Where have all the good (times…VH reference!) jobs gone?
Forget shipping jobs overseas, globalization and all that. Automation is changing the marketplace more than ever and making income inequality an impending threat. Coal miners were an important symbol for Trump when discussing jobs lost overseas. But most of those jobs were lost due to automation. When driver-less cars come online large scale, the US will see a loss of some 25,000 jobs a month! And what about accountants, financial analysts, doctors!, bank tellers, farmers, manufacturers, and more are poised to take losses in the next 5-25 years.
Of course, the counter argument is that, many new jobs are created. When machines replace people on the assembly line, people become machine manufacturers and maintenance people. When cars replaced horses on the road, horses went to the wayside but all the stable workers, horse breeders, etc. were replaced by car mechanics, car washes, etc. and when calculators replaced, well, people called calculators, there were new jobs in the burgeoning computer industry.
But this time is different – kinda…
First, there are more and more people every year (and presumably, that means we need more jobs for them to do…) while automation is advancing at an exponential rate. I mean, machines now design, build and maintain new machines. Algorithms design new algorithms – replacing, in some cases, even the programmers!
Consider that there will likely always be jobs… but how many? I mean, Bell Systems connected the entire planet with telephones with about a million employees. Google connects the world with audio, video, and so much more than a telephone ever could – with under 60,000 employees. Think about that… these numbers are not going to reverse themselves and we can expect declining employment coupled with increased productivity in every sector as automation continues…
These hyper-productive entrepreneurs think that they have designed something amazing for the world and should be repaid in kind – with billions. And maybe they should…. but… did they do that alone?
Collective Human Legacy, not Income Inequality
Who gets paid for the concept of the wheel? Or farming? Or the idea of living in cities and division of labor?
Consider that technology for automation is developed generation over generation. It is only through the legacy of this innovation that we all enjoy the fruits of high speed travel, internet service, the highways and parks, computers, etc. It is our collective human legacy that created the world we live in.
Furthermore, any new developments are often the product of timing and the coincidental experiences of the inventor. That is not to rob them of their contribution but if you consider their genetics, their geographic location at birth, their time at birth, their parents’ influence, siblings and friends’ influences, k-12 schooling, neighborhood interactions, access to media and what they saw/heard on it, as well as all the preceding technology and services that allowed their idea to become reality and maybe the influence of partners and/or inverstors as well as the readiness of the market to adopt such a technology – all of which is completely out of their control… well, then, how much of what they did is due to them? Some, of course. As they say, luck favors the prepared. And in the case of any progress in life, we take all that I listed above and mix it with our actions, and we have progress.
Lastly, any product is wholly dependent on consumers for its success. In today’s world, it may seem counterproductive to say this (meaning, some of you might pass out or just click away from this post…) but the consumers should be compensated for their consumption. For, without them, there is no profit to be made.
The disparity between the financial/boardroom/management class and the rest of us is so beyond the pale that it is hard to defend. I mean, is any single person worth hundreds of thousands of other people? Wait, I’ve made that sound silly, it is actually eight people on the planet Earth that own the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the entire human population… what?! Come on… does anyone think that is reasonable or sustainable?! These people are obviously valuable to the human race but each person being worth the same amount as about 500 million people?! Just take it to a logical extreme? Where would you cut it off? Can one person be as valuable as everyone else on the planet? How about two people being as valuable as all others combined?
And it actually causes terrible economic and political problems when that type of inequality exists.
These rich people can only buy so many socks, dinners and movie tickets… so, the economy suffers because the poor do not have much wealth to spend. And what about voting? Is my vote really equal to the guy who has dinner with the senator? Who gives a campaign contribution and has a full time lobbyist and a superPAC? Come on… be real.
So, it is obvious to any rational person that this is an unsustainable model. So, what can we do?
UBI3 to Smash Income Inequality
Society can be broken into 3 tiers. Citizens, Workers, and Entrepreneurs. All of these classes can move from one class to the other, I am not talking about a caste system. I am talking about an income stratification.
Everyone collects the UBI (as is implied in the name Universal Basic Income.) Everyone gets it, no questions asked, no strings attached, no taxes paid on it. Done. You are guaranteed that income and it is a living wage. If you collect this and you do not earn any other income – you are a citizen.
Workers, on the other hand, are exactly what you’d expect. They are supplementing their UBI with a job. They work for someone else. Maybe a school, maybe a company – whatever, they have a job. Why? Because they want more than the UBI and they have time and/or skills to offer. Maybe they just feel meaningless staying at home all day. Maybe their husband just wants nicer things and so they go to work (see what I did there?) Or maybe it gives them purpose or just more cash. I mean, we have Medicaid, homeless shelters, low income housing, section 8 subsidies, food stamps, etc. Why do you work? By the way, all of those social services would be immediately eliminated and replaced with the UBI. That actually makes it much less expensive than one might project because these are expensive and inefficient bureaucracies.
Entrepreneurs. With a UBI, people can take a break from a day to day job to develop skills, investigate interests, and start businesses. And to this income, there is only one ceiling to how much money you can make. Entrepreneurs and workers are progressively taxed to provide for the government functioning and the UBI. The number is re calibrated every year so that the taxes can be as minimal as possible.
Beyond Income Inequality
Keep in mind, even though I tend to be extremely liberal on some issues, I am an advocate, generally, for smaller government and lower taxes. I advocate for lower regulations on people and small, personal businesses, schools, churches, and community groups but I advocate for more regulations when businesses or governments get large. Organizations with such massive influence need to be carefully monitored, it is just obvious. But on the point of income inequality – I think our economy would stabilize, our markets would be stronger with a larger consumer base, and the liberty offered to all people would unleash a whole new wave of innovation that would create more jobs for our computers and machines to do…. this is an upward spiral.