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Employment Obligation?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Commodore, Jun 1, 2014.

  1. Commodore

    Commodore Deity

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    Okay so I got bored a few days ago and decided to watch some Judge Judy. I forget the exact details of the case, but I remember Judge Judy going on a rant about how in "her America" a company is under no obligation to provide employment opportunities to anyone and should be allowed to fire anyone for any reason they see fit. She went on to say something about how she thinks the problem with the US today is that people feel entitled to a job.

    Now, I'm kind of on the fence with this argument. On the one hand I can see the point of those who say that business owners do have a responsibility to society since they are the driving force behind the economy and provide the easiest means for the average person to obtain the money they need to survive.

    On the other hand however, I sort of see where Judge Judy is coming from. While I don't agree with the more extreme parts of her view, but I do sometimes wonder how much freedom we should give business owners to decide how many jobs, if any, they want to offer to the public.

    So what does CFC think? Should businesses be obligated to add jobs to the economy, or should that decision be left completely up to the business owner? For example, lets say there is a small town in which the majority of the residents are employed by Factory X. Now some awesome new technology comes out that would allow Factory X to completely automate all of its processes, requiring little to no human supervision. Should the owner of Factory X be allowed to lay off all his/her employees and automate, or should he/she be "forced" (for lack of a better word) to preserve the town's jobs?
     
  2. Willem

    Willem Deity

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    Well first of all, it's not the business owner that determines how many jobs are created but the economy itself. That should be clear after what the world went through in that last recession.

    As for your hypothetical situation, it would be counter-productive to prevent Factory X from innovating simply to preserve some local jobs. If it's not allowed to keep up with new technology, then chances are it will be out of business completely in time, and then no one will benefit. I have a background in the printing industry, and in the 80's and 90's when computers came on the scene at least 75% of the jobs in that industry became obsolete. The companies that didn't keep up with the changes simply didn't survive the transition.
     
  3. Antilogic

    Antilogic --

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    Ya know, if all the factory owners automate everything, nobody can buy anything because they don't have any income.
     
  4. Willem

    Willem Deity

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    Yes, technology is becoming something of a Catch-22 situation isn't it?
     
  5. Borachio

    Borachio Way past lunacy

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    This is the Luddite argument.

    In the first place, automation of production doesn't lead to everyone losing all those jobs in the service sector. Indeed it seems to increase service sector employment.

    In the second place, even if all jobs were automated, why couldn't the masses just be given enough money to buy the goods produced?

    Bread and circuses goes back to the Romans.
     
  6. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    That process will eventually destroy itself, albeit painfully. If the income of the average worker drops because he simply is not able to work, the scale of the economy will thus decrease until it is financially no longer interesting for businesses to employ automation to begin with.
     
  7. downtown

    downtown Crafternoon Delight

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    I don't think that a business owner is obligated to provide jobs when automation is possible, but there are some sensible limits to the concept of "at-will" employment that help prevent discrimination and are obviously good for society. For example, legislation that prevents a business owner from firing somebody just because they become pregnant.
     
  8. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    I agree with the idea that businesses should not be obligated to employ someone. Rather, self-employment should become the norm once more.
     
  9. Smellincoffee

    Smellincoffee Trekkie At Large

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    ...and...it worked so well for the Romans, didn't it? This vision of people without meaningful work, dependent on the state -- does it not strike you as degrading in some way, insulting, or at the very least, dangerous? Citizen-farmers displaced by decentralization also lost their place in civic life, including the armed services, forcing Rome to depend on mercenaries. In the age of satellites, drones, and data harvesting, how on earth can we justify giving the state any more power?

    While I don't think a firm should be obliged by legislation to add this-many jobs or that-many, the idea of a place deciding to go for 100% automation is intolerable. For my own part, I'm an old-fashioned sort who thinks all businesses should be owned by the people who live in town. I think employers should find a happy mean between profitability and respectable work; no man should have to spend his entire day performing the same rote action over and over again. If there is a hell may Fred W. Taylor be consigned to it.
     
