Is “the search for full employment” the right problem?

Gene Bellinger honored me by following me on twitter. I feel honored because he not only a reputed system thinking expert, but he is an engaged man, hosting the Systems Thinking World and developing, where everyone is invited to learn and integrate the essential skills of systems thinking and of looking at the world as complex web of interdependent and interrelated, non linear systems. This learning is provided free! Great engagement!

I looked at some of Gene’s tweets, one reads as follows:
“Is full employment a meaningful goal?”
And it contained a link to his LinkedIn post reading:
“It’s great to see the articles by Pollin, Salam and Gailbraith thinking beyond simple cause and effect though have they carried the thoughts far enough? Is full employment a meaningful goal that can be pursued without far greater negative consequences? There are several related articles at the following link, with more to follow soon.”

He provides a link to The Boston Review:

I looked, and found the different perspectives from the different authors interesting. They showed a variety of (sometimes opposing) perspectives and analyses. And one of them said: Is full employment the right goal for a progressive agenda?

I believe it is indeed very important to question first what are we searching for, is it full employment, or is it something else? And Why?

Why do some people stick to believing (or promising) that ensuring full employment is the best thing that can befall us (and that it is possible to achieve it)?
Saying so feels to me wanting to impose something that stems from a particular and long past way of organizing society, an outcome of the industrial revolution? Does this way of organizing society still apply? Are there no better ways? Is looking for full employment not a bit short of a broader question that many people that I speak to, and in particular a great many of the youth, seem to adhere to:

How can we create a global society where all the people of the World would feel respected, free and responsible, self-determing their lives, uplifted in their possibilities to learn and develop, contributing to growing themselves and others towards living meaningful lives, in harmony with each other, and with nature.

Is this question Utopian? What is wrong with Utopia? Can Utopia be discarded?

Is Utopia not a way to look for and experiment in finding other ways, to push everyone to think out of the box, differently, to reflect on and modify our mental models, to learn new behaviors, in short to open up to new possibilities?

Einstein said, almost a century ago,

The mere formulation of a problem is far more often essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, require creative imagination and marks real advances in science.”

Let’s hear him, let’s work on the right question, otherwise we fall into another trap Einstein also described this trap wittingly.

“Insanity, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

And should we not, urgently, as Robert Kagan argues so convincingly in his book “Immunity to Change” (see, elevate our thinking, our mental complexity, just as Einstein anticipated in this quote:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

What’s wrong in Einstein’s insights? What’s wrong with deeply thinking through the choices and formulations of the problems we should concentrate on? System thinking, after all, for all its power, is but a vain endeavour if only looks at fragmented problems taken out of their global context.

Amplify’d from
Full employment used to be the explicit goal of economic policy in most of the industrialized world. And some countries even achieved it.

Today, faced with its greatest unemployment challenge since the Great Depression, the United States should put full employment back on the agenda.



About charlesvanderhaegen

I am a grandfather of an immensely inspiring family, thanks to the most incredible wife. To satisfy my family's needs, I was for 30 years business entrepreneur, roller coasting between success and failure. 17 years ago I was forced to stop and reflect. I dug into theory and discovered the World out there, that my involvement in Business had kept hidden to me. I feared that I will not escape remaining amidst my trans-disciplinary quest forever, bouncing back and forth from action to theory, always puzzled by Europe's apparent incapacity to free itself from its Institutional/Technological Lock-ins. My horizon opened up when Gunter Pauly, my intimate friend of 35 years, asked me to join him and take charge ZERI's development in Europe. I am now fully engaged alongside Gunter Pauli in the and the @myblueeconomy Networks as CEO of ZERI.EU vzw (Non for Profit association)
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One Response to Is “the search for full employment” the right problem?

  1. Charles, I am most pleased that the connection provoked thought. The best kinds of connections it would seem.

    And might you consider joining us at Systems Thinking World?

    We believe a systemic perspective provides the best foundation for creating effective approaches for dealing with challenges and shaping a better tomorrow. Our purpose is to create content which furthers understanding of the value of a systemic perspective and enables thinking and acting systemically.


    be well,
    Gene Bellinger
    STW Group Host

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