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how to fix the world

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 9 years, 9 months ago


Some basic human rights that seem to slip under the radar from time to time.



100% Employment


The other day I was talking to a lovely, moral person, who I met in church, about unemployment. A successful businessman, he was saying that the optimum rate for unemployment was about 8%.


I'm afraid I saw red. This guy has not had an easy life, few do, but he hasn't had one of the hardest either. He's worked hard, and the system has rewarded him, and he thinks everyone should work as hard as he does and if they don't he shouldn't have to support them. And perhaps that's fair enough.


But, I said to him, there are about a hundred homes in the street in which this church stands. You're saying it's good for eight of them to be without a breadwinner, is that right? Yes, he said, that's right.


It got me thinking... what is the optimum rate of unemployment? I couldn't get away from zero. And the more I thought about it the better I liked it.


I told my father. He said I'd gone Marxist. No, Marxism is sexist and a failure. This is different. Oh, Marx had some good ideas and we've built on them, but he had some awful ones as well.


What happens if we do have no unemployment? Well, for a start we don't need trade unions. That appeals to me. I've tried them, I was forced to join one once in a closed shop, and I've joined voluntarily and idealistically on other occasions, and frankly they've been a dead loss. The union I was forced to join, the ABEU, wanted to abolish my job. For a bank teller to explain to a customer the workings of an ATM is akin to a man about to be executed telling his firing squad how to load and fire their automatic rifles, my first newsletter read. I'd been employed to help expand the computer system to cope with more ATMs, and I was forced to join an anti-technology union. Words fail me.


Oh, so you just got off to a bad start? No, that wasn't the start. In a previous workplace, the union I could have joined was against flexible working hours. The reason seemed to be that one powerful union organiser didn't want his car pool mucked up. Every other member wanted flexible working hours, but he'd managed to become the rep on the committee. The appalling thing wasn't that it happened. The appalling thing is that no unionist I spoke to found it surprising or even worthy of criticism.


Several other unions onsite were anti-nuclear. The site? The Australian Atomic Energy Commission. They wanted to put all,of their members there out of work. 


But when the ABEU incompetently violated the closed shop agreement and I was free to leave, I didn't. I actually think unions are a good idea. So I kept paying my dues, until I was retrenched. I immediately contacted the union. They had absolutely no interest in helping me. They said, well you'll have to resign from the union. I said, wait a minute, I intend to remain in the industry, can't I remain in the union? Idealistic to the last, wasn't I? They said, oh of course, we'll put you on the list of unemployed members, and you'll pay no dues, but you must contact us if you get another job and if it's not one we cover you'll have to resign anyway, but if we do cover it you can start paying dues again.


It sounded OK until I did get a job they covered. They had no record of my ten years' previous membership, but were happy for me to apply to join. I didn't.


What were the union officials doing with their time? I guess they were opposing ATMs, and nuclear power, and flexible working hours. They certainly weren't taking any interest in their members or our jobs.


But I still think unions are a good idea. I wished I'd had an effective one on several occasions (both when I was a member and when I wasn't). They're needed, but they just aren't working. So in a sense we have the worst of both worlds. We put up with the overheads of the union system, we feel reassured that they are giving our workplaces at least some protection, and frankly, we don't have any protection at all, in my experience. 


But... suppose we did have 0% unemployment? Then we simply wouldn't need unions. Employers would need to give decent conditions, because if they didn't, they'd have no staff. The unfair advantage employers have in negotiations would be very nicely balanced. Negotiations would become win-win. Unions may be a good idea, but not needing them is a much better one.


Yes, the more I think of it, the more I like it. A decent job should be everyone's right. Not 92% of the population and sacrifice the others on the altar of prosperity. Everyone.


So... how? Well, we need a bit of restructuring and re-education. It's a bit radical, my father was right about that. We need a culture where we assume everyone has something to offer, and seek to find out with them what that is, rather than wait for them to prove it. To encourage them to contribute, rather than assuming they don't want to and offering a carrot if they do and a stick if they don't, which of course is a very effective way of getting them into a mindset that says, I work because I need to, not because I want to.


The lucky ones in our society already have jobs they find rewarding, and there are surprisingly many of us. Surprising considering how much emphasis society places on telling us that we should resent having to work, that working in your own garden is somehow more pleasant than fixing the public roads even if you use the same shovel and the same bitumen. That you only work because you need the money. Ain't necessarily so. The basic right I'm talking about is a job, not just a pay packet.


And the desire to have a job is awesomely strong. Some of my fellow retrenchees put on suits every morning for months or years and kept catching trains to the city. A few even pretended to their wives that they had work when they didn't. If we could tap into that strong desire, then maybe it's an achievable goal.


But regardless, it's a worthwhile goal. That's all I'm saying for now.  


The more I think about it, the more I deplore any acceptance at all of any unemployment at all.


Stateless persons 


Having fixed the country, let's do the rest of the world.


Stateless persons? What criminal mind invented that concept? Surely, to deny any person citizenship is a crime against humanity?


Ah, but citizenship where? Let's consider that a bit. Imagine if any person were entitled to claim citizenship of the land of their birth. That's a start. Many countries have from time to time refused to allow citizens (especially those of military usefulness) to renounce their citizenship. When I was of military age, Greece and South Africa were both examples. Several of my age mates had made sad final journeys to the land of their birth, to say goodbye to their grandparents before they became eligible for military service, because once they attained that age, they could never return. They hadn't ever lived there as adults, but they would become criminals as draft resisters, and nobody in the UN seemed to see this as a violation of their human rights. 


That should at least cut both ways. If a country has the right to claim you just because you were born there, then you should have a right to claim it. Surely. Not just a right to be considered for citizenship. A right to have it affirmed, and if the country itself won't issue you with a passport in the name of that country, then the UN should. And in the name of that country. (Yes, I know UN passports already exist, and aren't worth much. They're issued to people travelling on UN business. I've never had one but several friends and colleagues have, and you need to carry your "real" passport too! But they're far better than nothing.) 


But take it further... what if this right was also conferred on your children, and theirs, etc? Remembering that there are people right now in refugee camps whose parents and grandparents were also born in these camps, that seems necessary. And now it's beginning to have some real teeth. Now, getting rid of people you don't want by making them refugees loses its attraction, Because probably, some of their children and grandchildren will be back. Now the Palestinians and the Israelis both have an equal right of return. Now possessing territory cuts both ways too... any time you annex a piece of real estate, then by doing so you also give all the people attached to it rights in your own country. Permanent rights that their descendants may well decide to exercise, some day.


It seems to be natural justice.


In conclusion 


Probably the stateless person project is equally idealistic to the unemployment project. But implementing broken laws won't work, any more than replacing a manual system that has problems with a computer system that does the same things will fix that (and I've often seen it tried).


We need some unbroken ones. I propose these two concepts as a start.








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