Technological developments and the automation of production mean that less and less labor is needed every year to produce the basic welfare that everyone needs – housing, food, clothing, mobility and social participation. When only part of the workforce is needed to do this, how to look after the livelihood of others? This is the key issue and it is possible to respond to it in the following principled ways.
1) Denying the whole problem and covering it up till the very end. Arguing that in the future everyone will find jobs if only the governments will invest in growth and step up production of everything – even if everyone would be willing to settle down with less and regardless of how nature will endure it. Money will be borrowed to support growth on the one hand and to care for those in need, on the other hand. And when that’s not enough, let’s borrow some more. However, this cannot go on indefinitely, because investing in growth makes the concentrating economy to give the jobs and money to the winners. Unemployment is getting worse even if the economy grows.
2) Organizing work to the unemployed by increasing regulation and bureaucracy. Increasing the amounts and qualities of social benefits, entitlements and obligations, production subsidies, etc. The more complex the system, the more labor you need to handle it. The more you have to control, the more manpower you have to control and evade control. With point 1, this forms the current methods of getting the idle to work, but they cannot be increased endlessly.
3) Leaving the matter to the free market. Because there is always plenty of work to be done, all unemployed can be employed by reducing social benefits sufficiently. Then every proper worker will be able to hire a couple of servants with less than little money. Private entrepreneurship will also be profitable. In some countries, children and young people are already selling themselves or digging garbage for earning their living. However, the problem is democracy. In developed countries, the majority of voters are opposed to such a development and prefer to try to act according to point 1 and 2 to the very end.
4) Abandoning democracy. This is quite possible – even probable as long as employment is considered the most important objective of society. Wages can be reduced and the poor made to dig the garbage heaps. In addition, oligarchy always employs a large number of police officers, bureaucrats, informers, prison builders and, of course, propagandists, who will explain the necessity of this all. Warfare is also an effective remedy for idleness.
5) Paying everyone, including idle people, an equal and completely unconditional basic income, describing it to be a citizen’s dividend or a civic heritage, because it is more in line with the payment criterion. Today’s well-being is based on the work of past generations. On their shoulders we stand and now enjoy their contribution. Without them, everyone would be poorer than the beggar today. Grateful for this, those who have had a better chance to take advantage of this common heritage will give some of their share to those who have gotten less. Those who do not feel such gratitude will do this for a more realistic reason: to avoid drifting to point 4.