Autonomous trucking, the coming shift in the American workforce, and beginning a discussion on universal basic income

The most interesting news today had absolutely nothing to do with either Clinton or Trump for a change. It was news out of Colorado involving the first known instance of a self-driving truck successfully transporting merchandise over the U.S. highway system. Here’s the truck in question, which, just a few days ago, carried 2,000 cases of Budweiser from Fort Collins, through Denver, and on to Colorado Springs.


This may not seem like that incredible of a feat, given that the truck didn’t actually maneuver through downtown streets to either pick up or deliver the beer, but just carried it in a relatively straight line, right down the highway. Furthermore, the folks who planned the test waited for a day with perfect weather conditions, and they scouted the entire route ahead of time to make sure that there wouldn’t be any issues. And, on top of all that, they did it early in the morning, when there wasn’t much traffic, with both a police escort, and someone sitting in the cab of the truck, just in case anything went wrong. But, even with all of that said, it was still an historic event. Not only does it mark a significant technological milestone for the folks at Otto, the San Francisco-based self-driving technology company that was just acquired earlier this summer by Uber, but it means that, within a few short years, it’s likely that we may have to completely rethink the idea of work in the United States.

Here, to give you an idea of just how significant of a shift we may be approaching, is a map produced by NPR using 2014 census data, showing the most prevalent job types by state. As you’ll notice, just two years ago, the most common job in the vast majority of states was truck driver… Now imagine all of those people out of work, and the impact this might have on not only the families of these drivers, but on their communities.


According to the American Trucking Association, there are presently some 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. And, as people have suggested elsewhere, if the profession essentially evaporates with the rollout of autonomous trucks, it’ll likely have a ripple effect through the entire country as the interstate businesses that support and serve truck drivers begin to contract in response. The following clip comes from an article published by Medium last year.

…(T)ruck drivers are well-paid. They provide a middle class income of about $40,000 per year. That’s a higher income than just about half (46%) of all tax filers, including those of married households. They are also greatly comprised by those without college educations. Truck driving is just about the last job in the country to provide a solid middle class salary without requiring a post-secondary degree. Truckers are essentially the last remnant of an increasingly impoverished population once gainfully employed in manufacturing before those middle income jobs were mostly all shipped overseas…

The author of this Medium piece argues that, given this very real eventuality, we need to start discussing the implementation of a universal and unconditional basic income program now. While I don’t have time to get into the specifics concerning how such a plan might work right now, or the pros and cons of implementing such a system, it just so happens that a small dedicated group of readers have been digging into this very subject on another thread for the past few weeks. So, if you’d like to join them, there’s your link. Be warned, though, it’s some heavy stuff. [I keep trying to make my way through their 300-some comments, but I always find myself burning out. I’m hoping that maybe we might be able to convince them to work together and distill what they’ve covered thus far into a post for the front page, but I haven’t asked them yet. I think, however, it’s high time for a “universal basic income” mega-thread.]

Here, before I check out for the evening, is a clip from the Bloomberg article I linked to above.

…AB InBev (the beverage distributor involved in this Colorado test with Otto) said it could save $50 million a year in the U.S. if the beverage giant could deploy autonomous trucks across its distribution network, even if drivers continued to ride along and supplement the technology. Those savings would come from reduced fuel costs and a more frequent delivery schedule…

So, there’s that. Maybe the jobs won’t be all lost at once. But you can bet the people paid to ride along in these self-driving trucks of the future won’t make $40,000 a year. And you can also bet that, once it becomes feasible to operate these trucks without humans, that’s what will happen. At it will happen swiftly… But we do have a little time right now, before this becomes our reality, and we need to start discussing it… If universal basic income isn’t the right answer, what is? And, perhaps more importantly, can we reboot Smokey and the Bandit with a beer-delivering autonomous vehicle in the role of Burt Reynolds?

For what it’s worth, I don’t know that universal basic income is the right answer. As others have noted, even though a great number of Americas are truck drivers, fewer young people are going into the profession, and we’ve adapted in the past to big shifts like this. For instance, if you look at the percentage of Americans who make their living in farming now, it’s just a fraction of what it was one hundred years ago. With that said, though, I think it’s hard to deny that an enormous change is coming, as technology continues to advance and become less expensive. From automated grocery checkout lines, which have already taken a firm hold, to fully automated fast food restaurants, which companies are already experimenting with, it’s hard to deny the very real possibility that, in not too many years, there may be significantly fewer jobs for non college graduates in our country. And I think that’s something that we should probably be talking more about.

