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Will Robots Automate Your Job Away? Full Employment, Basic Income, and Economic Democracy

33 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2017 Last revised: 8 Feb 2018

Ewan McGaughey

School of Law, King's College, London. Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law Study Group

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Date Written: January 10, 2018

Abstract

Will the internet, robotics and artificial intelligence mean a ‘jobless future’? A recent narrative, endorsed by prominent tech-billionaires, says we face mass unemployment, and we need a basic income. This article shows why that narrative is deeply misguided, and instead that law can achieve full employment and fair incomes. It explains three views of the causes of unemployment: as ‘natural’, as stemming from irrationality or technology, or as caused by laws that let people restrict the supply of capital to the job market. Only the third view has any credible evidence to support it. After World War Two, 42% of UK jobs were redundant but social policy maintained full employment, and it can be done again. Transition to new technology, when markets are left alone, can be exceedingly slow: a staggering 88% of American horses lost their jobs after the Model T Ford, but only over 45 years. Taking lessons from history, it is clear that unemployment is driven by inequality of wealth and of votes in the economy. Democratic governments should reprogramme the law: for full employment and universal fair incomes, on a living planet. The owners of the robots will not automate your job away, if we defend economic democracy.

Keywords: Robots, automation, inequality, law, unemployment, basic income, NAIRU, sheep, Luddites, washing machines, flying skateboards

JEL Classification: E62, E6, E52, E51, E50, E32, E12, E00, E02, D6, J01, K1, J20, K31, J23, J32, K22, J41, J51, J58, J6

Suggested Citation

McGaughey, Ewan, Will Robots Automate Your Job Away? Full Employment, Basic Income, and Economic Democracy (January 10, 2018). Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge, Working Paper no. 496. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3044448 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3044448

Ewan McGaughey (Contact Author)

School of Law, King's College, London. Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge. ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
Strand
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/ewan.mcgaughey.html

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law Study Group

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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