06/19/2017

Zuckerberg’s Opiate For The Masses

Andy Kessler, Wall Street Journal

At Harvard’s commencement last month, dropout Mark Zuckerberg told eager graduates to create a new social contract for their generation: “We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful.” He then said to applause: “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things.” Who wouldn’t like three grand a month?

Having the government provide citizens with a universal basic income is the most bankrupt idea since socialism, but others in Silicon Valley still have been proselytizing money for nothing. “There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at the World Government Summit in Dubai earlier this year. “I think some kind of universal basic income is going to be necessary.”

Robert Reich, President Clinton’s labor secretary, summed up the wrongheaded thinking a few months ago: “We will get to a point, all our societies, where technology is displacing so many jobs, not just menial jobs but also professional jobs, that we’re going to have to take seriously the notion of a universal basic income.”

This is a false premise. All through history, automation has created more jobs than it destroyed. Washboards and wringers were replaced by increasingly inexpensive washing machines, while more women entered the workforce. Automated manufacturing and one-click buying has upended retail, yet throughout the U.S. millions of jobs go unfilled. With Amazon’s proposed purchase of Whole Foods , the online giant is primed finally to bring efficiency to the last mile of grocery shopping—but don’t count on all grocery jobs to disappear.

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