No Jobs on this Island
by John Spritzler
[Click here to read about jobs and egalitarianism]
[Click here to read how people in about half of Spain in 1936-9 made a more productive economy WITHOUT THE RICH than with the rich.]
Before you decide that we need rich people to provide jobs, please imagine this little story. Once upon a time a thousand passengers and crew members of an ocean liner cruise vessel became stranded on a remote, previously unknown, island when their ship sank after hitting a rock near it. They had no radio and knew that they would probably never be rescued. They knew that they would have to make as good a life for themselves on the island as they could, with nobody to rely on but themselves.
On their first day on the island they gathered at the beach to discuss what to do. First, let's think a moment about what did NOT happen. Here's what did NOT happen:
First speaker: Look everybody, we're doomed to die. Even though there are edible plants growing on this island that could be farmed, and wildlife that could be domesticated to provide food and milk and dairy products, and plants suitable for making clothing and trees suitable for making timbers to build houses, and plants good for medicinal purposes, and iron ore under the ground that could be made into all sorts of useful things, and so on and so forth, it matters not. The only way these natural resources could ever be turned into the things we need to survive is if there were somebody to provide jobs for us, so that we could be hired to plant crops and mine the iron and treat sick people with the medicinal plants and harvest the timber trees and build houses and so forth. But, alas! There is no rich person on this island to create these jobs. There is nobody to hire us. We shall surely perish.
Second speaker: Sadly, the first speaker is correct.
All the remaining speakers: Oh! Woe is us. We shall surely perish.
Why did this not happen? Because the stranded people were not stupid and crazy, obviously! Here's what DID happen.
They agreed among themselves to form groups to do things that needed to be done in order to survive and eventually make a comfortable life for each other. Some harvested edible plants and began farming them, others harvested timber from trees, others built homes with the timbers, some built boats and some used them to catch fish to eat, some treated the sick with the medicinal plants, some mined iron, others made iron tools, and so and and so forth. They freely shared things according to need among all those who worked reasonably according to ability. (Yes, there was one jerk who thought work was beneath him and who insisted on having the others serve him as if he were a king, but when he discovered that nobody gave him so much as the time of day he began helping out with some of the work. And yes, there were some children and elderly people and sick people who were not expected to work and who were provided with the things they needed like everybody else.) Nobody hired anybody to do anything; people just did what they had to do to make a good life for themselves on the island. There were no jobs. And yet the people lived very well. They even discovered they could work much less than 40 hours per week to provide everything they really needed or wanted (some people even mainly did things to entertain the others), and have lots more leisure time than they had when they worked back home.
Now you might wonder why this doesn't happen in our actual society. To help see why, imagine that one day on the island something like this happened.
One of the stranded passengers--let's say his name was Mr. Gates--had a pistol. And he knew he was the only person with a firearm. This gave him an idea. "I can be rich!," he said to himself. The next day, when everybody was on the beach discussing what needed to be done, Mr. Gates brandished his pistol and announced to the people of the island:
"Listen up everybody! I own this island. I own the land and everything on it and under it. I own the plants and the trees. I own the wildlife. I own the minerals underground. You cannot take any of these things; they are my private property. If you touch any of these things without my permission, you are a criminal and will be punished.
"Don't you ever forget, I have a pistol and you don't.
"Now, I am a good person. I don't want you to starve. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to create jobs for all of you. I'm going to hire you to harvest plants and timber and mine iron and grow food and build houses and produce all sorts of things and services with my island. Everything you produce will, of course, be my private property, not yours, because I am the owner of the island and you are just my employees.
"If you want food or a house or medical care and so on, then you will have to buy or rent those things from me because they are all--don't forget!--my private property. I will pay you wages in the form of suitable leaves from one of my trees, with numbers and my signature on them. The numbers will denote the value of the leaf in units I call dollars. I will pay you enough dollars for your labor so that most of you (but not all of you) will have enough to buy or rent as much of my private property as you need to just barely survive and keep working for me. Those of you whom I refuse to hire or to whom I pay too little to survive will serve me well--as an example to the others of what will happen to them if they don't go along with the way I'm arranging this island society.
"Don't worry! This island is going to be a wonderful economic success. Most of what I will pay you to produce, and most of the services I will pay you to perform, will be above and beyond what you will ever be able to buy or rent with your wages. These products and services will be for my personal comfort and amusement. I will need many houses, and very big ones. I will need lots of servants and personal attendants and entertainers. I will need people to carry me wherever I wish to be taken on the island. I will need a big yacht and a crew for it so I can enjoy the good life. And I will have all of these things.
"You may be thinking, 'That Mr. Gates wouldn't be getting away with this if he didn't have his pistol.' But listen carefully. I don't own the island because I possess a pistol. It's the other way around. I possess the pistol because I own the island. I own the island because I am better than all of you. I'm smarter. I work harder. I come from better stock. I deserve to own the island. You don't. Things are the way they are because that is how they ought to be. It is only natural that the superior person owns the island. If it weren't for me, nobody would know what to do. It would be chaos. Nobody would work because there'd be no motivation--no wages--to work. You'd all be living in much worse poverty. You'd perish of starvation and exposure to the elements. You are lucky I'm here to create jobs for you.
"Furthermore, if it weren't for me and the army that I'm going to hire and command to defend our island, then you'd be conquered and enslaved by your REAL ENEMY--the terrorist Muslim hordes who, I have been told by my secret sources, live on a nearby island, have weapons of mass destruction, and want to take away our freedom. You may not love me, but if you fail to obey me you'll suffer a far worse fate at the hands of the terrorist Muslims, and don't you forget it!"
What do you think the people on the island did when they heard Mr. Gates's announcement? Did they accept his new social arrangement? Or did they grab his pistol and tell him to go to hell?
The reason it is not known what the people on the island did is because they're still trying to decide. Really, you see, it's not a little island where this story is being played out. It's our very own society. We are the people on the island. We've got our Mr. Gateses to contend with. What are we going to do?