Monday, April 27, 2015

Are Workers Expendable?

Efficiency is measured by corporate economists as revenue minus expenses. Profit is created the same way. Profit therefore equals Efficiency. Profit is the ultimate good and the only obligation, an obligation only paid upward. What’s the expense economists are most eager to eliminate? The cost of labor.

Workers present downward obligations and such obligations are a burden. They are, by definition, inefficient, because obligations owed to workers are always counted as a negative. Corporations don’t feel obligations to plants and machines. Plants and machines don’t make them feel angry or guilty or deprived of profit. They can be bought and sold and don't need to be paid. They do as they're told. They can be insured and depreciated. They can be replaced with more efficient machines and don't require severance or unemployment or a pension or healthcare.

Keynes thought the unending march toward greater efficiency and greater productivity would pay a dividend to everyone in the form of leisure. He didn’t think that leisure would be unemployment and poverty. This is the looming likelihood nobody wants to discuss. We all have mixed feelings. Our retirements hinge upon the profitability of the companies in our retirement portfolios, which hinge upon the suppression of labor costs, and our retirement portfolios are purchased with wages we are paid for the work we do.

People who work for a living have a conundrum that people who own for a living never have to worry about. We’ve always been a country that worships hard work, but that god has been replaced with Profit, a higher god that believes work should be as poorly rewarded as possible. The god Profit likes the fruits of work but believes those fruits belong in the profit column. Profits belong to those who own for a living.

It would all be much easier if all work could be done by machines which don’t need to be paid, which can be depreciated and sold and moved almost like slaves. Welcome to the age of the robot.

Even China, with its endless and captive labor force, is falling in love with robots. How will this unfold? In China every human being is expendable. (The New York Times reports.)

Look at this map of most common jobs per state over the past 40 years. It’s also a map of mostly very expendable jobs, jobs that are being relentlessly robotized.

Did you notice how many states employ more truck drivers than any other kind of worker? Read this article about the replacability of human drivers.


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Blogger pasquino said...

One task robots don't do as well as humans.

2:16 PM  

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