Economic Growth

A Stronger Economy Will Also Destroy Jobs, but It's Necessary

Better jobs come along as technologies change societies.

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Model T
Raytags / Dreamstime.com

In South Africa, people who speak Afrikaans use the word "robot" to mean the same thing it means in English. But it is also the word for "traffic light." Why? Before automated signals, motorists on busy streets were directed by police officers standing on platforms. Those cops were automated out of a job.

This bit of trivia comes from the dazzling new book Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, by University of Illinois at Chicago economist and historian Deirdre McCloskey. She points out that automation and robots are nothing new, that they are crucial to raising living standards and that the jobs they destroy are always replaced by better ones.

Today, cars are built partly by robots, which reduce the need for human workers. Notes McCloskey, "Compared with horses, cars themselves are 'robots.' Yet the advent of cars did not produce mass unemployment because of insufficient demand for the output of blacksmiths and horse traders."

Cars had many beneficial effects—expanding the choices and improving the comfort of humans, who once had to rely on other types of transportation. The spread of the horseless carriage also created jobs for traffic cops, at least for a while. Maybe some of them later went to work in factories making traffic lights.

In the near future, Republicans plan to implement policies to unleash economic growth that allegedly has been hobbled by Barack Obama. They believe a simpler tax code, lower tax rates, fewer regulations, stern immigration enforcement and the repeal of Obamacare will lift the economy to dizzying heights. In the ensuing boom, Donald Trump would have us believe, unemployed coal miners, factory workers and other blue-collar Americans will find themselves in great demand.

They shouldn't get their hopes too high. To raise economic growth, not to mention wages, you have to make workers more productive. You don't make employees more productive by forcing them to work harder or demanding that they be smarter. You do it by providing them with advanced machinery, which lets each employee produce more in less time.

When you do that, though, the immediate effect is to destroy jobs, not create them. This process raises fears, illustrated by the late business consultant Warren Bennis' droll prediction. "The factory of the future," he said, "will only have two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment."

But pessimistic forecasts have been around a long time and have never come true. The process of change eliminates positions in one sector but creates them in others. In 1950, 20 million Americans lived on more than 5 million farms. Today, we have 2.1 million farms with just 3.2 million people.

Yet U.S. farms feed far more people than they did before. And millions of Americans whose parents or grandparents toiled in the fields now work at other jobs that didn't exist back then, making more money than their ancestors could have dreamed of.

Computers have had a similar effect on secretarial jobs, eliminating more than 3 million of them since 2001. But who would trade their laptops and smartphones in order to put people back to work typing, filing and answering phones?

American manufacturing has produced more and more with fewer and fewer workers. Since 2001, the number of manufacturing jobs has fallen by nearly one-third, while total output has risen by more than a quarter.

Conservative policymakers celebrate the vigorous growth of the Reagan years, which they intend to replicate. What they don't mention is that in the 1980s, manufacturing employment fell by 7 percent, and workers with no more than a high-school education suffered a decline in real earnings—even as those with more education saw their pay increase.

The simple truth is that faster economic growth means more rapid change in the workplace, rendering old jobs and skills obsolete. For most people, over the long term, this process is clearly beneficial, but a significant number suffer. The answer is not to stop progress but to facilitate the movement of the displaced into new occupations or places where jobs abound.

The next administration may or may not succeed in speeding up economic growth or restoring jobs in old industries. But it can't succeed in both. To pretend otherwise is to write a check that can't be cashed.

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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171 responses to “A Stronger Economy Will Also Destroy Jobs, but It's Necessary

  1. I’ll figure something out, don’t you worry, my little frankentrumpkensteins.

    1. I feel you can make that portmanteau portmanteauier still. It’s a new year, make the best of it.

      1. You can be our Minister of Inspiration.

  2. Is this how Fist does it? Do the link articles show up in the archives before going to HnR?

    1. I assume it’s like Fight Club…

    2. Aha, not only do new articles paradoxically show up in the archives first, but the comments are also in the archives (look in the address bar when reading the comments).

