Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rifkin's new book continued

Continuing from this post.

Chapter 8 on work highlights that automation, robotics and computer programs are taking over much of the workforce and replacing human labor at an accelerating pace. He gives countless examples which are all true. However I question when he dismisses that many job losses are due to relocation to cheaper labor markets like China (124). There is no question that it is valid. It's true that even China is slowly taking up the automation process, and that they will eventually replace their own cheap labor with such tech. But right now cheap human labor far outweigh it and is a direct reason for many US companies to ship manufacturing and textile jobs thereto. Most of Walmart's products come from China and why they make such huge profits.

Near the end of the chapter he talks about deep play replacing hard work, the former more concerning with social capital. He thinks this will come about when we are all empowered to be prosumers, both creating, consuming and sharing value as well as products. That may be, but in the meantime millions have lost their jobs and millions more will. We can social network all we want, and create/share intellectual/spiritual value all we want, but we might starve in the process without income. I guess that's one way to solve the current labor problem.

He also does not analyze another factor caused by both automation and shipping many jobs overseas. Big businesses like Walmart and McDonald's have driven wages down for what few existing jobs are still available. With 3 people for every job we take what we can get to feed our families, like it or not. Meanwhile those very same businesses are reaping record profits and just don't want to share the wealth. They rather see those hard-working folk have to get food stamps and other social welfare programs that cost society rather than pay them a living wage. Sure, things look rosy in Rifkin's future society but right now not so much. He doesn't deal with what we need to do now to address these problems of capitalism in the interim. I'll take Reich, Sanders, Warren and Krugman for that job.

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