduate. The interest-free kind gives students (hopefully?) an unconscous incentive to put off graduation. The burgeoning complexity and bureaucracy of the American student-loan morass rivals our myriad reduplication of paperwork in our "simplified" tax laws and health insurance. How long an empire can last when this kind of job-desperate bureaucratic proliferation sets in can be judged from the history of the Byzantine Empire, whose name is synonomous with dysfunctional complexity. However, it did last longer than Rome, but it fell spectacularly in 1453.
- And teaming with higher education to keep young Americans out of the over-crowded job market for as long as possible, we have - for altruists - the Peace Corps (=in the U.S.; "CUSO" in Canada = Canadian University Services Overseas; oops, they've changed this name to ??), and their internal counterpart, AmeriCorps. And on the other end of life, outfits like EarthWatch enhance the image of retirement and prop older Americans' willingness to retire (early if they can afford it).
- Speculation - real estate, webnames, "investments" ... you name it, but speculators have no inherent interest in whatever they're snapping up for later resale and profit - they're just another negative consequence of our failure to design and implement a homeostatic full-employment system to make it easier for people to earn an honest living than a dishonest or gray-area livelihood - so speculators are among the most inflationary agents in modern economies - but the Federal Reserve, the US central bank, even now focused only on inflation control (instead of, per its charter, on both unemployment control and inflation control), never mentions speculation as a huge inflationary factor
- American litigiousness - especially via ambulance-chasing lawyers and their smarmy TV commercials, and merger-minding lawyers and their investment-banker buddies, and now, da dada daaa: lawyers needing lawyers (2/03/2004 NYT, C1) - in the 2010-2011 Yellowbook (phonebook) of Greater Boston, Mass., pages 595-668 are devoted to lawyers, excluding their listing by specialty (pp. 668-693) - that's 73 pages of lawyers!
At least somebody's starting to organize against it = *www.LegalReformNow.com (3/10/2004 WSJ B14) - & now that the Japanese have tanked their economy since 1990 by replacing their traditional lifetime employment with suicidal US-style downsizing, they're ready for their next self-snuff lesson from USA: "Japan grooms new lawyers - Slew of law schools opens up as deregulation spurs litigation," 4/13/2004 WSJ, A18 -
special US subrealm = patent litigation - "Patent dispute embroils host of industries," 10/21/2004 WSJ, B1, states, "dozens of enterprises [such as Solala Technology of Chicago] were created in the past decade solely to buy patents and collect licensing fees from any company that, in their view, infringes their protected idea.... The number of US patents issued annually has more than tripled over the past two decades to 187,017 in 2003. But patents are also source of growing litigation. There were 1,553 patent infringement lawsuits in 1993 in US federal court, compared with 2,814 last year."
- U.S. health insurance chaos - overlapping private-sector bureaucracies that change every time your employer gets acquired (see 11/22-24/2003 #1). The co-founders of Physicians for a National Health Program estimate that Americans waste $350 billion a year on medical bureaucracy that could be redirected to expanded coverage (see op ed "I am not a health reform - Insurance mandates have failed since Nixon," by Drs. David Himmelstein & Steffie Woolhandler of Harvard Med School, 12/15/2007 NYT A35). Recent published estimates are still running around 47 million Americans without health insurance, same as in 2004, but the real figure has probably grown considerably since then. Roughly, one American in six is not covered. A fast-acting plague could wipe out millions in the erstwhile "richest country in the world," yet their politicians have the gall to talk about homeland "security."
- Locked into advertising, we have longer and longer political campaigns, that divert more and more millions of dollars from anything really useful or lasting.
- In a frozen-workweek economy, makework floods over into the private sector. Even in high tech, the inner sanctum of private-sector efficiency and productivity, there are a number of cold wars going on that reflect a profound weakening of common interest in advanced socioeconomies and a general strengthening of job desperation:
Computer spam writing, and blocking - needs constant filtering to prevent drowning your real email in cyberspace junkmail
Computer virus writing, and checking - virus checkers need eternal updating,
and adware writing and blocking - ditto on the updates
Spyware writing, and removal - see "FTC files first suit involving 'spyware'," AP via 10/08/2004 WSJ, A7
And now there are "rootkits" being secretly embedded on your hard disk when you're on the Internet - and of course, rootkit locator-extractors
Then there's computer identity theft, and identity-theft protection, for example, Chase Fraud Detector to protect your Chase credit card for $7.99 a month, according to mass mailing (including $15 cash-this-to-enroll check) sent out by Carter Franke, Chief Marketing Officer of JPMorgan Chase Bank USA, N.A., of Columbus OH 43271 on 9/21/05
And last but not least, computer hacking in general - and the corporate answer, computer "security" - yeah, right.
