Friday, March 8, 2013

Adapting to rising competition to labor from technology

There has been a rash of media reports lately of economic analyses demonstrating that competition to labor from technology has changed: It is much more intense than in the past and it is not going to stop but only intensify more going forward.

What can't be cured must be endured. In other words, the strategy for aiding labor must be for adaptation. This is similar to the situation with climate change where the consensus now is that it is too late to stop it and that while it might still be slowed a bit the main challenge will be to adapt.

Wages are notoriously "sticky" and this helps to produce unemployment as demand for labor slackens. Two adaptations that help would be falling consumer prices and lower taxes on employment, income taxes and payroll taxes, especially at the low end. This will make it easier for workers to find work at lower wages while still maintaining a reasonable standard of living. Lowering the cost of medical care and getting away from employer provided health insurance fits particularly well with this strategy as would lowering consumption taxes generally. Tolerating some deflation, while contrary to accepted monetary policy of the past, may be a good idea under our new circumstances.

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