Saturday, July 14, 2012

In a world without workers.... of what value is work?

A friend of a friend recently posted this discussion of what Google's experimental driverless car could mean to the future of the United States.  In general its a very rosy picture of the future, but the implications of one line jumped out at me...

Taxi services will rapidly adopt these cars as they can slash their labor costs.

Add taxi drivers as one more out of-work population in the US that will be displaced by automation.

We are fast approaching a society where work as we knew it will be gone.   Everyone (even conservatives) agree that our entire system is predicated on "a days wage for a day's work."
Remove that and our entire system collapses like a line of dominos.

Without work, there cannot be wages.  Without wages there cannot be consumers.  Without consuerms, there is no demand.  Without demand there is no business.  Without business there is no GNP. Without a GNP, we all have nothing.

Karl Marx's revenge has come full circle.  As an economist his vision was unparalleled and he saw this day coming a long time ago, though not exactly in this form.  The only way out of our inevitable economic demise is to come up with a new way to apportion society's products.  A way that ensures that everyone is consuming enough to keep the whole system in motion.

The worker's paradise may, ironically,  be our only answer to a robust society in a world without workers.  It could be a golden age, where each man and woman is freed to pursue that which they wont to do rather then that which they have to.  But only if we have the political will to grab it.  The line between that and a totally bankrupted economy is very scary and thin.

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