Economic productivity

I have been thinking about “economic productivity”. Since retiring (at 67), on a personal level and now on a socio-economic level. It is all over the news. “We must get Britain back to work…” But why?

It appears that “economic productivity” has come to mean: working to enrich… who? The already wealthy? If that is how we measure economic productivity it is not surprising that people are choosing not to work if it is at all possible. It is not that we/they/I don’t want to work, it’s just I don’t want to work for people – a government, an “ascendency”, who won’t pay care workers or nurses or coppers or nursery teachers or cleaners, those who have to commute hours every day to a shitty job so they can eat what the foodbank doesn’t send? And, then call it not poverty but, “… an episodic cashflow problem” (D. Raab, Guardian, 29 May 2017)?

The French (many of them, anyway) are rioting over both the aim of raising their retirement age to 62, and the means by which the government is doing so. Meanwhile, Britain will be raising our state pension age to sixty-f’ing-nine a year later than planned because we have started dying younger. Even by our own economic rules it would appear paying care workers more would directly increase their economic productivity. They would buy more stuff, pay more tax, eat better food. But, people are treated like an “asset to be sweated”. Like demurrage on a ship, or a lorry idle in a layby, the workforce must be returned to productivity: kept working to the max, with as little rest / holiday / early-retirement as possible. And, once a worker has stopped working they should just die as fast as possible to diminish the burden on… Who, exactly?

We can barely pay children’s teachers and carers so parents can go back to work, but we won’t pay a parent to stay home and raise a child. We will however give them a grant to set up in a child-care business so they look after other people’s children. The whole thing is monetised, taxed and raked off by “consultants” and “licensing agencies” thereby contributing to “economic productivity”. Get me started on school meals? Immigrant detention? Trade barriers?

Ultimately economic productivity relies on identity management: locators, indicators, cells in a spreadsheet, nodes in a network model: this is this and that is that and they are related by money. Economic productivity is an expression of a network model. And what do we know about all models? They leave something out. They are not “real” (except that they are real models).