John Steward of Jesus
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The growing horror

December 25, 1980

Time is pushing our present economic arrangement toward a period of adjustment which will have catastrophic proportions.

A settlement built on land developed in a river bottom after the river was dammed may develop a false sense of security when its regional security board succeeds each year in raising the height of the dam far enough to hold back another year’s supply of water flowing down the river. But the settlement has no security remaining when the board’s engineer calculates that within five years the amount of earth needed to raise the dam to a safe height exceeds the supply of earth available anywhere for the project. We are approaching a similar crisis point in our capital structure.

The foundation of our capitalistic system is a supply of capital available for investment and a supply of labor with the basic skills needed to produce (farmers, carpenters, machinists, etc.).

We have for some years now seen a decrease in both the quantity and quality of the skilled labor supply available at previous wage levels. This decrease is caused by the worker’s inflated sense of the value of his time and production, which in turn is caused by the general illusions of wealth and prosperity caused by the distribution of greater numbers of paper dollars and by the propaganda of the transfer society. This decrease in the labor supply available at previous wage levels has of course pushed wage levels up. This increase in labor costs, together with artificially low interest rates, caused by the constant stream of new paper dollars, has stimulated the creation, production, and purchase of larger and larger machines by industry.  Examples are the massive farm implements of today and the computerized robots in the auto industry.

As these machines replace greater numbers of workers, there is a further decline in the supply of skilled labor available. Only training and experience within a functioning industry produces skilled workers. The number of workers in our country with farming skills is probably the lowest it has been in our history. The cost of hiring a skilled farming worker is probably the highest it has ever been.

Thus the high cost of labor has seemed to justify the purchase of ever larger pieces of machinery, which machinery would have recognized as an inefficient use of capital if labor costs had been lower and interest rates had been higher, as both should have been true during recent decades. This malinvestment in machinery has resulted in a decrease in the supply of skilled labor available and, as we are now realizing to our horror, a decrease in the capital remaining to invest in the purchase of yet larger machines. If paper dollars are not printed at accelerating rates, then the short supply of money pushes interest rates up to levels which seem to make investment impossible. If the dollars are printed to meet the demand for them, investors' anticipation of inflation encourages them to exchange currency for valuable goods. This exchange decreases both the remaining capital for lending or investment at risk, and the remaining goods for purchase, thus increasing the price of goods and pushing interest rates up to the same prohibitive levels.

In farming, as in other industries, we may find that we cannot afford to hire the remaining small pool of skilled labor, and neither can we afford to invest in the larger machines which are required to continue production. It may seem as if we cannot afford to produce. We may starve in our inertia with a schizophrenic sense of the value of our time.

The great horror implied in all this is that, when and if we do come to our senses and realize that we are not about to enter the promised land where labor is unnecessary and all appetites are  satisfied, our senses may tell us that we have neither the capital to build our heavenly kingdom, nor the skills necessary to produce for ourselves as earlier men on earth have done. The chairman of the board of the company making the largest farm tractors may starve if he is unable to grow potatoes. The relatives and neighbors of potato growers may he the only people who survive.

Postscript.  To anyone who noticed the ironic date of these thoughts and wondered whether I had a good day. I did. A day of peace and goodwill, with relatives, with other fellow Christians, and with an abundance of potatoes. The King from Bethlehem is quite capable of handling one more problem. It is only this peace and this confidence which gives my thoughts the limited amount of clarity and insight which you may find in them.