Thursday, June 23, 2011
The president and dangerous ideas.
As if collectivism isn't bad enough, now the president has verbalized his trepidation regarding innovation and technological advancement. I remember Cynthia Tucker saying the same type of clap trap years ago. She being a columnist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution once remarked that technology was the enemy of the working class. I still have not caught my breath from the shocking nature of that statement. Apparently the president has the same thread of Luddite thought running through his economic mental calculus.
He claims innovation is one reason why workers are displaced and that is no doubt true...and quite wonderful. For you see, economic growth and advancement is a never ending fight between the stinginess of nature and the ingenuity of man, between technological progress and the law of diminishing returns. Without innovation we all lose. The only way we can cope with scarcity is to continually do better and better with less and less (unless of course you are the government).
From history we know people did not want the telephone to be developed since it would displace all those poor telegraph operators. Don't develop the car since mule breeders would lose out. Computers would destroy jobs for filing clerks. Imagine your life without the telephone, auto or computer and how much poorer we would all be. Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper that would cut the corn of 10 men. What happened? Farmers would get together vandal parties and destroy these machines since it would throw 9 farmers out of work, according to their thinking. And if you remember the long shoremans' union strike in California several years ago, one of the sticking points was that the union wanted to continue forbidding management from using the forward button on their computer to send messages. I'm not making this up. They wanted to preserve secretarial jobs by making people have messages re-typed by a person instead of forwarded via email. Email destroys jobs, you see? That is the mindset. And nothing could wed us to serfdom faster than this type of thinking.
I am reminded of a quote from Milton Friedman contained in the attached article: The story goes that Milton Friedman was once taken to see a massive government project somewhere in Asia. Thousands of workers using shovels were building a canal. Friedman was puzzled. Why weren't there any excavators or any mechanized earth-moving equipment? A government official explained that using shovels created more jobs. Friedman's response: "Then why not use spoons instead of shovels?"
Read more about the joy of technological innovation here.