The Iceman Goeth: Technology and Jobs
Once, there was an iceman working nearly every street in every town in America, including one of our grandfathers. The disappearance of the iceman and the rise of the refrigerator says a lot about how technology affects jobs — and points out what the presidential candidates are desperately avoiding when they talk about the economy.
My grandfather was an example of the “creative destruction” of jobs that economists (and lately presidential candidates) embrace. Technology both creates and destroys jobs, usually at the same time, and ideally because a superior product came along. Refrigerators were better than iceboxes. Eventually even my grandfather admitted it. If you look at the overall economy, the loss of ice routes was more than made up by new jobs making refrigerators.
The key word in creative destruction, however, is “creative.” Now we’re living in another time not unlike the 1930s, with a jobs crisis that’s partly a massive failure of financial markets and partly a huge technological shift in the nature of work. There’s no question the Great Recession slammed the global economy. But one reason why the jobs market has been so slow to recover is that technology is enabling us to do more work with fewer people — or with people anywhere around the world.
Check out the full blog, “The Iceman Goeth: Politicians Ignore the Biggest Threat to American Jobs,” at the Huffington Post.