Tesla-style Thinking Could End Unemployment

by Damian Penston

Elon Musk has visited South Australia to announce the development of the World’s largest battery installation in a partnership between Tesla and Neoen. It looks like a good piece of business, but the billionaire businessman is not just about making money for himself - he also has a social conscience.

Musk is one of the leading advocates for a universal basic income (UBI), where all citizens of a country receive a regular, unconditional sum of money from the government, independent of any other income. But is advocating for a UBI consistent with the approach being taken by Tesla to solving the problem of energy security?

There is an alternative to UBI which is growing in popularity and has strong parallels with energy storage. It's called a Job Guarantee (JG) and one could be forgiven for thinking that it was designed by the engineers atTesla.

When solar panels, wind turbines, etc., create more electricity than the market demands, that energy can either be allowed to go to waste or it can be put into storage, such as charging a battery. The market can then buy the stored electricity as and when it’s needed.

The same principle operates for workers in our society. Any labour that isn’t hired can either be allowed to go to waste (unemployment) or it can go into a Job Guarantee program. This is where the government buys (employs) any labour that the private sector hasn’t bought (employed), thus ending unemployment and underemployment.

A Job Guarantee program helps workers get to keep their specialised skills up-to-date, and their general skills current and useful.

Unemployed Australian’s are like electricity that doesn’t get used or stored - a valuable and necessary resource that is unnecessarily allowed to go to waste. According to the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, the number of unemployed, underemployed and hidden unemployed in this country amounts to around three million people.

What's the difference?

The difference between energy that’s been stored and workers in a Job Guarantee program is that the JG workers also create demand.

The money that they get paid for doing an honest day’s work is spent, which then provides businesses with the money they need to grow, which causes more jobs to be created in the economy. In response to this growth in jobs, the JG program would shrink.

If you’re wondering how the Government could pay for any of this, you may find a few clues in one of our previous articles.

Battery not included

Could this work in Australia?

We’re getting the World’s largest battery installation to help take care of our electricity storage because of an energy crisis in South Australia in 2016. What kind of crisis would we need for leaders to step up and advocate for an to end unemployment by using similar thinking?

From 1945 until the aftermath of the October 1973 Oil Crisis, we had full employment in Australia because the Government created jobs for anyone who wanted one. They chose to do that. It was a choice. Unemployment averaged at around 1.9% for roughly 30 years, and they were just the people who were between jobs and not long-term unemployed. The Tesla-style approach worked!

In 1974, part of the Australian workforce didn’t suddenly become lazy or forget how to do their jobs, as current economic wisdom would have you believe. The rise in unemployment, which has persisted to this day, came about because the Government made the decision to change their policy to create jobs where the private sector couldn't. We’re still living with the consequences of that decision to this day.

A highly visible advocate who will champion beautifully designed solutions to major social challenges is needed. Who will be our ‘Tesla for employment’?