Prince Harry’s new employer BetterUp is typical of the species. It has just raised another $100m in fresh money, and it is valued at more than $1bn, even though no one has much idea what it actually does, or whether there is any long-term demand for its products.
For more than a decade now central banks around the world have pumped freshly minted cash into the economy, hoping that it would keep the economy afloat, and maintain employment. And of course in a sense it has. But only at the cost of creating meaningless work that serves no real purpose other than making a few people feel important.
We used to have a boom and bust cycle in the economy. During the boom phase, lots of new businesses were launched, the stock market went crazy, tons of money was made, and plenty of flimsy companies surfed the boom until the central bank cranked up interest rates, the government cut spending, and between them bought the party crashing to an end.
It was not always fun, but it served a valuable purpose. It reset the system, and cleared out all the nonsense. The companies and jobs that survived were more robust, and grounded in reality, while the weakest among them disappeared, and the least essential jobs were culled.
But step by step we have abolished the “bust” part of the cycle. In some ways that is an improvement. Yet it comes at a heavy cost. After a while the non-jobs just keep growing and growing, until we end up with an economy where hardly anyone is doing any proper work…