BOOK TWO
II - CLAUSE #1

 

4. THE FAIR BROKER

Will the Vicarious Trainer be able to optimize the use of our human resources? To be perfect, a human resources allocation system would require the Matchmaker always to be accurate in its forecast and the Trainer never to make a mistake in either curriculum development or its selection of trainees. This of course is impossible. It will not be the major problem, though; the State's performance, as a Matchmaker and Trainer will be good enough to begin with, will improve constantly, and will go a long way to solve the problem of manpower shortages. Optimization though, requires also that we deal with our surpluses.

Surpluses

What about surpluses? Sectorial surpluses will be a thing of the past, of course. Soothsayers may always err, employers may systematically overestimate their needs and, in some fields, new technologies will make whole trades obsolete. But since the State will be as selective as it wants concerning admission to training, the sectorial surpluses, in time will be absorbed. The major problem will rather be a global surplus of manpower for all jobs.

There will be less and less "jobs" available, as these will be replaced by other ways to work that will fit the requirements of unprogrammable work. Unless we do something about it, the number of unemployed will grow and the choice will be, either to keep them on welfare or to put them on payroll as students, trainees or trained workers with an "income contract", but without much of a chance for employment.

To absorb surpluses of manpower, we can try to create jobs; but, both in terms of the number of people at work and of the demand for what they produce, the present and foreseeable trend is towards high services, more professionalization, more entrepreneurial occupations, more work that simply cannot fit the job framework. Necessity is pushing for a gambit on leisure. On the other hand, we must realize the risk of anarchy, if the job framework which is the backbone of the chain of command of our society is left to wither away !

The most obvious alternative - which is the wrong solution - is the one we have tried first: to fit work into jobs for which there is a demand, mainly jobs providing high services. The flaw of this solution, as we saw before, is that it does not maintain, between the workers' efforts and the rewards they receive from society, a link that reflects the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of those to whom the workers provide their services. It is this link which is notoriously missing, in the present system, as more and more people are merely busy in null-p., with their compensation, monetary or otherwise, unrelated to results and their real efforts totally divorced from the needs of society.

We cannot carry on that way. What we are living through right now, in the fields of high services, public services and subsidized production is already quite sad, but it might become incredibly worse, as a growing number of workers could just pay lip service to obligations in which they would find no fulfillment, switch-off from job boredom and plug-in into their own personal hyperjobs, activities of interest to them but quite vacuous in terms of society's goals.

What else? Well, we know we should try and integrate a majority of workers, preferably almost every adult, in the traditional job framework, so they can "belong" to the present employment structure and stabilize the system. This is NOT because we would like to support indefinitely the dictatorship of the "good providers" and the present effective majority but, to the contrary, because we take for granted that the system is changing and that the real problem, now, is not to force the change but to smooth transition. On the other hand, we know also for sure that we are not going to bake a bigger "job pie" in the foreseeable future. Is it just a "no-no" situation, or is there a "yes" scenario out of the dilemma?


Sharing the load

There is, if the State dons yet another hat and makes sure that leisure is apportioned properly. The "yes" scenario would be to try and share the load. In order to maintain an effective majority at work in the job framework, although the need for work in job format will diminish, we should not allow the number of jobs to decline; to the contrary, it is each job's workload and duration that should be reduced. We should give a smaller piece of the job pie to everyone.

The way out of the present dilemma is to give every worker a job, however small, and, rather than forbid or obstruct work on the side, to protect, encourage and even sponsor the "moonlight" activities. We should help each and everyone in our society on the path to entrepreneurship in addition to his job. This is the totally mature version of the gambit on leisure that necessity imposes.

As Helots will reduce the volume of work that can fit in the job framework, let workers smoothly transfer more and more of the time and energy they devote to professional endeavors out of the job framework and into their own enterprises, until "professionalism", "entrepreneurship" or whatever the name we give to the new way of working that tomorrow will bring, has replaced traditional work in the job framework.

