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Free Minds & Free Markets

Mexicans and Machines

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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