Whatever Happened to the Telephone Operators?   Leave a comment

I am seriously tired of the 2020 election and it’s still 18 months away. It’s going to be hard to stay focused on principles when drowning in politics.

But some of these candidates are — well, worthy of a laugh or two. Take Andrew Yang, a former lawyer and entrepreneur, who is advocating for a Universal Basic Income to be implemented for all 18-64 year-olds. It’s pretty much his entire platform. His argument for this, per his website, is “a third of all working Americans will lose their job to automation in the next 12 years. Our current policies are not equipped to handle this crisis.”

There is a growing list of vocal people insisting technology advancements will result in massive unemployment, and so they advocate for the UBI as necessary to keep society afloat. The idea that technology destroys jobs and will cause massive unemployment prevails despite being a disproven myth.

Take a look at history before you argue.

If technology had been destroying jobs for the hundreds of years people have been arguing about automation and machines, there would be hardly any jobs left. Bulldozers took the place of men with shovels. Cars put railroad workers out of business. Elevator operators, typists, blacksmiths, and manual telephone operators jobs all vanished over the 20th century.

Official unemployment in September of 2018 was the lowest in nearly 50 years. The labor force participation rate has actually increased due to women entering the workforce. We have more jobs now than ever.

In other words, predictions of technology harming the workforce have constantly failed since the dawn of technology. Despite this, Yang says automation will create a crisis within the next 12 years and that a UBI will handle that crisis.

Sigh ….

Technology helps to make the economy stronger as machines and tools make humans more productive. The entire goal of economic progress is to make us more productive, more efficient, have more consumer goods available, more leisure time, and higher standards of living. This is achieved by higher productivity and efficiency. We are better off not needing twelve people with shovels to do the same thing as a bulldozer.

Yang worries about what the 3.5 million truck drivers in the US will do if their jobs are automated away in 12 years. THis is assuming that all companies can afford and will buy self-driving 18-wheelers in that time frame.

Well, what happened to all the video store workers who lost their jobs when streaming overwhelmed Blockbuster? What happened to the 1.5 million railroad workers who lost their jobs as people moved to their own cars? They didn’t all starve to death. They found new work and that’s already occurring in many industries. Job hopping has already increased as people learn new skills and get new jobs. They do it constantly. Society creates and destroys different kinds of jobs through technology. Markets adjust and people find new work. It’s been going on since the Industrial Revolution.

Job displacement does occur because of technological advancement and people must adjust. Some people may need help when finding new jobs and new careers and that’s a worthy discussion to have. However, technology should not be avoided and feared because it replaces currently existing jobs. It makes our lives better and leads to the liberation of labor for newer, better jobs.

The next generation of technological development and automation won’t result in a joblessness crisis. It will simply result in a change in occupations that might feel chaotic for a while, but will not be the end of the world.

Whatever happened to the weavers displaced by the Jacquard looms, for example? If you don’t know, you should study some history.

Posted March 26, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in economics

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