Two pieces of lousy news from economist Paul Krugman. The jobs aren’t there. And more education is not the solution.
… Highly educated workers are as likely as less educated workers to find themselves displaced and devalued, and pushing for more education may create as many problems as it solves. ...Krugman, NYT
Not just in America. Worldwide.
The McKinsey Global Institute recently released a report on a dozen major new technologies that it considers likely to be “disruptive,” upsetting existing market and social arrangements. Even a quick scan of the report’s list suggests that some of the victims of disruption will be workers who are currently considered highly skilled, and who invested a lot of time and money in acquiring those skills. For example, the report suggests that we’re going to be seeing a lot of “automation of knowledge work,” with software doing things that used to require college graduates. Advanced robotics could further diminish employment in manufacturing, but it could also replace some medical professionals. So should workers simply be prepared to acquire new skills? …Krugman,NYT
No. Turns out that’s no solution. Is there a solution? We’re already living in a society in which equality of opportunity is just a memory and the gap between the 90% and the 10% is larger than it’s ever been.
If the picture I’ve drawn is at all right, the only way we could have anything resembling a middle-class society — a society in which ordinary citizens have a reasonable assurance of maintaining a decent life as long as they work hard and play by the rules — would be by having a strong social safety net, one that guarantees not just health care but a minimum income, too. And with an ever-rising share of income going to capital rather than labor, that safety net would have to be paid for to an important extent via taxes on profits and/or investment income.
I can already hear conservatives shouting about the evils of “redistribution.” But what, exactly, would they propose instead?…Krugman, NYT
I have huge respect for Paul Krugman, but I think he walks himself into a dead end. Each generation works towards solutions that often seem like bad solutions to their grumbling, scared parents and grandparents. We’re going through a prototypical moment of change now, moving towards solutions that scare about 40% of Americans. They’re what we call “conservatives” and near-conservatives — people for whom the old ways are the best ways.
What’s changing is the social as well as economic structure conservatives have been clinging to. What’s scary for the old timers and the young fogeys is change itself. They don’t like idea of providing opportunity for the 60% and having to keep up with the 6o%. They view change as a moral lapse.
Our job, should we choose to take it, is to walk boldly past the foot-dragging, terrified 40% and get on with the new society, the new economy, the new world. It means the triumph, if only until the next stage of evolution, of the “other-directed” individual. If that means we have to endure a bout of “socialism,”of sharing, of learning new languages and letting go of tired religions — if it means showing more respect for people who are different from us and if it demands a little less “looking out for number one” — I think we can manage it.
If in the end we become more self-reliant, freer, and more respectful of our world, it won’t be all that bad.
jobless graphic via shutterstock.com