We must reduce drastically the average workload of the "jobs", and what work in the job framework remains to be done must be apportioned fairly, so that many more workers, and eventually all of them, will have both the security of employment and enough free time on their hands to become entrepreneurs, creating on their own, in the real world, the professional medium through which they will contribute to the common wealth. The State will become a Fair Broker in jobs and leisure.

Reduce the job load. What size reduction are we discussing? It was mentioned earlier that, if the workload was shared evenly amongst all adult Americans, production of all goods in this country would require about 8 hours a-week of work from each of us. "Cornucopia " - as we may well refer to our global production system - could keep the wheels turning and go on producing all the goods we produce now for our material needs... and still have people on the job only one day a week!

Naturally, we won't be able to make it one fair day's work a-week in production for everybody, since an efficient division of labour is also an imperative, but we may aim at maximum participation in the production process. The present course of action leads to ratios of 1 worker out of 5 in production and of 1 Do for 2 Do-not's in society as a whole. Will we carry on that way, or will we at least try to optimize participation both in the labour force and in the job framework?

8 hours a-week is not the target. Industrial production does not cover the whole spectrum of the economic activities that can fit the job framework; but it is a pretty good clue... How many of our other activities must really be performed within the job framework instead of being performed by "workers-owners" working at their own leisure? Not very many... The target is to reduce the work-year it as much as the situation will require.

The exact figure is inconsequential, since work reduction must absolutely rely on continuous fine tuning. A gambit on leisure is not a one-shot reduction of the workload from 40 to 30, or 20 hours a-week across the board. This would be not only ineffective, but suicidal. We need a continuous reduction policy, relentlessly reappraised to maintain the participation in the job framework at the highest level that the creative imperative will allow. There is a perfect indicator for this level: the workload must be reduced and jobs created enough for anybody who wants a job to have a job. Non-participation in the job framework should not be a social curse, but an individual choice for more leisure.

Even considering the birth pangs of transition to a new structure, most "work-weeks" could easily be reduced to 3 days right now. Why not aim at 3 days a-week of work in the job framework and let creativity prevail for the rest of the worker's time? Making it a "4-to-3" split for leisure right from the start, with an eye on the "5-to-2" and "6-to-1" splits soon to come?

IT IS FEASIBLE. A Fair Broker in leisure could distribute the workload equitably. Right now. Before we look at the nuts and bolts, though, let's see first the rationale for sharing the load and understand the positive impact of this move. It is at the core of the whole argument for a change and the key to escape the present crisis.

At our present levels of production and productivity we have surplus manpower: unemployment. We cannot and should not reduce productivity, and we do not need more production in the job framework. Suppose that, rather than trying to produce more goods and sell them, we produce the same and work less in production? If we can produce the same with less "work-per-worker" in the industrial sector, total production of goods remains the same and justifies the distribution, in terms of real income, of the same quantity of goods derived from this production. The extra work beside industrial production means that more "services" are produced.

This is unassailable. It is precisely to achieve this result that manpower has been made to trek away from industrial production to the production of services. We face today's crisis only because of two flaws in the way the trek was organized. First, as we saw before, we tried to fit the production of services in the existing "gum-drops" framework made for chain production, sinning against Creativity and Autonomy. Second, "leisure" has not been apportioned properly. We kept a dwindling number of workers in production, and sent the surplus to scavenge for quasi and pseudo jobs in services or disappear into Do-not non-existence. This was not idiocy in planners; before Helots, we didn't have the tool to apportion the work properly!

Now, we do. Suppose we produce the same and work less, but share the load so each of us work less? Then, "leisure" allows for the production, out of the job framework, of more of these intangibles that we want so much and which can be produced only in a different framework, a "leisure and freedom" framework of entrepreneurship.

We can renounce all tricks for toil, maximize productivity and let entrepreneurship bloom in the Parkinsonian leisure resulting from a better distribution of the workload. We can now work less in the job framework and have more... Which is absolutely not the case if a dwindling minority of workers, each of them working less and less and with less and less enthusiasm towards his job objectives, live side by side with a growing number of Do-not's who are prohibited to do anything constructive, lest they forsake the transfer payments which are their only basic security... and cannot but remain their only security, as long as they are not allowed to do anything constructive! State the Fair Broker must intervene and help us share the load. IT IS FEASIBLE.

