hans groen *17 09 1959 - †11 08 2022

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the ruminant economy 6 – some conclusions

A few concluding statements containing the ideas that I would like to be remembered, and a couple of ideas I could not place in the essays.

You are entitled to the fruit of your labour. You are not entitled to the profit from your own or other people’s work.

The key question for which a healthy society has found an answer, is how to establish a configuration where the surplus that productive labour generates is used for education, care, and culture, for the benefit of society and not for individual wealth exclusively.

‘Give us today our daily bread’ is maybe equivalent to ‘give us today the fruits of our labour’. And then there is the corresponding ‘man shall not live by bread alone.’ Money is not the measure of everything. It is like babies in foster homes: mortality during the first year is high in big institutions though the babies get enough food and clean nappies. What they miss is the closeness of a human body and the caressing by a human hand. Indeed, one cannot live by bread alone. Likewise, one cannot produce a worthy human society with money alone.

People want to work, people are not lazy; they are so eager to work that they will accept even the smallest and badly paid job, just in order to earn something. Stressing exclusively the duty to work opens the mind of the employee for exploitation and accepting bad circumstances.

The biggest frustration for unemployed is not being able to provide for the daily needs of oneself and one’s family. There is a duty on behalf of the government in name of our common wealth to provide for each person that he or she can live this human life. A no frills welfare subsidy for a limited time (‘free money’) is a viable option, also given that poverty itself is costly for society.

The big challenge is how we can lift the life of the 99% for which Occupy was advocating, or the 80% that John Hurly mentioned as being job insecure. There is a growing number of people who just survive on an income – they do not starve, but there is not much leeway to realize plans for the future. They see a (shrinking?) number of people who get (even usurp) a disproportionate share of the wealth that is produced by all.

Mass employment will not disappear; employment of the many who are self-employed, have a flexible job, delivering professional services from a home-based company, will grow in importance. This group is dependent on employers and industry for their work, but they are also competitors for each other and in that they differ from the classic labour class. This calls for new arrangements in the social dialogue.

Contracting firms as they function in agriculture can play a role in organizing flex workers and self-employed. Another example is the ‘veem’. The ‘veem’ was a cooperative of harbour workers who work in and for the warehouses in the harbour. They were specialized in specific cargo and could be recognized by the colour of the hat (purple hats, blue hats, etc. – Blauwhoed is now a real estate company that originates in the blue hat ‘veem’ from the time of the VOC). Also guilds might be reinvented in some way for safeguarding good quality work and work standards. These are organizations that mediate between groups of individual workers with similar skills who compete for the same temporary jobs, and the employers who have a changing need for these workers. A good development is, I think, the initiative on behalf of regulating authorities in The Netherlands to allow self-employed people to make arrangements with each other about tariffs so that they have a stronger position in relation to employers. Finally, the spell of being an entrepreneur is being broken and government realizes that self-employed people on the market are a bit different from the big players such as Boeing and Airbus, or Alstom and Siemens, or Vodafone and T-Mobile.

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