Snark Infested Waters ~ Bob Edwards

Bob Edwards


Sustainable growth

Posted on June 14, 2017 by Bob Edwards

Talk about an embarrassment of riches. We read in the paper that many employers hereabouts have more jobs than they can fill. Businesses from car washes and tasting rooms to wineries and bordellos seem to have “Now Hiring” signs in the window.

Thus the question arises: How will we Sustain Growth in our local economy if there aren’t enough workers to help businesses shovel in all the cash being foisted on them by the hordes of grinning tourists now jamming our intersections, restaurants and hotels?

The textbook cure for luring employees is supposedly simple: Offer More Money. As compensation goes up — so the theory goes — people on the employment sidelines (stay-at-home dads, the idle rich, the marginally skilled, etc.) and those working jobs that pay less will be motivated to get out of bed or leave a cheapskate employer for greener pastures. Some say that if jobs paid enough to enable workers to afford local rents or to make the daily commute from Sparks, NV worthwhile, there’d be no worker shortage.

But in a tight labor market, businesses that need employees to meet increasing customer demand can’t grow their ‘market share’ without continually increasing pay. Alas, that eats into the ol’ profit margin, and a business making only 50 cents on the dollar has two choices: (1) raise prices, possibly losing customers, or (2) become the laughing stock of the country club.

Seldom mentioned, however, is that Growth can also stall when potential customers have all the stuff they need (closets full of clothes, more tasting rooms than they can ever visit, etc.) and they stop buying.

Ideally, the local economy will reach a happy place where there are just enough jobs for people who want them, just enough customers for employers who need them and just enough profit to satisfy any business (just kidding about that last part).

But that, too, is worrisome. That’s called “stagnation” and economists seem to loathe it as much as Recession. When things are stagnant, businesses can’t make more profit and local tax revenues stall because (make the Sign of the Cross here) there is: No Growth.

Endless Growth — the fashionable term is Sustainable Growth — is the Holy Grail of economics both local and, well, everywhere.

Two things are known to promote Growth: (1) Offering New Stuff, Services and Experiences that people want but don’t have — e.g., new Apps for I-Phones; CPR for I-Phones that fall into toilets; Base-jumping while free-basing, etc., and (2) Creating New People.

The first requires hard work. The second requires denying access to birth control but it definitely works, provided (i) the New People have money to spend, and (ii) their numbers are not offset by too many other people who die –- ‘leave the market,’ as economists say.

Ironically, however, if Growth becomes too Sustainable, the economy and Life as we know it could grind to a halt. Sustained Growth depletes already-dwindling supplies of natural resources needed to make Stuff, and is packing our finite planet cheek-to-jowl with new ‘customers’ and landfills big enough to warrant their own legislatures and standing armies.

But in the meantime Sustainable Growth has high promise. With constant Growth we’ll have all the jobs and employees anyone could want, especially in the law enforcement and cemetery/cremation sectors. And while eventually there will be acute shortages of parking spaces and vegetation, before century’s end maybe we’ll finally — finally – stop fussing about Climate Change.


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