I said in discussion with Chris Bishop and Cecelia Tilli on Newsnight Thursday night that I was getting less worried about the future of work. I want to reiterate, less worried, not that I'm not worried or certain yet. But as you might guess or fear, more conversation on this is going on on social media. This is a fuller (though still quick) statement of my present position reposted from Facebook.
I think that what people are worried about is underemployment – not being able to find as good as jobs as they expected or felt they'd earned. But being underemployed doesn't have to mean starving or even being poor. Even people qualifying as in poverty in the USA now are richer than many wealthy people 400 years ago – better nutrition, lower infant mortality, better shelter. The majority of humanity cannot fully express its creative potential purely in their vocation; more of intelligentsia will get used to joining them in this. There may be a glut of paralegals and pharmacists, but I don't think you can really have too many people with undergraduate degrees, particularly if those degrees teach you enough humanities and sciences to really enjoy and contribute to your culture and society.Update from 3 January 2015, another Facebook conversation:
I think the period between 1945-1978 was actually an aberration, where the US Govt used the cold war to artificially prop up white uneducated male wages. The policies starting with The New Deal stemmed from fear of populists uprising such as were seen in Russia & China, but that fear largely ended when the Soviet economy plateaued. If one of the populist candidates (Sanders & Trump) sufficiently disrupt one of the parties' primaries, then maybe there will be a swing back to wealth redistribution at the "middle class" level (not really, cf. Joan Didion "Where I Was From" – calling blue collar workers middle class was arguably part of the intervention), though I doubt they can go back to only favouring one race. Currently the main redistribution is cheap utility / fuel transport (benefits everyone to the extent they consume – neither progressive nor environmentally sound) & food stamps (only benefits the poorest 20%). One issue is that it's very hard to tax and value the trade being done in information. One of my friends has suggested we should tax companies based on their market capitalisation, but the fear there is companies dodging tax by going private. One solution would be to deny legal protections to companies that aren't at least a little public – enough for the market to estimate their value.See also my earlier post Income disparity affects everyone, so it isn't just class warfare.