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  1. Demetrius
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post, Mark.

    I agree this kind of news is often much more significant than much of what makes the headlines these days.

    As we’re now in the middle of election season – it also makes me remember how so many of our politicians (and how much of our politics) are still so stuck in the 20th Century … with a lot of emphasis on old arguments and old ideas … and relatively little attention paid to just how climate change, resource depletion, changing social patterns, and disruptive technologies are likely to totally transform things over the next several decades.

  2. Eel
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    They need to bring back BJ and the Bear. First season they’re together. Second season it’s just the Bear. Third season it’s just the truck.

  3. anonymous
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Coal mining is also going away as a profession hopefully.

  4. Posted October 25, 2016 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    I fully expect my job to go away in my lifetime. I think that eventually kids will be in front of screens most of the day, with perhaps a few people to monitor and proctor. Unless something amazing happens though, I think teaching is going away especially in poorer areas. (Areas with the support of parents and with adequate funding will probably remain “old school”, no pun intended; unfortunately, I do not work in such an area.) So in other words, hell yes UBI!

  5. Andy
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I believe this is going to be one of our greatest challenges within the next decade or so. Businesses are experiencing rising cost of labor and compliance at a rate that can not be offset through increasing prices. Advances in technology such as this allows businesses to replace or reduce their low and unskilled workforce.

    This could be devastating to our country. How do we ensure the underskilled members of our society have opportunities to work and provide for their families? This is something I think a lot about and I don’t have a solution.

    I don’t think it is realilistic to expect technology not to develop and become more affordable. Our challenge is going to be how do we continue to provide our lower skilled citizens the opportunity to have meaningful work.

  6. Andy
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Also, I want to add I have concerns regarding the idea of basic income. I appreciate the need to mitigate and reduce the pain that comes with poverty, but I believe it is important for people to work and provide for their families. Paying people a basic income that will allow them to not work will likely expand the generational poverty we currently have in our country.

    Like I said I don’t have the solution. This is a very important and complicated issue and we need to start having the discussion.

  7. Lynne
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    We are going to have to do something. Bare minimum, we are going to have to make sure our social safety net is ready for this. Just that will be a big undertaking considering the current polarization of our government.

    I do like the idea of a Basic Income where every citizen gets a check each month that is enough to live on if needed. I like this because there is no welfare trap. If you work, you still get the check. Also no one falls through the cracks. It also saves tons in administration costs because there is no need to determine if people are eligible. This will get people to drop out of the labor market which is one of its benefits. The people who really want to work, can work if they can find jobs but it will be easier if others have decided to do other things. I think that this could also create an environment of real entrepreneurship too since having a steady income, even a small one, takes a little bit of the risk out of such endeavors. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that is simply not going to happen anytime soon but it would have a LOT of benefits.

    Andy, here is the thing. Most people want to work but we will soon find that there aren’t enough jobs. One of the benefits of a basic income is that people still get it even if they work. That often means for those who can’t find jobs that they start a business or something or perhaps take on unpaid work such as caring for elderly family members or children. So far, experiments with Basic Incomes have shown that people tend to invest the money in themselves in terms of education or buying capital for a business or whatever. Canada is doing some experiments now and I have high hopes for good results.

    It may be that a Guaranteed Minimum Income, perhaps in the form of a negative tax, will be more acceptable to people but even that would be pretty unpopular at the moment but that could change if we have widespread poverty as a result of things like this technology. Even that is probably too ambitious for now.

    Which is why I think the best thing to try to do NOW is to lower the Social Security age, funded by removing the cap on SS taxes. I also think that giving tuition free public college could help both by training people for the high skilled (and high paying) jobs that remain and by getting some of those young people out of the labor market for a few years.

    I am going to be working hard to afford some of this technology so that I can retire with a self driving RV. Ah bliss. If they can make them run on something other than fossil fuel, I would even get one of those big ones. :)

  8. Posted October 25, 2016 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Such a good conversation. Thanks, folks. I’m proud to have you all as collaborators on this site.

  9. Posted October 25, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    The universal basic income was proposed by a conservative, Milton Friedman.

    So you should all hate it.

  10. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Why? Just because I don’t like some of his other ideas doesn’t make his support of this one reason to dismiss it. I know why he liked it. He liked it because he saw it as a much more efficient way of delivering the social welfare programs we were engaging in at the time. I believe he endorsed this just a couple of years before Johnson announced his war on poverty. He was almost certainly right too, especially if it was going to be a negative income tax administered by an existing agency in a way that wouldn’t significantly increase their work load. I don’t know if he would be for it now but he might be.