      So the key to getting the first comment is to type in the archive address for the upcoming links article.

  3. It’s like Chapman has never read anything be Bastiat.

    1. It’s like Chapman has never read anything.

      -there, FIFY

  4. “The answer is not to stop progress but to facilitate the movement of the displaced into new occupations or places where jobs abound.”

    This is the exact argument Hillary Clinton used against coal miners.

    Free Market my ass.

    1. I for one do not want to pay for the “facilitate the movement” of the displaced. I have my own bills to pay.

      1. Facilitate: literally, “make easier.” One way to do that is to get overbearing government out of the way.

        1. The left doesn’t feel overbearing government is the problem. After all, how can you social engineer society in the right way – pick the winners and the losers – unless overbearing government does it? And that is at the root of why this shit always devolves into people starving while the elite few get rich.

          It’s not accidental that under capitalism the rich have power, but it is not a coincidence that under any for of collectivism, when it finally plays out,the only people with wealth of any kind are those in power.

      2. I would rather pay people to move to areas with more jobs than keep handing out welfare checks which just keep people poor. There will be some job replacement with automation, but there will also be a greater demand for mechanical engineers, IT, and other skilled/educated jobs. Industry should provide technical training/education in order to replace the unskilled labor force that automation will be replacing with skilled and educated labor that is needed for new jobs created by automation, otherwise we can look forward to more meth heads and heroin addicts across the rust belt and Appalachia.

        1. Foolish coal miners in WV went out and bought houses. Not realizing that when some helpful democrat messianic figure showed up to help that their property values would drop by 70%. Making it infeasible to sell or rent out said homes.

    2. Pretty sure Hillary wanted to legislate coal miners out of work. Her argument was more about how she would centrally plan them into some other role.

      But yeah the left does think their central planning can produce a more efficient economy than a market would on its own. Despite all evidence to the contrary.

      1. Hillary’s treatment of coal miners is classic “government cheese.” Take away something really valuable — a productive job, where a man is fruitfully earning his wage — and replace it with dependency and “government programs.” I live down here in coal country and my constant refrain is that this area would be find if government would just stop “helping.”

        1. The problem is that people like Hillary don’t want to have the market make decisions about what energy to use or to not use. So stipulating that energy must not come from coal makes it entirely a government show. If they really believed that the problem was the amount of CO2, they would tax that and let the market decide what the best way to produce energy was given the CO2 cost. But that, as Glenn Reynolds likes to say, doesn’t afford the opportunities for graft.

    3. So, now we support government provided facilitation?

      And, that’s where in the Constitution?

  5. Chapman is a god damn retard.

    1. This is known.

    2. That’s like proclaiming that the sky is blue, or that the sun rises in the east.

  6. A fairly good article as far as Chapman goes with the exception of the coal miner example, many of whom have lost jobs due to regulation.

    Also, Chapman, you suck! Worst writer published on Reason which isn’t easy to be.

      1. I’d get rid of Nick long before Shikha. Suderman is the worst staffer. Chapman is the worst regular syndicated contributor.

        1. Yeah, but we all know you’re only here for the Trump articles.

          I for one am pleased that maybe the staff have made a New Year’s resolution not to respond to every random brain fart that falls out of Trump’s face as if it needs to be examined for its significance. He’s a troll, stop feeding him.

          1. Take your own advice.

            1. Shut up, cuck. Get on the MAGA train or get run over by its huge penis.

        2. C’mon, Shikha is completely useless. Name one redeeming quality her columns display?

          1. Her columns are performance art, right? Not meant to be taken seriously be anyone? Wait, what………..seriously? No fucking way!

            That’s pretty goddamn sad. How did she escape her greeter job at War-Mart?

