Labor and Unemployment: The Grim Future of the First World Economy

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It is no secret that first world countries are exporting a lot of our jobs. It has been discussed for well over 20 years now, and become more and more common. Everyone knows how Detroit was built around the automotive business, and is collapsing on itself in the wake. The thing is, Detroit isn't alone. When the recession hit, stores of all types in all towns closed up, and they're not coming back. Who needs Borders when many of us get our books from Amazon. Who needs Blockbuster when we have Netflix? I don't want to badmouth those businesses, I'm actually very fond of them, but how many people are out of work because those stores are gone?

We're moving toward an economy where the lower class isn't needed. Yes, there will always be some of those basic jobs. Fast food workers, grocery stores, that sort of thing. But how many people can they really employ? Not enough, the current unemployment rate shows us that. And that rate will only get worse in the future. Right now an e-reader is a luxury item, the same as a television in the 50s or an internet connection in the 90s. In 2013, everyone is expected to have an email address, and you'd be looked at like you came from the moon if you said you didn't own a television. So what happens in ten or twenty years when an e-reader is expected, and releasing a paper book is like releasing an album on vinyl? Libraries will cease to exist, except as a website. Publishers will massively downsize.

The internet, computers, and machines in general have given us the ability perform tasks on our own that would have taken an entire office team days or weeks to accomplish when our parents were our age. And that is a wonderful thing. But those jobs are gone, and they're not coming back.

image

People love this graph. We'll talk for days about how the wealth distribution is flawed. But WHY is it so flawed? Because the working classes are being killed off. It is a common refrain. "Go to college, take on thousands of dollars in debt, get your degree, and then go on unemployment." Why? Because they're training you for jobs that are endangered, if not outright extinct. And as we talked about before, unskilled labor is dying out too. Obviously, some jobs can't be replaced. You'll probably never do away with plumbers and electricians. How many of those do we really need, though? Especially when most of your former retail clerks and burger flippers are doing the same thing?

Where does the economy go from here? What is the future? I don't have an answer to that. I don't know if anyone has an answer to that. Every year, more and more middle- and lower-class jobs will disappear. Modernisation and progress will make them obsolete. Who is going to go to college in 2035, after growing up hearing their parents lament the mountains of debt they gathered for a piece of paper and an education in a field that was drying up before the paper was even theirs? How does society cope when unemployment is over 25%?

I am especially curious to hear from our right-wing forum members on this. Because Communism is starting to look like a pretty sensible alternative to a country that screams "get a job!" while killing off those jobs. What is the future when the middle and lower classes aren't needed?

Here is a serious question. Does anything actually need to be done? I agree with your assessment that technology is slowly but surely replacing jobs. Ten people in a modern factory can do the work of a hundred in one from the 40's, and that will only continue to become more prevalent as we develop more tools to allow us to further automate the process.

But, as you admitted, the lower and middle classes are being phased out because they simply aren't necessary anymore. So does anything need to be done? After all, they'll cease to have value after a certain point. 'Bailing' them out by creating redundant jobs for them to pointlessly toil away at serves no meaningful purpose, yes?

Kopikatsu:
Here is a serious question. Does anything actually need to be done? I agree with your assessment that technology is slowly but surely replacing jobs. Ten people in a modern factory can do the work of a hundred in one from the 40's, and that will only continue to become more prevalent as we develop more tools to allow us to further automate the process.

But, as you admitted, the lower and middle classes are being phased out because they simply aren't necessary anymore. So does anything need to be done? After all, they'll cease to have value after a certain point. 'Bailing' them out by creating redundant jobs for them to pointlessly toil away at serves no meaningful purpose, yes?

But the problem also lies in that the driver of the economy is the middle and lower class consumption of goods. They no longer have jobs/money, they no long buy. When the buying slows down, the need for production also goes down and the employment issue only gets worse.

And besides, you haven't answered the question: what happens to the people in those classes when the work is gone? You state "they'll cease to have value", but what does that mean? Does it mean a country will simply have to deal with a permanent lower class with no prospects (perhaps beyond crime), or does that stretch into the sci-fi soylent green style of solution to what happens with that population. Just because a group ceases to have a meaningful economic input doesn't mean they simply vanish into thin air.

davidmc1158:

Kopikatsu:
Here is a serious question. Does anything actually need to be done? I agree with your assessment that technology is slowly but surely replacing jobs. Ten people in a modern factory can do the work of a hundred in one from the 40's, and that will only continue to become more prevalent as we develop more tools to allow us to further automate the process.

But, as you admitted, the lower and middle classes are being phased out because they simply aren't necessary anymore. So does anything need to be done? After all, they'll cease to have value after a certain point. 'Bailing' them out by creating redundant jobs for them to pointlessly toil away at serves no meaningful purpose, yes?

But the problem also lies in that the driver of the economy is the middle and lower class consumption of goods. They no longer have jobs/money, they no long buy. When the buying slows down, the need for production also goes down and the employment issue only gets worse.

And besides, you haven't answered the question: what happens to the people in those classes when the work is gone? You state "they'll cease to have value", but what does that mean? Does it mean a country will simply have to deal with a permanent lower class with no prospects (perhaps beyond crime), or does that stretch into the sci-fi soylent green style of solution to what happens with that population. Just because a group ceases to have a meaningful economic input doesn't mean they simply vanish into thin air.

