Sunday, July 1, 2012

Evolution of the Economy

Firstly, Happy Canada Day everyone! Secondly, I wrote this entirely on a mobile device, so please excuse any glaring errors, as spell check and auto correct have minds of their own.

After watching a news report on the re-opening of the Asbestos mine in Asbestos, Quebec, I figured it would be a good time to talk about the evolution of the economy.

Perhaps the right wing is unwilling to talk about this issue because of the word evolution, but they certainly do talk about the future development of the economy. So, let's go with that moniker and talk about the development of the economy.

With the Industrial Revolution, things changed in the way that products were produced and the internal economy of a nation. Perhaps the biggest change was the shifting of the development of products and a shift on what products were created.

Take the steam engine; it started off as a massive piece of technology that could have required its own building to house. As the Industrial Revolution spurred forward, micronization of goods led to smaller and more productive steam engines. This is one example of the evolution of the economy, a product becoming improved.

Keeping with the steam engine,we can also see another part of the evolution of the economy: a product becoming obsolete.

As things like coal and hydro and other sources of power became more effective and developed, the use of steam power became less prevalent. This is perhaps the most important part of the what we will be talking about; the idea that over time, certain aspects of the economy become obsolete.

Even members of the right wing usually embrace this idea; wrapping it in the guise of market driven demand determines a successful business and whether it should continue to exist.

However, this mindset does not include the development of the economy that we've talked about. Let's take Asbestos; a material that has been condemned and even legislated against in many counties due to the health risk it poses.

Furthermore, new materials have been created to take the place of asbestos; materials which do not pose the risks but provide the same benefit, and which are preferred in countries that can afford these pricier materials.

Yet, we continue the asbestos industry because there is external demand for it in developing nations who don't want to purchase the newer and more expensive materials.

Effectively, industries that become redundant are supposed to fade away. That is the market that is supported by right wing capitalists, but in practice this is rarely the case.

Even though the demand for asbestos should be lower than for the new materials, (given that the new materials can be sold in a wider array of markets), the exploitive model of capitalism advocates continuing a limited industry as there is still a quick buck to be made.

And that brings us to the primary defense of the industry: if we shut it down, we put X amount of people out of work.

This is what we always come back to, we can't shut down an industry because of the loss of jobs. This is even used by those on the left, think of the auto industry bail outs, and it is a pretty effective excuse given people tend to get very uppity when talking about jobs.

It's understandable, no one wants to be responsible for shutting down an industry. And in some communities, the closing of an industry can likely mean the slow death of the community itself. But this is not a fault of action, rather it is a fault of inaction.

Allow me to explain.

We have a responsibility to develop an intelligent economy. This means diversification of our economy; and avoiding the reliance on a single driving economic force. By creating an intelligent economy, that avoids reliance on a single sector, we can avoid the worry of an economic crash based on the poor performance of a single industry.

Furthermore, we foster the evolution of the economy. That way, when an industry becomes obsolete, there is not a sudden implosion of jobs when the industry collapses.

The fact of the matter is that industries will collapse, and this is a natural part of the market. As we advance as a species, we will find better ways of doing things. And we need to embrace these new ways, especially when they are better than the old ways.

What we should be striving towards, through the creation of an intelligent economy, is to ensure that when industries become obsolete we do our best to find new jobs for those workers who are now facing unemployment.

Let's take coal mining for example. As we move away from coal based power sources, to things such as wind and solar, we should be working towards transitioning as many workers from coal based power sources to these ends forms of energy.

By working towards retraining these workers, and fostering an economy based around numerous industries, we can ensure that employees have career choices when faced with the natural closing of an industry.

We need to embrace change as it comes at us; not bury our heads in the sand and insist that our economy and local industries will always exist as they have for the past fifty years. But in order to fully do this, we must foster the creation of an economy that embraces the change it suggests it wants to create.

By doing this, we can allow obsolete (and morally and ethically questionable) industries to fade away while being replaced by new industries that offer the same services but that are more efficient and economically friendly.

And in the end, we must accept that the world spins forward only, and we can either move with the current and find ourselves moving forward with it; or fight against it, needlessly, in a battle that we can never hope to win. We cannot afford to cling to the ways of the past, simply because it is more convenient or we do not want to risk what change may bring; but we must embrace it, and lay down the groundwork that allows us to make these changes without the growing pains that accompany them.