How Technology has Ruined the American Economy

Back in the 1960’s there was a television show about people who lived in the future. In this imagined future, machines had taken over all the boring and dangerous work that people did in the past, leaving them free to enjoy lives of luxury and leisure. Well, half of this story did come true, machines did take over boring and dangerous human jobs so that humans didn’t have to do them anymore. There was a problem however, instead of enjoying wealth and prosperity, these workers found themselves unemployed with skills that have no value in the modern marketplace. Whoops.

When talking about the unexpected rise of Donald Trump, people talk about every cause you could imagine for the unrest that propelled him to the oval office. They talk about immigration, about corporate greed, about racism, but they ignore something huge. What everyone forgets or chooses not to talk about is that an enormous section of the American workforce has lost their jobs due to automation. Blue collar Americans did not lose their jobs to Mexicans. Instead these jobs were taken by robots.

There are good reasons for not publicizing this. For one thing, the corporations that directly benefit from automation represent the same interests with the most power to directly influence politics, both through lobbying and campaign contributions. Hiring human workers is expensive, involves a lot of red tape, and is increasingly being avoided by any industry that can find a way to avoid it. Hence the preference for automation.

Many bright minds are aware of this problem and they have proposed a range of solutions to deal with it. Some advocate a universal basic human income, basically ensuring that the government gives everybody enough money to ensure a basic standard of living. This would require redistributing wealth through taxation which is a very controversial idea in American politics. Another solution would be for entrepreneurs to brainstorm new and creative ways to create jobs and create new types of employment to help the unemployed.

The depressing fact remains that things are likely to get worse before they get better. The election of Donald Trump reflected the frustration of a once proud working class making a self admittedly desperate attempt to get their needs met. The current administration will be unable to live up to this promise and meanwhile, unemployment and income inequality will continue to get worse. If we keep traveling down this path, then America is headed towards another revolution, possibly a violent one at that.

The facts of the matter are what they are. Industry is not going to abandon automation and the wealthy are not going to voluntarily surrender their wealth to the poor. As a society we have got to figure out a way to adapt to the new economic reality before we find ourselves plunged into a state of civil unrest. Like climate change, there is still time to avoid a frightening future, but the imperative is for us to act now.


Why the Kardashians are the New Kennedys

How America’s new first family has redefined the meaning of being famous

This past month marked the 100th anniversary of JFK’s birth, a man still idolized and adored decades after his death. The Kennedy’s are the closest thing that America ever had to a royal family. They were rich, glamorous, powerful and completely charming. It was hard not to love them, they looked like royalty. They represented an image of glamour and privilege that once reflected the aspirations of an entire generation.

Today that image of glamour and privilege looks very different and the Kardashians are a perfect example of this. The most obvious difference is racial. Whereas the Kennedys defined whiteness, a family like the Kardashians exemplify the hybridized ethnic identity that is becoming increasingly the norm. You could even say that the popularity of the Kardashians is a sign that we are living in a post-racial world. This is a controversial idea that seems superficially plausible, however, if you immerse yourself in enough pop culture.

The Kennedy’s became famous by being successful bankers and businessmen and later politicians. This allowed them to reach a place of prominence in society over generations of hard work. The drive of the Kennedy children is legendary, with many of them reaching high levels of political success and influence. This was accomplished with single-minded determination and a tremendous amount of work, running campaigns, drafting bills, meeting with foreign dignitaries to discuss policy, etc.

The biggest criticism of the Kardashians is that they didn’t get famous by doing anything. They just smile in front of the tv cameras and post selfies and somehow inexplicably make millions of dollars in the process. Maybe part of our fascination with them is driven by our curiosity around how a group of people with no apparent skills or talents can make so much money by basically just being themselves.

Maybe legacy is the important thing. The Kennedys established a tradition of political progressivism and social engagement with the political process. The Kardashians, on the other hand, have redefined the definition of what it means to be successful in America. As Americans, we aspire to be wealthy, beautiful and famous. What has changed is that there is no longer a desire to do the work necessary to earn these things, we just feel like we deserve them. Perhaps more than anything then, the Kardashians symbolize our cultural entitlement.

In many ways, you could not find two families that were more unlike each other. And yet, both these families represent the values and ideals of the cultures that support them. When somebody says that they love the Kardashians or that they hate the Kardashians, they’re basically describing how they feel about America. For better or worse, this is the culture that we have created and it is a reflection of us. The America that gave rise to Camelot and the Kennedy family is a place that now exists in the past tense. For better or worse, this is what we have now.

First post

This is a new blog and the ideas for it are still being fleshed out. Basically, this blog will serve as a creative outlet in which I share my thoughts and musings on contemporary culture, politics, and society. With the explosion of digital media in the past decade, there is now more than ever a need for reflection of what we are doing and where we are heading as a culture. I will be incorporating links to articles that I find interesting as well as providing recommendations to books that I may recommend. I hope that this blog will become a place for curious people to come and reflect. I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you my readers.