December 7, 2014

Automation is Progress

       In a debate with my mother the other night, she was one of the many people that thought machines and technology take away the jobs of people. This thought has slight logic but if looked at more in depth, it is wrong. Automation actually creates jobs. It can create jobs that never even existed before automation. Ludwig Von Mises would agree that innovation and technology are the keys to progress in an economy.
       Historically, automation has created far more jobs than it has taken away. It is true that automation does take away jobs directly, but can create far more. Look at computers for instance. Before computers, there were a lot of jobs for people who had to carry out tasks that a computer can now do with ease and in no time at all. Sure, those jobs were lost, but look how many jobs the invention and application of computers has produced. Millions!
       Not only does automation create jobs, it helps the economy and society progress and in doing so raises the standard of living for all. Again, look at computers. Before they were widely used, a college student would have to go to a library and manually skim through pages to find what he/she's looking for. That could take hours. Now, a quick Google search will give the answer you were looking for and much more in seconds. So now that that college student has saved hours on that hypothetical project, he can use that time for a business start-up. Many billion dollar companies were start-ups that were started in college. What if those people didn't have the extra time?
       Clearly automation and innovation are very good for the economy, society, and the standard of living assuming you want the most progress for all three. Mises was highly in favor of this idea and it still proves concrete in todays world.


Larry Eubanks said...

I suggest there is a theoretical or conceptual way to confront the question about new machines and jobs. Return to the idea of Robinson Crusoe and explain that in order for Crusoe to have a better life in the future he will have to be productive in the present, and that his productivity in the present can be increased in the future if he takes the time to make tools (aka machines today) for future use. Machines don't take jobs, they enhance every job a person chooses to attempt to accomplish.

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