Saturday, December 21, 2013

Alan Caron to Kids: "Create Your Own Damn Jobs!"

Media Watch

Re: "New set of challenges on the horizon for teachers," Alan Caron, Portland Press Herald, 12.19.2013.

Alan Caron, President and founder of Envision Maine and PPH columnist.

Centrist political columnist, Alan Caron, has been with the Press Herald for about a year now. He typically represents the "moderate" (read: corporate status quo) viewpoint, frequently advocating fiscal conservatism with (moderately) liberal social stands. Caron is the founder and president of the business-oriented non-profit, Envision Maine, which lists Angus King, TD Bank, and Maine Chamber of Commerce president, Dana Connors as its partners on its website.

I would liken him to the New York Times's Joe Nocera.

Caron fancies himself a political "independent," which, in Maine, is very trendy right now. In reality, he is about as "independent" as his buddy Angus and would-be governor Eliot Cutler. For instance, in an August 8, 2013 column ("Old two-party election system fails us, so let's change it,"), Caron advocated stricter ballot access laws in the state as a sensible, "moderate" way to reform the two-party duopoly. The problem with this approach is that Maine already has some of the most ridged ballot access hurdles in the nation. For a self-described "independent," Caron demonstrates an astoundingly limited capacity to think outside of the box.

Yet Caron's most recent column struck me for reasons I doubt he intended it to. While most of the piece praising the work of teachers and the ever increasing responsibilities they face was blandly by-the-numbers, one short section caught my attention.

Among Caron's three-point "most prominent challenges" educators must address is the notion teachers must produce not only future employees, but future employers as well. He writes:
The next economy will have more small businesses created here in Maine and fewer large ones from away. Increasingly, today's children and their children will need to create their own jobs rather than find them. But schools aren't preparing them to do that. Making our own jobs is, by the way, exactly what our grandparents and great-grandparents regularly did.
While I would like to see some actual evidence for the lofty claim in the first sentence (especially given that it is undermined by everything else I have read), it is the second sentence, with its claim young graduates will essentially need to create their own jobs, that I find interesting.

Now, at face value this is actually sound advice. Maine traditionally has a long history of successful entrepreneurs, and given the current economic climate the idea of working for oneself is becoming increasingly more attractive to Americans.

But in coming right out and conceding members of the next generation may well need to create their own work opportunities, Caron perhaps inadvertently hints at a rarely acknowledged truth about capitalism. Namely, that the system does not allow for full-employment.

This is true regardless of the state of the economy. Even in a healthy, thriving economy, capitalism does not produce full-employment--i.e. a job for every individual who is willing and able to work. This is, furthermore, not a mere "glitch" or aberration of the system. Capitalism, as Marx observes in Das Kapital, is intentionally designed to prevent full-employment. It cannot survive without a constant supply of what Marx termed a "reserve army of labor." Without this supply of reserve labor employers would have less ability to suppress wages and labor strikes, and generally keep their work force under control.

If, as Caron argues, "making our own jobs" is what our grandparents and great-grandparents were forced to do, it is merely further proof of capitalism's effective negation of any kind of full-employment economy. Apparently the exalted "job creators" of their time were no busier "creating jobs" than they are today.    

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