A thinking opposition

Written By: - Date published: 7:36 am, August 1st, 2015 - 56 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, labour, science, unemployment, wages - Tags: ,

So the news on Labour’s first paper from its “Future of Work” Commission revolves around “ex-Labour member” Phil Quin noticing some missing quote marks and National making gleeful diversions from it.  At least Phil Quin isn’t attacking the party while being quoted as “Labour insider” any more.

But of course what is actually important is the content.

This is only the first paper, on Technology, and future papers will address Security of Work/Income, Education/Training, Maori/Pasifika, Economic Development and Sustainability (no doubt including Climate Change).

Technology is a good place to start, as it changes ever faster.  We’re amazed at Uber, but it in turn will soon be wiped out as driverless electric cars change our way of moving about.  Transport is the biggest sector of employment in the US (I don’t have figures for here), and those jobs will all be gone in a couple of decades.  Indeed if you go through the list of employment sectors it’s a long way down before you find something that isn’t easily automated.

I work in high-tech manufacturing and our customers tell us they are looking forward to employing 1/3 fewer staff in 5 years’ time.  We need to rethink how society is going to work with this massive reduction in current job types.  Will we have mass unemployment, or find new sectors for people to work in?  Or reduce our working hours?  Keynes after all envisaged us working 10 hour weeks by now…  We should have more time for leisure, community and looking after each other, but somehow we’re ending up with less currently.

Labour’s objectives for their commission are: Decent Work • Lower Unemployment • Higher Wages • Greater Economic Security • High-Skilled, Resilient Workers.  Technology offers opportunities as well as challenges.  We lose the tyranny of distance, we start with a better education system and more educated workforce than most, and we have a green reputation in a world looking for clean sustainable solutions.

If we move now on such things as teaching coding in every school, ensuring we hold out against software patents (are National about to fold on this for TPPA? Yet another loss and still no gains…), increasing R&D spend, finding ways of funding start-ups and keeping our successful companies, improving internet connectivity – all Labour suggestions – we can make sure that technology benefits work in Aotearoa rather than leaves us jobless.

I look forward to the other papers as this one obviously covers only one aspect – other issues like how we handle the change to contracting (and a country of “self-employed”) instead of traditional employment, or the impacts of climate change, will be very interesting to see what Grant Robertson and his Commission have come up with.

But mainly I’m glad that at least one of the 2 old parties is actually thinking about and planning for the future.

Bryan Gould has an excellent column in the Herald this week on a hoped shift leftward after all National’s privatisation debacles – charter schools, prisons, social services.  The right’s ideology is showing after years of portraying themselves as “practical” “managers”.

56 comments on “A thinking opposition ”

  1. b waghorn 1

    “”But mainly I’m glad that at least one of the 2 old parties is actually thinking about and planning for the future.””
    That’s how I feel about it , at least labour has started the conversation.
    Just this week alone I’ve seen footage of a driverless tractor cultivating paddocks, robots milking cows and a robot cleaning the floors in Auckland airport the possibilities are endless.
    I expect national to actively attack this and then come into the next election with there own version.

    • every robot kicks a human out of a job so the bosses can slurp more profit

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.1

        and that is of course the driver behind these job losses, and something that Labour has not been willing to tackle head on.

      • b waghorn 1.1.2

        I’ve spent more than a few hours doing two of those jobs can assure I’d rather a machine did it , they will still need oversite but yes they will kill employment.
        It human nature to try to grab as much of the pie as possible that’s why we need strong resonible minded government s to try and even things out.

  2. plagiarism is never good and whilst I congratulate Clare on saving Saddle Hill (glad I could help) this type of non-quotation marking is sloppy at best and unacceptable in any circumstance. ffs this stuff is entry level.

    Thanks for the article Ben – I disagree with most of what you have said but I appreciate you saying it.

    Automation, robots, higher wages, lower unemployment, and so on – imo they are just more blindfolds and earmuffs about the real issues of survival, decline, reduction and less. Surprisingly I find these latter topics to be positive, uplifting and energising.

    • weka 2.1

      I agree. By definition, sustainability should have been first, or if that’s not politically expedient, put it high on the list. Sustainability should also by definition be built into all the other categories.

      (what’s the bit about Clare in reference to?)

      • marty mars 2.1.1

        http://action.labour.org.nz/save-saddle-hill

        I got a few emails from her on it – I signed the petition because of her letting me know – I thought that was pretty good. This latest stuff though – blah so basic it defies belief.

        • weka 2.1.1.1

          what’s the latest stuff?

          edit, ok just seen the Stuff article, thanks. It is hard to understand why Labour keep making such mistakes. Do they not have enough money to do these kinds of jobs proficiently?