    1. My understanding is that Chapman hikes a PhD in Dumbfuckedness.

  7. Isaiah. if you, thought Sheila`s artlclee is unimaginable, on saturday I got Citro?n DS since getting a cheque for $7153 this-last/five weeks and just over $10 thousand last-munth. with-out a doubt this is the most comfortable work Ive ever had. I began this 6 months ago and pretty much straight away began to bring home minimum $70 p/h. why not look here

    ????????> http://www.homejobs7.com

    1. Now look here, ‘bot. I don’t know what “munth” it is where you are, but it is never one in which we here would take a “checque” or buy some funny Frog-mobile!

      1. Maybe it’s a vintage Citroen. I’d take one a those.

        1. Was it burned down by the youths whose background and motives shall remain unmentioned in the streets of Paris?

        2. What do you think a DS is? (Sorry for corpse-fucking the thread)

          1. A kind of Nintendo device?

  8. Speaking of people who get everything wrong…

    1. What?! I only had one misspelled word in my last comment!!!!!!!

  9. Half a foot of fresh snow, single digit temperature, no links.

    Welcome to 2017.

    1. Meet the New Year, same as the old year…

    2. Highs in the 70s, sunny, hasn’t snowed for several years.

      1. You would miss it less if you went back, though the powder days at Bridger — including the one day where I saw a girl skiing with a snorkle — will keep me warm in my old age.

    3. Are you next door to me?

  10. Maybe it’s a vintage Citroen.

    I’d happily accept a Citroen, if it was an ex-Sebastien-Loeb WRC car.

    1. Citroen DS’s are the new hotness, well maybe not new, new but they are quite popular in the vintage car world (and unfortunately popular with a certain brand of hipster)

      1. a certain brand of hipster

        The common “douchebag” hipster.

  11. If a stronger economy destroys jobs and a weaker economy destroys jobs – then it is probably good to look at something other than macro-level stuff when one wants to make an argument about ‘jobs’.

    1. Seems like there is an unlimited number of jobs for people with race/sex/gender focused degrees writing articles for derp powered lefty websites. Just need to be really self-centered and sanctimonious and be able to ignore facts, logic, and ethics. Having no sense of style or decorum is a bonus. Most of your clocks will come from the “other” side pointing out how stupid you are. More entertainer than informer. Trump approved of these jobs considering how much these folks helped get him elected.

      1. Clicks not clocks.

          1. They’re the biggest fans

    2. Jobs are always being lost. Some faster, others slower, but the one thing that doesn’t change is that things always change.

      The question is, what sort of system generates the most new, more productive and better paying jobs? That’s always done better by the free market than by government make work jobs which, almost by definition, are *not* more productive.

    3. Do we need to hire Goldilocks to be the Jobs Czar?

  12. Heh, so now the psychotic lefty media is trying to talk Block Yomomma into putting Merrick Garland onto the Supreme Court during a five minute recess, or some stupid shit like that.

    If anyone in the world would actually try to get away with it, it’s him too. So I wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

    1. Hot air. Obama already got slapped down for doing that shit once. It wouldn’t fly.

      1. Besides, nothing to worry about. Joy Behar announced that Trump must step down before the inauguration.

        1. How is it that that fat bitch is still kicking and beloved Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher and her delightful mother are both dead? This kind of shit is exactly why I should choose who lives, and who dies.

      2. There’s also the issue that congress meets before the Supreme Court does. So even if Obama did use a recess appointment to put Garland on the court, he would get kicked out before hearing a single case.

        1. I can’t wait to go to the Obama Presidential Library to see the pen and phone exhibit.

    2. “Block Yomomma”

      I thought that one got retired at the end o’ ’16?

      1. Forgive him, for he knows nother what he argle bargles.

      2. Repeating the same stupid shit over and over again is all of his charm.

        1. LAUGH, mother fuckers! Can’t you read???

      3. It gets retired when he mercifully leaves office in precisely 18 days.

        Unless he continues running his big stupid America-hating mouth and being a general pain in the ass afterwards, in which case I reserve the right to I retire it at a moment’s notice.

        1. Uh, are you speaking ill of Billie Boy?

    3. Heh, so now the psychotic lefty media is trying to talk Block Insane Yomomma into putting Scare-rick Fartland onto the Supreme Pizza during a five minute recess, or some stupid shit like that.