Why not take the gambit on leisure right now? This leads to another question: "Why haven't we gone through this exercise a long time ago?" The basic reason is that, from a technical point of view, it simply was not possible before Helots. Another reason is that, up until now, it was not necessary enough to make it politically expedient to go to all the trouble. A shorter work-week or work-year seemed to be a wish that could not be granted, because there was the major obstacle of "income security". When people work less in the job framework, either we reduce their salaries to match the decline in working hours... or we don't. In either case it seems to lead to injustice and catastrophe.

If we do reduce their salaries, it is not only a declaration of war on Labour, it is also a drastic reduction in global purchasing power, exactly what we have been trying to prevent for the last forty years lest the whole system collapse! Furthermore, the workers could never take the risk, either financially or psychologically, to try and make it on "three-days week" salaries, even less, needless to say, to sponsor their own enterprises on their reduced income!

If we don't, why should it be up to employers to pay five-days salaries for three-days working weeks, financing workers to go into some business of their own? It is a mere curiosity to raise the point, since it will never materialize that way, of course; a company that has to employ three persons to do the work of two and cannot reduce salaries by one third will simply increase its prices by half. Even passing the buck to buyers would not make this solution feasible, though, for to increase the labour costs of all employers, irrespective of the productivity gains that technology has brought to the various sectors of production, would certainly mean a rupture of equilibrium and collapse of the production structure.

Considering this dilemma, it should come as no great surprise that the normal reaction has always been to resist pressures to take a gambit on leisure. It is true that using more people to do the same amount of work will mean extra leisure for the worker, that the entrepreneurship which will bloom in leisure will produce more of the services we need, while a reduced working week in the job framework will take away none of our production, so that we will be richer... eventually. But, meanwhile, who will pay for the increased leisure?

The operation cannot go on unless financed, somehow, by a reliable and very confident sponsor. Guess who can afford to make good for the all the workers' full salaries while they work half-time and, simultaneously, to make all necessary human resources available to employers without cost increase? There is a third alternative that does not imply raising or not raising salaries to match a decline in working hours, and it is the only one that can work: the State will pay to have both ends meet.

The "No-Losers" Approach

How will the Fair Broker share the load amongst us all, making sure that there are no losers in transition? The basic principle is as simple as can be. By the time we decide to apportion the jobs, each employer will already have been asked, for matchmaking and training purposes in accordance with the Job and Manpower Registration Act, to inform the system of his manpower needs, by "skill-categories" (defined by job analysis), within each of which workers may be considered to have the same qualifications and to be practically interchangeable.

The Matchmaker will also have identified workers, using the same skill-categories, so it will be easy to sum up all the employers' reports to obtain the total demand for work in each skill-category, and then to divide by the number of workers. The Fair Broker will then be in a position to optimize work/leisure distribution amongst the workers certified in any skill-category, simply modifying selectively the maximum number of working hours permitted in a year for each skill-category.

"Selectivity" is the key-concept. A global reduction of the "work-week" or "work-year" for all occupations at once, would create insufferable bottlenecks, disrupt the market and lead to a catastrophe. If it is done selectively though, a reduction distributes unemployment around as "leisure". And will there be some leisure coming up in some skill-categories...!

No need for coercion to implement a legal maximum; just trust "benevolence". The State will go on paying for the rest of the year, to every worker who has already worked the maximum annual working-hours for his skill-category and is not on an employer's payroll, the salary that corresponds to this particular skill-category. With social virtue on their side, protection against undue pressure from employers and the same paycheck at the end of the fortnight, most people can be expected, once they have reached the year-limit, not to feel a great urge to rush to the shop or office and punch the clock... No need for coercion, indeed !

