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Are Jobs on Their Way to Becoming Obsolete? And Is That a Good Thing?

Do we have it backward when we call for job creation? Could we instead radically rethink our economy to benefit everyone?

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What if we started to think once again about organizing society around what makes life better for all of us?

Rushkoff writes:

“And so the president goes on television telling us that the big issue of our time is jobs, jobs, jobs -- as if the reason to build high-speed rails and fix bridges is to put people back to work. But it seems to me there's something backward in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned.”

This paragraph should make us all stop in our tracks. For so many of us, who have been steadily calling for government to step in and employ people directly as it's been made clear that big business has no problem hoarding profits while laying off workers, it is a reminder that we used to argue for more.

The “more” in question, the big issue that goes untouched by Rushkoff in this piece, is that we will need to deal with the idea of redistributing wealth. This is the taboo subject, the thing that gets right-wingers screaming. The problem right now, jobs or no, is that very, very few people control the vast majority of the wealth in the world, and that it has been squeezed out of working people at the bottom. Our society, as Dean Baker and other economists have noted, is structured in a way that has little to do with “free” markets and everything to do with creating mechanisms to shift wealth upward.

To create a fairer society, whether it's one based on jobs or on sharing or on something else we haven't yet envisioned, as well as a sustainable one that might not destroy the planet during our lifetimes, we're going to have to tackle the fundamental inequality that has become ingrained in our society, that hangs over all of our lives. To move beyond “jobs,” we must move beyond a world where a few have all of the power.

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.