  11. jean henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    I don’t know. ‘Any labor saving devices have been invented in the past 150 years. Now there is less work for children, which is good but is there less work for the rest of us. I actually drove trucks for 6 months in California. I was seasonal labor running tomatoes from fields to tomato processing factories making paste for your pizzas and pasta. It was worked I loved but it was temp work. As were the farm laborers, etc. we slept on cots in trailers in 8 hour shifts. Most trucking in America is not teamster work anymore. I looked into it at the time because I liked it. You get to be your own boss (mostly) and listen to your own music or books and see the country. But the days of that work being secure or well paying are long gone. It was over in the early 90’s. It seems to me that leftist people who have never worked these jobs romanticize them. Or romanticize labor. The well paying working class jobs are in the trades now. My friends who are contractors are really struggling to hire competent people for well paying jobs. The average age of a carpenter is like 50 now. And there’s work. But the kids with college degrees don’t think carpentry is a career. We’re nowhere near the end of work and only people with office jobs (who don’t work as hard — I’ve done both) think the end of work is coming. One of the few truisms that has held through out my life is that everyone underestimates the amount of work the other guy does.
    I’m tired of liberal fantasies that justify redistribution. Maybe a guaranteed minimum income is a great idea. Don’t hinge it on a lack of work. It doesn’t need to be.. We should be shipping by foresighted and train not truck anyway. Trucks are terribly energy inefficient modes of transport. We only use truck transport because of the teamsters lobbying. Because the govt funded road infrastructure not trains 60 years ago . Until we have zero emissions trucks there’s no future in trucking period except for distribution hauls– and those require multiple stops and a human being to both unload and recurve at each one. In short, this post illustrates everything that is wrong about problem solving in a vacuum. You all no zero about the trucking industry, but the appearance of acsekf driving truck leads to a firm belief that a Guaranteed minimum income is inevitable.

  12. Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:19 am | Permalink


    Because American liberals (like conservatives) would rather let people starve than give the enemy credit for improving peoples’ lives.

  13. jean henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    * freighter not foresight.
    Writing on phone with ADHD in darkened room. Oh well.

  14. jean henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Lynne’s certainty that there won’t be enough work in the future should be seriously questioned. If only for her certainty about the future.

  15. jean henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Long haul trucking is about half the current total trucking employment. And there’s a worker shortage. Contrary to the article these jobs are no longer popular. The average trucker (like carpenters) is 49. So the young have already transitioned to other work. I don’t see masses of unemployed truck drivers in our future.

  16. Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    I am considering trucking as a next career.

  17. jean henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    A guaranteed minimum income was proposed by Bertrand Russel in 1910 and Huey long in the 1930’s. Milton Freidman was not the first to propose it.

    I’m convinced only that people on this site are only interested in ‘facts’ that confirm their political narrative. I’m not exlifong myself in that assessment.

    Maybe collectively we can find the truth which is we don’t know what the future holds and we are unlikely to take any action until change is foisted upon us. Except the young, who seem able to anticipate what the future requires without analysis.

  18. Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Interesting. Friendman was the first to propose what became the model currently in use in Scandinavia, to my knowledge.

  19. Posted October 26, 2016 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    So we should stop tech advancements which will increase gasoline efficiency and control emissions and increase highway safety because some people might lose their jobs.

    This is like the cotton gin all over again.

    In most models of UBC, receipt of payment is predicated on work. I don’t see the utility in simply giving out free money like we already do with disability checks.

  20. Westside
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    In my limited experience those against the redistribution of wealth are wealthy and those in favor of work don’t work.

    Time to go to Argus and get a coffee and pastry and spend the day doing stuff. I do know a bit about what I’m talking about. You all have fun at your ” jobs”.

  21. Posted October 26, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    I work and I’m in favor of work.

    While Republicans yell about welfare, they don’t seem overly concerned about disability checks, which apparently aren’t that hard to get.

    It seems like disability checks are a bigger disincentive to work than simple welfare. Has anyone ever done a study on this? I would be curious to see the results.