The market will simply cater to the upper class, because they're the only ones who have significant capital. I foresee the lower class essentially becoming enslaved once they no longer have any means of supporting themselves (Or you can call them indentured servants. Whatever). Lower class works for the upper class in exchange for things they cannot afford on their own, and the leftovers are either dealt with (Imprisoned once they inevitably turn to crime), or shipped elsewhere. This is, of course, for a society in which production is largely (if not entirely) automated. So it's still a very long time off- possibly hundreds of years away. Maintenance, development, resource collection, etc are still necessary as well.

Leaving the poor to their own devices generally ends in their own self-termination. The aftermath of New Orleans showed that well enough, where corpses were literally being shoved in the corners of the Super Dome while some survivors took pot shots at the police and national guard who were attempting a rescue. I'm sure that if it really came down to it, the lower class wouldn't even want to be saved. Humans are funny that way.

So, essentially, the rich can construct their own 'super cities', take who they need from the lower class in order to operate the infrastructure, then flip the bird at everyone else. Unless something drastic happens, like thermonuclear war, that's how I envision the future.

Kopikatsu:
The market will simply cater to the upper class, because they're the only ones who have significant capital. I foresee the lower class essentially becoming enslaved once they no longer have any means of supporting themselves (Or you can call them indentured servants. Whatever). Lower class works for the upper class in exchange for things they cannot afford on their own, and the leftovers are either dealt with (Imprisoned once they inevitably turn to crime), or shipped elsewhere. This is, of course, for a society in which production is largely (if not entirely) automated. So it's still a very long time off- possibly hundreds of years away. Maintenance, development, resource collection, etc are still necessary as well.

Leaving the poor to their own devices generally ends in their own self-termination. The aftermath of New Orleans showed that well enough, where corpses were literally being shoved in the corners of the Super Dome while some survivors took pot shots at the police and national guard who were attempting a rescue. I'm sure that if it really came down to it, the lower class wouldn't even want to be saved. Humans are funny that way.

So, essentially, the rich can construct their own 'super cities', take who they need from the lower class in order to operate the infrastructure, then flip the bird at everyone else. Unless something drastic happens, like thermonuclear war, that's how I envision the future.

Soooooooooooo French Revolution-style political upheavel resulting in mass slaughter of the upper classes then?

More seriously, the upper classes cannot support a general economy because of simply numbers: there are not enough of them to purchase enough goods to keep a consumer-based economy (the kind the currently runs the world economy) going. Trying to return to medieval serfdom (and that is what you are basically describing) would result in the collapse of the current world economy and destroy the monetary wealth the upper classes have amassed.

Which would be interestingly ironic, I grant you that.

As for the self-termination comment, I will simply say that the human population has never suffered any general down-turns on more than a microscopic level since the Black Plague years. Even in the midst of the worst economic situations we have had.

New jobs will always arise. Digitalization creates a need for server technicians, web designers, translators, postmen, IT-lawyers, support call center employees etc. etc.

Problem is that many have gotten educations in fields that are in decline, instead of those which are on the rise. Reality evolved past a generation. And then there's of course those who're incapable of anything but menial jobs. I wouldn't really fear a Communist revolution from those though, given their lack of abilities... and if push came to shove, the advancement in weaponry such as drones. The time for revolutions is long over.

People will adapt to survive in the new situation. Or they won't. That's how things work. I'm in a field where the supply of workers currently surpass demand, so I'm looking into job opportunities both domestic and foreign, as well as continued education to Ph.D level. If you're willing to move anywhere and take anything that'll keep you fed, then the risk of starvation isn't high, nor will it become so. The easy days are over, but nobody ever promised that things would be easy.

i used to work in the library industry and while i love the net and digitising of texts the fact its pretty much being seen as the single choice these days scares the hell out of me. because libraries dont have the patrons these days like they used to and are forced to cater to things like coffee shops, larger and larger computer areas, etc room for actual books, etc decreases and the budgets only goes so far. you wouldnt believe the number of books that are burned and the final straw for me and the reason i left the industry was seeing a 100+ year archive of a newspaper digitised and then burned.

carefully kept books and manuscripts can be kept intact for centuries to come, but your typical dvd wont last 40 years.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/the-library-of-discarded-books-20130504-2izs2.html thats a recent article that really sums it all up.

its not just a case of unemployment and people being discarded its knowledge as well

I've recently decided that this futuristic argument is utter bollocks, and our economy will just shift to be focused on other things (providing it's managed correctly). For example, if you went back a couple of centuries nobody would believe you if you said agriculture would form a very small percentage of the world's GDP, and would still manage to support 7 billion people. Automation has sent people from the fields into offices & various other industries to create new products.

Imperator_DK:

Problem is that many have gotten educations in fields that are in decline, instead of those which are on the rise. Reality evolved past a generation. And then there's of course those who're incapable of anything but menial jobs. I wouldn't really fear a Communist revolution from those though, given their lack of abilities... and if push came to shove, the advancement in weaponry such as drones. The time for revolutions is long over.