      If anyone in the world would actually try to get away with it, it’s him too. So I wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

    4. Merrick Garland? More like Queerick Cuckland!

      Or, wait. Can Democrats be cucks? Or is that reserved for race traitor Republicans?

        1. Pompey? More like Fagey!

          1. Faggot cookie democrats?

      1. Puberick Queefland?

        1. SugarFree? More like BoogerTree!

    5. Excuse me, stewardess, I speak Raging Troglodyte. He says:

      2016 was a hell of a year. I am glad that Merrick Garland, a candidate with sometimes authoritarian and left-wing views that I disagree with, was blocked from being nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States through something of a Hail Mary of political maneuvering on the part of the GOP in control of Congress. I hope that the President Elect puts forward a candidate that more closely aligns with my preferences.

  13. What, is Reason keeping bankers’ hours now?

  14. Hello?

      1. *dials FBI hotline* /full disclosure: this post is a fictionalisation and never happened

  15. Hello?

    Please deposit $.25 in order to complete this call.

    1. The reply button keeps screwing you today.

  16. In South Africa, people who speak Afrikaans use the word “robot” to mean the same thing it means in English.

    You libertarians. In South Africa, they had APARTHEID too. So you think we should do everything they did!? You want to do racist things just to save a little on payroll?

    Automation = slavery. QED

    1. Actually, English-speaking South Africans call traffic lights ‘robots’ as well (although I suppose it could’ve originated in Afrikaans). I’ve seen the word used in Madam & Eve several times. I’ve also heard Trevor Noah use the term (pre-Daily Show, back when he was a tolerable comedian).

  17. I don’t think Reason respects routine.

    1. Do they respect poutine?

  18. 2017 is a new year. No more frippery like “links”.

    Just hard hitting journalism from libertarian heavyweights like Robby Soave and Steve Chapman.

    1. Oh man I had a good wheezing belly laugh at this one.

  19. Wow. Not only is the first article of the year a Chapman shit sandwich, but no AM links?

    1. The rocket surgeons who coughed up $120k to donate to this place are already reaping the benefits of their philanthropy.

  20. “To raise economic growth, not to mention wages, you have to make workers more productive. You don’t make employees more productive by forcing them to work harder or demanding that they be smarter. You do it by providing them with advanced machinery, which lets each employee produce more in less time.”

    If regulation and taxes are artificially raising the cost of labor, it isn’t necessary for labor to be more productive than a machine.

    If you wanted to build the pyramids in Egypt today, you might be tempted to bring in all sorts of construction machinery because it reduces the cost of labor, but you would also need to check the price of labor. Labor in Egypt is cheap–it may be cheaper to hire a hundred laborers than to lease a machine that does the work of 50 men. You might end up doing much of it like the ancient Egyptians did–with cheap labor.

    One of the reasons being anti-immigrant didn’t catch on in the affluent suburbs of southern California was because everybody’s mom had an illegal alien or two to clean the bathrooms or watch the baby while she’s at work and the kids after school.

    Labor intensive products like childcare, house cleaning, gardening, home healthcare for elderly parents, etc. isn’t threatened by machinery anywhere near as much as it’s threatened by regulation and taxes. Every working mother wants those products and doesn’t want them from a machine–it’s just that not every working mother can afford them because of regulation and taxes.

    1. True. You can’t even hire that 15 year old girl up the street to babysit and do simple household chores because you need to file taxes for her, pay for a 20 hour course preparing her for a babysitting license not to mention disability insurance and getting a lawyer on retainer to defend you when you’re sued by her 14 year old brother for sexual discrimination in hiring.

      1. Yeah, illegal aliens being unregulated is a real benefit.

        Millions of illegal aliens flooded across our borders to fill labor intensive jobs over the course of decades–even as automation and machinery was displacing legal labor.

        That the last recession hit cities in the southwest the hardest (Phoenix, Riverside County, Las Vegas) probably isn’t unrelated to the fact that those construction markets had ample supplies of illegal labor–so that’s where the most housing growth was.