  22. Jcp2
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Not a study, but a story.

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I have a friend who is young and extremely ill with only one living family member and is, finally, on disability. While she certainly needs to be on it, and it’s not easy at all to get on it, nor does it provide for anything but the barest subsistanance living, I can see how the system is set up to disincentivize getting back to work. When in remission, briefly (but still very frail as a result of multiple surgeries) she went back to work a few hours a week , but she had to stop, because the income would void her ability to recieve disability. My understanding on welfare is that they cut your pay out by whatever you earn– even if it’s not stable employment. (I don’t agree with that either. These people need to get housing, a financial cushion etc to be truly stabilized.) With disability, they just cut you out of the program. And there is a period of time before you can re-apply. This makes it very hard to do any work, or to start working again. I may not have all the details correct. I know disability has more abuse that other social benefit programs out there. I think many of the people on it need mental health support they can not get in order to be able to function productively. I’m not sure work alone would solve their problems, but it wouldn’t hurt. I don’t think the issues around disability payments are as cut and dry as any political perspective would like to believe.
    This was a good show. Pete doesn’t listen to shows, but there is text and links to data.

  24. Thom Elliott
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Automation when the means of production are held exclusively by plutocratic class is just a tool by which one class oppresses another. Automation should be strenuously fought by the working class, until it can be utilized to meliorate conditions for the working class. Automation will be a vitally important element of a post-capitalist society but until that time it is a way to maintain structural underclasses by replacing humans for the benefit of the plutocrat’s bottom line and nothing else.

  25. Posted October 26, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Well, seems to work well in West Virginia.

  26. Citywatch
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks everyone. This is an important discussion to have. Although it is true that several people, including Bertran Russell in 1910, have proposed a basic universal income, the logistics of this changes as the work world changes….rapidly. Who pays for it? Even “highly skilled” jobs will disappear as computers become able to think and create for themselves, drive on land, sea and in the air, clean, prepare food and dispose of it and, as I saw at the Mayo Clinic recently, surgeons, who are now able to operate remotely, will soon be eliminated in favor of a computer for routine procedures. Our delight with technology will be our undoing in my opinion, and younger people need to put down their cell phones, change out of their high heels and learn to go back to hunting and gathering.

  27. Thom Elliott
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Who pays for it? End corporate welfare for starters. Then tax charlatan mega churches that suck billions of dollars out of US economy to support the obscene lifestyles of a grotesque cadre of amoral hucksters, who trick millions of hopeless Americans into giving away their life savings. With what is pissed away on these malicious snake oil salesmen basic income could be given to those who would need it.

  28. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Westside– who here doesn’t work? You just set up a dichotomy in which there are political beliefs that are held by ‘good hard working people’ and other political beliefs that are held by ‘lazy entitled people.’ None of this is born out by the data available about who holds what political beliefs or their income level or need to work. Basically the scope of perspective defined by ‘in your limited experience ‘ is not only narrowed but filtered through the lens of political dogma.
    You know what would be cool? If we could stop placing value judgments on people because of their political positions. I don’t understand why people on the left cant see that this is a form of the fundamentalism and dogma they despise on the right.

    I’m interested in real models. I talked a long time with a German woman last night about their social benefit structure. She is a visiting researcher at ISSR who studies modes of inequality in Germany and the US. The German system produces a lot of secure bureaucrats. (France in my experience was the same) It’s very hard for people from lower classes to rise though the testing system to have access to University. If you make it, you decide at 18 what you will study and that is it. If you do vocational training you have little ability to change professions if you don’t like it without considerable losses. If you want to go out on your own or work free lance, you must pay for your own health insurance. It’s not free. It’s cheaper, but basically the entire country dis-incentivizes entrepreneurial activity. She said their is almost as much income inequality in Germany as in the US, but much less poverty due to a comprehensive social benefits program. But for that social benefit, there is a cost in mobility– from the outset and later on. Also Germany does exclude certain populations, like the Roma, systemically from access to publicly funded security. I don’t know if Americans could accept that kind of rigidity. She thought she would not like America as much as she does. We are in fact more free here. There are benefits and costs to that. Maybe we could have a functional and comprehensive social benefits program here without losing our entrepreneurial mojo. That seems to be the Scandinavian model.

    Oh and I asked her why Sweden and Finland have such high wealth inequality (which Pete brought up in another thread addressing this issue), and she said it was because the safety net is so secure that many people make the choice to be less ambitious, to pursue other interests, some productive culturally, some not. The remaining population that has drive for wealth can achieve it. The 5% poverty rate is mostly rural people and immigrants, for whom access to public services is limited.

    Next time I see her, I’ll ask about Guaranteed Minimum income models. I feel like this conversation and the one earlier wove out future scenarios based on a lot of suppositions and utopian ideals. It was largely fueled by political intent , not any real critical or best practice analysis.