Or alternatively, revolutions just become even more of a useless bloodbath than they previously were. That certainly seems to be the case in Syria, which although doesn't have the same government as Western states has a comparable military.

edit: A word on digital books since they've been mentioned a lot

Digital books have not actually slowed down the sales of physical books that much, so publishers are actually better off than if there was just one technology. If we ever transition entirely to e-readers then it's very possible that publishers will go extinct, but that's a good thing as they no longer serve much purpose and are inefficient. Previously it was not possible to publish a book by yourself & have it sold to millions, but nowadays you can probably do it in under an hour.

Also if you continuously distribute digital books across loads of devices & archive them, they are way more resilient than paper books. Not to mention the fact that you can electronically search them (this is proving a major boon for linguistic research), and find obscure books from 50 years ago by searching google in a minute rather than library shelves for several hours.

Paper books are also really bad for the environment & deforestation, e-readers have the damage of about 30 traditional books but little after that. Digital books are also way more efficient at storing data which means libraries don't have to make difficult decisions & we don't have cluttered shelves.

In short, don't be scared of the coming revolution, and try and embrace it when it feels comfortable.

I expect the bluecollar workers outdoors to last the longest. The more delicate of machines only work within a controlled environment. The construction worker and the gardener will be harder to replace by a robot than a surgeon.

Industrialization and automation have brought us much prosperity. Society is just too slow to keep up with the developments.

The solution simple: we need to work less.

Robots and computers take over much of our work and are more productive than humans ever will be. There will be less and less for us to do. There's no avoiding this, as robots don't need a great workforce to keep them running. You cannot simply ramp up production, buy more bots and hire more techies, as there is no demand for such increased production.
So there will be less for us to do.
This doesn't have to be a problem aslong as every person owns a share in the robot world.

Imperator_DK:
New jobs will always arise. Digitalization creates a need for server technicians, web designers, translators, postmen, IT-lawyers, support call center employees etc. etc.

While I agree that new jobs will always arise, I'm skeptical that it will always be the case that humans will be the best to fill them. What happens when the price of a robot replacement and its maintenance falls below that of sustaining a human being? And the robot replacement does every job just as well? The minimum wage can only go so low, and weekly hours so long, before people find what their labor is priced insufficient to live. Then it seems you either own some sufficient means of production or you don't. For humans in such a position, what today we consider to be morality would seem to be unaffordable.

Seanchaidh:

Imperator_DK:
New jobs will always arise. Digitalization creates a need for server technicians, web designers, translators, postmen, IT-lawyers, support call center employees etc. etc.

While I agree that new jobs will always arise, I'm skeptical that it will always be the case that humans will be the best to fill them. What happens when the price of a robot replacement and its maintenance falls below that of sustaining a human being? And the robot replacement does every job just as well? The minimum wage can only go so low, and weekly hours so long, before people find what their labor is priced insufficient to live. Then it seems you either own some sufficient means of production or you don't. For humans in such a position, what today we consider to be morality would seem to be unaffordable.

In the future, if things go on as they do now. We will have the technology to feed the entire human population three dozen times over, if said harvesting of resources costs next to nothing I see a future of education in philosophy and a focus on expansion.

Either that or the lower class will rise up against the upper class. Something I hope for to happens in at least one place so the rest of them can fall in line. And be afraid.

Used to be that wealth and power came with responsibility, nowadays wealth and power comes with the responsibility to toss the responsibility off to those below you.

Who pays for the rich mans crimes? The Working Man.

Simple as that. I haven't seen a whole lot of cases recently with the rich man getting his justice served. And there most certainly have not been a lack of crime.

Aris Khandr:

We're moving toward an economy where the lower class isn't needed.

I am especially curious to hear from our right-wing forum members on this. Because Communism is starting to look like a pretty sensible alternative to a country that screams "get a job!" while killing off those jobs. What is the future when the middle and lower classes aren't needed?

They are needed.

They're just in different countries now.

This sense of disconnection and detachment is what I think so readily facilitates the extreme Libertarian ideals. Such ideas really are a luxury. It used to be the case that, if you were rich, you were still surrounded by poverty on a daily basis. This led some wealthy people to arrogance, but far more to charity.

Now that they can exist in their little enclaves, scooting between them in helicopters and expensive, heavy, armoured cars, they don't see the suffering they cause.

Hell, after the raft of documentaries and popular ethnographies released over here, I should think that the British public are more in touch with America's poor than the American upper/oligarchic classes.

It's BBC 2, so it's severely dumbed down, and it's not the one I'm looking for, but hey-ho it's an OK example.

Nikolaz72:

Used to be that wealth and power came with responsibility, nowadays wealth and power comes with the responsibility to toss the responsibility off to those below you.

Or, to put it rather more snappily:

"It use to be that power came with responsibility. Now the only responsibility, is to delegate.

Ehhh...this thread is essentially a big slippery slope argument: oh my god, what if the Internet destroys all jobs! What if we have robots that can do everything for us and we are not needed anymore! What if the middle and lower-class doesn't have any jobs! AHHHHH! Honestly, how about we actually tackle that topic if any of those events actually does arise instead of engaging in some pretty far fetched theorizing?