Does anything dramatize our need, in the Information Age, to anchor our common interest in something more meaningful than "one person/one vote"? Timesizing's candidate = one person/one workweek range that automatically fluctuates against unemployment to guarantee full employment, however short a workweek that takes.
- And matching the sinecure of no-show jobs in the public sector, we have the unpublicized but burgeoning phenomenon of "face time" in the private sector regardless of B-school obsession with productivity and efficiency, and the availability of telecommuting (has your "pointy-haired boss" ever actually articulated standards of productivity)?
Non-English-speakers needing a definition of face time can maybe figure it out from the following outrageous example:
Idle hands - Detroit's symbol of dysfunction: Paying employees not to work - Cost tops $1.4 billion a year as layoffs fill 'jobs bank', by Jeffrey McCracken, 3/01/2006 Wall St Journal front page.
...It's called the rubber room...because "a few days in there makes you go crazy." [and in "efficient" Japan, it's called the "boredom room"] ...
[See the 3/01/2006 entry on our current cases of makework page. And make no mistake - this is not just the auto industry's (Detroit's) symbol of dysfunction. This is a symbol of dysfunction for the whole of our current frozen-workweek, unlimited concentration economic design. The answer is limited concentration, and the easiest dimension to start the limits in is not monetary but the temporal variable of worktime per person. And the most market-oriented way to limit per-person worktime and thereby spread it around, is Timesizing.]
- "Meeting-itis" - Maybe your department is the exception and you have productive meetings, but, in general, employees in big companies waste more time in meetings.... Let's have Scott Adam's Dogbert put a fine point on it. On page 71 of "Build a better life by stealing office supplies: Dogbert's big book of business," we find Dogbert's Group I.Q. Formula: "The intelligence quotient of any meeting can be determined by starting with 100 and subtracting 5 points for each participant." Then there are four cartoon frames -
As Scott points out in an 8-frame 1997 cartoon, meetings are especially favored by clueless bosses and employees who either don't have anything real to do or just can't seem to get a handle on whatever it is. This 8-frame cartoon starts...
- Frame 1: 1 person at the meeting - Dilbert "The project is good."
- Frame 2: 2 people - Dilbert "What do you think?" Dogbert "There are many issues..."
- Frame 3: 3 people - Dilbert "What are the issues?" Male employee "Is it our mission to think of issues?" Dogbert "That's an issue."
- Frame 4: 4 people - Female employee "Let's write a purpose statement." Dilbert "That could be our mission." Male employee "Is that like an objective?" Dogbert "That's an issue."
...and goes downhill from there. Meetings, almost always unnecessary, are the first recourse of the inadequate boss or employee. "Too many meetings" is the procrastinator's first excuse, and rushing away to a meeting is the anchor of the bottom-feeder's self-importance and primary (or sole) tool in impressing others.
- Frame 1: Pointy-Haired Boss thinks, "I dread this part of the meeting."
- Frame 2: Boss "Let's go around the table and describe our accomplishments for the week. Wally?"
- Frames 3-4: Wally "It was another week of amazing success in Wallyville. On Monday I realized my left bun had fallen asleep."
- Then there's diversity training and discussion-silencing political correctness -
Who's still biassed? - Diversity training has swept corporate America - Just one problem: It doesn't seem to work - The researchers found that while [it] was by far the most popular approach, it was also the least effective, by Drake Bennett firstname.lastname@example.org, 3/07/2010 Boston Globe, C1.
..The amount of money spent on it in the United States runs into the billions...
- The construction industry - resulting in housing glut (not low-income housing glut of course - no money in that!) and office-space glut....
