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Now Playing at Reason.tv: Mexicans and Machines—Drew Carey Says It's Time to Lay Off NAFTA

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Campaign season is just getting warmed up, but looking back on the primaries we've already seen plenty of the usual fare: candidates shaking hands, hanging out at diners, and scaring voters about foreigners who are taking your jobs.

Sometimes the threat comes from China, Japan, or outsourcing to India. Today, it's NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement—you know, all those Mexicans taking our jobs.

Senator Barack Obama joins the likes of CNN's Lou Dobbs in decrying NAFTA. So many free trade foes fret about cheap foreign labor, yet they rarely holler about competitors who will work for far less than any foreigner. Politicians don't pay much attention to it, but—from Terminator to Ice Pirates—Hollywood films have been warning us about humanity's inevitable war against the machines.

"Now, think about it," says Reason.tv host Drew Carey. "How are we supposed to compete against something that doesn't get paid, doesn't get health insurance, and never goes on breaks?"

Today, we don't need human workers to book our travel, do our banking, or file our taxes. From factory workers to symphony conductors, countless workers are locked in battle with soulless job stealers known as computers, websites, and robots.

"No job is safe from the robot threat!" warns Carey. Of course, the warning is more than a little tongue-in-cheek. There's no need to take a sledgehammer to a robot, because, although technology shakes up the labor market, it ends up giving us higher living standards as well as more and better job opportunities.

Like technology, trade gives us more good stuff than bad—yet Americans are likely to cheer technology and fear trade. No doubt TV talkers and White House wannabes will keep stoking our fears of foreigners until voters and viewers stop buying it—or until robots snag their jobs, too.

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  1. Best reason.tv video yet. The obamabot at the end was priceless.

    Random question: In the middle there were a bunch of clips of robot movies. One of them, I think, was from a scene in some movie where a man on a conveyor belt was screaming as a claw approached to remove his, ah, sensitive bits. Does anyone remember what movie this was? I remember seeing it on TV when I was younger, but I don’t remember its name or anything.

  2. Nafta is not “free trade”!

  3. NAFTA’s repeal would be even less “free trade”!

  4. @Chris

    IIRC, The Ice Pirates.

  5. @rekinom

    Hmm, thanks for the guess. That movie may have been one of those shown, but I don’t think it’s the one I meant. I distinctly remember a large facility for castrating men to be a significant part of the plot (you can imagine why this movie became instantly unforgettable to the 14-year-old me), and I don’t see that mentioned in plot summaries for The Ice Pirates.

  6. Carey’s observation isn’t that tongue in cheek.
    I remember being on an audit and talking to a teamster official on the company’s loading dock. He was decrying how the introduction of big rigs had decimated his membership as they had replaced smaller, more numerous box trucks. I said, “Well, think how many members you’d have if they still had to use pushcarts.” He smiled, and said, “You know, I just might take your idea to Congressman XX.”

  7. What people don’t understand is that it’s w/MP which is important, not simply w.

  8. Speaking of outsourcing, the New York Times recently wrote an article on “China plus one” outsourcing plans. It said rising wages in China make other nearby labor markets more competative. So now many companies keep one factory in China, where they can rely on the infrastructure, and one factory in a less expensive but riskier country in the region. This is repeats last decade’s pattern of companies switching from Mexican and Central American countries to China. I think companies are going to run out of countries to switch to in a decade or to. At that point, wages will be similar in most countries, and companies will start producing products closer to the customers or closer to the resources.

  9. Not only will wages go up, transportation costs are going to go up and up, so it will make less sense to ship low cost items thousands of miles.

  10. I for one welcome our robot overlords.

  11. Three little words that mean we have nothing to fear – Bender Bending Rodriquez.

  12. “yet Americans are likely to cheer technology and fear trade”

    Which America would that be? Recall that one of the nails (one of many) in the General Motors coffin of the eighties was that Roger Smith’s plan to further robotize (not a real word, perhaps) the assembly lines as the Japanese were doing was steamrolled for reasons akin to job loss.

    I think many of the same people who fear trade are the same people who fear technology and romanticize the paleolithic past, lamenting everything that happened to man with the advent of agriculture.

  13. @Castrated Dude and rekinom

    Haha, thanks for clarifying. Too funny.

  14. Drew Carey Says It’s Time to Lay Off NAFTA

    Well, I misread this. I just got laid off, and it wasn’t the same thing at all.

    Nope, no immigrants involved. Just a non-profit with a budget crunch.

    And Ice Pirates was totally cool.

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