For Both Labor and Automation
I have read some conservative commentators expressing concern that high minimum wages would make automation economical, and thus make low-level employment obsolete. This solicitude towards the working poor is unexpected from that quarter; so let me complete the surprise, from the opposite quarter, by expressing gratitude for the technological obsolescence of unskilled labor.
Unionism stimulates robotics. A well-paid work force with benefits and pensions is in effect a price-support for the high-tech industry. I see this as a positive ironic consequence of labor power, and an effect that we should consciously exploit. We should raise the price of human labor, precisely in order to force capitalists to automate.
And why not? It’s better for a working man to be well-paid to work himself out of a robot’s job, than to keep doing robot’s work forever at poverty pay. Too bad the gig’s temporary, but at least it leaves a positive legacy for the worker’s children; namely, that they’ll never have to do the robot’s work.
Case in point: farm work. You want strawberry-picking robots? Then give the strawberry-pickers green cards and union memberships.
I admit perplexity about my strategy’s endgame. What to do when market forces create robots that are cheaper and more reliable than humans at everything? And I don’t just mean strawberry-picking or factory work; I mean doctoring and lawyering and stockbroking and even CEO-ing.
The last profession to fall will be the oldest. When robots take over prostitution, then that’ll be it for any human ever having any job ever again.
What happens when money makes money meaningless? That too would be an ironic consequence. What does a civilization do when it’s so successful that it doesn’t need anyone? For the people, would that be abandonment or liberation?
I see at least two possible outcomes. One is fascism; that is, mass human sacrifice to the dead god of dead money. Another is aplutism; that is, basic-income Star Trek economics. Can you think of others?