The Week: Are Robots Coming For Your Jobs?

The Week:

” First, some historical perspective: For as long as America’s had something like a modern capitalist economy, automation and technology have been disrupting and remaking the jobs market. In the Aspen paper, authors Conor McKay, Ethan Pollack, and Alastair Fitzpayne note that agriculture went from a third of all jobs to 1 percent of them over the last century. Manufacturing accounted for a third of all non-farm jobs in 1910 and fell to 9 percent by 2015. Meanwhile jobs in information, business services, and health care jumped from 3 percent to 29 percent over the same period and retail went from 13 percent to 23 percent. As Mark Paul notes in one of the Roosevelt papersTime magazine was worried about the “automation jobless” as far back as 1961. It has been ever thus. ,,.”

I clearly see this in the Alabama Black Belt.

Historically speaking, the economy of my home turf in Central Alabama was dominated by slavery and sharecropping in the Cotton Kingdom, but the spread of the tractor and the mechanical cotton picker from the 1940s to the 1960s abolished the need for all those agricultural jobs. In essence, capital simply eliminated labor through scientific and technological progress and we dealt with all those surplus people by expanding the Great Society welfare state in the 1960s.

Once upon a time, Birmingham was the South’s leading industrial city, but in the late 20th century we free traded away the steel industry to East Asia and textile manufacturing in the Piedmont to Southeast Asia and Latin America. Manufacturing employment has sunk in every Southern state in the WTO and NAFTA era due to a combination of free trade and automation crushing labor.

What happens to the working class and middle class in Alabama when manufacturing employment continues to plummet due to automation? Even more to the point, what happens to all those people in the service sector when automation replaces them too? There will be something, right?

Here’s the thing though: large swathes of rural and urban America never bounced back from the loss of agricultural and manufacturing employment. Just drive through Birmingham, the Alabama Black Belt or even the heavily White parts of the rural Wiregrass and Hill Country. I’m using Alabama as an example simply because it is the most familiar state to me but what has happened here has been going on nationwide. There is a reason why only Auburn, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville seem to be thriving.

“Then we reversed course: We massively slashed federal and state budgets for higher education and instead financed college attendance with a giant debt bubble that has savaged students’ finances for life. Unions collapsed, businesses cut on-the-job and employer-sponsored training way back, and federal grants to support worker training also shrunk. Instead of continuing to expand the safety net, we gutted traditional welfare and started adding work requirements.”

Allow me to explain.

The 20th century can be divided into roughly two parts which are separated by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s: there was a populist-progressive coalition which reached its apogee in the New Deal and dominated the early 20th century and there was the conservative-populist coalition which reached its apogee under Reagan and dominated the late 20th century.

As we shifted toward mainstream conservatism in the 1970s, we began to reverse course. The unions collapsed. We free traded away most of the industrial jobs for “national security” reasons. We gutted the “welfare state” that was created by FDR and his successors. We flooded the country with an unprecedented wave of Third World cheap labor for the corporations, etc.

Here’s an interesting take on automation:

“The future, as always, is unknowable. But even if this time really is different, that doesn’t change the underlying challenge. Paul quotes Stephen Hawking, who pointed out in 2016 that, “If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.”

What does Stephen Hawking know?

What about inflation?

Has Stephen Hawking even read Locke or Ludwig von Mises? Everyone knows that capitalism defeated socialism when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990s. Sure, it’s true that China didn’t collapse and is now on course to surpass the United States, but what does that matter?

Who can look at the contemporary United States and argue that our current cultural, economic and political paradigm and leadership caste isn’t vastly superior to anything on display abroad?

About Hunter Wallace 9528 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

28 Comments

  1. I saw a farmer dong spring plowing with a team of four horses last week, something I had never seen before. He made really good time. I think it was the harvesting side where automation really changed things.

  2. Looking back to the 1990’s when we had to listen to the end of history lectures from the economic and geopolitical geniuses in the West is amusing in the 21st century. It is liberal Democracy which is failing across the globe on its last leg while nationalist, racially cohesive authoritarian governments are thriving and that are moving into the future.

    Look at the leadership liberal Democracy and free market capitalism has produced in its final form. Show me one actual statesman that America has produced in 50 years? Pat Buchanan comes the closest i can think of and of course he is vilified. No, we produce clowns like the Clinton’s, Trump and the Bush family and a media/huckster/grifter class that cant think their way out of a wet paper bag. Clown world really is the perfect way to describe liberal Democracy as it closes out its disastrous reign.

    • The last American statesman I can think of was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But I hope Ulfric is right, because I do not want to live in a future dominated by globohomo-auto-erotic-asphyxiation.

