Karl Marx on why unemployment is a sign of success. More on this article.
Ironically, Marx pointed out, we have crises in Capitalism not because of shortages, but because of abundance; we have too much stuff. Our factories and systems are so efficient, we could give everyone on this planet a car, a house, access to a decent school and hospital. Few of us would need to work. But we don’t liberate ourselves. Marx thinks this is absurd, the outcome of some form of pathological masochism. In 1700, it took the labour of almost all adults to feed a nation. Today a developed nation needs hardly anyone to be employed in farming. Making cars needs practically no employees. Unemployment is currently dreadful and seen as a terrible ill. But, in Marx’s eyes, it is a sign of success: it is the result of our unbelievable productive powers. The job of a hundred people can now be done by one machine. And yet rather than draw the positive conclusion from this, we continue to see unemployment as a curse and a failure. Yet, logically, the goal of economics should be to make more and more of us unemployed and to celebrate this fact as progress rather than as failure.