  29. Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    For the record, I wholly support this:

    “Then tax charlatan mega churches that suck billions of dollars out of US economy to support the obscene lifestyles of a grotesque cadre of amoral hucksters, who trick millions of hopeless Americans into giving away their life savings. “

  30. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    One of the benefits of automation is that we won’t have as many workplace injuries. Hard labor is hard on the body. If Pete looks closely at the West Virginia disability analysis, he’ll find that many of those people worked in coal mines and performed other back breaking labor that they just could not continue past 40 or 50. And they had no training for anything else, and didnt make the leap to other work.

    Thom and Citywatch may want to look at the health outcomes and life expectancies for hunter gatherers and industrial laborers before counseling that we return to those modes of living, Not that humans move backwards anyway. No one except Reagan ever won a major political battle by suggesting we move backwards. They try to appeal to that false nostalgia all the time, but it never works.

  31. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Jean’s certainty that there will be enough work in the future should be seriously questioned. If only for her certainty about the future.

    You can bury your head in the sand if you want to. I choose to look at the information around me rather than put my fingers in my ear and go “nanananana technology will not reduce the need for work even though it already has been doing that lalalalalala”

  32. Mr. X
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    There was also another first not too long ago. The first death inside an autonomous vehicle. A Tesla. I don’t think it’ll slow things down, especially relative to trucking, which is already such a bloody business. I don’t have the stats handy but I can’t imagine autonomous trucks would do anything but improve highway safety. Still, though, entrenched interests will point to events like the Tesla death hoping to delay the inevitable, the same way the taxi industry is trying to fight Uber by drawing attention to a few cases where drivers have done bad things.

  33. Jcp2
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I just don’t see a society in which we write off children’s education in a wholesale fashion in the name of profit also willingly writing everybody a great UBI check. A lot of the problems that we face going forward, including climate change, wealth inequality, social bias and racism, will require a drastic shift in how we, as a society, are able to negotiate differences in opinions, desires, wants, needs, and fears between individuals. One of the subtexts behind this election is the uncertainty as to where men and women will be with respect to each other in the future. Trump and Sanders have used that as one recruiting tool.

    MAGA only works for a subset of citizens. The trend has been around for quite a while.

    Nor is it limited to modern western society.

    Certainly automation has, and will, continue to have big impacts on how and what people will do for work and/or income in the near to mid future. Blue collar jobs have not always been well paid jobs. A lot of them require physical strength, stamina, durability, and the ability to perform repetitive tasks. These are all very masculine traits. Machine-like, if you will. And machines will do these type of jobs better. What is missing from the discussion are the corollary pink collar jobs. These are more service and/or care oriented, require better people skills, and need the ability to read emotional cues as there is a lot of human interaction. These feminine traits are a lot harder to automate, at least currently, as the process of automation builds in the biases of the automators.

    I’m going to change my mind about welcoming our new robot overlords. I’m going to wait and see. People are pretty adaptable and clever, and I’ll place my bets on the kids over the machines.

  34. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Re: “I don’t understand why people on the left cant see that this is a form of the fundamentalism and dogma they despise on the right.”

    Because it is an asinine opinion of yours that others don’t share? But seriously, how is something like a Basic Income some kind of dogma which is similar to the dogma from the religious right? You see, the reason *I* don’t like the dogma of the right is that it is mostly based on religious beliefs I don’t share instead of looking at how things are going in the real world. I understand that predicting the future is all guess work and have never claimed otherwise but sometimes there are trends which might give us an idea of where we are heading. e.g. We don’t really know that the climate change will rise sea levels but there is a LOT of evidence that is a likely scenario. And we don’t know that technology is going to funnel wealth to an elite at the top but there is evidence that this is already happening and is likely to continue. Your going on about how stupid everyone else is to believe such things doesn’t make you look good, imho.

  35. Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Europe hasn’t had hunter-gatherers for millenia. There’s no reason to assume that North America would given its climate and land (and lack of elephants.)

    Even here on the continent, there aren’t many left but that’s less a function of technology and more a function of people not having enough land to live that kind of lifestyle, and declining numbers of large mammals (elephants) which prevent agriculture.

    If you want to see people living without technology, well, you’re out of luck these days. Even subsistence farmers and pastoralists have cell phones and they have improved their lives greatly. At least they say so.

    That’s silly alarmist nonsense.

