The flat white and the lean economy

It seems to be true that this time is different (talking about the labour market here). It is expected that after every recession, the labor market must recover to normal levels but during the last recession it has not recovered nearly enough and it seems this is the new normal.

I am not an expert but I live on a reading overdose and my head is bursting with ideas and my hunches are founded on no more than humble intuition, decent judgments and nods from very smart people on the internets so please, take this for what it is but listen. Nobody knows why the labor market is not recovering (good Vice show on this topic) but it is clearly not recovering as much as it should.

It could be automation check this, it could be the natural trend of capital (read Pickety), it could be the crippling dynamics of advanced economies (remember 90’s Japan) or it could even be business as usual (Marx I guess?) but what is clear is that nobody knows why.

I don’t have the genes of an optimist but I try hard to act like one. I know the labor market is collapsing transforming so I am very grateful to have survived the recession. I must be bursting with optimism when I pay 3 pounds for a flat white every morning with no guilt whatsoever. Well, I told you I try to act like an optimist right? Here is the secret: My flatwhites are made of forced pepe. They are my inductive therapy for optimism. "You see, all is fine! there you go, enjoy your coffee. Everything is fine".

I love my unnecessary flat white but this memento of the recovery and the surrounding and prototypical Shoreditch designer-lifestyle with a bit of pathetic art de vivre derails my focus on optimism. The flat white is made with not just my hope but everybody's. Every-time a government talks about entrepreneurs and the startup economy I start shaking. A startup economy makes as much sense as real state economy and this time workers are mutualizing the risk. In a start up economy your retirement plan will invest in your startup? Are you thinking about putting your savings in your startup?


The flat-white economy is built on too many I-got-sacked-and-I-am-going-to-try-my-own-thing startups. Too many subscription-based-box-nobody-needs startups. Some we-got-funding-for-this-fab/warbyparker/content-farm-for-X or my-parents-savings-are-done-and-we-got-three-months-left-startups. All of these startups over a landscape of negative interest rates and article after article on “of course this is a bubble but let’s enjoy it while it last” (enjoy it if you work at FB or Google of course).

Disclaimer, I am Spanish (and working class). I come from a country that’s been doing worse every year for four centuries straight. Americans try hard while certain of their success, Spanish try hard while certain of their doom. I might be a bit negative but; doesn’t it feel like the numbers are scary, the prospects from very smart people are terrifying and most entrepreneurs are in reality glorified underemployed/unemployed workers?

I am a big fan of the international style and I design for a living. I moved to Shoreditch from another country three years ago. I proudly got to and from my wedding via public transport. My desk always looks like Robert Deniro’s apartment in Heat. You can say I am an essentialist and I thought this was a personal trait but aren’t you too an essentialist? no kids, no car and your most expensive possession is your computer/camera? Proud to be always ready to move to another country on a whim? Are we minimalists or just scraping by? Superficial or just enjoying what we can afford? Picking pleasure before family just because we can? Is it our fault or their fault? Is it me or the snake people?

We never had more potential and we have never been more free (data collection aside). This is the best time to be on planet earth sure but tomorrow has never been more uncertain. Whether uncertainty makes you feel more excited than scared or more skeptical than hopeful is a deeply personal circumstance and a topic for another day but let me tell you; all this entrepreneurship out of desperation and lean-startuping with very very lean pockets is freaking me out. We are betting what we saved from the recession on an automated world that might take off without us.

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