June 24th, 2015at 09:48pm Posted by Eli
The Atlantic has an interesting article on the “post-work” future, when automation (and probably outsourcing) has eliminated so many jobs that massive unemployment is structurally unavoidable, at least as far as traditional corporate employment goes. It covers far too much territory for me to attempt to summarize, but I wanted to jot down a few thoughts of my own.
In the section on government “makework,” why no mention of infrastructure renewal except in the past tense? The American Society of Civil Engineers estimated the total cost of fixing our infrastructure at $3.6 TRILLION – I find it very hard to believe that that would not translate into an enormous amount of construction and engineering jobs, but perhaps the assumption is that most of the construction and engineering tasks would be performed by robots.
The most direct approach would be for the government to raise taxes on corporations and the rich in order to give everyone a “universal basic income,” which both Nixon and Milton Friedman supported back in the 60s. If there isn’t enough work to go around, this will be absolutely imperative, not just from a humanitarian perspective, but from an economic perspective as well: Corporations still need consumers to be able to afford their products.
There were also sections on the possibility of people becoming independent artisans, or the government helping them start small businesses, which is all well and good, but it will be a lot easier for people to make that leap if they’re not desperately clinging to or searching for a job (or two), or wondering where their next meal – or roof – is coming from.
The bottom line is that until we finally repudiate the conservative Randian belief that the unemployed are worthless, lazy parasites who must be punished economically (in the guise of “tough love,” of course) rather than reduce the winnings of the “job creators,” the post-work future will be about desperation and misery instead of creativity and opportunity.