Will Robots Automate Your Job Away? Full Employment, Basic Income, and Economic Democracy
34 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2017 Last revised: 6 Oct 2019
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. In contrast, this article shows why the law can achieve full employment with fair incomes, and holidays with pay. Universal human rights, including the right to ‘share in scientific advancement and its benefits’, set the proper guiding principles. Three distinct views of the causes of unemployment are that it is a ‘natural’ phenomenon, that technology may propel it, or that it is social and legal choice: to let capital owners restrict investment in jobs. Only the third view has any credible evidence to support it. Technology may create redundancies, but unemployment is an entirely social phenomenon. After World War Two, 42% of UK jobs were redundant but social policy maintained full employment, and it can be done again. This said, 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. To uphold human rights, governments should reprogramme the law, for full employment, fair incomes and reduced working time, on a living planet. Robot owners 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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