Money: a waste of resources
by Stephen Shenfield, Special Contributor
Perhaps you think that the money system is a necessary means of allocating scarce resources. In that case, you won’t regard the resources that society devotes to operating the money system as waste. But have you tried to assess the sheer scale of these resources?
One approach is to see how many people are kept busy at tasks that would not exist in a society without money. I focus on the United States, but I don’t think the overall picture is much different in other countries. My figures come from the May 2010 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.
The occupational classification used in US government statistics divides the employed workforce into 22 broad occupational groups, which are subdivided into specific occupations. When we search these groups for money-related occupations, here is what we find.
Group 11. Management occupations
There are 516,000 sales, marketing and advertising managers, plus 479,000 financial managers. At least a fifth of all managers manage monetary flows rather than material processes.
Group 13. Business and financial operations occupations that includes:
- 1,072,000 accountants and auditors
- 221,000 financial analysts
- 272,000 purchasing agents
- 63,000 claims adjusters, examiners and investigators
- 262,000 market research analysts and marketing specialists
- 184,000 cost estimators, etc. (Some of the market research analysts might still be needed in a socialist society for the non-manipulative analysis of consumer preferences.)
Group 33. Protective service occupations that include:
- 1,007,000 security guards
- 644,000 police officers
- 111,000 detectives and criminal investigators
- 458,000 jailers and correctional officers
As most crime consists of offences against property, few of the functions performed by these two million people will exist in a socialist society.
Group 41. Sales and related occupations
All of the 13,438,000 people in this group directly service the money system. Here we find: 4,155,000 retail sales workers; 1,172,000 supervisors of retail sales workers; 3,354,000 cashiers; 1,748,000 sales representatives; 415,000 counter and rental clerks; 319,000 insurance sales agents; 289,000 telemarketers, etc.
Group 43. Office and administrative support occupations that include:
- 1,675,000 bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks
- 556,000 tellers
- 883,000 clerks processing and collecting bills
- 232,000 clerks processing insurance claims and policies
- 40,000 meter readers, etc.