  3. Adele 3

    Tena koe, Marty

    I agree with your sentiments. The focus going forward should be about survival.

  4. BM 4

    The elephant in the room is population control.

    Which no political party will go near with a barge pole, you can plan all you like, but if people can still pump endless streams of unemployed into the mix then nothing will get solved.

    It will have to happen some time in the future at what point do you start controlling the population?, do you wait till we hit 20%,30%,50% unemployment?, or do we just keep kicking the can down the road and hope for the best.

    Without a purpose people do bad things, when there’s enough people without any purpose, society will collapse.

    • The answer is obvious, BM. Socialism. The free market is exacerbating the inequality in society, and the neo liberal economy requires a permanent pool of the unemployed to act as a counter balance to the desires of workers. Do away with unemployment, focus on work as a means to an end, not the end itself.

      • BM 4.1.1

        I do agree Capitalism won’t survive in that environment.

        Maybe that will be the brake for automation.

        • Skinny 4.1.1.1

          Humans will revert to type and there will be a thining of the masses i.e World War lll. The ruling rich elite will see to this as they do. There is always great opportunity to increase their wealth in times of global conflict. Where the 1℅ may come unstruck is the heavy reliance on technology, and the rapid advancement’s wars bring about. The ‘thinking computer’ generation will eventually arise and while it may not be good in the longevity of the human race, it may be good for other being we share the planet with, and indeed for planet earth itself.

          • BM 4.1.1.1.1

            Unless the internet disappears or is heavily controlled I don’t think we’ll ever have another world war.

            Too hard to whip up any hate or hostility.

            • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1.1.1

              The next world war can be initiated, conducted and finished in 48 hours, between just a few hundred people in bunkers and command centres.

              No need to try and motivate hundreds of thousands of troops to do a thing.

              Cyber warfare and financial warfare are also other viable alternatives.

    • weka 4.2

      How do you suggest that society control population?

      • BM 4.2.1

        One option could be

        Every one of breeding age gets placed on long term contraception.
        Breeding is done in an artificial environment , that way there’s no favorites.
        IVF material is harvested from a selected group to maintain genetic diversity.

        Another option

        if you meet certain criteria, you can go on a waiting list and when society is ready you get given a breeding permit, do the business, pop out a kid and then back on the long term contraception.

        • weka 4.2.1.1

          how would you make people take long term contraception?

          what would you do with the babies that people have anyway? Or the foetuses?

          what criteria would there be for having a child?

          how do you think that forcing people to have someone else’s child would work in terms of social cohesion?

          • BM 4.2.1.1.1

            how would you make people take long term contraception?
            You don’t get a choice

            what criteria would there be for having a child?
            Ability to support child without any assistance, good genetic stock

            how do you think that forcing people to have someone else’s child would work in terms of social cohesion?

            IVF was the wrong word, I forgot to delete that.
            It should have been reproductive

            • weka 4.2.1.1.1.1

              “You don’t get a choice”

              Yes I understood that, I’m asking you how you would enforce compliance.

              Who decides what good genetic stock is?

              What does “reproductive material is harvested from a selected group to maintain genetic diversity” mean if you are not talking about articifical reproduction?

            • Stephanie Rodgers 4.2.1.1.1.2

              At this point I don’t think it’s a Godwin breach to point out how fascist/eugenicist/Nazi-ish you sound.

              It’s even worse knowing that you’re probably just co-opting eugenicism as part of your ~edgy rightwing troll~ performance art.

              • weka

                I was thinking of it more as give him enough rope performance art 😉

              • infused

                Well BM is right. I’ve said this all along. The population of this planet needs to be bought down and kept down. Many of the issues we have today then wouldn’t be an issue.

                • Colonial Viper

                  providing good incomes and good education is the proven way to bringing down birth rates.

                  Neoliberal globalisation put an end to that.

                  • RedLogix

                    I hadn’t thought of it like that before CV – but yes.

                    One of the questions we rarely ask ourselves is: how do we balance the individual’s sanctity and right to life, with the right of all humanity to live on a planet that is not crushed by our sheer numbers?

                    And so far the most pragmatic and effective answer to this question is that when families feel secure enough about their own future – they have only just enough children to replace themselves.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      for most of mankinds history, our numbers rose and fell according to each years harvest. Sooner or later, it is going to go back to that.

                    • Molly

                      Also an increase in the educational level of women, results in lower birth rates. Decision making at personal levels has improved outcomes when good information, and viable alternatives are offered.

