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DaveJ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-19-11 07:28 PM
Original message
If it's all about automation...
Obama mentioned this a couple years ago about how factories need like one fifth the people the used to need.

So this employment rate situation is just about pushing numbers around on a corporate ledger. People just aren't needed to maintain productivity. People were once always needed somewhere, to forge a frontier, build factories and roads and bridges, not anymore.

Why isn't anyone acknowledging this? It's all sort of a game now. It's just getting ridiculous really. I don't even think it's a class war. Nobody knows what to do, or if they do they aren't telling us. It's all about technological automation making people obsolete. Yeah I know billionaires want to increase their balance sheets so they can beat the other billionaires. It sure is a game to them. But seriously, we all know what is really going on.

If they don't need us, why punish us for it? Let people just lives their lives in harmony and not work. Why torture the unemployed?

It's getting ridiculous.

I dunno, I just don't get it.

I'm posting here because I was wondering if there were any economists who have any ideas on resolving this issue?

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Nay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-19-11 07:47 PM
Response to Original message
1. I don't know how old you are, but I'm 60. Back when I was in my teens,
forecasts of what the future would be like included the mechanization of a lot of work -- and that because of the mechanization of a lot of work, people would only have to work 10 to 20 hours a week and would have much more time for leisure, hobbies, family, etc. It was assumed that the mech of work would result in benefits to us, the people. Funny how it never turns out that way.

Indeed. "If they don't need us, why punish us for it?" I've come to the depressing conclusion that the powers that be get a perverse and sadistic pleasure out of torturing us, and just taking all our money and eating up every hour of our day just wasn't giving them the jollies they crave. They are sick bastards.
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drokhole Donating Member (759 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-19-11 08:46 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Speaking of that era, Buckminster Fuller said it best...
Edited on Fri Aug-19-11 08:47 PM by drokhole
"We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living." - Buckminster Fuller (March 1970)

With the enormous leaps of technology since then, it rings even more true today. And while our technology continues to advance - eliminating the need for enormous work forces - our antiquated mentality largely remains. Not only that, overpopulation is flooding every market with more people than jobs available/needed. Hell, if we weren't so deeply programmed to mindlessly acquire, consume, and discard, I wonder if we'd even "need" half the jobs that are out there. Couple that with the processed/fast food industry that's slowly poisoning its citizenry (if you think I'm being hyperbolic, just watch this: Sugar: The Bitter Truth; that's not to mention this: Could Processed Meat Give You Cancer? - and that's only two examples), and we'd be down to even fewer jobs still.

I think, and the time seems ripe, that the only solution is a fundamental shift in the way we view ourselves and the world we live in. Jiddu Krishnamurti does a great job of expressing what I mean in his book Education and the Significance of Life (which seems to be available in full here), something I briefly mentioned in an earlier post. And Aldous Huxley's Island presents a society that makes a hell of a lot more sense than ours - and, on top of that, it seems entirely practical.

I don't doubt the powers that be get a sick kick out of watching us constantly at each others throats in a society where we are conditioned to be viciously competitive - each vying for a spot at some form of "drudgery" to further line their pockets while they sit back in leisure. Plus, it keeps us mindlessly busy, which keeps a large portion of the population ignorant, unquestioning, and, ultimately, compliant.
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Kat45 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-20-11 11:17 PM
Response to Reply #1
8. I remember all that talk as well.
Technology was going to free us from work that was drudgery and we would have more time to do things we loved to do. But one thing they never mentioned was how we would get enough money to support ourselves and do the things we want to do.
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johnd83 Donating Member (190 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-19-11 10:01 PM
Response to Original message
3. Previous thread on this topic
I put up a thread on this topic a few weeks ago and completely agree. We are going to need fewer and fewer workers. This is only a bad thing because of the way we structure our economy. The potential to do more "good for all men/women" projects is striking but elusive.
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drokhole Donating Member (759 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-20-11 02:28 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. Dang, I must have missed that thread. Thanks for the link, great insight! nt
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Tace Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-19-11 10:45 PM
Response to Original message
4. Dr. M. King Hubbert Had Some Good Ideas
He wasn't an economist, but a geophysicist best known for his Peak Oil theory.

