Politicians of all stripes love to hear themselves talk. It’s especially true once they’ve narrowed down what they’ll say to a half-dozen or fewer bumper sticker slogans. They call it “staying on message.”
To a politician, there’s no need to stray onto any topic that can’t be expressed in a few words. “No new taxes!” “I’ll work for the middle class.” “We can’t raise taxes on job creators.” “I support the America dream.”
They repeat this pointless drivel so often that they actually start believing their own bullshit. Dumb people believe it too.
But that’s wrong. America, indeed the whole of our planet, needs to begin having substantive conversations about the real and pressing problems that all of humanity faces. (A parrot can cover the ground that politicians currently occupy and they won’t cost as much to feed and shelter).
How are we going to deal with the fact that as a species, we have invented and created the technological means to render our physical labor unnecessary?
Remember slavery? It didn’t end because oppressive white people suddenly felt bad about how they were treating another human being. It ended because Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and it became cheaper to buy and use a machine than to feed and house slaves. Greed + technology put an end to it.
Remember the time before computers? Factory workers used their hands and eyes to measure materials, set up and calibrate tools of production, polish and assemble goods and much more. Now a robot handles it.
Postal workers sorted and delivered mail before the advent of e-mail. Messages now arrive anywhere in the world almost instantly.
Musicians used to go to recording studios to make records. Now they produce high-definition digital code that streams between devices.
Graphic artists used to use printing presses. Now they use Photoshop and practically nothing gets “printed;” the work is just viewed on computer screens.
Publishers and binders used to assemble books. Now many books exist only as bits of code, downloadable over the Internet. And the list goes on…
The point is that as a species, we’ve always figured out novel ways to make work easier, faster, more accurate and at lower cost in terms of time and raw resources. It’s what we do.
That has served us pretty well for thousands of years but we have now arrived at a point in our evolution where the effects are starting to work against us.
The truth is, most of us are not needed any longer. All of those jobs that have disappeared over the last 30-40 years are never coming back.
What politicians should be talking about is this:
How can we create a new economic system that is not based on labor (which is increasingly unnecessary) but one that encourages people to meaningfully contribute to society in exchange for economic rewards?
I’ll bet that answer won’t fit on a bumper sticker. It’s also a question that we can’t dodge much longer.