The Coming Conflict
28 January 2013 | Pago Pago, American Samoa
(photograph of older, less sophisticated robots)
The Coming Conflict
A rock and a hard place are coming together. The precondition to make their crack up inevitable is the new wave of technology about to descend upon us. Robots and sophisticated computerized processing with huge memory and hyper-complex algorithms that can do the work of financial analysists, legal research associates, surgeons, accountants, production line employees, architects, drivers, salesmen and myriad other occupations are going to replace literally millions and millions of us. On net, most employees will be eventually displaced from our labor markets.
At the turn of the century, many if not most of us were employed in agriculture. Mechanization replaced us and we migrated into urban areas and took jobs in factories. That was the way it was through WWII which got women into the labor market and kept them there. Then more lately, when American businessmen shipped American jobs and factories overseas, the push to get rid of the American labor began in earnest. The service sector of the economy filled to over-flowing with people struggling to find work and wages dropped substantially. Many left the labor market at that time, unable to find work, suitable or not. You know, the lazy shiftless bums that Republicans love to talk about. But now something else is happening.
After the 2008-2009 recession when so many were laid off, business orders of robots, computerized equipment and software went through the roof rising more than 25 percent over trend lines. Why, because capital managers decided to take advantage of the situation and seriously began in earnest replacing more labor with new machines that can do their work. Millions upon millions of robots are being order now for installation in the next few years and the new wave of technology is beginning to descend on us in earnest and quickly. More people are being shoved out of the labor markets. The percentage of our working age population to those employed is under 58 percent now and falling. It was over 64 percent more recently.
Are these just more of what Republicans call lazy, shiftless bums or is America truly failing to generate adequate employment for its population. In the last decade, on net, America has generated no new jobs and yet it needs 18 million new jobs each decade just to accommodate its population growing at 30 million a decade.
If jobs aren't available, how will America survive? How will families earn income to buy goods and services? What will they do? One answer is to transfer income from the rich to the unemployed in one manner or another. But the rich have seen this coming for decades and have conditioned our thinking not to ask for more money in the form of taxes or to tolerate socialism. They have built up an income defense industry and have propagandized the population. All are supposed to be John Galt's. They have lobbied government for lower taxes which are now very low by historical standards. So where is the slack in this system? How are people to get by?
Labor markets bleed labor. The rich defend and hoard their income and wealth. The ranks of those without a source of income swell. The economy sags for want of buyers with income to buy all the goods and services. In time, profits will slip as it become harder to find markets without undisplaced labor and buyers with income. What happens when a desperate and unsustainable stalemate develops well beyond where it is. What is our government bought off by the oligarchs to do?
Tokenism will undoubtedly be the initial response. Our standing army so abhorred by Jefferson and others is too much at the ready to move against us and suppress our resistive elements and protect the property of the rich and wealthy. But what is government to do -- placed as it is between a rock and a hard place, just as we will be? Will it circle the wagons and align with the don't-give-a-shit Plutocrats or will it represent the people after an initial bout of tokenism? Alternatively, will democracy fail and our government be taken over in a relatively bloodless coup by the oligarchs, making real and tangible their present financial alignments? But would it be so easy? Romney came close.
Or does the popular vote and taxation stand a real chance to fashion, say, a Scandinavian solution along the lines I have discussed, or will we just go to a bare bones negative income tax system and fight about the subsidy amounts? To be sure, the rich capitalists are going to want to hang onto as much as possible but aside from continuing to buy votes, how will they do that, and if successful, how dangerous will Americans become in their situation? While not the optimal mix for fighting a revolution, there are no shortage of guns in America.
Blood could well flow in this situation and in larger quantities. We are hitting a brick wall, folks. Much is going to have to give.