Through the Eyes of Yankelovich
Challenging the Economist Worldview
In a recent New York Times article, the noted American economist Tyler Cowen challenged one of the truisms of economic theory: the assumption that it is just a matter of time before technological innovation replaces all the jobs that it destroys. Economists have taken this assumption for granted ever since Britain proved the Luddite challenge unfounded in the late 18th century. The Luddites wanted to destroy the new machines that they felt were destroying their jobs. But as time passed, technology came to be seen as a mighty creator as well as destroyer of jobs.
Cowen points to an ever-growing abundance of evidence that technology in today’s global economy is threatening skilled middle-class jobs and low-skilled ones. is is reducing the ranks of highly paid workers and lowering the wages of the typical four-year-college graduates.
As a non-economist, I have been waiting a long time for an economist of Cowen’s stature to point to a threat that is increasingly recognized outside the economist profession. For non-economists, there is something mystical and illogical about the assumption that there will always be enough good jobs to go around. It reveals a superstitious faith in the concept of a self-sustaining economy always striving for equilibrium. Indeed, I think Cowen’s question should be reframed in stronger terms: “Why, we should ask ourselves, should we go on believing in the ‘old normal’ when the evidence all points in a di erent direction?”
The complete article can be found in Issue #277 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.