Especially given that similar developments have happened earlier already as Esotera pointed out - there has been a considerable shift from agriculture to industrial jobs during the nineteenth and early twentieth century and another afterwards shifting the distribution away from industry and towards the service oriented economy we are living in right now; And despite that for instance old workshops that existed until the middle of the nineteenth century vanished under the pressure of rapid industrialization it in no way spelled doom for the labour market - just for a type of outdated companies. I see no reason why this shouldn't be the case these days, too.

Also not every country is America and as Danny correctly pointed out, industrial & manufacturing jobs that vanished in the US largely just went elsewhere and didn't just stop existing - the shift of these jobs into other countries is one of the reasons of the rapid success of developing economies such as India, China and Brazil. Moreover, it is even questionable that industrial jobs will stop existing altogether, too even if the economy is that of a first world nation: Germany, for instance, gets much of its economic growth these days from exports done by their globally well-placed manufacturing industry (the so-called "Mittelstand"). It also seems that recent dents and reversals in outsourcing and offshoring suggests that many industrial firms still see a lot of potential and need in first world economies.

I'd disagree with the gloom you seem to be seeing around you, albeit it is there but not for much longer. In reality the US is poised to retake it's seat as the manufacturing capital of the world(assuming there is not monumental shift in other countries within the next couple years). I could list all the reasons why areas like China are becoming less appealing and the US is becoming more appealing but the following article illustrates it better than I could.

http://www.businessinsider.com/manufacturing-jobs-returning-to-america-2013-2

It's funny when you see people from the same websites as business insider, forbes, or nbc market on tv they are doom and gloom but read through some of the articles and you get the feeling there is a vast amount of optimism there. Honestly situations like that make me not even want to watch tv news anymore because I feel like I'm being spoon fed bullshit on tv where as an article online is more thought out than some guy standing on the stock exchange saying that business is in collapse and jobs continued to be shipped overseas.

Overall my opinion is that the next couple years will see an incredible growth in skilled labor needs. Hopefully the government will support this endeavor and change up our public education system to be more competitive but even if that's not the case we will still be one of the most appealing countries for new highly skilled immigrants to come to. Of course I'm looking at this from the perspective of an American and can't really comment on the European situation.

Clearly the solution is SPAAAAAAAAAAACE

Not like the rich will get off their bums and volunteer for high risk projects in space, nor will robots as useful(at least in the beginning) that far away from Earth as they wont be able to replace parts easily nor control it very well.

Aris Khandr:
Who needs Borders when many of us get our books from Amazon. Who needs Blockbuster when we have Netflix? I don't want to badmouth those businesses, I'm actually very fond of them, but how many people are out of work because those stores are gone?

Let's bust some rhymes, shall we?

Jobs are a means, not the ends in themselves
People work to live better, to put food on the shelves
Real growth means production of what people demand
That's entrepreneurship, not your central plan

What does this mean?

Well, it means that jobs are not a great metric, efficiency is.

And the solution the OT is hinting at here, propping up failing businesses? The OT does realize everyone but the bankers hated the TARP bailout, right?

Esotera:
I've recently decided that this futuristic argument is utter bollocks, and our economy will just shift to be focused on other things (providing it's managed correctly). For example, if you went back a couple of centuries nobody would believe you if you said agriculture would form a very small percentage of the world's GDP, and would still manage to support 7 billion people. Automation has sent people from the fields into offices & various other industries to create new products.

Imperator_DK:

Problem is that many have gotten educations in fields that are in decline, instead of those which are on the rise. Reality evolved past a generation. And then there's of course those who're incapable of anything but menial jobs. I wouldn't really fear a Communist revolution from those though, given their lack of abilities... and if push came to shove, the advancement in weaponry such as drones. The time for revolutions is long over.

Or alternatively, revolutions just become even more of a useless bloodbath than they previously were. That certainly seems to be the case in Syria, which although doesn't have the same government as Western states has a comparable military.

edit: A word on digital books since they've been mentioned a lot

Digital books have not actually slowed down the sales of physical books that much, so publishers are actually better off than if there was just one technology. If we ever transition entirely to e-readers then it's very possible that publishers will go extinct, but that's a good thing as they no longer serve much purpose and are inefficient. Previously it was not possible to publish a book by yourself & have it sold to millions, but nowadays you can probably do it in under an hour.

Also if you continuously distribute digital books across loads of devices & archive them, they are way more resilient than paper books. Not to mention the fact that you can electronically search them (this is proving a major boon for linguistic research), and find obscure books from 50 years ago by searching google in a minute rather than library shelves for several hours.

Paper books are also really bad for the environment & deforestation, e-readers have the damage of about 30 traditional books but little after that. Digital books are also way more efficient at storing data which means libraries don't have to make difficult decisions & we don't have cluttered shelves.

In short, don't be scared of the coming revolution, and try and embrace it when it feels comfortable.

An economy isn't "managed," it is organic.

Physical books of living authors are what is still in vogue. People like getting autographs. Public domain books that are largely free to download to my Kindle? There's no way I'd buy a physical copy of that!

Big_Willie_Styles:

People work to live better, to put food on the shelves
Real growth means production of what people demand
That's entrepreneurship, not your central plan

What does this mean?

