The queue for the self-checkout registers inside my neighborhood Albertsons stretched in to the store’s produce section. Are these claims human progress? I pondered, scanning my groceries— this just after I had filled our car’s gas tank at a not-so-convenient convenience store near work.
Recently, someone not only pumped your gas and cleaned your own windshield but also checked your own oil and tire pressure while you waited comfortably driving of your car. Gas merchants were once called service stations for a reason. Someone supplied service. Now, gas is sold at convenience stores or big box membership shops, with consumers handling the hose.
Supermarkets are newer to the customers-do-it-themselves model and are still phasing it in. The few visible cashiers are always busy sufficient to encourage people to do the scanning themselves rather than wait for precious human help.
Locally, once it gobbles up Albertsons (which has already absorbed Vons) plus Smith’s, Kroger may make an effort to squeeze customers harder. Provided grocery’s tight profit margin, asking for a bag of apples might garner the particular response “ Here’s a sack. The ladder is over right now there, and the trees are out back. ” Once upon a time, grocers acquired employees who wheeled groceries to your car and positioned them inside, sometimes using a smile.
In the words of Murray Rothbard:
The developing division of labor is a key to the advance associated with any economy above the most primitive level. A necessary situation for any sort of developed economy, the division of work is also requisite to the progress any sort of civilized society. . . . Without the chance to specialize in whatever he can perform best, no person can develop his powers to the full; no man, then, could be fully human.
I suppose stating out loud that pumping my very own gas and scanning my own groceries keep me from being fully human would trigger a passing Marxist. After all, Karl Marx themself said,
While in communist society, exactly where nobody has one distinctive sphere of activity yet each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, modern society regulates the general production and therefore makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another the next day, to hunt in the morning, seafood in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, with no ever becoming hunter, angler, herdsman or critic.
In class, Rothbard quipped, “ Marx never seemed to worry about who had been going to take out the garbage. ”
This particular breakdown of the division of labor, caused by the production associated with government fiat money, has already established more damaging consequences than the disappearance of service stations and grocery store cashiers. People now have to worry they might run out of money before they run out of breath. Jö rg Guido Hü lsmann explains in The Ethics of Money Production that
the prevailing lawful order is itself the problem that causes perennial pumpiing. Legal monopolies, legal-tender laws and regulations, and the legalized suspension of payments have unwittingly turn out to be instruments of social injustice. They breed inflation, irresponsibility, and an illicit distribution of income, usually in the poor to the rich.
Without fiat inflation, Hü lsmann explains, hoarding gold or magic would be a perfectly acceptable form of saving. There would be no need to become proficient at stock and bond analysis. Money would not evaporate:
Most importantly, [precious metals] were extremely suitable for ordinary people. Carpenters, masons, tailors, and farmers often taste unpleasant very astute observers from the international capital markets. Placing some gold coins under their own mattress or into a secure deposit box saved them many sleepless nights, and it also made them independent of financial intermediaries.
In today’s fiat planet, one must become competent at either judging the path of financial markets or even judging the opinion associated with financial intermediaries who may turn out to be know-nothing hucksters or frauds. Hü lsmann writes,
Old people with a pension check fund, widows, and the guardians of orphans must commit their money into the economic markets, lest its purchasing power evaporate under their own noses. Thus, they turn out to be dependent on intermediaries and on the particular vagaries of stock plus bond pricing.
Most people are not psychologically equipped to handle their assets. Richard Oxford lists four errors individual self-investors make:
- Self-investors often buy too early and for the wrong reason!
- Traders tend to buy because someone else bought and has done nicely!
- Investors often hold stocks longer than they should and ignore marketplace signals.
- Traders can be emotionally attached to their particular decisions.
There are likely many more.
The tech planet has put all sorts of gadgets in our hands, but success and human progress rely on the accumulation of capital and the division of work. The production of fiat money destroys both.