Increasingly, people are worrying about robots.
They’re taking our jobs, we’re told. Soon, all we’ll have left are robots. Massive unemployment!
While some find this scenario utopia and bliss,* it sounds dreadful to me.
How is this next wave of technology any different? If technology destroyed jobs on net, we’d all be unemployed now.
Economist Deirdre McCloskey takes this historical view. Writing in Reason, she says today’s high-tech “innovations have actually raised real wages, correctly measured, because a human supplied with a better tool can produce more outputs. And the point of an economy is production for consumption, not protection of existing jobs.”
We’ve always been losing jobs. And new ones are created. Our worry shouldn’t be the jobs lost to new tech, but the lack of new ones coming into existence because of the oldest tech of all: government.
But you know what industry is least resistant to jobs vanishing to robots? Government itself. Sure, some reductions in public sector jobs have occurred, mainly as a result of decreased revenues in the recent “recession.” The job losses there have not been filled by robots, though. Permanent employee positions have been destroyed . . . too frequently replaced by outsourced consultants.
Could robots replace large swaths of public employees? Maybe that wouldn’t be good, actually. The worst-case scenario might be this: government becoming efficient.
We don’t want bad and efficient government.
Kludge may be better.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* Some even see in this development a sort-of science-fiction rationale for making socialism at long last plausible — robots as the new slave class; all the humans in the leisure class! Yeah, right.