Will Robots Automate Your Job Away? Full Employment, Basic Income, and Economic Democracy
45 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2018 Last revised: 30 Apr 2018
Date Written: January 10, 2018
Will the internet, robotics and artificial intelligence mean a ‘jobless future’? A recent narrative says tomorrow’s technology will fundamentally differ from cotton mills, steam engines, or washing machines. Automation will be less like post-WW2 demobilisation for soldiers, and more like the car for horses. Driverless vehicles will oust truckers and taxi drivers. Hyper-intelligent clouds will oust financial advisers, doctors, and journalists. We face more ‘natural’ or ‘technological’ unemployment than ever. Government, it is said, must enact a basic income, because so many jobs will vanish. Also, maybe robots should become ‘electronic persons’, the subjects of rights and duties, so they can be taxed. This narrative is endorsed by prominent tech-billionaires, but it is flawed. Everything depends on social policy. Instead of mass unemployment and a basic income, the law can achieve full employment and fair incomes. This article 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 WW2, 42% of UK jobs were redundant (actually, not hypothetically) but social policy maintained full employment, and it can be done again. 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. 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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