Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Work by Pop

Rep by Pop and Work by Pop
One foundation of a just political order is the principle of representation by population. Rep by pop makes sure that each citizen, no matter where he or she happens to live, has a vote, and that it counts the same. Each voter places a fair number of representatives into his or her local government. Such proportionality assures that neither rural nor urban voters predominate, and that those living in wealthier districts do not lord it over poorer districts. Unfortunately, as we all know, the political playing field in contemporary democracies is far from even in this respect.

In a cosmopolis there are tube transit lines built into the infrastructure of every street, which makes travel cheaper and tourism -- already the world's largest industry -- more frequent. Every citizen has a right to a ROO module, making it even more convenient to pick up roots and move from city to country and back again, as needed. Quicker turnover between urban and rural will blur the cultural lines between city, town and country. Such mobility, along with expanded rights as world citizens to roam across borders, will make everything, not only the political order, completely dependent upon representation by population.

The equivalent principle to proportional representation in the world of work is known as capitation. At present, this is only applied to medicine, but it will be generalized in a cosmopolitan order. Capitation is:

 "A fixed fee or payment per person. For example, a health maintenance organization pays a physician a fixed monthly fee for each patient included in the program regardless of the services provided." (The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms, <>)

Cosmopolitan capitation formulas work out the minimum and maximum number of posts that can be allowed for a given profession in a given population. Just as representation by population is sometimes shortened to "rep by pop," capitation might be called "work by pop." For example, a "work by pop" capitation in a hillside development decides how many doctors and teachers provide optimum health care and education in each neighbourhood and region.

Because hillside housing is identical in infrastructure around the world, a vast store of experience makes it very easy to know how many essentials workers to have, and how to apply sanctions and incentives to assure that optimum levels are maintained in each neighbourhood. Such capitation applies to some extent for every line of work, although it loosens as the work becomes specialized or when it proves to be non-essential.

The hillside superstructure assures high population density even in rural areas, and that farmers have first shot at cultivating the sunny side of buildings. This reflects the environmental necessity to reduce the size of the human ecological footprint, and the fact that agriculture is the most essential calling, since everybody has to eat. This design assures that even the most specialized urban neighbourhood still maintains a minimum number of farmers and cooks, who grow and serve fresh meals of locally-grown produce to residents.

This might be called built-in capitation, and it is done wherever possible in the universal civic society.

Keeping food at the base of the labour pyramid, along with a neighbourhood design featuring ubiquitous plants, gardens, viticulture and horticulture, assures that everyone has constant contact with nature -- all this provides a conservative, agrarian outlook to even the most urban community. This provides a center of balance to the labour market and orients the moral compass of each neighbourhood to a sustainable future. Although less visible, proportional work capitation applies for every other essential trade and profession, starting with doctors and teachers but not restricted to them.

The workplace is liable to imbalance if too many or too few essential workers exist in a given region. We can rely on market forces to determine the exact number of doctors and teachers, but central planning using universal capitation formulas are also needed to assure that the bounds of moderation, too many or too few, are never violated. For example, every populated area undoubtedly needs health care and education, as well as police, firefighters and so forth. Even if housing is made fireproof, there will still be a need for rapid emergency response workers. This need is unlikely to change. As a result, justice in the workplace will only be possible if the number of posts in essential professions remains directly proportional to the number of clients.

The specific work-by-pop formulas vary not only with technical means but also with the standard of personal morality. For example, if the proportion of saints in a region goes up and sinners drops, fewer police officers will be needed. If the improvement proves permanent, the nature of police work itself will change. But as long as there are flawed human beings and greed, envy and ill-will are not totally banished, we will always require specialists in protection and deterrence.

A non-obvious point about labour capitation is that it only works well if everybody participates in the workplace and if all ply a trade or profession to the extent of their ability. Another point is that trades be more open, less jealous in protecting their own bailiwick. Like all groups, they need to put the general interest before their own narrow concerns. A reader of my blog recently pointed out the following quote, from the Dalai Lama's official facebook page:

"Because self and others can only be understood in terms of relationship, we see that self-interest and others' interest are closely interrelated and there is no self-interest completely unrelated to others' interests. Due to the fundamental interconnectedness which lies at the heart of reality, your interest is also my interest: in a deep sense, "my" interest and "your" interest basically converge."

One implication of reciprocity of interest in the labour market is that the professions permit a certain number of amateurs, part-timers, temporary and borrowed personnel to work alongside, and sometimes even in the place of career professionals. Such proportions can be capitated too, as experience shows what works and what does not.
This goes along with a non-obvious right of workers, the right to variety as well as essentials, to change and flexibility along with universality and standards. Some workers thrive by plying the same trade all their life, but others learn from taking on a succession of unrelated jobs. The workplace needs to accommodate both types of worker. It can do so by flexible work-by-pop legislation and labour agreements.

Even if the need for a given line of work diminishes completely, or if a trade shifts from essential to non-essential, this does not mean that it is desirable to get rid of it completely. Service improves the servant as well as those served.


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