This will be a very long reply, as it is also working notes for my book. Any well written replies both pro and con may well be quoted therein.
All the folks who read my rants and scribbles and reply are my fact checkers and I really appreciate your help!
We have discussed this before.
I am very well informed about automation, from both a tradesman’s and a professional managers pov. I turned out two or three times as much work as a welder, using newer techniques and machines, in the oughties as I did in the sixties.
And as a farm manager, I went from using forty horsepower machines to three hundred horsepower machines utilizing different operating principles in our orchards, and cut the time needed for the major routine operation of applying pesticides by over eighty percent from the sixties to the oughties. I started hauling apples out of the field in sixty pound crates, hand loaded, and quit hauling them out in thousand pound bins, using a tractor mounted forklift. I sold our last few crops for well under half what we got fifty years ago in terms of purchasing power per bushel sold. I got roughly twice to four times the nominal money, but the prices of the things I bought with it went up from four or five times to twenty times, lol.
Yes, automation lowers the cost of living , except for the folks who lose a major portion of their income as a result of it.
Been there, seen it, done it, got the tee shirt. A drawer full of them actually, because lots of times one of the guys on a job would run some off with a company or crew logo, the dates of the job, and what we wanted to brag about or lie about, lol. So I have one that reads ” Schrader Machine and Welding. If it ain’t the crack of dawn or a broken heart we can fix it. ”
The last really close by furniture factory where I once worked as a maintenance tech has reduced the payroll by a quarter over the last ten years while increasing production, according to the production manager, who is a beer drinking friend and neighbor.
( I suppose everybody here knows I used to be a world class rolling stone when it comes to switching jobs and professions every few months to every couple of years, on average. I did eventually put in six years in the classroom, which is my record longest period except farming. You can slip in a few months trucking, welding, carpentering, etc, during the slow seasons on the farm. You make those months up by working six or seven days twelve hours or longer in the busy seasons. )
Yes, we have lost more manufacturing jobs to automation than we did to exporting, according to some people. Maybe we have. We have also lost a few million more jobs in construction and various other trades to immigrants both legal and illegal. But the losses to automation have been more gradual, and thus less disruptive.
MY first point is that the people who used to have these jobs have paid the price in entirely disproportionate fashion. They have essentially lost their ass because there are VERY few things they can do now, or will ever be able to do, to earn a decent wage or salary again.
These are my people, and I am their partisan spokesman in this case.
Now here is another entirely relevant point that can be made in terms of non linear change, which has been a hot topic here recently.
The price of labor is highly inelastic, just like the price of oil. If there’s excess supply, the price crashes.
If the local furniture plant needs only fifteen people to take the place of retirees or to expand operations in a certain part of the plant, and the HR lady, who used to be one of my sisters, and the production manager, who is my beer drinking friend and neighbor, can get them dirt cheap if over a hundred qualified applicants show up. This has been the case for the last couple of decades or so in that industry.
And incidentally, twenty years to twenty five years ago, all the screws, knobs, fasteners, drawer guides, finishes, etc, everything except the wood, came almost entirely out of American factories. Almost all of that stuff comes from Asia now.
What we have done, essentially, collectively, is to donate the former living standard of our working class to the newly emerging working class in the developing world.
(As an aside, Ocare is a similar deal, with folks making good money being forced to subsidize those who don’t. I know a guy who makes about sixty or seventy, with a girlfriend who makes less than fifteen. She gets good coverage for peanuts, he pays thru the nose for the basic plan, even though he is young, healthy, no high risk factors, etc.
They will be getting married as soon as she graduates, lol, so it’s ok in his case, he is willing to subsidize HER. But from then on BOTH of them will be young, healthy, low risk and paying thru the nose. They are very liberal personally, but they are going to vote their wallets in a few weeks.
It doesn’t take a huge surplus of qualified workers to force wages and benefits offered by employers down dramatically.
Now I am a Darwinist, intellectually, in the literal sense of the word, and I do realize and understand that such changes ARE inevitable, except if politically blocked, and that they can only be delayed or prevented only so long even then.
But we could have kept those jobs and industries home, via politics, rather than exporting them, the export thereof being ENABLED by politics.
Furthermore, there is a BIGGER picture than just the immediate boost to the larger economy, national and world, just as there is a huge difference it the real cost of burning coal and the nominal or purchase cost of burning it.
My second point is that we are paying that cost in substantial part because we moved millions of people from the purchasing power defined middle class to the underclass, where they are either partially or wholly supported on tax money, and it’s not just food stamps, or other direct welfare payments I am talking about. We have armies of social workers, jailers, cops, lawyers, and medical people , in substantial part, that were formerly unnecessary, as part of this downhill slide into poverty or near poverty of so many people.
Move people by the millions from the self supporting tax paying middle class, and put them into the tax consuming lower class, and add in a couple or three or four million more lawyers, cops, jailers, etc, who actually contribute NOTHING to our collective living standard, compared to what they would if employed as ahem, teachers, carpenters, engineers, etc,…………
Now lets look at an even BIGGER picture, namely our place and status in relation to the rest of the world. NOTE, I am a Darwinist, and since I DO believe that there are WINNERS AND LOSERS I personally consider it to be MUCH better to be on the winning side if possible, lol.
If there were no globalization on the grand scale, there would still be an enormous amount of international trade, especially in resources or goods that are obtainable in limited quantities from a limited number of sources.
But suppose we hadn’t enabled the fast rise of China, by allowing China to send junk here by the tens of millions of containers full, in a never ending stream. We wouldn’t be looking at a rising power quite capable, assuming no Chinese collapse, of taking our place as the predominant economic and military power of the world. Your opinion as to the value of this economic and military dominance may be different, of course.
We wouldn’t be looking at coal being burnt in China in mega quantities, at least not so soon. It might have taken them another twenty or thirty years to get where they are NOW, industrially, and the wind is blowing their CO2 here, so it makes virtually NO difference as to WHERE the coal is burnt, etc.
It is true that all the various sciences and technologies would be a little behind their current state of development, maybe a decade or more in some cases, without globalization, but science and technology continue to advance and we would still have just about everything we have today, without globalization in the usual sense of the word.
And we would have a LOT more time, maybe as much as a decade or two, to deal with the economic and ecological storm headed our way as the result of pollution and resource depletion.
Another decade or two of basic research and development would put us in an infinitely better position in relation to renewable energy, conservation, efficiency, and PUBLIC AWARENESS of the gravity of our problems.
I could go on but I am getting sleepy. Old men wake up a lot in the middle of the night, lol, but I will still get in a couple more hours sleep before good daylight.
I may not be able to PROVE my case, but I do have one, and I am more interested for now in honest discussion of it than otherwise. The time to catch errors is NOW , when only a few people will be laughing at me, lol.
I recognize that there ARE real benefits to globalization, with perhaps the greatest one of all being that globalization creates economic and maybe cultural ties that really and truly reduce the odds of major countries going to war with each other.
I will give these benefits due consideration in my book.