Monday, June 17, 2013

Luddites Unchained

Sympathy for the Luddites. Paul Krugman, The New York Times

Sympathy for Paul Krugman. Gavin Mueller, Jacobin
Paul, I’m calling Pure Ideology on your “middle-class society”: you’re slipping management by elites, the villains of this story, back in as the good guys. What every real socialist struggles for isn’t merely redistribution of income. We struggle for control of the means of production, which means not following the rules, but ripping up the old rules and making new ones. That is the only thing that will keep the bosses and bankers from immiserating and enslaving the majority of humanity, which is what “middle-class society” amounts to.

This would mean expressing real sympathy with the Luddites: recognizing that all this technology is a weapon used against us. Hell, in the past few years, and especially the last few days, we’ve had to face the awful conclusion that the Internet itself is one giant automated Stasi. And of course, going a few steps further: refusing to work hard, refusing to play by the rules, and ultimately, refusing a lot of this technology that’s supposedly going to make things so easy for us, somehow, some day.

Our long-term goal is a society of abundance and leisure for all, but our shorter-term goal is smashing the relations of production holding us down. And part of that may be, as it was for the Luddites, smashing a few machines along the way. What do you say, Paul? Those flimsy paywalls won’t protect even your job for long.
By the same author: The Rise of the Machines (Jacobin)

Where Will the Jobs Come From? John Maudlin, The Big Picture. Here's a comment:
Just got around to watching the Mauldin Econ links you had on your blog earlier this week…was struck by the discussion on the impact of technology and overall employment in the future. If robots are doing more and more of the jobs, what are some folks left to do? Well, was reading something else about the duel between labor and capital and was stuck by the following passage:

Back in the American car industry’s tail-finned Fifties, Henry Ford II took Walter Reuther, the leader of the auto workers union to see his latest plant in Detroit. It was just after the UAW had gained another big rise in pay and benefits for its members so Ford may have wanted to make a point. The plant contained the first primitive prerobots replacing workers in some jobs and Ford asked Reuther a question. Pointing at the machines he said: “Tell me Walter, how are you going to get them to join your union?” “I don’t know, Henry”, Reuther replied. “How are you going to get them to buy your cars?”

That exchange illustrated the basic bargain at the heart of the post-war economic consensus. Workers in factories and offices were well paid and they needed to be for the economic system’s health. For without demand supply is useless and in a mass production economy that means the demand has to come from the mass of the population. And for the mass of the population to buy things they have to have the lion’s share of the countries income. That was truer in the 1950′s than ever before in history and US consumers responded by buying everything America could make and becoming the consumer of last resort for the rest of the world as well.
The solutions for unemployment coming from our economists and politicians are just as coherent as that of Miss Utah, below (if not less coherent):

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