What is important is welfare creation - goods and services, that is often accompanied by occupied people that have jobs. Such welfare creation should equate to a better life for the ones who consume that created welfare. There are many nuances here. In these days, only a fraction of jobs is actually involved in creating goods and services that directly affect the quality of life.
There is a high portion of jobs that are involved in organizing the welfare creation and redistribution. This includes management, state administration, banks, lawyers, police and more. Without a system to control the fair exchange of goods through money, people would tend to break contracts and steal from the welfare created by others.
While such "administrative overhead" is needed on the long run for the actual welfare creation and consumption, it's harder to evaluate the added value to welfare and the fair share of welfare that people involved in such activities are entitled.
Individuals can thrive having a well payed job while doing nothing useful. However, a country cannot thrive by having too many people that consume welfare without adding value to the general welfare.
Armed with the "welfare" approach, we can more easily evaluate the impact of various public policies that we are offered. Is lowering the taxes creating more welfare or it only creates redistribution from some citizens to others? The answer is often in between, but sometimes the impact of a policy becomes very clear if we just think about the increased welfare created by a policy. Just looking at money might fool you.
There are cases when monetary-only activities can create welfare for a country without actually creating welfare that can be consumed. One example is offering financial services to other countries. Still, if these financial services are bought without constraint, we can assume that the services are actually useful for the "buying" country to create welfare. Therefore, it is maybe fair for the remote country to pay for these services.
Paying is actually sending goods from the paying country to the selling country. Because of money, things can be more complex, like a chain of goods exchange involving many countries. However, the end result is that the selling country will receive imported goods in the value of the sold services, while the paying country will export goods in the value of the received services. Sometimes these exchanges might involve selling fixed assets (think land, companies), but I would not enter into details here.
A more special case is when a country is borrowing money. That country get the accept from the country that borrows to consume more welfare than created now. The country who borrows promise to provide even more goods (plus interest), in a chain of goods exchange that ends up in the country that loaned the money. The country that loans money accepts to consume (for now) less than it produced when it accumulated that money. The balance can change in time while money can devalue or a country might not be able to pay at all.
What I propose is to always evaluate welfare creation when assessing a public policy. Questions can be:
- "Will this policy create more welfare for locals or abroad (export)?"
- "Will this policy improve the fair distribution of welfare?" (fair is not equal)
- "Can we solve the same administrative tasks consuming less resources (including people)?"
- "If we free these people from these jobs, will they create more welfare elsewhere, or at least we improve the fairness of welfare redistribution?"
Think layoffs for instance. People gets... fired, sometimes in large groups. There are only rare cases of companies that are not creating any welfare. A company that is losing money is just a company that creates less welfare than it consumes. However, some of the consumed welfare is not necessary taken from consumption. Many consumed materials and services would not be consumed otherwise - the company don't reduce overall welfare by consuming it.
When we talk about consumed materials and services, the question is if these resources are likely to create more welfare if they are released to another company. Some goods can be created in any amount (think software), while other depend on limited supply and have ecological impact (think lithium). Releasing some of the resources may or may not create more welfare elsewhere.
The same is with people: if they are fired, they may or may not create more welfare in another job. If they don't get a job, they will not create public welfare (except maybe for themselves). In this case, the only reason to do the layoff is to reduce the welfare redistribution to such people that ended up involved in an activity that was not producing enough welfare - compared to consumed resources. Keeping these people in the job and lowering wages would actually result in more overall public welfare - however this might be abused by companies.
It is also the case when welfare creation is not correctly rewarded for various reasons. A company that creates high quality products might be pushed from the market by companies with poor quality products that seems good enough at first. Public policies should aim to keep companies honest, by requiring fair warranty service and giving fines for product misrepresentation.
One interesting issue is the production of goods that gets defective very fast. While monetary approach would see that we consume more products, actually we have the same welfare as having a more reliable product, only with a higher ecological impact. There should be a balance between encouraging product innovation and wasting resources to replace goods that could function longer if designed properly.
A country cannot be only "selling market"
If a country sells to another country, it receives money at first. However, those money are only useful if they can be used to purchase something. If the local coin has no value, it's like giving the products for free. Of course, you can exchange that coin for another more powerful coin, but even this exchange is conditioned by the goods that you can acquire in the local coin.
Therefore, macro-economically, a country can only import so much welfare as it produces itself. A country can sell properties for a while in exchange for goods, but on the long therm a country can only consume a value equal of the local production. Sometimes the exchange can be a little unfair, but overall the import consumption increases with the the country's export.
If more people are involved in useful goods and service creation, individuals would experience better welfare in average. It's always a question of redistributing goods, however it is very unlikely that someone who produces more goods than before would actually receive less goods than before to consume. Therefore most of the people would benefit from this.
So, if we take the poor countries and we help the people there to produce more goods and services, we will all experience a higher level of welfare. The only concern remains natural resource exhaustion, however we are not there yet for most of the materials.
While it might be better to let companies to produce and sell anything that is required on the market, we should be at least morally critical about the relation between welfare creation and it's reward. For example, if you invest money in a company, maybe that money will help it to create more goods and produce a more satisfactory life for others. In this case, your gain might be deserved.
There are other morally questionable activities that can produce personal welfare, that don't create welfare. For example speculating on Bitcoin you can gain welfare that is not backed by welfare creation. While this is legal, it does not contribute to global welfare, it will only redistributes welfare from the ones who lose on this game.
We should discuss more about welfare creation and less about jobs or money. Money is important for individuals to access to a share of welfare, however a country's welfare depends more on the overall produced welfare.
We should think more about how the state can approach better the problem of job creation and destruction. I have the feeling that this is handled far from optimal. A lot of welfare creation is lost by not taking enough care at the destruction of jobs. A lot of resources are oriented to stimulating job creation that is unlikely to create welfare.
Always look at the welfare creation: is this creating a better life, overall, for people?
See also: The Economy theory - goods and money
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