A small note on where it's all going wrong

If we're to have useful conversations, discussions, about what the economy is, what's happening in it, where it's going, then we do need to have some generally accepted meaning of words with which to discuss such matters. For example, if we wish to discuss the gig economy then we need to understand why it has arisen and to agree upon the words we're going to use to describe it. At which point:

Too many people still talk about the casualisation of work as an innovation, as an impersonal, technological and irresistible force to which we must adapt if humanity is to continue its march into the future. Instead of a reversion to more exploitative form of labour relations, driven by the wealthy people who own and operate companies, we are told the “gig economy” is merely the inevitable outcome of inventions like the smartphone.

Nobody does say that the gig economy is inevitable. Not even that it's an inevitable outcome of the existence of the smartphone. But we must all agree that it is an innovation.

Further, we really must all agree what it is an innovation about. Those rules about secure employment, about sick pay, holiday, pensions, time off in lieu and all that are the very things that the gig economy is innovating around.

The reason we must all agree with the basics is that without doing so we'll not grasp the important truth here. Those labour rights and payments are costs. Perhaps they're worthwhile costs, perhaps they're essential ones, but they are indeed costs. And as we can see from what is happening out there they're costs that both employers and workers seem entirely happy to bypass when given the chance. Thus the real lesson of the gig economy, those costs, given that so many are entirely happy to side step them, may not actually be worthwhile. Or they may be, entirely possibly, but our discussion has to centre upon the cost benefit analysis of them.

Markets do indeed innovate around blockages to them. And one useful indicator of where things really are going wrong is that it's the Financial Times, of all papers, which doesn't grasp that.