Too costly? We will illustrate with dollars and cents in a moment, but let's understand first the "cost-benefit" of the operation. The global "cost" to the State would be the difference between the sum of the transfer payments previously made to unemployed Do-not's and the portion of all salaries paid by the State after the load has been shared. The "benefit" would be to transform unemployment for some into leisure for all, including leisure for the presumably more dynamic "winners" at the job game. Leisure can become constructive...

It's a flexible tool. The simple case is to divide the demand in a given category, in terms of work-hours per year, by the number of certified workers in the same category. The result, plus a provision for absenteeism and the like, may become the legal work-year for this particular skill-category until it is changed, yearly or from time to time as may seem necessary. In theory, this means a job for each worker and full employment. In theory. In practice, as they say in Maths' manuals, "the simple case is not the only case"...

The simple case is to "divide by two and multiply by three" or to do whatever other mathematical operation is required to spread the workload evenly... But how about the employer who has only 5 workers, each in a different skill-category, the work-week of each would be reduced unequally by l0, 30 or 50%? What kind of mess would that impose on the small employer? And what about the "one-of-a-kind" irreplaceable worker, who cannot pass one-half or one-third his workload to a newcomer? Totally unrealistic, so provisions must be made for all these situations in which you cannot modify your labour force using a simple mathematical formula.

To begin with, flexibility. Whether the year limit is to be reached through a reduced work-week, work-month or work-year should be left to each employer and his employees to discuss amongst themselves. Maybe, for instance, some will agree it is better for the present incumbent to remain on the job for 6 months in a row while the employer breaks in a new employee. Maybe one should work in the morning and study in the afternoon, or perhaps a real 4-day long week-end is what the young adult has in mind and would suit his boss better. All reasonable agreements made in good faith should be acceptable. The State should intervene only when time is up, and only through its standing offer to pay the worker choosing leisure his full salary, at his own skill-category's price.

But more than good faith and flexibility will be needed. It is very delicate to achieve a fair distribution of leisure. Each skill-category must have its particular work-year, and there is no way we will be able to give even close to the "average" work year to everybody right at the beginning, nor for quite a while... if ever. How could we, when we do not have, even now, all the skilled-workers that we need? And it will get worse immediately after the Gambit, because when we take away the constraint of the "produce to work" approach from the employment system, the whole labour force will be reshuffled to be used more productively. It will create shortages and surpluses, for a while, along lines that it will be quite a task to foresee.

Here, a word of explanation. We could imagine that a society that wanted to keep its manpower at work would have created only superfluous labour-intensive jobs, and that it is these jobs which will go first when we renounce a "produce to work" approach. Not so, because the labour-intensive activities are not distributed equally amongst all branches of the economy to begin with... and because the proportion of labour-intensive jobs does not correlate with the relative usefulness of the different types of production. It will be quite complex to separate the wheat from the chaff, for two reasons.

First, "intermediary" demand, as opposed to final demand for consumption, must be taken into account. Produce less cars, and there goes the job of the guy who sweeps the floor, at the factory where they make the sponges, with which they wash the tables, on which is assembled the equipment, with which are assembled the crates, in which are put the spare parts... for any contraption that goes into that car. We have Input-Output Tables to follow up on the consequences of our moves, and we certainly will use them; but still, it will be nothing so simple as watching producers getting rid of useless production and suppressing useless jobs.

Then, the production system has not been biased solely to keep manpower at work but also to keep wealth productive. If we make up our mind, like we should, that there must be no losers in transition, we will have also to consider the impact on investments of any move we make to revamp our production. This will be no picnic either and will influence what jobs will be apportioned first and how...

Most of all, we want leisure in addition to, not instead of, the satisfaction of our "real welfare" production objectives. This means that we may still, for quite a while, ask doctors, steel-erectors or what not, to work overtime and week-ends... while a significant amount of the labour force may be in training, or working a minimum and below its skill-qualification, because there simply will be no useful work yet that it can do. How will we manage the leisure issue with fairness, if we are still to have, let's say "steel erectors", at work 42 hours a-week, while "steam-press operators" might be needed only 21 hours a-week, with no change in annual salary for either? How will we make it fair ?

