Will Robots Automate Your Job Away? Full Employment, Basic Income, and Economic Democracy
33 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2017 Last revised: 20 Feb 2018
Date Written: January 10, 2018
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
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