In the comments to the “Sigh” post, rainman raises the following reason for government action against currently employed temporary workers:
What then do the displaced workers like the welder in this story do? Go on the dole?
Now, the primary argument against this is that the “displaced workers” aren’t solely displaced. The immigrants are doing a job making things, and therefore this will “create work” for other people.
However, there is another, more fundamental argument against that. And it comes from the idea that we aren’t actually after “making work” (work is a cost after all) we are after making stuff and having a nice living standard for people.
The make work fallacy and robots
A while back I was talking to a good friend of mine and she said “what would we do if robots made everything – then we would have no jobs!”. Now this is an interesting case – if robots made everything, people could satisfy their desires and they wouldn’t HAVE to do anything. There would be no costly work – people could do the things they want to do (within the bounds of how it affects other people).
In the above case with robots, the robots make all the stuff and then the government taxes the owners of the robots to redistribute income to the rest of society.
In this case things are great, but in people’s mind there is a problem as we sub-consciously associate work with income.
Now imagine that we got in migrants to work with our capital and build everything – and then all New Zealander’s “went on the dole”. In this case, stuff is being made for New Zealander’s and the businesses get a return. Government taxes business and redistributes through “the dole”.
If we can make people understand that they don’t have to feel bad about “not being in a strict job” then their life satisfaction won’t be influenced. In this case people can run around researching or working on things that they enjoy – implying that New Zealander’s would be really well off.
In this case, the temporary migrant workers act like the robots – creating value for New Zealander’s.