The Leisure Bank

The Fair Broker will operate a Leisure Bank to compensate, with more leisure later, all those who, through no fault nor choice of their own, but because of the intrinsic flaws of the present production system, may have to be temporarily denied their right to leisure in a creative society.

A considerable number of employers already give to their employees access to "Holiday Banks" in which they may save their vacations and even, in some cases, get their unused holidays paid back in money. The significant changes that the State will introduce are first that it will universalize the system and operate it itself, then that it will make sure that leisure is paid back in leisure, never in money and, finally, that it will use a Leisure Bank as a buffer against distortions during the period of transition, not as a perk for individual workers. This is a case where the State's intervention is needed in view of the collective interests involved.

How will the system work? The basic rule will be that it should always be up to the employer to decide how much labour he needs to achieve his production objectives and whom he wants to hire. The State's responsibility is to make it fair for all. State the Broker will maintain a Leisure Bank to have all ends meet during transition, and to make sure that there are no losers. The Bank will cover two broad categories of cases.

First, all workers of the skill-categories for whom the legal work-year cannot immediately be reduced to that of the "most favored" skill-category will receive, for the difference, Leisure Credits redeemable at anytime during the next ten years, at the worker's and the Bank's mutual convenience. In this particular use of the Leisure Bank, the worker has no initial choice; it must be a collective decision to decide whether workers, in such or such category will work l5, 25 or 35 hours a-week.

Going back to our fictitious example, if steel erectors have to work 42 hours a-week while workers of the "most favored" skill-category work only 21, and if that situation should remain unchanged for 3 years before more steel erectors are trained, then the initial group of steel erectors, by that time, could have saved enough Leisure Credits to go home on full pay for the next 3 years. Needless to say that the State will do its utmost best to train and certify workers for skills for which there is heavy demand, and thus to bring down the average work-year for all to the level of the most favored skill-category.

The other use of the Bank will be for the "special cases" to which we alluded before. If Johnny Worker and his boss both agree that, for the time being, he is irreplaceable and must go on working 30 or 40 hours a-week while people in his skill-categories normally work 20, then let the Leisure Bank credit him with the l0 or 20 hours a-week of extra work in leisure, redeemable at the common convenience of the worker and the Bank.

The Bank will have no right to force the individual to use his Leisure Credits only during the periods when there will be a surplus of manpower in his skill-categories, but it may offer as an incentive, a "bonus" to the worker who accepts to do so. On the other hand, the worker will be allowed to use his credits only with the agreement of the Leisure Bank... except when the sum of his credits will equal the rest of the work he "owes" the community before the expiration of the ten-years period. When it does, nobody will have the right to question his decision to enjoy it then and there; it will be the absolute right of the worker to claim his due... or to lose it, since never, under any circumstance, could a Leisure Credit be transferable or redeemable in money, or its validity prolonged beyond the 10-year period.

Will most workers who have a choice opt to work now and have leisure later, or the other way around? An incentive to delay will be that the worker redeeming his Leisure Credits will receive the income that corresponds to the skill level he has attained at the time he decides to do so. It will depend most, however, upon the way leisure is perceived... and upon the success of the new entrepreneurs. The State itself should be neutral. No pressure should be put upon the workers or employers to take, or not to take advantage of the Leisure Bank. The State, as the Fair Broker, should be content to make sure that there are no losers as we share the load, and thus to make transition possible to a leisure and entrepreneurship oriented society.

By the time the State is committed to redistribution of the jobs' workload, it will have in and out of its payroll a significant proportion of the population, will be spreading around quite liberally huge amounts of money and will have an excuse to put its nose in the work contract between the employers and their employees. This is quite troublesome, in a society of freedom and initiative... until you realize that the State today spreads liberally huge amounts of money, has almost everybody on its payroll, and has put its nose in so many pies already that it suffocates and ruins the dish for us all. The truth is that a gambit on leisure does not increase the State's involvement; it creates leisure and participation, makes people more responsible... and allows the State to become a more demanding provider.


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