- The trucking industry - hundreds of thousands of diesel "locomotives," each with its own "engineer," each towing just one freight car (occasionally two) & generating employment for road crews across the land with heavy wear&tear on the nation's highways - and contradicted by ever larger trucks, veritable monsters lumbering through our little streets and trying to back into meant-for-smaller-trucks loading bays - and blocking traffic all the while (case in point, Elm Street north of Porter Square in Cambridge Mass. while monster trucks try to squeeze into the unloading bay at the back of the Shaw's/Star Market = unbelievable!) - in case you're not getting the subtle message here, most of our long-distance haulage should be happening on our railroads, not least to conserve fossil fuel - but this is yet another colossal present-day inefficiency due to job desperation solvable only by worksharing) - here it is in an article -
"Rail industry is on track to expand," Knight Ridder via Twin Falls Times-News (ID) via GoogleNews 10/23/2004, which states, << BALTIMORE - Thousands more people may soon be working on the railroad.... United Parcel Service, the rail industry's biggest customer, will spend about $750 million this year moving their brown trailers by train. "If (a) ground package is going 750 miles or more, it is more economical and efficient for us to load the trailers, move them to the railhead (and) put them on a flatcar," than it is to drive them, said Norman Black, a UPS spokesman.
Railroad cars can move 1 ton of freight 408 miles on a gallon of fuel, in addition to easing congestion caused by trucks on the road, Hamberger said [Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads]. A recent study found that if one quarter of what is now shipped by trucks were moved by rail, commuters would spend about 33 fewer hours sitting in traffic each year by 2025.
That is a savings of 174 gallons of gas per commuter each year, said Wendell Cox, a demographic and transportation consultant and author of the study, which was funded by a grant from North America's Freight Railroads. [Also,] the average truck consumes the space of four cars, Cox said. >>
- and speaking of the under-use of railroads ... Frederic Bastiat's makework fantasy for a "negative railway" (Heilbroner, Worldly Philosophers, 6th ed., 180) is reality in the U.S. - Boston's North & South Stations don't connect, neither do New York's Grand Central & Penn Stations, creating makework for taxis - Amtrak's daily Vermonter and Ethan Allen trains don't connect in Vt. - daily Boston section of LakeShore Ltd doesn't connect with daily Adirondack to Montreal or daily Maple Leaf to Toronto without overnite stay (we suggest Motel 6 in Utica) - no Boston buses stop at Albany's Amtrak station across Hudson River in Rensselaer or reach Albany in time to catch Montreal or Toronto trains... (source: Amtrak & Greyhound schedules as of 11/01/2004) = designed for less train business?
- Madison Avenue - the world of advertising & marketing that features ever more desperate, wasteful and irritating strategies, such as junkmail, e-mail spam, dinnertime telemarketing....
- Non-recyclables, so somebody has the job of continuously making more and more of these pollutants, LOTS of somebodies, lots of jobs - oh the countless examples: nonrecyclable milk cartons, first introduced in the early 1950s, instead of recyclable milk bottles; nonrefillable ballpoint pens, first introduced in the late 1940s - and now a further outrage, nonrefillable disposable fountain pens! (eg: "Pilot Varsity"); much lower cash deposits on recyclable softdrink bottles - in the early 1950s in Toronto, a bottle of pop was 5c plus 2c deposit - that deposit was 40% of the price of the pop! - now we pay $1.75 for a plastic bottle of Pepsi and the deposit is only 5c = only 3% of the price - MUCH less motivation to recycle! and plastic or glass fruit juice bottles - supposedly healthy FRUIT juice! - are not returnable AT ALL!
- Bottled water (what a makework outrage!) = now people BUY water, which used to be inconceivable!
- The Web. How so? What do you do if you get downsized, don't have enough money to call yourself an "investor" but manage to get a dribble of income from selling something or securing some advertising? You become a Web logger or "blogger" and start a "blog." Or if that's too ambitious, you still have to have a Web page. Now EVERYONE has to have a webpage, however trivial or pointless. And this has spread to the business world, as dramatized, once again, by the incomparable Scott Adams - this from his Y2000 Dilbert calendar, Feb. 3...
First 2 of a 3-framer:
- Frame 1: Pointy-Haired Boss, reading,
"Every department is required to create a Web page for our internal network."
- Frame 2: Boss, to Dilbert, Wally & Alice sitting around table,
"It should include enough information to be difficult to maintain, but not so much that it's useful."
- Constant software upgrades and updates -
Major culprit = yearly revisions of computer operating systems, e.g., Windows and now even Apple Mac - legions of onsite computer consultants are thanking Bill Gates for his increasingly buggy, kludgy, crash-prone and patronizing brontosaur-OS, describing it as "job security" (see Leah Rosch's "Fix the PC...", 12/21/00 NYT, E1), sort of like the political satirists thanked their lucky stars as long as the US presidential "election" dragged on - how many of these "improvements" do we need (except for job security - on both ends)? See also "The updating game," op ed by Gail Collins, 8/29/2009 NYT, A17.