        It’s an indictment against labor regulation and payroll taxes.

        Incidentally, when I lived in southern Mexico in the Yucatan, one of the great things about it was that you could have anything from any store delivered to your house–and that was because of the abundance of cheap labor. Every fast food restaurant–from McDonalds to Burger King–had fleets of mopeds with hotboxes on the back that deliver right to your door. Those guys work mostly for tips. The reason we don’t do that in the U.S. is because the labor here is too expensive.

        In Mexico, they’re light years ahead of us in a way. They don’t need driverless cars or drones to deliver to your house–they’ve got cheap labor, and that probably makes it hard for driverless cars or drones to compete on home delivery. Even the lady that cleaned my house in Mexico could afford to have bottled water delivered to her house.

        1. And when I say “cheap”, I also mean unregulated.

        2. Unskilled labor produces value but that value is prevented by regulation. Instead of benefiting both the employee and employer the wealth that might have been produced is lost to both. Worse still, other wealth is stolen to pay for the bureaucrat who stands between the unskilled and any opportunity to be productive.

      2. Not to mention the shit that will hit the fan when said 15yr old accuses the well-healed Dad of “touching her inappropriately” when driving her home.

        1. That sometimes happens when you cum in their mouth.

      3. Paying for the abortion is also a money drain.

        1. Yeah. That’s what Schwarzenegger thought too. I’ll bet he wouldn’t say that now. 🙂

  21. Funny, when I was young the big complaint was about the mindless, repetitive drudgery of manufacturing jobs. These jobs were supposedly killing employees, if not their bodies then surely their souls.

    Now, people long for the good ol’ days of three shift manufacturing complete with screaming whistles announcing lunch time when employees all opened their lunch boxes and ate the sandwiches packed by their wives (who were home banging the milkman).

    Really?

    If we went back to that we could also solve the Social Security funding problem by bring life expectancy back down to 60 instead of the 80 it now is.

    1. People want security. Most people are more risk-averse than is standard in the current economy. This gets expressed through demands for “jobs” and welfare programs.

      What is needed is some bridge between the need of the modern, flexible, on-demand economy and the risk aversion people inherently feel because they are human beings.

    2. I yearn for the day where I could’ve fucked off in high school, impregnated a chubby girl, and had my uncle get me a union job down at the factory where I could’ve once again fucked off all day and still made enough money to buy a house. I would’ve also liked to have been able to go to the neighborhood bar and fuck off all night four-seven days a week, because hell, with the job I have I could’ve gotten away with it. Brown hordes ruined that for me.

      Also, pay me more or I will go on strike.

      1. i recall reading a scenario pretty much as you’ve described it in Mad Magazine waaaay back in the 1970’s. So even then they were onto union guys/

      2. I mean, your house was small, and the appliances shit, and your car was crap that needed constant work. Your smartphone was a total piece of shit, the TV the size of a post-it note etc etc.

        People bitch about how expensive life is now ignoring how much more you get out of it.

    3. Springsteen?

  22. Welcome to The Race Card Project

    What you see here are candid submissions from people who have engaged in a little exercise. Here’s how it works. Think about the word Race. How would you distill your thoughts, experiences or observations about race into one sentence that only has six words? Try it.

    Have at it men, and men who pretend to be women.

    1. I can do it in 3 words:

      “Get Over It”

      1. YOU HAVE TO DO IT IN SIX WORDS, DUMBASS! FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!

        1. “Get over it, you stupid fucks.”

        2. How about “Get Over It You Dumbass Dumbasses”?

            1. Thank you for helping me see the error of my ways, Crusty

    2. Race is a stupid, pointless distraction.

      1. Shut up, you cracka-ass cracka.

        1. Throws Grammar Nazi flag; “cracka-ass” is actually 1 word

          1. Fine…

            Shut yo mouth, you cracka-ass cracka.

            1. You misspelled “mouf”

        2. Years ago, I had to ride BART everyday into Oakland for a job.

          Every night, low lifes were scratching graffiti into the large glass windows on the BART cars. It was destructive, expensive. It was ruining public property mindlessly.

