Loss of Jobs Bogeyman


This morning I took out the trash. It is now picked up almost completely mechanically'-the truck drives by, stops, and the driver pushes a button that makes mechanical arms reach out and pick up the huge container and lift it in the air and dump the contents in with the rest that's been picked up around the neighborhood.

Oh, but what a crime this is. I recall when three or four people ran around collecting the trash, lifting the container manually and dumping the contents into the truck. Whoever invented that mechanical contraption must be'-if we are to believe John Kerry, John Edwards and it seems the entire Democratic Party of the United States of America, as well as a bunch of their academic apologists'-a lowly criminal, a thief. He robbed all the folks who used to pick up the trash of their jobs!

Never mind that at the same time new jobs opened up at the plants where these mechanical contraptions are being manufactured. There are now people making these new trucks, administering their various paperwork, guarding the plants and so forth, with new jobs, jobs that didn't exist before. These folks, too, must be in cahoots with the thieves, of course, since they are beneficiaries of the loss of jobs suffered by the trash crews that are no longer needed in our neighborhood.

What nonsense. And the same nonsense is being peddled to people around the country now, by these folks who are banking on monumental economic ignorance so they can get elected to office where they will attempt to enact laws and regulations that only an out and out Luddite could be proud of. Luddites were a bunch of British workers in the 19th century who went about destroying machines that replaced manual laborers and saved a lot of money in the process. They thought that this must be some kind of plot against working people because on first inspection they were, indeed, laid off, replaced by the machines.

The fact that the money saved with these machines'-indeed, with most machines that are introduced to take over the physical or even mental labors of actual human beings-'is then spent on new devices and contraptions which require the creation of new jobs to be produced, marketed, and sold didn't much bother the Luddites. They saw only what stared them in the face, namely, some people no longer working at a job they used to hold down. Thinking it through would, of course, have informed them about just how these things work out, but that was too much trouble.

Or, perhaps, many of those who do the work that's being replaced either by labor saving machines at home or by lower paid workers abroad simply cannot fathom having to be reeducated to meet the needs of a changing market place. This is what is most frightening-'that the Democratic Party and all those who pitch their misguided economic views are really simply catering to the laziest folks in the labor force, those who are unwilling to cope with the need to make some changes in their preparedness for work.

Now, of course, many of us get into a kind of mindless routine and begin to wish that the world would just calm down so we need no longer bother with retraining, learning new tricks, changing our habitual ways. Maybe in our later years this is taken to be prudent, sensible-'after all, all the rat race to keep up can appear rather exasperating.

But what about old dogs learning some new tricks? What about living in the present and not in the obsolete past? Even apart from the narrow-mindedness of this ideology of 'loss of jobs' when it comes to begrudging the world the benefits of innovation, what about one's own premature mental and physical retirement? Is it really such a wonderful thing for one to get caught in a static state, a rot, in other words?

I doubt it. And Democrats should be ashamed to be kowtowing to those who prefer to stand still and prevent the world from moving forward, toward improved ways of living and working.

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Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.