Tuesday, June 20, 2006

All Over The Map, Creatively

I recommend giving this article a read. It touches on a lot of interesting topics regarding the character of today's economy.

It sucked me in with the notion that certain places in the world attract the intelligentsia - the article says that Bill gates has dubbed them "IQ Magnets". I've often thought about moving to Boston, because I have family roots in MA, and because it's known as a "cool" place for technology workers. I have friends who moved to California to work in the entertainment industry, when they could have pursued their dreams in a slightly different manner in NY. The thing is, we live so close to NY that it just wasn't perceived to be as cool.

As it turns out, creative is the thing to be:
Such remarkable job growth goes far beyond technology and engineering. While the U.S. economy will add 950,000 computer jobs and another 195,000 in engineering, the biggest gains by far will be in health care and education, which will add more than 3.5 million. Jobs for college professors alone are projected to increase by more than half a million. Arts, music, culture, and entertainment will contribute some 400,000 new jobs. That's twice as many as engineering.
OK, ignoring education and health care, which I think we can all agree on, are not paying commensurate salaries based upon the importance of the work, creative professions seem to be the way to go.

From there, the article moves on to the relative death of the middle class of the USA:
As the U.S. loses another half-million high-paying manufacturing jobs over the coming decade to automation, improved efficiency, and outsourcing, its labor market is essentially cleaving into two distinct economic classes: high-skilled, high-paying creative work and much lower paying, low skill work in the service economy.

The task facing economic leaders of the 21st century is not simply how to spur technology and innovation, but how to recreate the large pool of high-paying but relatively low-skill jobs that were once the hallmark of our broad middle-class society.
The author's answer? Make the low-paying service jobs better paying, and encourage every employee to be more creative in executing their jobs.

OK, I found it annoying that the answer was "make those jobs higher-paying". Um... with whose money? Last time I checked, it was the exception to the rule that a company worried more about paying employees fairly than it did about making as much profit as humanly possible, squeezing out every conceivable penny.

It would indeed be lovely if we could, in fact, harness the creative potential in every single individual in our society, "aligning the further development of human creative capabilities with the further growth and development of our economies", but I'm going to be honest, here - I stopped getting daily lattes because they were four dollars and eight cents. I'm not even going to Starbucks, where they're really expensive. I don't want to pay a premium for a cup of coffee every morning just because the person making it has done so creatively, perhaps giving me an adorable design in the foam, or creating the perfect blend of flavor syrups so as to transcend the ordinary coffee drinking experience. Raisingsalariess in the service sector will raise prices there, as well, and that will not, on any large-scale model, grow our economy. If I, the whimsical money waster can see that, I'm guessing that you can, too.

I would love to pay everyone a living wage, but the truth is that we have to have a mor estable economy than ths to start with if we want to pull that off. If the average person can't make ends meet, then it is not a good time to raise prices.

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