  36. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Re: Maybe we could have a functional and comprehensive social benefits program here without losing our entrepreneurial mojo

    Gosh. what would a program like that look like? Oh I don’t know, A BASIC INCOME.

    LOL. You crack me up, Jean.

    Re: ” I can’t imagine autonomous trucks would do anything but improve highway safety. “
    Human error is the cause of most accidents. I imagine that alone will mean many lives saved by autonomous trucks. That is one of the reasons for autonomous vehicles in general.

  37. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    My point was that we should look at the models that are in place and how they work and don’t work, rather than assert they will absolutely work and will be a necessity along with limited work hours because of the robot future.

    I think autonomous vehicles will improve highway safety. I don’t think they will eliminate work. We have trains and planes that fly themselves most of the time. And there are still people on them. And there is still the vast number of jobs related to receiving and shipping. Some but not all of these jobs will be eliminated, but other jobs will be created. Whether or not you are inclined to my perspective on the future of work or Lynn’s, the trucking example is a bad one.

    As for the guaranteed minimum income, I said early on in the other thread I was not dead set opposed to it. I have said that all along. I said it would address issues of poverty v economic inequality and so I was inclined to favor it, but felt it should not extend to everyone, juts those in need. I pointed to SS at the time. I’m sorry you thought I was unqualified in opposition to your idea. The QE thing is dumb and so was the divided labor into 10-15 hour work weeks. Guaranteed Minimum income models are worth looking at on their own merits– good and bad– and ideally as already implemented, not theoretical. I have not been inconsistent in that. I just don’t need your weird end of work justification for it.

  38. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Lynn– LOL’ing is a sign that the writer has hit the limit of their ability to talk seriously about a subject. It says nothing about the person to which it was directed. your like that kid eye rolling in class . It’s not something anyone over 25 should do if the want their points to be taken seriously.

  39. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Lynn– Re: ““I don’t understand why people on the left cant see that this is a form of the fundamentalism and dogma they despise on the right.”
    Because it is an asinine opinion of yours that others don’t share? But seriously, how is something like a Basic Income some kind of dogma which is similar to the dogma from the religious right? ”

    that comment was very general– it references a trend in the perspectives here that is actually very suppressive of discourse– namely dogma. I have mentioned it repeatedly in MM in various contexts. It isn’t about Guaranteed minimum income specifically. Nor am I demanding that anyone agree with me. I ‘m have no strong opinion about Guaranteed minimum income. I don;t like when it is framed as inevitable because of a end of work scenarios. I don;t like when it is framed– and this is key– as inherently good because it redistributes income. I want to know more about it. I would prefer that information not be couched in leftist dogma. I think it limits the exploration of any idea to couch it partisanship or ideology– which is inherently limiting and anti-democratic. This is how we make the bubble. I’ve seen lots of bad plans come out of thought vacuums.

  40. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The dogma of the left is like the right in that political perspective is legitimized by a belief that one’s political perspective is a moral value that makes you a better person than someone with a different opinion. It assumes that core values and positive intent assure a positive result. The intent to be good and do good does not always produce good results. But the real problem is that ideology does not allow for the paradoxical. It rejects information that doesn’t confirm its narrative while embracing any information that seems to confirm it– like say end of work.

    If we really want good solutions to societal problems we should be deeply exploring where we are wrong, what goes wrong, all failures as opportunities to learn. We would embrace being wrong because it would not mean we are bad people, but simply learning what works by seeing what doesn’t work. The work is where there is discomfort.

    If you believe that progressives or liberals or leftists are inherently better people than conservatives or anyone else, you have a real internal barrier to creating human progress.

  41. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Lynn– LOL’ing is a sign that the writer has hit the limit of their ability to talk seriously about a subject. It says nothing about the person to which it was directed. your like that kid eye rolling in class . It’s not something anyone over 25 should do if the want their points to be taken seriously.

    Obviously I disagree with that, Jan. I see it as an effective way to communicate that I find what you say to be ridiculous. I also feel that eye rolling can communicate that same idea and certainly don’t feel like there is some kind of age limit on it or even that it reflects immaturity. Which I have to say, coming from YOU is pretty rich what with your constant baseless assumptions about where a person’s POV actually is. You are accusing people, falsely, of a lot of things. Of being closed minded, of being morally superior, of not caring, of dismissing other people;’s POV etc etc etc. Reasonable people will eye roll you, Jan, because often what you say is straight up absurd.

    that comment was very general– it references a trend in the perspectives here that is actually very suppressive of discourse– namely dogma. I have mentioned it repeatedly in MM in various contexts.

