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View Diary: The goal IS to reduce the standard of living (386 comments)

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  •  The Impossible Dream (none)
    is one of my favorite songs from Man of La Mancha, and 30 years ago it would have been relevant to a discussion of economics. Today, nearly every capitalist can achieve their "labor-free" dream, more or less, given the availability of machines that work long hours without taking breaks, don't ask for pay raises, and don't unionize. It makes no difference whether those machines are gleaming-chrome or sweaty brown skin, or more often some combination of the two. I'll grant you can't eliminate labor completely, but there isn't a lot of difference between eliminating 90% or 100%.

    There's a program on the Science Channel called something "How Things Are Made". If you look at any of the segments, you'll be amazed at how few people you see in any of the production processes they cover. Particulary food or chemical products, the entire process is totally automated. That's where the productivity increases of the 90s, that Greenspan was so infatuated with, came from. That process (of eliminating labor) is just getting started in earnest now.

    I'm not suggesting we should pursue some policy of either Luddism (as "Luddite" is commonly understood) or the equivalent of the "featherbedding" that used to creep into union contracts. In fact I think we need to move full speed ahead on improving domestic productivity.

    However, there are things we can do in the near term to make US labor more competitive - things that don't require cutting middle-class wages or living standards. In the long term, though, we have to face up to the possibility that no government policy or private initiatives are going to guarantee the creation of enough jobs to support our labor force. Do we want a society similar to 19th century England where the occupational choices for most people are domestic service or petty thievery?

    I think you're only partially correct on the consumer's role, but that's a different subject.

    We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

    by badger on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 11:45:34 AM PDT

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    •  Productivity growth (none)
      Productivity growth is a good thing, not a bad thing. How can you resent the idea of making more goodies for more people more cheaply? I can certainly support the idea that we are too materialistic and buy all sorts of crap that we don't need, but if that's what people want, I'm not going to block the doors of my local Wal-Mart.

      The task here is to have the labor force keep up with the economy. That means a more highly-educated labor force. The people getting screwed by free trade are the uneducated laborers whose jobs can be done just as well by a low-paid foreigner. There's a serious question to ask: why should the accident of where one was born grant one person wealth and another person poverty, when they both do the same job?

      My take on this: we've got to dramatically improve the educational standards in this society. Secondary education is no longer sufficient. We need to get everybody through college, and NOT by lowering our standards. Inhibiting free trade doesn't solve the underlying problem, it just postpones the inevitable.

      •  Wrong (none)
        First, I'm in favor of productivity growth - I'm just realistic about what it means: destroying jobs.

        Second, edcuating the labor force/uneducated laborers: you have a pretty low opinion of computer programmers, engineers, doctors (read pastordan's diary - the person went outside the country for medical care, and that's increasing), and even commerical jet mechanics (United's maintenance facility for its entire 777 fleet is in China).

        Tell me what major (other than nursing) my daughter should choose so she'll be guaranteed a high-paying job. Find some BLS statistic to support your choice.

        Here's a list you can start from - lots of education needed to fill those positions.

        We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

        by badger on Thu Oct 13, 2005 at 08:17:16 PM PDT

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