Essential Economics

Imagine a future world in which there is no work for anyone to do because it is all carried out by machines. Robots do all farming, manufacturing and mining of raw materials, so there is nothing for anyone to do. The big question is, who should get the food and all the other things that the robots make? People who work, perhaps? But then nobody has any work, so how can we solve this enormous problem?

Well, clearly there's a simple solution, as every simpleton already knows. We can simply make new jobs for everyone to do so that they can earn money to buy all the things that robots make. We can fill offices with people and make them work on completely pointless tasks. For example, any people who are good at adding numbers together can be made to add up numbers all day, and then they can be paid for all the correct answers they come up with. So, we can immediately imagine that millions of people will drive to work every day and spend most of their lives adding numbers together so that they can earn money to buy food, and also to be able to afford occasional short holidays, flying off round the world to cram as much fun as they can into a couple of weeks before they have to return to their vital work adding numbers together. Because they are tied up doing lots of work, they will need to pay lots of money to other people to look after their children for them, so that's good: it creates more jobs that wouldn't exist otherwise. Clearly jobs are the key to life.

But hold on a minute... Let's think this through carefully, because there may be an alternative. What if these people didn't have to do the pointless work of adding numbers together and were simply paid for staying at home and not working instead? Exactly the same money would be there in the system to pay them, so it doesn't matter if they add up numbers all day or if they do nothing instead - the work they do is unnecessary and so no one will lose out in any way if it isn't done. In fact, we would all be better off if they don't have to drive to and from work every day because that costs money, wastes resources for no gain and puts out unnecessary pollution. The money that they no longer need to spend on driving to and from work can now be put into a new pot, to be used to help people have fun. The money that the unnecessary office building which no longer needs to be built, heated and maintained for them can also be put into that pot. This saved money can be shared out with everyone, and the more people who no longer do unnecessary work, the more money everyone can be given to have fun with.

So, we can easily see now that if all the people doing unnecessary work are simply paid not to do that work any more instead of being paid to go on doing it, no one should end up any the poorer for it. Better than that though, if the savings are shared out fairly it would actually result in all of us being better off. Clearly these liberated workers will no longer need other people to look after their children for them, but again they can still afford to go on paying those people so that they too can go on buying food and all the other things they need to have a good life. There are no losers at all. Once these changes have rippled through the economy, most people will have much more time on their hands which can be turned to having fun: it will no longer be necessary for them to blow huge amounts of their hard-earned money travelling round the world in a hurry during short holidays because they can instead spend their entire lives travelling round the world on long holidays which never end, being transported by environmentally friendly methods which don't involve the high costs and pollution of planes and high-speed trains. Their quality of life will be a hundred times higher for exactly the same cost as before.

So here's the key thing you have to understand, and it's one of the most important lessons you will ever learn anywhere: unnecessary work harms all of us and keeps our quality of life down. The world is run by politicians who are obsessed with the idea that they need to create as many jobs as possible, regardless of whether the work they create is worthwhile or unnecessary. In many wealthy countries, half of all the work people do is completely unnecessary and it makes everyone in those countries much poorer, quite in addition to wasting their lives doing pointless tasks that simply don't need to be done. What politicians should be doing is trying to eliminate as many jobs as they can while making sure that no one is any worse off at any stage. Everyone can be paid a basic income to give them access to food, clothes, houses and all the toys they need to enable them to have good lives - the money will still be in the system to cover all of this, and there will be a lot more money left over after that too now that it's no longer being flushed down the toilet. If politicians organised things correctly, such a country with no unnecessary jobs being done would greatly outperform a country riddled with unnecessary jobs, and all the people living in it would have their lives transformed for the better

You can spend many years studying economics in schools and universities, but until you have taken on board what I have just told you here, you will have completely missed the most important idea in all of economics and might as well never have studied the subject at all. If you have taken it in though, despite how little there is to it, you have already become one of the world's real experts in economics. Please go and spread the word, because we may yet have time to save the world if only we can stop the idiots in charge from destroying it through their obsessive and totally misguided pursuit of pointless work. Machines were supposed to liberate us from toil and they could have done it by now, but they will never be able to do so until we have the intelligence to stand back and let them.