Posted by & filed under Connections.

I like it when a down-to-earth article addresses issues that some people would otherwise find hard to take seriously. It gives me a credible jumping off point for some of the  conversations I want to have. “Machine Money and People Money” offers a useful perspective on work and employment, and how they are not necessarily the same thing. The article addresses issues including the changing nature of work when increasingly robots and AI replace people.

The quote below gives a taster of Machine Money and People Money – A Conversation about Universal Basic Income with John Maynard Keynes and Paul Buchheit (most of the italics are mine):

At the outset of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes penned a remarkable economic prognostication: that despite the ominous storm that was then enfolding the world, mankind was in fact on the brink of solving “the economic problem” — that is, the quest for daily subsistence.

The world of his grandchildren — the world of those of us living today  — would, “for the first time…be faced with [mankind’s] real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

It didn’t turn out quite as Keynes imagined. Sure enough, after a punishing Depression and a great World War, the economy entered a period of unparalleled prosperity. But in recent decades, despite all the remarkable progress of business and technology, that prosperity has been very unevenly distributed. Around the world, the average standard of living has increased enormously, but in modern developed economies, the middle class has stagnated, and for the first time in generations, our children may be worse off than we are. Once again, we face what Keynes called “the enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants,” with consequent political instability and uncertain business prospects.


“The enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants.” I love that phrase! As Nick Hanauer has said to me, “Technology is the solution to human problems. As long as we haven’t run out of problems, we won’t run out of work.


Note that Nick said “we won’t run out of work,” not “we won’t run out of jobs.” Part of the problem is that “the job” is an artificial construct, in which work is managed and parceled out by corporations and other institutions, to which individuals must apply to participate in doing the work. Financial markets are supposed to reward corporations to pursue work that needs doing. But as Rana Foroohar has noted in her excellent new book Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Decline of American Industry, there is a growing divergence today between what financial markets reward and what the economy really needs.

More at It makes sense of many of the confusions related to the current world of work.

Thanks to Sasha Mrkailof for directing me to this article by posting it, with his comments, in P2P.