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One of the main indicators in modern politics to measure the success of a government is the GDP growth and the unemployment rate (both are related). In the news media, one can even find monthly statistics about the new number of unemployed people or those who were unemployed and got employed. When journalists interview political leaders, questions and analyses about the economic growth (GDP) and the unemployment rate are always presented as very important. How could one even doubt of its importance if it is in all political speeches, interviews, and comments?
Of course it is a serious matter to know that thousands of people in a given country are suffering from poverty, or having no shelter or no food to eat. But the question is to know why those people are suffering from poverty? Is it really because they do not work? Or is it because the economic system systematically produces unemployment, and that unemployment within this system means to have no shelter and no food? On the other hand, there are a lot of unemployed people who are not suffering from having no shelter and no food, either because they have saved some money, or because they are supported by families and friends, or because they get money from the government, which means that they are supported by other tax payers. There are also a lot of people working and suffering from poverty, or people working and suffering from burnout and depression because they do not like their work or their working conditions. So at the end, those numbers about the increase or the decrease of the unemployment rates do not mean anything in terms of human development or individual happiness and satisfaction; but the media, the economists and the politicians present it to us as a very significant data.
It is not necessarily in the interest of the populations to work full time, it is rather in the interest of the governments. Technically speaking, many of those who work full time, could easily survive with less money and less working hours. But this means that they have to reduce their consumption and use their money almost only to pay for food, shelter and other basic needs. But most of the time, the system is made in a way that people are obliged to work full time to be able to pay for everything they buy. The levels of wages and prices have to stay correlated in a way that people cannot work less or stop working. If wages become too high in comparison with the cost of life, then it could happen that people would work less or even stop working after detaining sufficient amounts of money. And if wages are lower than the cost of life, then it could also happen that people would stop working and go to protest in the streets. The goal of the economic system is to provide enough wealth to the people to be able to survive, to work and to consume the same services and products that they produced (which brings us back to the image of the globalized market where to exchange products and services). Through monetary policies and financial institutions like banks and central banks, money is created and interest rates are adjusted in order to maintain an economic equilibrium, a stable inflation rate and sustainable economic growth. The goal of governments is to stimulate the economy in order to have a maximum of people working. If the unemployment rate becomes too low, some countries use immigration to bring more workers and maintain their economic growth. Under those circumstances, the majority of people in rich countries have enough work and enough money to pay for their basic needs and even more. The government on the other hand levies taxes on revenues, on profits and on the majority of consumption transactions. This wealth thus gathered by governments is of course considered as a common wealth of their citizens, and managed by elected governors in the case of democracies. Even in the case of any kind of autocracy, the principle of tax paying remains the same. In all cases, it is in the advantage of the governments that people work and produce as much as possible, in the most competitive way possible, because governments, as it has been said earlier, are into competition. If the neighbor country B for example produces a cheaper and better quality of a given product, then the first country A could see his exports decrease and this means for A less money, less work and less economic growth, which is considered as fundamentally bad.
If we consider the role of modern governments, we notice that they are extremely similar to what other governments could have looked like a thousand years ago, where there is usually a king or an emperor who represents the rule of god, and where there is a social hierarchy designed to maintain the order and to make people work as much as possible. It is the labor of those people that allows the kingdom to defend them from the threat that they could represent one toward the other, and also from the threat that could come from the outside. The same king can also use this wealth to go and conquer another kingdom in order to extend his lands, his wealth and his power. International politics nowadays are not that different. It is true that we are not governed any more by representatives of gods, but if we take a closer look at how governments today did put money into the center of their ideology, we can easily compare it with the ancient religious beliefs allowing the rulers to get the obedience of the people under their power. While in those ancient times the educational system of the kingdom did not allow to understand who is god and how could he be represented by the sovereign, modern educational systems do not allow to understand what is money nor where does it come from. It is a “god” that exists, and our belief in it is so strong that the extreme majority of the people spend their lives pursuing it without knowing what it is, where it is, how is it produced, etc. Where in religious monarchies philosophical questions about god are only allowed within a small number of specialists or within the highest spheres of power, in modern democracies the “theology” of money is only reserved to high ranked economists and bankers. In both cases, whether it is god in theocracies, or money in modern democracies, it is present throughout the lives of the people, it is there everyday and at every second, everything is related to it, measured or judged by it, but nobody seems to know what it is exactly. If we observe the world in which we live, we will notice that everything is measured with money, not only the value of goods and services that people produce, not only the value of labour, but even the cost of pollution, health, education, wars, etc. If there are things that we cannot measure with money, then we do not really know how to consider them and how to evaluate them anymore. Usually, those things disappear from the lexicon of politics even if they are fundamentally important like the happiness and the suffering of human beings. They say for example that a given building or project costs a certain number of a certain currency; and we think because we heard this number that we knew something additional about this project. Most of the time, we even think that one of the most relevant attributes of something is its price.
Governments of course, willingly or unwillingly, maintain this ignorance and measure the lives of the citizens with a monetary value: investment in health, education and retirement versus potential income in taxes. A teenager who dies in an accident for example is a loss that can be quantified with money. If governments in general issue policies to reduce accidents, health problems, etc., their main motivation is to maintain the wealth of their nations and to make it flourish. For that purpose, the role of governments is to offer all the infrastructure, law systems, education policies to produce the best citizens possible, which means the best workers possible. Everything is done and orientated toward that final goal: produce more, be more competitive, earn more money. And it works!