For some fifty years now, the question of how to get labor a fair share has been tantamount. Fact being, it was a problem from the beginning of the industrial age and even before. Union labor has never had leverage – the bosses don’t work for them.
For the past 40-50 yrs, the bosses and the shareholders have operated with great reciprocity — management gets rewarded to the extent they reward the holders. Much of this rewards system has come at the expense of the workers, and there wasn’t much they, the workers, could do about it. Over this same period, the demand for labor has decreased. As a result, today’s wages are about one-half what they should be.
Looking ahead another 40-50 yrs, as automation continues apace, the situation for the working class will be many times worse; most production jobs will disappear. We are looking at a future where machines do most of the work of production. One can easily envision a time in the not too distant future when production employs a handful of technicians in place of the many factory workers of the first 200yrs of the industrial age. Many such a factory already exists.
One consequence of the management shareholder reciprocity is today’s Dow Jones Industrial average. An increase in the rate of return on a stock prompts an increase in the stock’s price, prompts a call for a return to maintain the rate. — Voila! a DJIA of $34K. And, greater pressure to keep wages low. The stock market has not been the working class’s friend.
When that automated future is fully here, why would the shareholders need the working class. In fact, one could envision them calling for an end to reproduction amongst all groups other than their own. This means buying themselves an altogether new Supreme Court Majority and re-manipulating the masses into championing this newfound morality. Problem be, who’s going to buy the product that provides the return that they need to support their lifestyle?
That was the original fly in the original ointment. The purpose of an economy was to provide the requisite goods and services. The idea of factory owners taking more than their share, or any share at all, was an imposition of their own making.
Going forward, can we envision an economy that produces the requisite goods and services sans the burden of the rich?
There’s more of us than there is of them. A lot more. And this is still a democracy. The worse the exploitation of the masses by the financial parasite class becomes, the stronger voter support will grow for a strongly redistributionist agenda. (If the parasite class manages to somehow eliminate democracy, the natural end-point of mass discontent would be the same as in France in 1789. I think they’re smart enough to realize that.)
Given technological progress, it’s inevitable that we’ll eventually reach a point where most production is done by automation and most people’s work is no longer needed. After that, work will simply no longer be relevant to the distribution of whatever means is used to buy goods and services. Basic income is one system that could ease the inevitably messy transition from the work-based economy we’ve had for millennia to the new post-work economy. These issues can be managed if the will to manage them is there.
In fact, one could envision them calling for an end to reproduction amongst all groups other than their own. This means buying themselves an altogether new Supreme Court Majority and re-manipulating the masses into championing this newfound morality.
This isn’t China. If the government ever tries to dictate to Americans how many children we can have, the government will be exterminated. Nor are people so easily manipulated, not on such a fundamental matter. If mass attitudes could be easily changed and brought into line that way, then there would be far more unanimity of thinking in the country, instead of the deep divisions and polarization we see.
We do need to be thinking ahead about these issues. There are solutions, if we are bold and imaginative enough.