What a subtly biased channel that is.

4:20 seconds in.

It means you're not a particularly critical thinker, have only read a single author, and view economics through the lens of your political theory rather than a more scientific paradigm.

Stop going on About Hayek like he's immutable- it's going to make you look bad.

Don't get me wrong, he wasn't wrong about everything, but he wasn't right about everything either.

For someone who so often quotes Hayek on the complexity of the economy, you do seem to think you know it all already.

Danny Ocean:

Big_Willie_Styles:

People work to live better, to put food on the shelves
Real growth means production of what people demand
That's entrepreneurship, not your central plan

What does this mean?

What a subtly biased channel that is.

4:20 seconds in.

It means you're not a particularly critical thinker, have only read a single author, and view economics through the lens of your political theory rather than a more scientific paradigm.

Stop going on About Hayek like he's immutable- it's going to make you look bad.

Don't get me wrong, he wasn't wrong about everything, but he wasn't right about everything either.

For someone who so often quotes Hayek on the complexity of the economy, you do seem to think you know it all already.

The complexity of the economy is simple to understand though. The complexity is what makes spontaneous order so amazing.

He wasn't right about everything. He's not a God to me. But he's my intellectual hero. That's what he is to me.

He's my favorite economist. I agree with his theories more than anyone else's.

I read plenty of economists. I just like Hayek the most. I am currently on a Henry Hazlitt kick because I am reading one of his books and I am devouring it.

ah, the Luddite scruple.

I suppose that there are 4 solutions; Protectionism, primitivism, education, or proletarian revolution, with social disintegration (not a solution) being least favorable and most likely.

Aris Khandr:

I am especially curious to hear from our right-wing forum members on this. Because Communism is starting to look like a pretty sensible alternative to a country that screams "get a job!" while killing off those jobs. What is the future when the middle and lower classes aren't needed?

Photosynthetic hair.

Seriously though, I don't think we're going to run out of jobs in the near future. But on the other hand, we might find that the wages for low-skilled labour drop or stagnate and the wealth gap will become immense, back to medieval or early industrial revolution standards where the "average" worker was staggeringly poor compared to the upper echelons.

Manufacturing is on a death march. The advances in additive manufacturing is slowly killing the factory system. Right now the tech industry has already embraced 3d printing for years now which is why China is becoming so ornery lately as they are slowly turning into the world's assembly line rather than its factory and running on tighter and tighter margins. Intel, for example, recently spent a fortune on building an plant out in Arizona based entirely on additive techniques to create their chips and has profited immensely from it, while AMD, using the older system, is suffering terribly despite technically having the leg up on Intel as far as quality and innovation goes. AMD simply can't keep up with the new pricing structure Intel has been able to achieve with additive production. And as printers become cheaper and more precise, more and more industries will move to it; because it is simply SOOO much cheaper in terms of labor costs.

The only thing holding back the flood is that no one has figured out how to economically print aluminum and steel quite yet. Indirect sindering tech, while incredible, produces such an inferior form of aluminum compared to stamping as to be useless for anything beyond decorative work and very low stress applications. Direct titanium sindering is simply way too expansive at this point and runs smack dab into all of titanium's limitation as a metal that it simply isn't feasible as a replacement right now. Once the problems with the printing of steel and aluminum have been ironed out, the factory will be well and truly dead and we'll likely move back into an artisan economy where everything is produced by small groups of people and on a more local scale. Think preindustrial revolution and a return of the Mom and Pop operations with maybe a franchise twist. Large corporations will become glorified think-tanks franchising licenses out for local production.

That's not to say such a transition won't be rocky. We'll like see quite a bit of unrest similar to the Luddite revolt of the early industrial era where artisan master craftsman stormed factories to burn equipment that was rendering them obsolete. I can tell you now that India and China are likely going to go into the shitter for a while when their manufacturing sector dries up, at least until the catch up or move into the commodities market. And as big as that market might be it doesn't have the same profit margins as manufacturing has now.

We will likely have another Great Depression before the transition is complete. But on the other side of that canyon will be a beautiful world to say the least as a truly post scarcity world begins.

Skilled labour is a valuable resource. And I daresay that the West has it in far greater abundance than the developing world.

And I'm going to take a guess here and assume that it is useful to have your cheap labour in the same location as your skilled labour, rather than halfway across the globe.

Kopikatsu:
Here is a serious question. Does anything actually need to be done? I agree with your assessment that technology is slowly but surely replacing jobs. Ten people in a modern factory can do the work of a hundred in one from the 40's, and that will only continue to become more prevalent as we develop more tools to allow us to further automate the process.

I agree. It's the same with the Luddites back in the 19th century. Industrialisation paved the way for a better society, but in the short term cost a lot of people their jobs. Right now, it's the same. It's unfortunate, but is it avoidable? Should it be changed? Why?

Aris Khandr:
It is no secret that first world countries are exporting a lot of our jobs. It has been discussed for well over 20 years now, and become more and more common. Everyone knows how Detroit was built around the automotive business, and is collapsing on itself in the wake. The thing is, Detroit isn't alone. When the recession hit, stores of all types in all towns closed up, and they're not coming back. Who needs Borders when many of us get our books from Amazon. Who needs Blockbuster when we have Netflix? I don't want to badmouth those businesses, I'm actually very fond of them, but how many people are out of work because those stores are gone?

