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February 19, 2012


Smith, Malthus, Friedman, and now Krugman and Reich and yet others have provided me with economic insights I would not have had but for their contributions. I have concluded that we should be guided but not controlled by the views of classical economists or even those who hold forth today, inviting as it is to abandon one’s views in favor of those ready-made and totally rational columns and books today’s economists write in such brilliant fashion. There is a reason for my failure to acquiesce in such brilliance. I have an idea that the old economics and all the myths and even the realities associated with the old “supply and demand” and “trickle down” and other such stalwart views are headed for the junk heap – and soon. I am of the opinion that we are defending a system about to fall of its own weight in a world of rapidly evolving logistics. We will need a political accommodation whose details we cannot imagine today to maintain a coherent and cohesive society in a new economy stripped of old solutions which are irrelevant in the new order. Yesterday’s politics will not suffice.

I think we are on the cusp of a wholly new and evolving economics, greased by a globalized marketplace and robotic production. Reich has recently written that we would have unemployment even if our multinationals had not “taken jobs to China.” The culprit? A productive process that is increasingly independent of human effort or even human innovation (other than that required for coming up with the new robotics, a continuing project which may soon almost totally exclude humans from the process of producing tangible goods). I think this process will intensify, and at an accelerating rate.

If I am accurate in my surmise, then as a political proposition, all of us, left to right, are proposing yesterday’s solutions to tomorrow’s problems. Given that I am correct, we should be asking how we are going to distribute the wealth to humans when they are essentially unnecessary to the productive process both as to goods and services, a problem we can now glimpse with our current unemployment data (perhaps a precursor of my prediction already happening). We can move to six hour or even four hour days for humans in an attempt to slow down the inevitable, move into massive welfare programs to prevent a Malthus-style catastrophe (what with the global population increase), socialize wealth and/or become involved in all sorts of programs we would never consider now. We are clearly (as a philosophical matter) going to have to redo a lot of our thinking in the new age about the Protestant work ethic, unemployment compensation, even the concepts of “fairness” and “inequality” themselves. A collision of values is a certainty as the “haves” and “have nots” struggle to maintain their status (or even to survive). Brave New World? Something like that, but whose shape we cannot now discern.

Premature theorizing? Perhaps. Nostrodamus? Hardly. Why look for trouble when we have enough already? Because I think it is definitely coming, and soon, and I think we are wasting a lot of political energy on mundane matters that will shortly be swept aside by a tsunami of economic change, radical change. We need much more talk about planning and much less about sexual habits and the like. There is a future awaiting us, and if we are serious about our citizenship and posterity, we will energetically and intelligently fashion it to an America future generations can love and serve. GERALD E

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