Saturday, June 15, 2013

More on the future of jobs and technology

ASI asks: "Do technological advances destroy jobs without creating new ones?":

Perhaps the line which most annoys me is "the belief that technology doesn't destroy jobs, but merely creates new and better ones, is, like so much else about bourgeois economics, a baseless assumption."

Does Mueller really believe that claim? Unemployment is 7.8%. Employment is touching 30m, its highest level ever. Since the 1750s there has been a tide of vastly transformative technological improvement and yet somehow a much larger population is employed. At the same time, this larger workforce is working much fewer hours and enjoys much greater abundance. Surely these widely available facts are enough to suggest that the assumption technology creates—as well as destroys—jobs is more than just a "baseless assumption"?

By no means is it certain that the trends of the past, which have seen mobile phones, more hygienic toilets and tasty soft drinks spread to even the poorest areas of the world, will continue. But certainly some evidence (e.g. the graph above) seems to suggest that technologies are spreading throughout society—and benefiting the general populace, not just the wealthy—faster than ever before. This is great, and implies that we can hope for greater abundance and leisure without smashing new technologies. If it turns out that not all benefit, then what we need is something like Krugman's universal basic income, not drastic societal upheaval.
More: The BBC asks, is the solution for more jobs lower wages? And that's also why most economists dispute the need or effectiveness of the minimum wage...

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