Our Expanding Birthright An Equal Minimum Share Sinton, Texas Despite all the very best of economic reasons why it should not be so, a rather high rate of unemployment has persisted in the United States, even during periods of the highest employment in our history. There have been several proposals for the solution of this problem, but all of them suffer from one of the great intellectual difficulties of our time in that they advance a correct solution of a theoretical problem as an ad hoc solution of a specific social problem, without regard towithout, in fact, any serious investigation intothe collateral effects the proposed solution may have on other facets of society. One of the principal defects in the Marxian economic theories is simply that people don’t react the way it would be necessary for them to in order to make communism function according to the books. What precisely is our unemployment problem, not on the dry basis of 5% today and 4.5% tomorrow, but rather in terms of the place employment has in our society now and in the plannable future? Must a job be available for everyone? If so, must every job be productive in today’s market? These are questions whose answers should condition programs to provide additional jobs. Until recently, temporary unemployment was a consequence of the inertia built into the economic machine. With the further development of our economic sophistication, the organic inertia has been practically eliminated by governmental interference. However, until a hundred years ago, the problem of permanent unemployment has been adequately dissipated by war, pestilence, and famine. Automation and health A person does not have to be in a university, a big city, or a Bavarian spa to think, a fact well illustrated by this article by Frederic Johnson, a lawyer in Sinton, Texas, which, we venture to say meaning no offense, is surely one of the dustiest and most forsaken little towns in South Texas. We asked Johnson to tell us something about himself so we could tell you about him, and this is the paragraph he sent us: “I suspect that after 16 years of marriage, my wife is still asking the same ‘Who are you?’ question that you ask in your letter. . . . I started school at John Tarleton, taking engineering; joined the Marine Corps during World War II as a pilot; went to the University of Texas for pre-law with, mostly economics courses; finished law school in 1950, and started practice in the 8 The Texas Observer Frederic Johnson services have tended to curtail famine and pestilence, and the day may not be too distant when even war will be virtually eliminated. Even so, and despite a high level economy and cold war-space exploration expenditures, there is a large pool of permanently unemployed. Should we eliminate the cold war and foreign aid expenditures, there would result a substantial increase in the permanently unemployed. Most of the proposals for the solution of our unemployment problem that have been made by government, industry, and labor have involved the application of the techniques used to deal with the temporary unemployment problem. There has been little discussion of the problem in its true light, as one requiring a permanent solution. We are in a phase where it is difficult to discuss the problem because of its confusion with the old problem of temporary unemployment and the built-in belief that every man should “earn” his own subsistence. Today, of course, certainly there are people enough in the world to themselves be “the demand” that would allow us to devote our energies for some time to come in bringing them up to our standards of living and education. But no matter, we here in the United States are presented now with problems of surplus everything. There are no problems today of a material character in the United States preventing the production of enough of everything for every one of us. Our only problem is one of distribution. Certainly today with little effort, every adult in the U.S. could own an auto old home town and have been in private general practice ever since. I have been involved locally in everything from building airports to an attempt to establish a marriage counseling service, director of several corporations to regular counsel for psychological cases, past president of the Rotary Club to member of the National Assn. of Defense Lawyers in Criminal Cases, Democratic county chairman to member of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science. I was given a ribbon for an oil painting and wrote a set of rules for the State Democratic Executive Committee which was approved by everyone but wasn’t adopted; and back in the days of the local Hale-Aikin committees, I wrote the majority report approved by the teachers in Sinton, the minority report approved by the citizens, and my own six-page dissent.” mobile, and there could be a refrigerator, deep freeze, washing machine, and so on in every house in the United States. There would be plenty of food for everyone. Unless we develop a planned program of turning back the clock to a pre-twentieth century time, there will soon be further development towards the elimination of virtually all manual labor. About the only work not presently capable of being automated is housekeeping, and someone will probably soon develop a humanoid robot capable of doing that. Eventually the labors of ten percent of the population will be able to support everyone. In this light we should be able to see that unemployment insurance offers no solution whatever. What then is the choice? Shall we have a public dole for ninety percent of our workers.? What about a featherbedding proposition, such as hiring a person to sit beside each memory bank? There has never been an adequate investigation into the effects that enforced idleness have on those qualities of a person that make him a man. There is no justification for anyone in the United States having to exist at a subhuman level because of poverty, but neither is there much improvement when you fill a man’s belly and teach him to sit up and bark three times a day. THERE ARE several generalities that are consistently treated as mutually inconsistent : “Individuality,” “Liberty,” “Competition,” “Free Enterprise,” and “Hard Work” on the one hand, and “De”Equal Opportunity,” “Full Stomachs for Everyone,” “Medicare,” and “Security” on the other. If we could develop an economic and political theory that safely blended these concepts, we could see further into a proper solution of the permanent unemployment problem. We could conceive of a program set up so that subsistence was not dependent on production, whereby everyone, man, woman, and child, is entitled by virtue of having been born to a minimum supply of food for the maintenance of good health, to minimum shelter, and to education and medical care. Each and every person would receive the same benefits, regardless of his wealth. For the moneyed class there could be a credit on white bread instead of brown flour, but each man would receive his equal share regardless, and without charity entering into the picture. For those who desired something more than the minimum, there would be the “free” world of commerce where everything above the subsistence level would be earned in
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