Please Help Me to Figure Out Rewards + Rewarding Behavior in the Labor Market Economy

Over the past days and weeks, I have been thinking a lot about rewards and rewarding behavior (cf. e.g. this status update in the so-called “market for labor” (a somewhat oversimplified concept typically taught in Economics 101 courses). In such Introduction to Economics courses, a production function (a sort of algorithm for producing goods, products and/or services) is commonly reduced to two simple factors: labor and capital. Just as any other good or service traded in an economy, labor and capital are assumed to have upward sloping supply curves and downward sloping demand curves — behind this assumption is the basic idea that people will be willing to work (more), if they are rewarded (more) … usually, with (more) money.

I feel the economic reality is in fact quite different. Ironically, rewarding people with more money seems to lead to pricing them out of the market. This leads to the eerie conclusion that Karl Marx was perhaps indeed onto something in his criticism of capitalism. Today, discussions of robots performing jobs previously performed by humans are no longer interpreted as fantastic or delusional. Instead, what seems to be missing is an argument of the expected role of humans in tomorrow’s ideal economy — we are apparently no longer being careful about what we wish for. The prospects we are harvesting for tomorrow’s “advanced” technology is one which may make traditional Luddites turn in their graves… — namely: Tomorrow’s world is one in which humans are no longer productive at all, but instead if they are unwilling to be consumers, then they will probably be superfluous to society at large.

I have not yet figured out a conclusion to this apparent conundrum. One solution I have come up with so far is to do as follows: Pretend humans are not part of the equation at all, and simply compare technologies instead. One way to view the way this might play out in reality would be to imagine a society in which soup kitchens, housing, etc. are available and free for individuals to use (i.e., consume) much in the same way that air and water are today sanctioned to be freely available (yet this doesn’t mean that people would be slaves — instead, they would be free to do whatever they choose to do… and if they choose to work for additional money, they could of course do so). I don’t think I have thought through the repercussions enough yet, and I would be not at all surprized to find there is something fundamentlly wrong with it. What do you think?

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One Response to Please Help Me to Figure Out Rewards + Rewarding Behavior in the Labor Market Economy

  1. Pingback: Supply + Demand of People + Work | Nooblogs

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