          Well, one day I was riding home and I looked up and saw “fuck you craker” written on the window across from me. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

          When someone asked me what I was laughing at, I just pointed and said, “Someone wants to insult me and they can’t even spell a racial slur correctly”.

          I guess I was lucky I didn’t get my face beat in. But, it still makes me smile that such ignorant types take themselves so seriously.

    3. How would you distill your thoughts, experiences or observations about race into one sentence that only has six words?

      NASCAR is better than Formula One?

      1. I was thinking, “Would Ricciardo kick Lewis’ ass if he had gotten the MB seat? Maybeeeee (use your best Mr. Torgue voice)

      2. 24 hours of Lemans or GTFO

    4. “I’m white, but my penis isn’t.”

    5. Al Sharpton makes money stoking racism.

    6. How would you distill your thoughts, experiences or observations about race into one sentence that only has six words?

      I am a pretty slow runner.

    7. Second place is First Loser?
      /Tony Stewart

  23. In the ensuing boom, Donald Trump would have us believe, unemployed coal miners, factory workers and other blue-collar Americans will find themselves in great demand.

    You know, usually economics view a significant surplus or deficit as an opportunity and tell us something will naturally move to exploit it. Nature abhors a vacuum and all that.

    Clearly, nature is an idiot who never learned the massive benefits associated with government-imposed vacuums. Knowing better is what makes us the top species on the planet.

  24. Google image search says that is a 1926 Ford Model T. Nice car.

  25. The reply button keeps screwing you today.

    You’re not from around here, are you?

    1. That you don’t like using the reply button?

      1. P Brooks is protesting the existence of threading. Honestly, I miss the pre-thread days.

        1. It can get annoying, but you get used to it.

          1. Mexican butt sex?

  26. Funny, when I was young the big complaint was about the mindless, repetitive drudgery of manufacturing jobs. These jobs were supposedly killing employees, if not their bodies then surely their souls.

    Now, people long for the good ol’ days of three shift manufacturing complete with screaming whistles announcing lunch time when employees all opened their lunch boxes and ate the sandwiches packed by their wives (who were home banging the milkman).

    No kidding. I’d like to see Matty Yglesias survive a shift in a foundry.

    1. Isn’t the existence of Yglesias a cause for optimism? A sign that we are moving into a post-scarcity society where the productive provide for a dead-weight loss like Matty, who in any other time in human history would surely have starved to death by now.

    2. I’d like to see him try to work a shift in a foundry but I’m not sure I’d want him to survive it.

      1. I think a lot of Leftist ninnies would benefit tremendously from working in a factory for a few years. They’d learn some valuable lessons… You don’t get to take a break whenever you want to. You don’t get to go to your safe space if you get upset. You have to work hard, and if you’re not providing value of some kind, you’ll be out on your ass.

        1. This is why all the great society-changing innovations are made by lazy men. I’ve done line work. It sucks so bad. It sucks worse if you’re smart, because it’s so mind-numbing.

          My hat is off to the guy who invented the bow. All his buddies were chasing animals down with sticks and spears and he was, like, “Fuck that noise. That’s way too much work.” (Thwip! Thud! “Whoa! Steve! What did you just do?” Then they burned him as a witch. But they kept the bow, and pretended the gods gave it to them.)

  27. OT: Do you guys think there should be any limits to what a person can agree to in a contract?

    For instance, can a man agree to be a slave laborer (to be beaten, tortured, and whipped) if his wife and kids would receive a lavish yearly income in return?

    If someone wanted to be tortured and murdered, could he agree to that in a contract with the murderer, and would the murderer then be innocent of any crime?

    1. Re: Akira,

      OT: Do you guys think there should be any limits to what a person can agree to in a contract?

      Yes, the limit imposed by the principle of Mind Your Own Business

      For instance, can a man agree to be a slave laborer (to be beaten, tortured, and whipped) if his wife and kids would receive a lavish yearly income in return?

