These days, the nation, the world, is faced with the problem of how to distribute wealth, wealth that is being created using less and less labor input? How to distribute the profits from highly capitalized, highly automated, production? Unions, that had been much a part of the solution to the distribution problem in the early 20th century, are becoming more and more irrelevant. A new economic model is desperately needed.
Since the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, wealth has been created by the production of manufactured goods. To date, the sharing/distribution of this wealth has been by way of exchanging labor for wages. Except for the brief period from around 1940 to 1970 when union jobs commanded good wages, this method never really work all that well; much of the time, the god awful of Zola, Dickens, and Sinclair Lewis. In this, the age of technology, for a price, many task can be, have been, partially or completely automated using a combination of computers, servo motors, sensors, and programming. Now, many tasks, once performed by well paid union workers, are being performed by ‘robots’. Today’s work force tends to be either professional, highly technical, or service, with the professionals and technicians being well paid and the service workers often being paid less than a living wage. Good paying blue collar union jobs have become rare. In the heydays from around 1940 to 1970, the wealth created from the production of manufactured goods was distributed via the good union salaries to the economy as a whole. As a consequence, merchants thrived, towns thrived, schools thrived, farmers thrived, contractors thrived, … Much of society, including municipal governments, was premised on this model.
We now need an economic model that will somehow directly distribute the profits from production to the population in a somewhat equitable manner that doesn’t rely on the exchange of labor for wages. If, somehow, sufficient numbers of the population shared in the profits from automated manufacturing, and distributed their share into the community at large by consuming goods and services, thus giving others the means of consuming, such a model wouldn’t look a great deal different than the one existent from 1940 to 1970. If, for example, in exchange for the federal monies granted corporations during the COVID pandemic, the government had demanded corporate shares in return, in a sense, the public, via the government, would now be part owners in these corporations. The federal government could then distribute any future returns from this ownership to the public. In another example, a government, federal, state, or local, could exact a share of a corporations profits by way of taxes, then distribute those revenues to the populace. Governments can nationalize corporations. And, no doubt, there are, will be proposed, other ways of accomplishing distribution going forward.
There has to be another way. Not changing isn’t an option. It makes no sense to continue doing something that does not, cannot, work.