He also had some ideas about an energy-based economy that address what you mention:


Hubbert's ideas about work are even more heretical. Work is becoming, he says, increasingly unimportant. He thinks it is conceivable that the future work week might be on the order of 10 hours. Indeed, because production will have to be limited by increasingly limited mineral resources, that might be inevitable. And that, Hubbert stresses, could be the foundation of an earthly paradise.

"Most employment now is merely pushing paper around," he says. "The actual work needed to keep a stable society running is a very small fraction of available manpower."

The key to making this cultural alteration is to come up with a limitless supply of cheap energy. Hubbert feels the answer is obvious--solar power...

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golfguru Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-19-11 11:10 PM
Response to Original message
5. Most factories have moved to China
that is the main reason we have few manufacturing jobs.

Next time you go shopping at Target/Wal-mart/K-Mart, observe how many
items are made in USA. You will be lucky if 20% are made in USA.
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AdHocSolver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-20-11 02:49 AM
Response to Original message
7. The corporatists have specifically designed a system that reduces the need for workers.
Big box stores such as Wal-Mart displaced smaller businesses throughout the country that needed greater numbers of workers in their operation.

This is because the bigger store needs fewer workers than the several smaller stores employed, which the bigger stores drove out of business. Each smaller store would require its own set of employees to perform the functions of a manager, sales clerks, bookkeeper, stock person, purchaser, advertising person, custodian, and maintenance. The giant corporation that displaces these smaller businesses has many of these work functions such as bookkeeping, marketing, and purchasing performed by a small number of people in a central location for dozens or even hundreds of stores thereby eliminating all of those jobs required by the smaller businesses.

The same goes for fast-food chains like MacDonalds or Burger King compared to restaurants, delis, and diners.

Big agribusiness factory farms have driven many family farms out of business. The consumer has not benefited as the cost of food is much higher than it was thirty years ago.

Corporate mergers and buyouts are done to reduce competition and eliminate "duplications" of employees. Computer systems are merged and half the programmers of the now merged companies are eliminated. The same goes for marketing, purchasing, accounting, personnel, and other functions.

With respect to technological items, products are designed for the most part to be unrepairable. If your gadget stops working correctly, buy a new one and recycle the old one (that is, throw the old one away). More and more "features" are packed into one gadget, which is useful to the manufacturer to demand a higher price, which people are willing to pay, even though the added cost to the manufacturer is often trivial compared to how much more money the manufacturer can collect for it.

The real issue is that, besides reducing the number of workers, the reduced cost of goods to manufacturers has NOT been passed along to consumers. There are a number of reasons for "hidden" inflation. However, the main reason is the "monopolization" of the economy and the reduced choice of consumers as to where you can spend your money (consider your options to "buy American").

The point is that it is not automation, per se, that has caused these economic problems. These problems are due to the deregulation of corporations and the banks, and the corruption of governments that promote cartel agreements such as NAFTA, the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, and corrupt, pro-corporate institutions such as the federal Reserve.

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OllieLotte Donating Member (495 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-21-11 08:03 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. "The consumer has not benefited as the cost of food is much higher than it was thirty years ago. "
I don't believe that.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-22-11 10:13 AM
Response to Original message
10. Read your Marx, folks.
Edited on Mon Aug-22-11 11:08 AM by GliderGuider
So long as workers only receive money if they work, then automation damages their prospects.

The theories of capitalism have always included the ideas that workforce reductions in one area of the economy would be offset by additions in other areas, and that labor is fungible and mobile.

That begs a few questions, though. Like, "How does the money made by automated enterprises make its way into the pockets of those who don't work there?" Or, "What happens when the economy keeps automating but stops growing?" Or even, "What happens to the workers when the entire economy is automated?"

Nouriel Roubini has recently seen the light. He has said that he thinks Marx was right, capitalism does in fact contain the seeds of its own destruction. The effects of automation on workers/consumers make this abundantly clear.

"Paging Mr. Ludd. Mr. Ned Ludd, please pick up the red emergency phone."
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