      That explains professional boxing.

      1. That explains a lot of things.

        Now shut up and get back to work, slave. Tax freedom day isn’t until April 9. Until then, Uncle Sam owns your ass.

        1. Weirdly, I don’t remember agreeing to that in a contract. It was just “pay up or else.”

  28. But once we build that wall then these robots won’t takum er jebz! Making America Grating Again!

    In all seriousness: Trumpistas are deranged.

    OK, seriously now: They are.

    OK, ok, seriously, really: Those jobs are never “coming back”. El Presidente Trumpo is lying.

    1. Mike M’s new handle is weird.

  29. But pessimistic forecasts have been around a long time and have never come true. The process of change eliminates positions in one sector but creates them in others.

    God, this magical “there will always be more jobs created” bullshit pisses me off. It’s in no way logically inevitable. It’s an article of faith. It’s like the people on Easter Island saying, “Don’t worry, there will always be more trees.”

    We’ll never run out of something because we never have in the past. While I’m no Malthusian, it seems like if you’re describing a process, which Chapman is which goes like:

    1. Reduce worker requirements with more efficient processes (robots, automation, new technology, take your pick).
    2. ?
    3. More jobs than ever!

    What’s 2? How can you guarantee with any unknown technology that it will always spawn more job creation? That doesn’t seem like a law of the universe to me, it seems like “Well, we’ve been lucky so far.”

    1. Here’s my take on it: More automation means that things get cheaper and cheaper. As a result, someone need not work a full 40 hours to pay the bills. Things that we don’t consider viable careers right now might merit that designation in the future (running a YouTube channel with ads, for instance). It’s not that we’ll “always make more jobs”; it’s that what work remains will be sufficient to support everyone.

      Certain things will never be automated, mostly in the arts and entertainment field. It’s highly doubtful that a non-human could make music, movies, literature, poetry, paintings, and sculptures that appeal to distinctly human emotions. There would also be demand for “handmade” and “artisan” goods that are manufactured “the old way”. We even see this today; products with these labels fetch a premium because they’re perceived as being of better quality than something that was cranked out by a machine along with millions of exact copies.

      There would also be a change in the structure of households. If everything is so cheap in this fully-automated world, one breadwinner could support themselves, a spouse, the children (perhaps until a much later age than is customary right now), aged parents, and maybe a loser relative or two. Also bear in mind that as economic prosperity increases, people tend to have fewer children.

      1. It’s highly doubtful that a non-human could make music, movies, literature, poetry, paintings, and sculptures that appeal to distinctly human emotions.

        I’d like to introduce you to Hatsune Miku

        There’s still a ton of human involvement there, of course, but I can believe things will have developed enough in the next century that not only the performance, but the lyrics and music can be entirely machine-composed. Pop music is extremely formulaic already.

      2. The progression back to single-breadwinner households would be logical and welcome, but at the same time we have societal trends working to deconstruct traditional family relationships, making it harder for that cooperative arrangement to exist. Progressive policies seem to push more and more people into a dependency relationship with government, which I view as a much less stable and rewarding arrangement than a Walton-style family organized around a single major breadwinner.

        1. YAH! CUT JOB KILLING REGULATIONS!

          Progressive policies seem to push more and more people into a dependency relationship with government

          Like the coal miners who are going to be put back to work by Mitch McConnell (super progressive)?

      3. More automation means that things get cheaper and cheaper. As a result, someone need not work a full 40 hours to pay the bills

        Let’s see. Multi-income households are commonplace compared to single-income ones. Houses are so cheap that everyone can afford a couple (with car elevators). Less of your income is spent on food, cool.

        Healthcare? Blame Obama?
        http://blogs-images.forbes.com…..?width=960

    2. 2. Humans still have unsatisfied wants. So there are still opportunities available to fulfill those wants for compensation (also known as jobs)

      As soon as human nature completely changes and we become capable of actually being fully satisfied and not desiring any more incremental improvement in our lives, then I’ll believe the stupid Luddites who worry about a labor-free robot dystopia.