    *eye roll* Indeed you have gone on ad nauseum but no one has really been expressing much dogma here. They just have different opinions than you do and frankly your outright dismissal of those opinions without any real argument is eye roll worthy.

    I’ve seen lots of bad plans come out of thought vacuums. Oh the irony is strong with this comment. You dismiss people ideas because of bad assumptions of the speakers intentions and then get all mad of people react. I don’t know, Jan, but maybe you should look in the mirror before you accuse people of things.

  42. XXX
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    In the future we’ll all be eating one another. It’s starting now.

  43. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink


    Yup. LOL ;)

  44. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Having strong opinions is not the same thing as having ideologically-based opinions. I’m sorry you can’t see the difference.

    I’m at this point used to the fact that if I point out any tendency to suppress discourse here contrary to the MM party line, I will be attacked personally. I left for a while. That was wise in retrospect. There is no point in trying to engage on issues that I agree bear discussion.

    It’s not Mark’s fault, though it’s his lead. There is a community standard asserted in this space, that it’s ok to attack people we don’t agree with. I don;t mean making fun of someone. I mean attacking them. And the operative word in these attacks is always hypocricy. This has been pretty consistent.

    And no, Lynne, grown ups don’t roll their eyes in discourse. Trump does that.

  45. Westside
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Yeah. This has gotten kind of ugly too.

  46. Adam C.
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Right but changes in the past (mechanization of agriculture is the classic example) didn’t create problems because:

    1) The increase in productivity was offset by increased availability of material in the sector. The roughly concurrent devolution of feudal agricultural estates into smaller middle-class-owned farms (in Europe) and/or the theft of an unfathomable amount of land from indigenous peoples (the rest of the world) meant that even though less work was needed per acre, there were plenty of farm jobs to go around,

    and 2) the resulting surplus of available time, labor, and technology led to the creation/development of new industries – what we now call the manufacturing and service sectors. The problem is that these are the very kinds of work now being automated, and no one is suggesting an innovating sector for displaced labor to enter. Feeding people? Taken. Making stuff? Taken. Doing things to enhance the lives of other humans? It’s being taken as we speak.
    Perhaps we could find ways of making the machines’ lives better. Their numbers are certainly growing…

  47. Adam C.
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I have hope for the guaranteed universal income. It’s long been a favorite of right-wing economists (Milton Friedman’s “negative income tax” comes to mind) and increasingly is being embraced by lefties like, e.g., Paul Mason (in his “Post-Capitalism”). If we could just get the “reasonable” moderates that govern us to see the radical wisdom it… But I think it will sadly take a lot more human misery to achieve.

  48. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Making and upgrading and constantly improving and managing the machines in our lives turn out to be a lot of work. And economically productive work that harms few, as you are extracting productivity from a machine not a person. At least that’s been my impression of the advent of personal computers, which change work for a huge mass of people much more fundamentally and rapidly than I see in your vision.

    Again the need to constantly re-work how we do things to meet climate action and adaptation needs will be a lot of work.

    I have heard the books and family farms and great personal service would become obsolete. And what I see is that these things are now valued– almost fetishized– and they are considerably more expensive. I have a complicated set of feelings about these things, but I don’t see us abandoning our souls to machines any time soon. This has been the standard narrative of the industrial and post industrial era, but human lives have dramatically improved. We are more tolerant and live longer, We have greater freedom and flexibility at work, but we still have work.

    I still don’t see why a Guaranteed Minimum Income needs to hinge projections of an end to work. My only concern would be that it allow for constant rapid innovation as well. Because we will need that to survive as a species.

  49. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    GMI doesn’t have to hinge on projections of an end to work. That is only one of many reasons. There are plenty of other reasons to support it or a UBI. One of them is that it allows us a good safety net while still allowing people to be innovative in their work. If we had a GMI or UBI and were able to divorce health care from employment, it might even encourage entrepreneurship and create more work.

  50. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Adam C, Robert Reich endorses it too or is he too radically left?

  51. Demetrius
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think we’ll be (voluntarily) returning to a primitive way of life anytime soon.

    On the other hand, I think era of ever-accelerating advances in science and technology that continue to make our lives better, faster, easier, and more comfortable is definitely coming to an end.

    Technology can definitely help to stretch limited resources – but ultimately, our planet is finite and can only support so many people, so much extraction, so much pollution, etc.

    And, with all the focus on our new “digital world”, it is easy to forget that, behind the scenes, it still requires a lot of (old fashioned) energy, capital, precious metals, sweat, and elbow-grease to keep it all running.

