The ever-recurring doctrine of "technological unemployment" -- man displaced by the machine -- is hardly worthy of extended analysis. It's absurdity is evident when we look at the advanced economy and compare it with the primitive one. In the former there is an abundance of machines and processes completely unknown to the latter; yet in the former, standards of living are far higher for far greater numbers of people. How many workers have been "displaced" because of the invention of the shovel? The technological unemployment motif is encouraged by the use of the term "labor-saving devices" for capital goods, which to some minds conjure up visions of laborers being simply discarded. Labor needs to be "saved" because it is the pre-eminently scarce good and because man's wants for exchangeable goods are far from satisfied. Furthermore, these wants would not be satisfied at all if the capital-goods structure were not maintained. The more labor is "saved," the better, for then labor is using more and better capital goods to satisfy more of its wants in a shorter amount of time.
Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State, with Power and Market, Scholars Edition, Chapter 9, p587, originally published in 1962.
"A curse on machines! Every year, their increasing power relegates millions of workmen to pauperism, by depriving them of work, and therefore of wages and bread. A curse on machines!"
This is the cry which is raised by vulgar prejudice, and echoed in the journals.
But to curse machines is to curse the spirit of humanity!
It puzzles me to conceive how many men can feel any satisfaction in such a doctrine.
For, if true, what is its inevitable consequence? That there is no activity, prosperity, wealth, or happiness possible for any people, except for those who are stupid and inert, and to whom God has not granted the fatal gift of knowing how to think, to observe, to combine, to invent, and to obtain the greatest results with the smallest means. On the contrary, rags, mean huts, poverty, and inanition, are the inevitable lot of every nation which seeks and finds in iron, fire, wind, electricity, magnetism, the laws of chemistry and mechanics, in a word, in the powers of nature, an assistance to its natural powers. We might as well say with Rousseau -- "Every man that thinks is a depraved animal."
This is not all. If this doctrine is true, all men think and invent, since all, from first to last, and at every moment of their existence, seek the cooperation of the powers of nature, and try to make the most of a little, by reducing either the work of their hands or their expenses, so as to obtain the greatest possible amount of gratification with the smallest possible amount of labor. It must follow, as a matter of course, that the whole of mankind is rushing towards its decline, by the same mental aspiration toward progress, which torments each of its members.
Hence, it ought to be revealed by statistics, that the inhabitants of Lancashire, abandoning that land of machines, seek for work in Ireland, where they are unknown; and, by history, that barbarism darkens the epochs of civilization, and that civilization shines in times of ignorance and barbarism.
There is evidently in this mass of contradictions something which revolts us, and which leads us to suspect that the problem contains within it an element of solution which has not been sufficiently disengaged.
Claude Frederic Bastiat, The Bastiat Collection, p31, published by the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, written 1850.
The confusion starts with the misinterpretation of the statement that machinery is "substituted" for labor. What happens is that labor is rendered more efficient by the aid of machinery. The same input of labor leads to a greater quantity of or a better quality of products. The employment of machinery itself does not directly result in a reduction of the number of hands employed in the production of the article A concerned. What brings about this secondary effect is the fact that -- other things being equal -- an increase in the available supply of A lowers the marginal utility of a unit of A as against that of the units of other articles and that therefore labor is withdrawn from the production of A and employed in the turning out of other articles. The technological improvement in the production of A makes it possible to realize certain projects which could not be executed before because the workers required were employed for the production of A for which consumers' demand was more urgent. The reduction of the number of workers in the A industry is caused by the increased demand of these other branches to which the opportunity to expand is offered. Incidentally, this insight explodes all talk about "technological unemployment".
Ludwig Von Mises, Human Action, Scholar's Edition, Chapter XXX, p768, Originally published 1949.
Did any of the people supporting the OP's original concern/argument, including the OP, actually listen to Ron Paul?
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" - Patrick Henry
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