- Wall Street (cf: a big casino), investment banking and investment proliferation (derivatives, single stock futures...) - stock markets, bond markets, options, futures... - this one's going to go on forever with tier after tier of evermore indirectly derived value (as in derivatives) and evermore middling middlemen, some mettlesome, some meddlesome and all just parasitically mediocre. Got some money and don't know what to call yourself? "Investor" has a nice ring that may serve to camouflage your purposeless pointless unproductiveness. We even have financial instruments now called "derivatives" which will probably turn out to be just as premature as the naming of the "atom," meaning uncut(table) or smallest, in early physics, now that physicists have gone on to their particular makeword/makework case of terminological inflation with their bloating hordes of quarks, bosons, and other subatomic particles. So next we'll get superderivatives, subsuperderivatives and quasihemidemisemisupersubderivatives. The financial markets and their investment inflation have essentially become an unbelievably huge, swollen-apex pyramid scheme, with effects similar to the gigantic and everexpanding Colorado River diversions that are by now allowing no water to flow to the river's natural mouth on the Baja Gulf. Note also the page after page in every daily newspaper devoted to stock tables, thrown out by most people. Consider the paper wasted on this, and the trees ... and the makework, processing it all.
- Food processing - 20% of Americans are obese including 25% of American children, who annually see, on average, 10,000 ads for foods, mostly of them highly processed. Result? America is the most overweight nation in the world, and the poorest Americans are the fattest (physically, not mentally), because the crummiest foods are the most heavily subsidized.
- Agricultural subsidies, especially for corn (zea maize), to the tune of $25 billion a year of taxpayers' money, according to Michael Pollan's new book, *The Omnivore's Dilemma.
- Bio-engineered foods - the food industry, particularly dairies, go for decades convincing us that milk is pure and natural and wholesome (remember "nature's most perfect food"?). Then suddenly in the last couple of decades they throw it all away and start fooling with levels or hormones and antibiotics that would require centuries to be adequately tested - so we have given a free pass to drug-dealing CEOs of frankenfood corporations who should be in prison, while simultaneously...
- Declaring a "War on Drugs" against a huge percentage of ordinary people who should not be in prison. Witness our record prison population of over 2,100,000 Americans at a cost to us of $25-30,000/yr per inmate - what a distraction for the nation's police forces, what a gift to the FBI and the CIA and the control freaks in the Washington bureaucracy - check out Camille Brockman's neat infographic on *the failed war on drugs - and it has resulted in the disastrous and unsustainable shift we notice in the next pair of makework realms (below). We should have learned from the failure of our criminalization of alcohol during Prohibition and the success of our more recent battle against smoking - without criminalizing nicotine - that criminalization of substances does not work. Let's just tax things for their costs, as we have been doing in various ways with smoking.
- Spying, from the C.I.A. to the private sector: the whole spy industry, public and private sector, based on our general job desperation and lack of an adequate integrating principle (such as a common workweek) to adequately anchor our common interest: see Eamon Javers (2010), Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The secret world of corporate espionage, about Jules Kroll, major billion$ tracker and the BIA, a Boston consulting firm called Business Intelligence Advisors that specializes in deception detection, founded and staffed by a number of retired(?) CIA agents and named as a play on "CIA."
tubes for toothpaste that will no longer roll up, automated toothbrushes, FOUR-blade razors, robot receptionists and automated customer service (oxymorons) = more technology and less service - it's all getting a bit silly,
and lately, but certainly not leastly,
high-definition digital TV - the nascent campaign to force Americans to switch from OK-definition analog TV (see "New FCC requirement is aimed at speeding move to digital TV" on 8/06/2002 and "FCC's chief Michael Powell turns into a pitchman for converting nation to digital TV," by Matt Richtel, 10/11/2004 NYT, C9)
- The "control nature" movement -
In the private sector, everyone seems to miss the contradictions of the Walt Disney Co. trying to teach ecological awareness with jungle and rain-forest exhibits when both Disneyland and Disney World involved massive bulldozing of all pre-existing natural features. Not to mention their attempt to raise awareness of the long-term future, as if we will have one by kicking around Mother Nature instead of getting in line with her.
In the public sector, we have the famed Corps of Engineers putting up huge environmentally havoc-wreaking dams and then having to decommission them 2-3 generations later when they silt up. Dams go upward, Boston's Big Dig goes downward. Well-intentioned Ted Kennedy brought this gigantic piece of pork home but what a costly inefficient concept it was - to bury the Southeast Expressway, which is hard enough to expand fast enough even above ground. Makework and cost over-runs galore.
