I’ve written a lot about the effects of outsourcing and immigration on American workers. But what effect will automation have on US workers? Additionally, what can be done about it?
To briefly state the problem: automation is when a machine is built that can do the job of a human worker. We’ve all seen the images on TV news reports about robots that are building cars and cutting the need for automotive workers. But what about the human impact of such technology? What happens to the workers that are fired because their jobs were taken by robots?
At first they’ll change jobs, maybe even switch industries altogether. Some auto workers will become mechanics, for instance, since the industries are at least similar in some ways: they both work on cars. But with the contraction of industries because of automation, what will happen to the ever increasing pool of workers that aren’t hired since there aren’t enough jobs?
These people still have to live. The married workers still have families to support. How will they continue to live, to eat, in an economy that is shrinking jobs? I can only see two courses, in the long run:
(A): A permanent welfare state that supports these people since there aren’t enough jobs. The infrastructure is already in place for this, so it’s easy to imagine this coming about.
(B): Laws against automation. This will cut efficiency, but it will also keep these people working.
I don’t see any other options. These people have to live, so either (A) they’ll live from welfare payments taxed from those who can work / companies that sell products here and around the world; or (B), their jobs are kept up by an act of the government.
It’s easy to imagine all the objections that will be raised to these options. But life in politics is rarely about getting the best option: usually it’s about getting the best possible option.
These are big issues, and they require mature thought.