  10. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    I am somewhat hopeful that it is bound to happen as automation will render itself obsolete pretty soon. At the same time, I am also worried that it may be a major bump for Western civilisation, one that break a lot of stuff. I am rather sympathetic to your points.
     
  11. Willem

    Willem Deity

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    It was the leaders of Roman society that brought about it's downfall, not the people on the bottom.
     
  12. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus Retired Moderator

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    Actually, the dispossession of citizen farmers - a problem exaggerated wildly by conservative Roman commentators - actually led to greater military recruitment. The Roman empire never 'decentralised'; it was never centralised to begin with. The line between mercenaries and soldiers is one of ideology, not fact, as we've addressed ad nauseum in other threads. Automated industry does not require unemployment. Cars are grown in Iowa.

    I'm not convinced that there's a better answer to 'what caused the downfall of Rome?' other than 'it's complicated'. I'm not even sure that 'downfall' is a useful term.
     
  13. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    The problem with having no limitations on 'at will' employment is that employers are already immensely powerful relative to their employees. The employees are effectively at the mercy of their employers, and most employers have no mercy.
     
  14. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    Well, wasn't there a time when there were more self-employed workers?
     
  15. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    When most people were farmers, sure. But when agricultural productivity rises everyone can be fed for much less labor. So where does everyone displaced from subsistence farming work?
     
  16. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    Think a bit more recent, like until mid-19th century.
     
  17. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus Retired Moderator

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    That would be about the time when a majority of people stopped being farmers. Farmers were 64% of the American labour force in 1850, and only became a minority in the 1870s. The number of farms in the US increased until 1910. Self-employment in industry was no less a recipe for exploitation than factory work, as a bit of thought readily reveals. The cottage system of manufacture still put producers at the mercy of merchants, giving them absolutely no wage or job security. Indeed, people kept moving into the factories from the countryside even when it became apparent that factories were hardly pleasant places, because they were still better than cottage industry. Most of the lamenting about the decline of the idyllic rural life came from people who had never actually had to work for a living.

    EDIT: In the UK it's largely the same story, but I don't have figures to hand. I do remember that a minority of Germans lived in towns until 1910, though.
     
  18. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    In the mid 19th century the majority of all working people were farmers, fishermen, or other people engaged in basic resource extraction. There were also a lot on individual merchants, tradesmen, and professionals. Many of those businesses had apprentices or assistants who were paid employees. And there was also the rise of the factory system and railroads, where people were paid employees. And, depending on the country you're talking about, household service employees was a very large part of the workforce. As was various forms of agriculture where the worker was bound to the land or the lord, or were employees of a great landholder. Peasants, slaves, and then sharecroppers.

    There was never a time and a place where the majority of all working people were self employed outside of farming, hunting, and fishing.
     
  19. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    That argument has been demoralized over 200 years ago.

    When the US became independent it needed the vast majority of its population working in the fields just to feed itself. Now maybe 5% of the population works in the field, and the country can not only overfeed itself to obesity but export billions of dollars in food, all because of automation. Where is the massive unemployment and economic collapse that resulted from no longer needing all those agricultural workers?

    Fact is you need workers on the new sectors that make automationon possible in others. Technological progress and automation has never lead to permanent unemployment increases, on the contrary. The notion that we should fight automation to keep the economy going is a prime example of not only economic but historic illiteracy.
     
  20. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    The problem is that nowadays, technology can render whole kinds of jobs obsolete while substituting them with more complex jobs most workers are unqualified to do.

    Now, since this all short-term, this will not create permanent unemployment as the economy will adjust itself to the new reality. This time, the adjustment may be harder then ever. At one point, automatisation may put so many workers out of work on a short-term that automatisation itself may no longer financially interesting and businesses have to backpedal.

    Alternatively, it may also be possible that there will be two economies acting in parallel though hardly having any interaction: One automatised economy and a manual one.
     

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