  3. Does anyone seriously believe (besides HW) that machine generated wealth will be equitably distributed so that everyone gets to enjoy it?

    • @spahnranch1969

      Does anyone seriously believe (besides HW) that machine generated wealth will be equitably distributed so that everyone gets to enjoy it?

      Only by legal and political force placed on the corporations.

      Maybe most corporations will move their automated production facilities to Africa to avoid UBI tax. Other than bribing the local head Nigger in charge, they can pretty much treat the other Niggers as wildlife, and ignore them.
      The Chinese, more or less, are already doing this in Africa.

  4. Automation, to the extent resistance to it by the existing order fails or succeeds, will take nearly all of the jobs that are repetitive and/or require little or no thought to perform.

    Remember, in 1970, AT&T came out with the videophone. It was rejected by the public. In the public sector, and in retail and services, automation will only go so far as the public accept or reject it. The public, after all, may prefer human sales clerks over interacting with machines.

    Similarly, automated vehicles will only go so far as people are willing to surrender their autonomy, volition and safety to machines. Most people would be happy with cars that parked and retrieved themselves, when they go to ballparks and Walmarts. But not with unmanned heavy haul trucks, or with not being able to drive themselves around. That’s too much to give up.

    As I’ve said before, when people talk about artificial intelligence, they’re thinking about artificial consciousness. Which may not be possible, ever.
    Assuming it is, Humanoid robots will not find much acceptance outside of industry, or in deep space, or in the deep ocean, simply because it’s unnerving to see a nonhuman entity performing natural Human functions. Mechaniacs and mad scientists excepted.

    Furthermore, applying artificial consciousness to certain jobs might be pointless, since Humans can do them just as easily and as well. Being a judge or lawyer is not really tedious in the same way that scrubbing commodes, or punching holes in metal parts all day, are. At least there’s some scope for intellectual exercise in Law and Politics.

    In the end, all of this is less about machinery and economics, than it is about Human nature, politics, sociology and psychology.

    I’m not sceptical of technology, I’m sceptical of humanity. Especially the North American variety.

    • I’m pretty scrappy with technology and managed to land my first job out of college in information technology in the 90’s. I must have replaced at least 20 people with my very vintage PC and 56kbaud modem. The reality is all these manual counting jobs were HORRIBLE. An automated future is not necessarily dystopian but I suppose this depends on who is controlling our societies and if we are self governing or slaves.

    • The supermarkets around here used to have a lot of self-checkout registers, but they’ve been removed because customers prefer interaction with checkout clerks.

      Self-driving taxis, city transit buses and delivery vans will probably become commonplace in the near future. As far as the trucking industry goes I’m hearing different messages. Some say long-haul OTR routes will become automated, others say trucking is a growth industry in need of new drivers. What do you think?

    • I’d love to have a car that would safely just drive me around. I’d take a nap or read while waiting to get there. Screw driving and all the a-holes you meet on the road while doing so.

  5. hunter just discovered amway and can’t wait to tell everybody about this new multi level marketing scheme that’s going to revolutionize the world.

    back in reality, hunter is in way over your pay grade and has no idea what he’s talking about.

    i check this blog to see what retarded stuff he’ll say next. it’s good entertainment.

      • correct, HW. Glarg Barg understands, for instance,

        that mainland Chicom did collapse…and was then bailed by the freetrade outsourcing of most ‘Murkan industrial production to China.

        always, always listen to Glarg Barg.

  6. “We free traded away most of the industrial jobs for “national security” reasons.”

    Really HW? From what was witnessed and proven is people like Romney buying these manufacturing plants bankrupting them and then breaking them up to be set up in China and every other low wage cesspits throughout the 3rd world in the 70s – 90s. How is that for ‘national security reasons?’ Please tell?

    I believe you just make up things like every other supposed ‘historian’ for nefarious reasons.

    Face the facts, your ‘new’ politics suck, expecting a Chinaman to fix the mess that’s been going on since 1945. Yes, we lost that war, the whole of White humanity lost that war. I can understand why people snap, especially the young. There’s no future…

    • BTW, the fact that Yang is smart, educated, practical and ethical is more important to me than the fact that he is Taiwanese. We’ve already seen the disaster that electing a White man who is a con-artist and a moron can do.

    • I’m not sure why you think my politics have changed either.

      My politics haven’t changed at all. I’m voting for the candidate who is closest to my views like I have always done. Why on earth should should populism be subordinated to conservatism? There are more populists and moderates in this country.