      1. Hmm. That’s not convincing to me because the things I and most people want are A) already not limited by supply, but by my ability to pay for them. B) Don’t require extra humans to produce. I could only frequent so many human prostitutes, get my hair cut by a human so many times, be waited on by so many servants.

        Yes, I am sure people will invent new things to covet, new ways to distract themselves, but most of those may well require fewer people to provide than todays mass distractions, too. The NFL just had the worst ratings year in a very long time. Football is very human-intensive. But virtual entertainment — MMOs, and the like, require far fewer paid employees per hour of human entertained. Are all those would-be football players really going to become virtual reality programmers? I don’t think so.

        This also engages the fallacy that humans are interchangeable economic units. Not all humans are suited for professions that cannot be duplicated by a robot. Not everyone is smart, creative, caring or possessed of a unique talent.

        1. “God, this magical “there will always be more jobs created” bullshit pisses me off. It’s in no way logically inevitable. It’s an article of faith. It’s like the people on Easter Island saying, “Don’t worry, there will always be more trees.”

          Exactly. It’s an empirical question. There’s nothing about automation that logically implies that “more jobs must be created.” In fact, it’s not obvious why we would even want this to be so. If as a result of automation you only needed one person in a household to work to generate significant income for his family, that would be ideal. But of course, we are nowhere near that world yet.

          1. That would be ideal, but what happens when the average family size is about 3, yet you only need one wage earner, on average, per six people?

            What effect will large scale obsolescence have on the masses of permanently unemployed? People need to feel useful. I don’t see it going anywhere good.

            People aren’t going to be grateful that they can live a comfortable life without effort, they’re going to be jealous of the minority living an even more comfortable life because of their superior skills, abilities,or connections.

            Human nature’s a bitch.

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  31. But who would trade their laptops and smartphones in order to put people back to work typing, filing and answering phones?

    Drumpf. Right after he opens those coal mines.

  32. The answer is not to stop progress but to facilitate the movement of the displaced into new occupations or places where jobs abound.

    The question is who should be doing that? Free markets, that’s who.

    Coal miners should be moving to becoming Copper miners.

  33. Although historically I’ve been quite a libertarian on economics, this kind of lazy article is becoming very tiresome to see. Productivity has been completely disassociated from wages for 30+ years:

    http://www.heritage.org/~/medi…..2013/07/bg 2825/bgproductivityandcompensationchart4825.ashx

    In the era of financialization where corporations don’t produce anything, and spend all their effort goosing stock prices via laying people off and buying back stocks (and sending 100% of the proceeds to CEOs and shareholders), the old economic model of “productivity raises all boats” is ludicrous. Increased productivity, which is enabled by employees, is rewarded with layoffs and the funneling of all the proceeds to the shareholders (per the MSV model).

    >> The answer is not to stop progress but to facilitate the movement of the displaced into new occupations or places where jobs abound.

    And exactly what and where are the “abounding replacement jobs”, Steve? The classic “buggy whips” or “whale oil” model resulted in good replacement jobs a hundred years ago when industrialization was taking off, but now results in becoming a Walmart greeter or Starbucks batista for 25% of your original wages, if you can even find a job at all. Before propounding an economic pathway, perhaps you should look to see if there are actual data supporting your position.

    1. What about the uplifting story of that Albuquerque science teacher that started his own unregulated pharmaceutical enterprise? I heard he made big bucks in his spare time.

    2. This is much of the problem I have with a lot of the current libertarian thinking on this issue, although to Chapman’s credit he at least acknowledges that it’s a problem. Many economists, on both the left and right, view skill polarization as contributing to inequality. That is, automation has tended to benefit those with increased education or the ability to upgrade their skills, but has hurt those with few skills and few opportunities to advance. The challenge going to forward is going to be how in the age of automation we can generate meaningful work for those with few skills, so they don’t end up out of the labor force and on the government dole. Another challenge is overcoming The Great Stagnation to generate innovations that benefit all income groups, so that increases in productivity translate into real wage gains.

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