                    • RedLogix

                      @ Molly

                      Totally agree. When I wrote when families feel secure enough about their own future I had mentally bundled exactly what you are saying into this.

                      I would go one step further and argue that societies which experience high levels of economic inequality are also prone to high levels of social inequality between the genders as well.

                      Which of these factors is more causitive is probably one of those frustrating chicken and egg arguments that ultimately depends on personal subjective values.

                      But whether it is economic or gender inequality we lead with, both to my mind, underlie social stressors which generate insecurity and thus drives over-population.

            • greywarshark 4.2.1.1.1.3

              Limiting population growth to small numbers of children, say three, would be of value in helping the individuals to manage a better family life, and enable them to earn enough to have a reasonable standard. All methods of contraception would help, and a drop in religious bias against women having jobs and careers and limiting family size would help. I am amazed at how this attitude still prevails in our culture.

              There is ending soon on Radionz a good story of a Nepalese woman who was sold to be a wife at five, and how the kindness of strangers in her new family and her own devotion to working hard, being a good wife and mother carried her through to happiness from a hard life. Still two episodes at 10.45am weekday.s. See below.

              I have in my second hand serendipity book collection a book about Lebensborn speling? which details the baby farming that Nazis did in Germany. And the way that they abandoned children and babies who didn’t fit their template of suitable Aryan appearance.

              Cold, calculating, abusive and disrespectful of what should be our innate personal value and rights in an advanced civilisation ennobled by higher intellect. If we use human cleverness to prey on and manipulate each other there will be a net loss of higher standards from this misusing our higher intelligence. That would lead us to ranking as clever, vicious primates with disgusting behaviour.

              A book that dealt with the convoluted ways that could arise from interfering with normal means of sexual response is –
              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

              China has tried to limit its population growth, having had experience of large food deficits and much starvation. That has resulted in upsetting the social patterns of their culture, which laid stress on male children for looking after aged parents. Now with one child limitations, with a few exceptions, they have a large imbalance in the sexes. I think I saw recently it may be 55 million more males than females. There will be serious problems for the young people in coping with this situation.

              Slavoj Zizek is concerned about the willingness of China’s present rulers to administer laws that interfere with the very genomes of their population with a desire to breed improved types of citizens. Sounds very Nazi-ish to me.

              http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thereading
              Hear – True Nepalese story, celebrates the life of a rare survivor of a hard life who is an admirable, nice person with a good heart.
              No.1 Five Sons and a Hundred Muri of Rice by Sharyn Steel and Zoe Dryden
              http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/201762625
              10:45am Monday 20 July to Tuesday 4 August 2015
              As a five-year-old child in rural Nepal, Kharika Devkota struggles to come to terms with her arranged marriage. She confronted poverty, illiteracy, and a society that failed to recognise her most basic human rights, yet by ninety she had become a successful landowner, a micro-lender and beloved great-grandmother.
              Told by Susan Wilson

    • b waghorn 4.3

      We could always try making sure everyone gets a top notch education (and I mean world wide) make the best of contraception freely available to all.
      I was told that teen pregnancy is rapidly dropping due to the new implantable straw type contraception.

    • millsy 4.4

      The population in the west has been slowing for sometime. Despite what the Daily Mail is telling you, people are having less and less children. 50 years ago, it was 5-10 (My friends late ex-partner had no less than 18 brothers and sisters), 30 it was 2-3, now people are happy with 1 — or a cat, or a chihuahua. People have better living standards, and a welfare system means that people no longer have to rely on their kids to take care of them, and some of it is because people dont really want to spend their lives looking after kids (or have their handful with one).

    • Draco T Bastard 4.5

      Unemployment has nothing to do with the size of the population but increasing productivity. The most basic thing we can do there is to limit working hours so that everyone gets a chance to have a job as we used to when we had full employment.

  5. Ad 5

    The paper has too much conflation between technology as a set of enabling instruments, and technology as a set of industries. This muddies its analysis a lot.

    I think it would be better to consider “technology” not as an amalgamated category about the future of work, and instead simply split it into (a) Education system improvements, and (b) Economic development policy.
    Probably I’m just old fashioned, but i want to see how it will get us work, not affect the nature of work.

    I get the sneaking suspicion that Labour’s rigorous sectoral neutrality has given way here to a mild romance that computing will simply solve things in the future. It is absolutely apparent that, while New Zealand’s economy is diversifying, we are always going to be good at some things, and those are the things we should build on.

    I understand that this is a think piece and only intended to pose interesting questions.

