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 Post subject: Automation and Capitalism (an article in progress)
PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2016 3:12 pm 
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Hey guys, so I've taken to writing articles for an online publication that should hopefully get its **** together and be up sometime soon. If not I may seek other outlets to publish articles at (while bringing discussion back to redmarx).

Anyway, here's the article, lemme know what you think. Couple things to keep in mind, the minimum word count is 500 words, but I'd like to keep it between 500-850 words as is the guidlines for a piece of the nature I'm writing on their site. Also keep in mind this isn't a strictly marxist publication and my audience likely knows jack ****, so I'm trying to construct arguments in a way that doesn't presuppose they already got the lingo down, however obviously I don't want the analysis to suffer because of it either so that's the line I'm trying to walk here.

[quote="ScientifiSocialist"]
Whether you praise our robot overlords or fear for your job, automation has allowed us to achieve unimaginable feats that would baffle the minds of even our most recent ancestors: self-driving cars, the Internet and vending machines with dildos. Never before in human history has such a productive society existed. Economists in the 1930s predicted a shorter work week as a result, yet people in the US now work more hours for less pay which flies in the face of everything this new technology was supposed to promise.

If you work for a living, automation is a scary prospect. Just ask workers at Foxconn, 60,000 of whom were recently laid off for robots. Of course, just because people are fired from one job doesn’t mean that there isn’t other work to be done and many economists argue, like the industrial revolution in the past, that these advancements free up labor for other sectors of the economy. This isn’t inherently bad when you consider that some work just plain sucks and nobody wants to do it. But what happens when automation is so efficient that paying jobs are replaced in numbers greater than those looking for work?

Under a sensible economic arrangement, we would presumably work less hours and everything would be great as economists had promised us years ago. However, automation perfectly exposes the contradictory nature of Capitalist production. Since the social tools (i.e.: factories, the workplace) necessary for making the goods and services we use on a daily basis are privately owned that means the direct benefits in cost savings from automation go to those who own the robots, not the whole of society, even when the resources and labor necessary to run that machinery requires entire communities of people to function. Of course, in sectors of the economy where competition is intense or where consumer demand is low, this can lead to a cost reduction for the consumer. However, as anyone who has paid a convenience fee to use a credit card online can testify, this is not always the case with automation. The worst part is that nobody is safe: white collar work can be just as easy to automate as manual labor.

One proposed solution to this problem is a Universal Basic Income. Simply pay out a minimum salary to everyone to cover basic needs so that they can still be functional members of society. So far pilot programs have shown promise, but as it stands it’s never been tested at the national scale. In the India-based pilot program it lead to positive gains for the disadvantaged, a higher standard of living, and more productivity. It could also theoretically give workers leverage in not having to accept terrible working conditions or pursue personal projects. Unfortunately, this fails to address the main problem of capitalist production: profitability. Even if we give people all the free money in the world, we still face the issue that if production is not profitable that businesses won’t invest. Period. We already see this now with the availability of low-interest capital from banks that hasn’t lead to the desired economic growth.

The only solution to ensure that working people benefit from the advancements of automation is to put the means of production and finance under public ownership so that the time and money saved by that technology can be invested back into the public, instead of sitting in the savings accounts of those who own the robots but refrain from investing if not guaranteed a profit. Not all work generates a profit, and just because paying work is becoming automated doesn’t mean that there still isn’t tons of work to be done. In the US alone, our crumbling infrastructure is in dire need of maintenance, the environment needs cleaning up and public money already takes the risk of doing potentially unprofitable research but private capital buys up those discoveries for their own gain. Without shifting the current paradigm automation means less job security and a lower income, not leisure and prosperity.


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 Post subject: Re: Automation and Capitalism (an article in progress)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 5:07 am 
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I'd say overall it is a good article, you point out most of the things that need to be pointed out with respect to automation, "labour saving" really means "job destroying" in a capitalist economy etc. Maybe point out the fact that a UBI would be paid for from taxing the rich

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 Post subject: Re: Automation and Capitalism (an article in progress)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 11:34 am 
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SS wrote:
The only solution to ensure that working people benefit from the advancements of automation is to put the means of production and finance under public ownership so that the time and money saved by that technology can be invested back into the public, i


This is where the article weakens and actually breaks down-- with an argument, essentially for "nationalization" and a public works program. Neither of those things ensure any benefit to working people. How does this argument distinguish itself from the ones social-democrats like Corbyn, or even Hollande when he thinks it might get him elected, put forward?


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 Post subject: Re: Automation and Capitalism (an article in progress)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 3:07 pm 
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sartesian wrote:
SS wrote:
The only solution to ensure that working people benefit from the advancements of automation is to put the means of production and finance under public ownership so that the time and money saved by that technology can be invested back into the public, i


This is where the article weakens and actually breaks down-- with an argument, essentially for "nationalization" and a public works program. Neither of those things ensure any benefit to working people. How does this argument distinguish itself from the ones social-democrats like Corbyn, or even Hollande when he thinks it might get him elected, put forward?


It's the most concrete way I could think of framing it that would actually be viable and make sense to a public that's mostly familiar with capitalism in an article under 1000 words. If you have another suggestion for how to frame it I'm certainly all ears, but just saying "workers need to seize the means of production" is abstract (which I actually did include alongside seizing the financial institutions). My goal was then to link articles that show how these methods of regulating the economy actually already exist with public banking so that they don't seem like some utopian idea. I would have linked to Cuba, but I think it's even more powerful to see that in the US public banking already exists in a sense of serving the public, but of course not quite to the extent that Cuba has their system set up.

Granted a socialist system would have moved on beyond profits and investment in the strictly capitalist sense, but without an alternative in people's minds I think this helps paint a picture that would be an effective analogy. Still curious what you would suggest.


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 Post subject: Re: Automation and Capitalism (an article in progress)
PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:59 am 
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Well, I'd suggest that you shift your analysis a bit, and point out that the application of techology under capitalism doesn't just eliminate or create jobs, but that it creates, requires the proliferation of "marginal" jobs; temp work; that it reproduces sweat shop conditions in sectors that a)occupy niches that the technology vacates b) have to find a way to "complete" with the technology c) find ways to reduce "entry costs"-- the capital required to initiate or maintain production.

So then what's required is a bit different than reinvesting time and money saved.


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 Post subject: Re: Automation and Capitalism (an article in progress)
PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2016 2:30 pm 
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sartesian wrote:
Well, I'd suggest that you shift your analysis a bit, and point out that the application of techology under capitalism doesn't just eliminate or create jobs, but that it creates, requires the proliferation of "marginal" jobs; temp work; that it reproduces sweat shop conditions in sectors that a)occupy niches that the technology vacates b) have to find a way to "complete" with the technology c) find ways to reduce "entry costs"-- the capital required to initiate or maintain production.

So then what's required is a bit different than reinvesting time and money saved.


Ok damn, that's actually a really good point. I'll see what I can do. Although I probably won't be writing for these guys anymore since I've got some other work lined up now, but if I have some freetime I'll do it.


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 Post subject: Re: Automation and Capitalism (an article in progress)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 7:20 am 
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Glad I could help.


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