During the 1840's, 80% of the workforce contributed to food production. Those not laboring on farm land were forging iron farm tools, keeping beasts of burden healthy or getting the farm products sold to consumers. There were no trains, no steel, no steam power, no oil and no electricity yet. The amount of food produced depended on the number of people who worked at it directly and indirectly. A layoff of employees would directly correlate with a reduction in food. One presumed there was no way those who were eating adequately could continue if farm employment went into an economic downturn and layoffs.
In his newest book: The Great Reset, Richard Florida tell us that a Long Depression occurred in the US starting in 1873. It began with a banking crisis resulting from insolvent mortgages. It resulted in prolonged, high levels of unemployment worse than the Great Depression of the 1930's. However, it spurred a tidal wave of innovations throughout the economy. A century later, 20% of the workforce produced the food. Farming became mechanized, industrialized and systematized. One presumed there was no way those who were eating adequately could continue if farm land was converted into other uses.
Currently, 2% of the workforce does the farming thing. The Great Depression of the 1930's brought on another tidal wave of innovations throughout the economy. The entire economy became suburbanized, globalized and democratized. We're eating food from all over the planet. We've watched those who were eating adequately continue after dramatic reductions in farm land and farm labor following two deep and prolonged economic downturns.
We're now in the midst of yet another depression with many signs of prolonged unemployment. We're hearing the same kind of "no way" thinking get applied to other sectors of the economy:
- There's no way kids can get a decent education if we layoff thousands of teachers, school administrators and support staff.
- There's no way we can get to work, the mall and soccer practice if we shut down an automobile manufacturer or two.
- There's no way we can have enough energy each day if we don't consume large quantities of fast food and soda pop.
- There's no way we can pay our bills, do our catalog shopping and get those coupons for added savings without our daily deliveries of snail mail.
- There's no way we can be an informed electorate that is safeguarded against governmental and corporate excesses without daily print newspapers and weekly news magazines.
- There's no way we can conduct timely business meetings, productive collaborations and effective negotiations without non-stop airline flights to everywhere on the hour.
- There's no way we can identify the quality of authors, media producers and musicians without expert gatekeepers overseeing narrow pipelines of paid, mass distribution.
Au contraire. There is a way. We've seen it occur time and again. Whenever there is deep depression with prolonged unemployment, innovation explodes throughout the increasingly diverse and complex economy.