We're moving toward an economy where the lower class isn't needed. Yes, there will always be some of those basic jobs. Fast food workers, grocery stores, that sort of thing. But how many people can they really employ? Not enough, the current unemployment rate shows us that. And that rate will only get worse in the future. Right now an e-reader is a luxury item, the same as a television in the 50s or an internet connection in the 90s. In 2013, everyone is expected to have an email address, and you'd be looked at like you came from the moon if you said you didn't own a television. So what happens in ten or twenty years when an e-reader is expected, and releasing a paper book is like releasing an album on vinyl? Libraries will cease to exist, except as a website. Publishers will massively downsize.

The internet, computers, and machines in general have given us the ability perform tasks on our own that would have taken an entire office team days or weeks to accomplish when our parents were our age. And that is a wonderful thing. But those jobs are gone, and they're not coming back.

image

People love this graph. We'll talk for days about how the wealth distribution is flawed. But WHY is it so flawed? Because the working classes are being killed off. It is a common refrain. "Go to college, take on thousands of dollars in debt, get your degree, and then go on unemployment." Why? Because they're training you for jobs that are endangered, if not outright extinct. And as we talked about before, unskilled labor is dying out too. Obviously, some jobs can't be replaced. You'll probably never do away with plumbers and electricians. How many of those do we really need, though? Especially when most of your former retail clerks and burger flippers are doing the same thing?

Where does the economy go from here? What is the future? I don't have an answer to that. I don't know if anyone has an answer to that. Every year, more and more middle- and lower-class jobs will disappear. Modernisation and progress will make them obsolete. Who is going to go to college in 2035, after growing up hearing their parents lament the mountains of debt they gathered for a piece of paper and an education in a field that was drying up before the paper was even theirs? How does society cope when unemployment is over 25%?

I am especially curious to hear from our right-wing forum members on this. Because Communism is starting to look like a pretty sensible alternative to a country that screams "get a job!" while killing off those jobs. What is the future when the middle and lower classes aren't needed?

I don't know that I would be considered a right-wing or not, but I'm fairly middle of the road with some liberal tendencies when it comes to human rights and conservative tendencies when it comes to guns and laws. The only real solution I can think of is by increasing the pay to the point that a full time job would only need to be 30 hours a week. That would allow for more employees by 25%. The issue being profits would be severely hampered, and these large conglomerates are who fund presidential elections in the first place, so it would never happen.

As for communism, it works well in theory, but not in practice. Unless you can do away with corporate and government corruption, it will always fail.

Employment is the becoming the scarcest resource on the planet. The general population will run out of viable means to pay for food, water, and fuel before those resources ever grow scarce themselves. At some point we'll have make a group decision that labor is no longer a barrier between people and their basic necessities.

That or mass starvation. We'll see, huh?

Aris Khandr:

I am especially curious to hear from our right-wing forum members on this. Because Communism is starting to look like a pretty sensible alternative to a country that screams "get a job!" while killing off those jobs. What is the future when the middle and lower classes aren't needed?

Well here's the thing about Communism, and I only know this from reading the Wikipedia page on Karl Marx, but the original idea of Communism wasn't to compete against Capitalism, it was supposed to be a natural evolution of the economy just like the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism. This would naturally take place because technology would allow enough goods to be made to distribute them equally allowing everyone to live a good life, it's just Marx suggested that we urge this process on through either Democratic or revolutionary means. I think Marx is correct that this process will eventually happen naturally, but he was a little ahead of his time. It kind of makes sense to end Capitalism (at least in it's current form) because as the production has increased the resulting wealth disproportionately went to the rich who was producing, creating that bloated top 20% we see there, and it's only going to get bigger.

Here's an economic theory just off the top of my head, I think the rich will eventually come to support more social programs so the lower classes who can't get jobs have some money to spend on their products. The rich won't agree to having themselves be taxed to support the jobless so, the money, as always, will come out of the middle class resulting in only two class statuses: near poverty but with some disposable income, and the ultra fucking rich. The rich becoming even more small as the process of consolidation and monopolization increases. The rich will become the governing force (because they increasingly already are) and the rich will govern the money supply (because they already do, it's called the central banking system). If they can keep the education standards low, the population vice ridden and the water fluoridated, they might keep us passive enough not to rise up.

Here's the important thing though, it's not necessarily Capitalism that's the problem, it's in my eyes the overthrow of Capitalism by Oligarchy, which you may argue is the inevitable end result of Capitalism, but it's still not what we have in mind when we say we want a free market. The problem is when some of the rich gets so rich that they can utilize the government and manipulate currency and stocks to keep the competition down and that's not really a free market. It's not the 20% who's the problem and I wouldn't even say it's the 1%, it's more like the .01%. The old money titans who's wealth is literally "incalculable". If we're going to redistribute the wealth some, let's start with them.

Nikolaz72:

In the future, if things go on as they do now. We will have the technology to feed the entire human population three dozen times over

We already do, but those with the means choose not to.