- The pompous urgency of "development," whether general "economic development" or more localized "real estate development" -
Whole university departments and institutes are devoted to economic development, such as Boston University's "Center for Asian Development Studies," which tries to drag in for training as many foreign government officials as possible, despite its lip service to free-market capitalism. Basically it's all a self-defeating dodge to enlist overseas taxing authorities in hyping up an imitation of American strip malls and parking lots, self-defeating because "the great leak upwards" (uncapped individual income) operates much more efficiently overseas (but who cares because the stuffed shirts of BU Economics are getting a piece of it). Also check out articles like "Talks in Mexico push regional growth," 6/29/2002 NYT, A3, and "Mexico is attracting a better class of factory in its South," 6/29/2002 NYT, A3.
And don't get us started on the byzantine cons of real-estate and other types of developers. We'll just mention the most outrageous - forcing taxpayers to subsidize individual hobbies, such as spectator sports, starting with the salesmanship targeting city governments all over the world by the International Olympic Games Assoc. and its national look-alikes, mushrooming efforts to get municipal and state taxpayers to pay for huge sports stadiums, so that overpaid "sports" teams and owners can compact in their own small pockets ever more of the national income that they can't possibly spend, thus sliding us deeper into officially denied depression.
- "Don't view NIH (National Institutes of Health) as workfare for scientists," letter to editor by CEO Richard Murphy of Salk Institute of Biological Studies in La Jolla CA, 8/12/2004 WSJ, A11 - why not? that's exactly what it is until we get universal health insurance like every other industrialized country. Do we detect a gap opening up between industrialized countries like US, and advanced countries like Europe?
- Arts and crafts, especially government-subsidized ones, à la National Endowment for the Arts (N.E.A. or NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (N.E.H. or NEH) plus controversial "art" installations in state houses and town halls across the land...- like we need the government to tell us what art to like? - We think of installations at MIT that involved the Virgin Mary and urination, etc. Then there are the host of 'modern' musicals and plays like the 'Vagina Monologues' and 'Urine Town' and even, for that matter, 'Sweeney Todd,' an opera about a barber who slits customers' throats and turns cannibal. And speaking of theater, the jobmarket-uncoordinated aspect of this makework mecca comes out in the headline: "So many acting B.A.'s, so few paying gigs," NYT 12/07/2005, E1. Here's another group of otherwise intelligent mortals who have yet to figure out that the more they're willing to give it away, the less likely they make it that anyone's going to actually pay them for it.
The main PR technique of many 'artists' has become tastelessness and offensiveness. The only difference between art and art therapy is 'does it sell?' But selling to government is not about selling but about lobbying and who you know. As the captains of industry depress consumer demand by transfering more and more of the costs of government to the real consumers in the middle and lower income brackets, government funding for the arts takes on the character of a wealthy minority transfering the costs of their minority tastes to an impoverishing majority with completely different tastes.
- And speaking of lobbying, how about the greatly expanding phenomenon of... lobbying?! See newsclip on 11/22-23/2009 makework section, "Healthcare fight swells lobbying - Number of organizations hiring [lobbying] firms doubles in '09," 11/23 USA Today, 1A, = 505 in Jan-Oct 2008 to 1,000 in Jan-Oct 2009.
- Writing, literature, philosophy - especially when government-subsidized, à la National Endowment for the Humanities (N.E.H. or NEH) - like we need the government to tell us what to read?
[Oops - nailed a passion of yours yet? - "Hey wait, THAT's not makework! ... ... ... or is it?"]
- Foods - especially when government-recommended, à la National Dietary Guidelines - like we need the government to tell us what to eat?
- Housing, as in the government agency known as Housing & Urban Development or HUD - meddling by gov't officials in housing, at taxpayer expense, would be unnecessary if they'd simply shoulder their responsibility to referee the job market and ensure that EVERYone could easily get a share of the still-unautomated market-demanded employment, as in Timesizing
- Luxury markets in general = the carriage trade. More and more companies and individuals are concluding that's the only place the money is and focusing exclusively on catering to the upper income brackets, such as Chase Investments, Cambridge Trust and other firms that have a certain minimum investment level, e.g., $1 million, or they won't serve you.