    But launching it on the same week that New Zealand’s economic direction is being set for the next several decades through TPP, failing to clearly state the tech sector’s impact as a set of industries with measurable impact in GDP, jobs, IP, competitiveness, and creativity is a blind absence.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      good points. Also a focus on “technology” allows Labour to avoid posing any real questions on developing our own political economic values eg on the TPPA, globalisation, financialisation, etc.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    Technology is a good place to start, as it changes ever faster. We’re amazed at Uber, but it in turn will soon be wiped out as driverless electric cars change our way of moving about.

    To be honest, I am not a member of the tech utopia/fantasy future camp. I think the future is going to bring with it much tougher lives for much more of the population.

    For instance, who on the median wage of ~$44K pa is going to be able to afford a “driverless electric car” any time soon?

    If we move now on such things as teaching coding in every school

    Unfortunately reading this was to me one of those wtf moments.

    We need to teach problem solving in schools. Creativity. innovation and out of the box thinking. Written and verbal interpersonal communication. Not coding.

    Anyway, we’re never going to have cheaper code monkeys than China or India.

    • Karen 6.1

      +1 CV
      I had exactly the same response when I read that.

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.1

        it’s a massive disconnect to say to people who are struggling with $100 pw petrol bills that life is going to change so much when everyone has driverless electric cars in the near future.

        Which suggests that the audience for these policies aren’t people who are struggling with $100 pw petrol bills, but perhaps the class of people looking forward to upgrading their 2013 Prius.

        • b waghorn 6.1.1.1

          Moore’s law might take care of the price of that Prius I also caught a show somewhere that it was suggested that using Moore’s law we are on track to be able to produce the entire planets energy needs from solar in 24 years.
          Sorry I can’t rememder where I saw this , it was probably linked to from here some where.

    • RedLogix 6.2

      Exactly. Here are the words of an extremely experienced programmer:

      Programming as a profession is only moderately interesting. It can be a good job, but you could make about the same money and be happier running a fast food joint. You’re much better off using code as your secret weapon in another profession.

      People who can code in the world of technology companies are a dime a dozen and get no respect. People who can code in biology, medicine, government, sociology, physics, history, and mathematics are respected and can do amazing things to advance those disciplines.

      Of course, all of this advice is pointless. If you liked learning to write software with this book, you should try to use it to improve your life any way you can. Go out and explore this weird, wonderful, new intellectual pursuit that barely anyone in the last 50 years has been able to explore. Might as well enjoy it while you can.

      http://learnrubythehardway.org/book/advice.html

      In other words programming is not much use by itself. That’s my experience as well. I earn a living programming, but it’s the decades of experience in and around heavy industry and process technologies that make me a valuable and well paid programmer.

      This idea that if we just teach everyone to code they will all find good jobs – is a nonsense. In isolation coding is no more valuable a skill than burger flipping.

      (Actually this morning I went to a Maccas (doesn’t happen often) – and you have to be pretty impressed at the speed, accuracy and concentration the crew put on show during the busy hours.)

      • Colonial Viper 6.2.1

        yep coding by itself is pretty useless unless you want to create an economy based on writing Android games and smart phone dating apps. For everything else, you need actual engineering.

        • millsy 6.2.1.1

          What really sums things up is how civil defence authorities are moving towards smartphone apps to warn people of emergencies. All well and good, but when the cellphone network goes down (which it usually does in a natural disaster, unless it happens in a certain 2009 Hollywood movie) it is pretty useless. A good old fashioned siren doesnt need that sort of thing.

          • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1.1.1

            The problem with a good old fashioned siren is that not everybody will hear it due to sound just not carrying very well through things like walls or over the noise of storms.

            A cell phone network may go down (To be honest I doubt if it would go down completely) but it’s still going to be more reliable than a siren.

      • BM 6.2.2

        I preferred this book when I was learning ruby.

        http://mislav.uniqpath.com/poignant-guide/book/

        I look at programming as a set of tools that you use to create stuff.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.2.3

        This idea that if we just teach everyone to code they will all find good jobs – is a nonsense.

        Obviously we shouldn’t just teach them to code then. Hell, I’m a firm believer in broad education rather than the specialist stuff that we’ve been thrown at us for the last couple of centuries.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.3

      We need to teach problem solving in schools.

      In it’s most basic form a computer program solves a problem. You want to teach people problem solving then teach them coding. That would also apply to Creativity. innovation and out of the box thinking.

      Anyway, we’re never going to have cheaper code monkeys than China or India.

      Simple physics tells us that a coder costs the same no matter where they are. In fact, that pretty much applies to any job/role. They all need the same amount of food, living space, health care and social connections.