I'm a pacifist but some in this thread are making me want to join in with my more violent brethren.

I saw a quote from Richard Buckminster Fuller the other day which resonated somewhat with me, and it seems quite pertinent to regurgitate it now.

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.

I think this is possibly a little optimistic (it was 1970, the youth he was talking about are the 60 year old daily mail readers of our time) but I think it contains a grain of truth and I think we could probably do with recapturing some of that optimism.

How does society cope with unemployment? Well, I think there are two options. We can do what we're doing now, creating pointless service jobs and degrading and punitive benefit systems to satisfy some obsolete Protestant vanity that grinding, repetitive labor has some kind of inherent moral value, or we can embrace the fact that technology is slowly freeing us from scarcity and allow ourselves to turn our minds to actually solving the remaining problems of our world, building systems, theory, ideas and technology to make the world a better place.

When we stop viewing education (not just university education, but all education) as a tool to simply prepare us for the drudgery of the labour market or divide us into social classes and instead see it as what it actually should be, a means of developing and instrumentalizing human intelligence, then I think the "problems" of our 25% unemployed society rapidly start to disappear.

Just random thoughts though.

Aris Khandr:
stuff

The problem with this is that people are thinking of ways to preserve the current economy model and the current system.
I think that our technological progress has surpassed our societal progress (we are primitive beasts with advanced toys). Society needs to catch up with the technology and in order to do that, we've got to change the system at one point or another. Capitalism was useful when it was necessary but now it's possible to implement other, more suitable systems (preferably ones that don't center around greed and gathering of wealth).
We've got the technology and the resources to give literally every person on the planet a decent life but we don't do that because of the way our current system is designed (it's better to be selfish and keep everything for yourself than it is to share with others, even if you don't agree with that morally, you know it's the truth, from a pragmatic standpoint).
The problem with that however is that it takes time for people to get used to a new system. The generation that decides to finally make that move will have a hard time. Their children, who will be raised in a new system, will reap most of the benefits. No generation wants to be the one that sacrifices itself for the next one, though.

evilthecat:
I saw a quote from Richard Buckminster Fuller the other day which resonated somewhat with me, and it seems quite pertinent to regurgitate it now.

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.

I think this is possibly a little optimistic (it was 1970, the youth he was talking about are the 60 year old daily mail readers of our time) but I think it contains a grain of truth and I think we could probably do with recapturing some of that optimism.

It's interesting that back in the early 20th century, even plenty capitalists believed that the increased productivity of the world could be used not to amass ever greater loads of wealth, but instead to reduce the work burden on everyone - people able to live in reasonable comfort on 20-30h a week instead of 40h. Needless to say, this didn't work out, nor probably ever will it.

HardkorSB:

The problem with this is that people are thinking of ways to preserve the current economy model and the current system.
I think that our technological progress has surpassed our societal progress (we are primitive beasts with advanced toys). Society needs to catch up with the technology and in order to do that, we've got to change the system at one point or another. Capitalism was useful when it was necessary but now it's possible to implement other, more suitable systems (preferably ones that don't center around greed and gathering of wealth).
We've got the technology and the resources to give literally every person on the planet a decent life but we don't do that because of the way our current system is designed (it's better to be selfish and keep everything for yourself than it is to share with others, even if you don't agree with that morally, you know it's the truth, from a pragmatic standpoint).
The problem with that however is that it takes time for people to get used to a new system. The generation that decides to finally make that move will have a hard time. Their children, who will be raised in a new system, will reap most of the benefits. No generation wants to be the one that sacrifices itself for the next one, though.

Ultimately, competition (not necessarily the capitalist sense) tends us away from this. This competitive force might be, for instance, nationalism. Just one country busting a gut to become powerful, quite possibly with the willingness of its citizens, creates a drive for other countries to match it, if for no other reason than fear it might turn guns on them.

A simpler factor might be the interlinked nature of power and wealth. Those with wealth have power, thus they will use that power to increase their wealth, the gains of capitalism go disproportionately to the top, which means those at the top making their employees work harder. Although on a psychological level, the people at the top are also generally ambitious and hard-working: they may well consider that if they want to bust a gut, everyone else should too.

Aris Khandr:
It is no secret that first world countries are exporting a lot of our jobs. It has been discussed for well over 20 years now, and become more and more common. Everyone knows how Detroit was built around the automotive business, and is collapsing on itself in the wake. The thing is, Detroit isn't alone. When the recession hit, stores of all types in all towns closed up, and they're not coming back. Who needs Borders when many of us get our books from Amazon. Who needs Blockbuster when we have Netflix? I don't want to badmouth those businesses, I'm actually very fond of them, but how many people are out of work because those stores are gone?

We're moving toward an economy where the lower class isn't needed. Yes, there will always be some of those basic jobs. Fast food workers, grocery stores, that sort of thing. But how many people can they really employ? Not enough, the current unemployment rate shows us that. And that rate will only get worse in the future. Right now an e-reader is a luxury item, the same as a television in the 50s or an internet connection in the 90s. In 2013, everyone is expected to have an email address, and you'd be looked at like you came from the moon if you said you didn't own a television. So what happens in ten or twenty years when an e-reader is expected, and releasing a paper book is like releasing an album on vinyl? Libraries will cease to exist, except as a website. Publishers will massively downsize.