- Flip-flopping on consumption (and jobs) - built-in obsolescence in terms of -
- rapidly upgraded with bigger capacity, faster speed, or other better or merely different ("new") features:
- personal computers (PCs) = desktops, laptops, notebooks, palm-helds; overheard recent statement by colleague Kate on phone with HP internal support: "It's pretty old; it's 2 or 3 years old now."
- software; worst offenders: Microsoft Windows and Oracle.
- completely disposable -
- milk bottles > cartons (transition complete)
- disposal facial tissues (remember handkerchiefs? - we've now convinced ourselves they're unhygienic)
- disposable towels
- disposable diapers
- disposable ballpoint pens
- disposable cameras
- virtual disposables
- water heaters (they fail the day after the warranty expires)
- disposability driven partially by fashion, partially by non-durable materials (note ambivalence about quality in the sense of durability)
- employees - older employees particularly (over 45) are out of fashion
- Flip-flopping on the environment -
- lumbering - we'll cut down every last square inch of old-growth forest and have a complete industry collapse before we accept any tempering of our paychecks, especially if we're top executives
- fishing - we'll dragnet every square inch of George's Bank and have a complete industry collapse before we accept any lessening of our income - note the travesty of federal government subsidies for bigger fishing boats "to help fishermen" in the 1980s and today, huge federal outlays to buy back those same oversized, stock-depleting fishing boats to try to save the food species in time - now that the old food species, such as cod, are depleted, note the repeated extension of the category "food species," sometimes with accompanying renaming for marketing purposing, e.g., hake, monkfish, and dogfish (now called "Chilean sea bass" on Boston menus); earlier we saw plugs of skate substituted for scallops, and dolphinfish tuna (renamed "mahi mahi" on menus)
- whaling - one of the few international treaties that the USA seems to be complying with (before the remaining species go extinct) but Norway and Japan are not
- "bush meat" (no relation to Dubya) - this one's mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, but the appetite for wild game recently claimed its first species, Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey of Ghana and the Ivory Coast - none seen since 1976, according to "Bush meat," by Deborah Hudson, Jan/01 Discover Magazine 61. Couldn't happen here? Check out "Where the wild things are on the table," by B.J. Roche, 11/12/00 Boston Globe, B1, which begins, "What requires three bears, four wild boars, 100 rabbits, 12 beavers, 24 pheasants, 12 deer, 120 pounds of moose and one small or half a large buffalo? The Bradford, Vt. 45th Annual Wild Game Supper [which] expects some 1,000 diners from all over New England to line up to be fed by members of the United Church of Christ in Bradford. The 80th Annual Danville Methodist Old Fashioned Game Supper, said to be the state's oldest, is on Thursday...." And you thought Jesus Christ put an end to animal sacrifice with the cleansing of the Temple and the consequent human sacrifice - of himself (Mark 11:15-18)?
- Makework generates double-mindedness on other long-range strategies for our society
- intelligence services - the CIA, let's just say ignored USSR's backwardness in computing for years to puff fear in America and spread their own secret job empire
- patronage jobs in government, including sinecures aka "no-show jobs"
- racism - as long as we design our society so "there just isn't enough," there will be racial tensions. And we keep the friction going so we can make a living off the race issue. Now we even track race on the census to keep up the fuss (see "Civil rights groups wary/critical of census data on race - 'It's not a helpful nor healthy way to look at race. It suggests race is biological, but...it's a political and social issue.' William Spriggs, Urban League research director" by Cindy Rodriguez, 12/08/00 Boston Globe A1, A47) - never mind that maybe it should become merely a biological issue, never mind that by now we're ALL multiracial, and never mind that you can't fix a systemic disparity (top & bottom) only at the bottom
- gender harmony - keep it "in your face" so we can make a living off the gender issue - forget that you can't fix a systemic disparity (top & bottom) only at the bottom
- population control - keep the immigrants coming, keep the babies coming - keep them coming even if the pregnant women don't want them, but once they're born, forget'em except to demand More Law and Order - and prisons
- and last but not least, hours control itself - longer and longer working hours are now pressuring people to shop online, even buy Xmas trees online regardless of the need to then ship them across the country (but UPS and FedEx employees need those jobs! To hell with the environment.)
- Most of Senator Proxmire's Golden Fleece awards
- Building in Storm's Way - see article "Plum Island homeowners pin hopes on sandbags" on p.B3 of 1/1/2013 Boston Globe or in MAKEWORK section under doom du jour on 1/01/2013 (or before 2/10/13).
For more information, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, which is available online from *Amazon.com, and in Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., USA.
Questions, comments, additions, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.
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