Apr 16 2010

Time to end the two-wage-earner family?

Kal @ 17:36

John Michael Greer has an interesting post up about the economics of both husband and wife working for wages titled A Blindness to Systems. His  basic point is that the US could end the unemployment problem overnight just by having one of the partners in a nuclear family stop working for wages and begin working at home for the common good of the family. The Blindness to Systems aspect is that there are a lot of costs associated with that second income, but that these are often ignored in the decision process of whether or not that second partner should work for wages.

Some of the benefits to the family of one partner staying at home include better cared for children, fewer work and commute expenses,  less time wasted commuteing, better nutrition due to home cooking, possibility of a garden, and home constructed clothing, to name a few.

Some of the benefits to society would be less wasted resources, happier and healthier children, and higher average wages due to increased competition for available workers.

Most of the comments are from folks who have already made the choice to keep one partner at home “taking care of the kids”, so are very supportive of the whole thing. A few comments point out that families do not last forever, and if one partner is not a wage earner the split can be a disaster for that person left with no source of funds and no current work experience to make getting an appropriate job likely.

Cutting the work force by a large percentage, would certainly be a positive thing for society, I am guessing it might be between 25% and 40%. I believe that more than 40% of the work done in this economy produces a net negative impact on living standards, so I am all for it. However, I am not convinced that reverting back to the “stay at home mom” (or dad) is the most appropriate way to go about it.

If Mom stays home while Dad commutes for three hours a day from their home in Lodi, CA  to a job in Fremont building over sized passenger cars, the main problems for society remain. Commuting long distances by automobile  is a terrible waste of resources, and this society does not need any more new automobiles for the next ten or fifteen years, if ever. Of course, one such commute is better than two, but one is still too many.

If, on the other hand, manufacturing was limited to things that we do need, say for example solar panels and worn out farm equipment replacement and efficient railroad stock, that would be a really big step in the right direction. If we would couple right manufacturing with workers living near their work we would really have something.

But what to do with all of us who would find our lives disrupted by such vast social changes? Clearly society should continue to support all of the persons living here in a reasonable fashion. I am sure we can all find something more useful to do than to waste our time at negative impact work situations. All we need is the opportunity.

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Category: Economics | Employment | Guaranteed Wage | Politics | Population | Steady-State Economics | Sustainability
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