      No country is cheaper than any other country and now we need a financial system that reflects that reality.

  7. greywarshark 7

    In the item the response on the quotes forms the main comment relating to Labour.
    Yet National gets much to say against it, which hasn’t even been revealed in the piece.
    “Mr Joyce also took the opportunity to take a potshot at Labour’s Future of Work campaign.
    “They should drop this thing. It’s been an embarrassment for them from the start. They’ve been out stating the obvious as to what work is and now it turns out that they’re actually copying the obvious as well.”

    I can’t see that the absence of sources and footnotes is a reason to ignore giving reporting on Labour’s document released for discussion. Just usual nit-picking attempt to trivialise anything that opposition parties come up with. This from Radionz – I looked down National and Political headings and couldn’t find any discussion on the actual details of Labour’s report on Work.
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/280183/labour-%27sorry%27-for-footnote-omission

    There is an image of phil quinn at the top. In case it disappears here is a ts link written about him, who appears to be another Josie Pagani, making a living out of sniffing the ground around Labour’s cafe tables a la Elton John. (There’s plenty like me to be found Mongrels who ain’t got a penny, Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground AZLyrics)
    http://thestandard.org.nz/labour-media-commentators/

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Labour’s released something akin to a Ministerial advisory paper. It’s difficult to get a large amount of news-worthiness out of it.

      • greywarshark 7.1.1

        Oh thanks for that. I have been studying its effect on radionz and plumbing their systems and havnt looked deep into the doc itself,

        And thinking about tppa. edgey stuff this waiting.

  8. Stuart Munro 8

    I think Labour really need to go back to the household economics that they would have in more Savage times. What does it really cost to feed and clothe a family/ what does a single person need to live a modestly prosperous life/hold down a serious job.

    Then they should look for initiatives to attack cost of living and improve quality of life, and tailor their economic initiatives to those ends. So that instead of saying – lets privatise, it will save money, they make determinations on consumer outcomes. In that example if the power price doesn’t drop the power reform must be shit-canned.

    Every sentient and their dog is chasing the digital dollar – we need to pursue our local advantages to be competitive. That is likely to be bio/nano, and tech light industrial. The Gnats are still in the 1960s – bulk milk powder – Jesus wept.

    & I’m ashamed to mention it, but our fisheries are 1% as productive as Japan’s, on the same littoral area – even completely useless morons could do better there eh.

    • greywarshark 8.1

      Labour post 1984 seem to be stuck in the headlights of the vehicle they started and unleashed on us. Couple that with an inertia against change reaction so they think if it aint really broke dont alter it. The promises and outcomes that we get are lame because they have landed on planet key and have to wait for Dr Who? to come by in his TARDIS to transport them elsewhere.

      Fish by-catch what is government doing about that? Forest and Bird are advocating for thicker filaments in fishing nets for trawlers so that they don’t decimate the oceans of unwanted or unlicensed species. We can talk with ideas till we are blue in the face, but the obvious is too hard – to get it by the established fat cats who are for the status quo that gives them status.

      • Stuart Munro 8.1.1

        The fishing industry needs to be refocused for the local market and sustainable/artisanal use. The ubertrawlers don’t do us many favours – the Aoraki broke two fishing companies before it started on Sealord – overcapitalisation is no path to wealth.

        We need to restart small – preferential licensing to low impact fisheries that can employ out of Auckland – related products like gim/nori & najun chilgi, large scale live shellfish seafreight to China/Korea/Japan instead of trivial airfreight & thrice cooked tasteless halfshell – paua pearl & nacre labs, shrimp and mantis shrimp fisheries, a live fishery, juvenile octopus (nakji)… and local markets for distribution.

        I suspect that Labour, like the Gnats, have not recognised the potential, much less developed the expertise.

        • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1

          this is the kind of gutsy economic restructuring that we need to be looking at

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    There are probably a handful of Greek fisheries development scientists who’d love a two-year sabbatical in NZ about now – and they do stuff with seafood that we usually don’t. But there’s a lot of local knowledge too – going begging.

  10. Michael 10

    Plagiarising is not a good way to regain trust. Labour’s latest cockup is a big deal – even more so the fact that Grant Robertson, the person meant to be in charge of the policy, refuses to take responsibility for it. Honesty is always the best policy, while its conspicuous absence from Labour speaks volumes for its trustworthiness.

  11. yip 11

    Wow they screwed up and left out some quote marks, but look at the shit Joyce Key and the rest of the fuckwitts have screwed up, “Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said he was “concerned” at the oversight”

    He should look in the mirror, that is what should concern him.
    Crap job you have done re employment Joyce.

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