During last month's wave of strikes by fast-food workers advocating for a $15 an hour wage, conservatives and libertarians joked that all the protesters were doing was speeding the move towards automation in the industry. But automation isn't just going to replace relatively low-skilled workers. And some research into the phenomenon indicates that whatever the growth in efficiency, the jobs that are being replaced aren't coming back.
For those who claim that these changes simply move jobs from one sector of the economy to another, Ford points to statistics. Blockbuster once employed roughly 60,000 employees nationally. Redbox, in the entire Chicago area, has a staff of seven. A comparison between Google and General Motors is another instructive example. After adjusting for inflation, General Motors earned a profit of around $11 billion in 1979, when it employed 840,000 workers. Google, in 2012, earned almost $14 billion and employed fewer than 38,000 people. He offers many other examples suggesting that not every job lost in one area is gained in another...The ubiquity of computer trading algorithms on Wall Street is well-known, but Ford also gives many other interesting and less-familiar examples of software encroaching on professions traditionally considered skilled. Narrative Sciences, the company that wrote the sports story on the Red Sox, was a brainchild of researchers at Northwestern and is now used by many media outlets, including Forbes. The CIA provided some investment funding for the company, presumably with the goal of using its products to expedite the analysis and processing of huge streams of intelligence from around the world.[Afraid of robots? You should be. by Nick Romeo, The Daily Beast, June 3, 2015]
Open borders proponents constantly scream that the economy "needs" more workers, which is just cover for wanting more cheap labor. But even that excuse might not hold water for much longer. And as the country shifts leftward economically, government mandates for high wages may simply price out many of the unskilled workers being imported (aside from those working purely off the books). What is the country to do with all these people?
The answer is give them money. The deliberate importation of an underclass and the creation of a permanent progressive majority makes political sense for the American Left. However, in an economy dominated by automation even in professions once thought immune, a guaranteed national income is all but inevitable. And as more and more "unemployable" people are brought into the country, American politics will be dominated by efforts to constantly increase the guaranteed national income. The ancient equivalent was the "grain dole" that ended up dominating Roman politics as the rich attempted to buy off the support of the proles. And once it was implemented, even Augustus found he couldn't get rid of it.
The 21st century will create unprecedented challenges for American government, especially for those who care about limiting the role of the state and not expending the federal deficit. It's disgusting that the American Left seems determined to import people because
they will constitute a permanent underclass. But it's positively obscene that the American Right is refusing to stop a policy that practically guarantees the extinction of its entire ideology.