The internet, computers, and machines in general have given us the ability perform tasks on our own that would have taken an entire office team days or weeks to accomplish when our parents were our age. And that is a wonderful thing. But those jobs are gone, and they're not coming back.

image

People love this graph. We'll talk for days about how the wealth distribution is flawed. But WHY is it so flawed? Because the working classes are being killed off. It is a common refrain. "Go to college, take on thousands of dollars in debt, get your degree, and then go on unemployment." Why? Because they're training you for jobs that are endangered, if not outright extinct. And as we talked about before, unskilled labor is dying out too. Obviously, some jobs can't be replaced. You'll probably never do away with plumbers and electricians. How many of those do we really need, though? Especially when most of your former retail clerks and burger flippers are doing the same thing?

Where does the economy go from here? What is the future? I don't have an answer to that. I don't know if anyone has an answer to that. Every year, more and more middle- and lower-class jobs will disappear. Modernisation and progress will make them obsolete. Who is going to go to college in 2035, after growing up hearing their parents lament the mountains of debt they gathered for a piece of paper and an education in a field that was drying up before the paper was even theirs? How does society cope when unemployment is over 25%?

I am especially curious to hear from our right-wing forum members on this. Because Communism is starting to look like a pretty sensible alternative to a country that screams "get a job!" while killing off those jobs. What is the future when the middle and lower classes aren't needed?

The middle and lower classes will always be needed-or at least be there. As long as there is a high and middle class, there will be a lower class, and as long as there is a lower class and a high class, there will always be a middle class, et cetera.
This is because of the supply and demand of jobs and the general quilibrium theory in the "job market" and economy. All in all, the fluctuations of unemployment are all natural, as total employment wuld be nearly impossible, if not impossible. In the next century, don't expect much difference in your aforementioned conditions.

Although minor unemployment in the aftermath of technological advances can set a nation slower in development in the short run, it will ultimately benefit the economy due to increased jobs in the field of the new technology and settings of the market in post-impact situations.

Agema:

It's interesting that back in the early 20th century, even plenty capitalists believed that the increased productivity of the world could be used not to amass ever greater loads of wealth, but instead to reduce the work burden on everyone - people able to live in reasonable comfort on 20-30h a week instead of 40h. Needless to say, this didn't work out, nor probably ever will it.

If you count out the current economic climate, which can't have been predicted back then, you probably could live a good life by 40s standards. Trouble is, you'd have to cut out any decent TV, internet, a mobile, out of season food, international holidays and any number of things we have now. The early/mid 20th century standards it would be a well-off lifestyle, but times change.

Well I have no problem with robots taking my,( as long as they all each share a shut off button so we don't have a second geth revolt if you get what I am saying) in fact If that would happen then the middle class would grow so quickly as engineers will be needed, and by then, I think we could form a way for the lower class to disappear. If fact the wealth gap would get lower. There will still have a need for many middle class jobs.

Interesting comments but have you considered what would happen if the system we have now disintegrated.

This nearly happened in 2008 " when Gordon Brown then made the Freudian slip of saying he saved the world, whilst that was an enormous over statement, lets look a little closure. Forget technology for a second, forget the delivery of good. Think how do we pay for them and how has it changed in say 40 years? We are a society globally that survives on credit, you might think that I don't have a credit card I don't have a loan? When did you last pay serious cash out for anything? When the banking system started to collapse what was lost was confidence and fear set in. Hence banks stopped lending to each other, the only thing that stopped this was the state underwriting of them with Cash they didn't have! This part of the system is the real problem. If you went to the supermarket tomorrow and bought your weekly shopping and suddenly the person on the till said we only do cash and you had none, what would you do? Go to the bank and get some? What if the bank wouldn't give you the money because it didn't have it as LIBOR was frozen? How do you eat? You end up in the centuries old situation you just take the goods and don't pay or you starve. The current financial system of loans and credit crosses all employment. If the governments don't get a grip on global banking we are all in for a very nasty shock sooner of later regardless of technology advanced manufacturing, people work so they can live not usually because they like it! So I wouldn't worry about technology taking your job, I would worry more about the working classes being pushed to violence, then the greedy end of the market the rich will hoard cash and valuables, if you don't think this already happens look at gold prices. Any market always have winner and looser. But when the winning is the difference in survival or not a whole other set of skill take over that some would say the working classes are better at! Throughout this thread people have spoke about the almost eradication of the working classes! Do you really believe any class of human being will stand by and be eradicated for market forces! Also consider a very impoverished China who needs 8% growth just to prevent civil unrest, I think we would looking at something far worse than loosing jobs to machinery. The sooner a little more equality enter the minds of politician the better for all. However as I was once told by a person who runs major political campaigns, "politician of all persuasion right or left want just two thing one is power and the other is money, the rest is just window dressing for the media!"
You can't have a utopia without a serious change in politics! No body will ever pay anybody for doing nothing, government does this to prevent unrest. Who is going to pay these blue sky thinker we are talking about? The problem with all politics communism,capitalism, you name it people always want something that other have that why communism never worked.

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