      • Succession.
        Having a new family I can understand why you changed one’s ‘new’ politics.
        As our White race is being slowly eliminated we have no one in government that will even say the word White man for fear of being racist or ‘supremist.’
        How do you think it’ll be under democratic rule even with a Chinaman buying you out for a 1000$? They’ll hunt us down slowly like they’ve been doing since 1914 until the very last White man is gone.
        We need a succession movement for our interests and always thought you were on board but now I see you’re defeated and deflated.

        • Explain how I have changed my politics.

          I’ve been a disaffected populist and nationalist voter for 15 years. I have written about history and economics here for a decade on this blog. I supported Trump because he was the most populist candidate in 2016. Now, the most populist candidate is Yang, which is why I am supporting him. I also learned my lesson in 2016 by supporting a moron and a con-artist. In 2020, I am not going to make the same mistake again. I’m going to look much more closely at the intelligence and character of candidates.

          I do not care in the slightest that Yang is Taiwanese. I’m White. Yang is yellow. There isn’t a single White Republican in Washington, however, who cares about any other color than green. Every single one of them is willing to sell the policies to the donors. Until we can fix that problem, then arguing about fake “positions” on issues is a waste of time.

          As for $1,000 a month, please tell me your solution to automation. What is your solution to that problem which is projected to eliminate half of the workforce by 2035? In reality, the only you can do about that is give people money because millions of people will lose their jobs. The difference between Yang winning and losing is having a president who understands the issue and has a plan to deal with it rather than just ignoring the problem and pretending it isn’t happening.

          Finally, I spent virtually all of 2018 after March rethinking my politics. I looked objectively at the 1.0 and 2.0 movements and determined that those movements had failed. Instead of wasting this year doing the same thing and relying on the same failed thinking and the same failed discourse, strategies and tactics, I decided that I would come up with something better. Normally, most people aren’t just content to stay where they are. They want to grow and improve which is what I have done in several areas.

          One more thing: I don’t care that Republicans are White. It doesn’t matter in the slightest because that fact is meaningless to them but of vast significance to you because of identity politics. Those people are just scamming you. They’re not going to scam me anymore.

          • There is one fatal flaw in your philosophy, HW, viz., your belief that voting is somehow going to change anything. Voting only gives legitimacy to a corrupt, rotten system that should have been done away with decades ago.

          • spahnranch1969,

            Normally, I would agree, but it occurs to me we have been living through a long stretch of normal times like the period between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I.

            We haven’t seen truly abnormal times like the Great Depression or World War II in a generation. BTW, it was Germany’s economic collapse that made Hitler plausible, so the people dismissing the importance of economics ought to think about that.

  7. You’re right this has been going on a long time. I read a book by a guy who made some of the most important advances in steam engines. He invented a very fast operating governor, (speed controller), and then a very fast steam cut off that made steam engines very steady in their speed and very efficient in fuel usage. Some of them ran for hundreds of years. One of his first jobs he took a steam engine and because of it’s strong control of action he was able to use it to finish face stone. The machine would chisel off the face smooth on stones. The machine did the work of dozens of people.

    At one place of business he was to sell a regulator that regulated the speed of a machine that shaped hot iron to make railroad steel. The guy operating the machine regulated the force by hand and he didn’t sell his regulator when the guy pleaded that with it he would lose his job and throw his family in the streets.

    http://smallstatebighistory.com/george-h-corliss/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corliss_steam_engine

    I read another case in China, there’s many of these, where Chinese laborers would carry goods over a mountain range on their backs. They rioted when a railroad was to be cut through the mountains as all of them would have lost their jobs.

    This has happened over and over and has been used as positive story by those who say that it will work out but this time it’s different. The scale, rapidity and volume of jobs that will be lost will dwarf all previous events. If something is not done I expect the shear magnitude of job loss will lead to massive attacks on the rich and in turn they will counterattack with robots to kill those attacking them.

    Now many say the rich have earned their money and most have. I agree with this but the rich are changing. They are becoming much more like the Lords of old and Kings who inherit money and then use the State to monopolize financial instruments and the working of the State to their advantage. The Jews are certainly the main culprits in this. They have used the FED and their close proximity to capital to buy most everything in the economy. Amazon right now is moving into the transportation of goods to monopolize the whole entire retail sector. They can do so due to their massive ability to raise capital far above what others can. Should a company be able to lose money for over ten years while they drive other retail businesses out of business like Amazon did?

  8. Job Automation is NOT our biggest threat..
    Cultural Miscgenation IS.
    Fight the nearest fire first, Hunter.

  9. If you think God through Jesus Christ will bless you based on your economic policies alone, you’re already lost.

    • Mike,

      I believe technology and the economy underpins our culture and politics and that changes in those things change what rests on top. If you disagree, feel free to explain how Hitler came to power in Germany

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