    In the medium- to long-term, I think the best we can hope for is that we might split the difference – keeping (and perhaps even continuing to improve upon) some of the better elements of technological innovation … while at the same time returning to (or re-embracing) some older ways of living.

    For example, I can imagine continuing advances in digital communication, artificial intelligence, energy production, battery technology, etc. *coexisting* with having more people living locally, more people working with their hands … producing food, building and maintaining shelter … and likely with less creature comforts like air conditioning, jet travel, etc. If this happens, perhaps we’ll even rediscover some deeper, richer ways of building our communities and society.

    I’m not suggesting I have the faintest clue about what the actual details will look like, only that I find it easy to imagine it will be some combination of “old” and “new” that nobody has yet imagined.

  52. Lynne
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Re: “For example, I can imagine continuing advances in digital communication, artificial intelligence, energy production, battery technology, etc. *coexisting* with having more people living locally, more people working with their hands … producing food, building and maintaining shelter … and likely with less creature comforts like air conditioning, jet travel, etc. If this happens, perhaps we’ll even rediscover some deeper, richer ways of building our communities and society.”

    That actually sounds pretty delightful to me and it certainly is one possibility.

  53. Dan Marano
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    So, beyond trucking, Uber has already captured the world’s #1 profession, for men over the age of 18: cab driving (for women it is wait staff, not livery driver), and crushed it beneath an API to extract all the profit out of it. Introducing fully autonomous now. This is the making of global tsunami.

  54. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Technology can be used to recycle and reuse resources. The extract and dispose model is not inherent to production. Renewable energy does not extract and dispose. Ever been in a net zero house? Geothermal is very very nice air conditioning. Nature produces all it needs with closed loop systems. We do not have to reduce our productivity- and that’s good because it’s been pretty well shown that we won’t– we need to reduce our waste and be more efficient generally. Technology works better for that than changing personal behavior. Technology is just about the only thing that does change human behavior. So I have an idea of the future in which humanity can save it’s ass if it is willing to work very very hard, not less. I’m not at all confident that we’ll step up to the challenge before it’s too late.

    I’m not sure why some many on the left in the environmental movement preach about needing to reduce consumption like its a severe diet. They’ve been doing that for ages and it doesn’t work and it’s not even necessary. We can drastically reduce resource consumption and still produce all the goods, food and services humans need. Even is our population grows. We just need to change the way we consume. I think the left, like the right, just feels a need to chastise. Bad bad Americans. If we pull this off, it will be because of a dramatic explosion of human ingenuity. And Americans are great at that. If we don’t resist each change because we think it will bring our doom.

    I do agree that climate action and adaption, if we do it in time and with enough of a long view, will lead to closer communities. I believe our current modes of consumption are a kind of sickness. We take and use more than we need– at least in America. We’ll feel better when we are more in balance.

    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Einstein
    “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

  55. Jean Henry
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Carbon fibre technology and alternative fuels will make jet travel more efficient more quickly than efforts to reduce jet travel ever will. Humans have participated in travel for trade from the moment they could lash sticks together to make rafts– the Phoenecians– 1200 BC. the idea of the end of global trade is as silly as the end of work. There is the issue of human behavior.

    Because some jobs end, does not mean an end of work. It means that people who held those jobs need to adapt and get other work. Right now, those cabbies could drive trucks apparently and do better. I hear there’s a shortage of truck drivers.

  56. Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    God forbid that people might have to figure out something to do given a job loss.

    Jobs dry up all the time. One has to read the signs early and plan ahead. Anyone who thought that the cushy union jobs in the auto industry were going to last forever was just unwilling to see reality.

    Most people do adjust. That seems lost of some other people.

  57. Lynne
    Posted October 27, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Most people adjust eventually but not without a lot of hardship and social problems. I think it is cruel to not help people through these kinds of economic transitions especially when we can so easily.

  58. Posted October 27, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    This so-called “economic transition” has been going on for more than four decades!!

    For anyone my age (47), if you really believed that you were going to work in a factory, you were plain stupid. When I was 20 that was NOT an option anymore.

    No, it isn’t cruel at all.

  59. stupid hick
    Posted October 30, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    “For anyone my age (47), if you really believed that you were going to work in a factory, you were plain stupid. When I was 20 that was NOT an option anymore.” -Dirt Bag Larson

    The extent to which this is true depends solely on deliberate US economic policy decisions to favor capital over labor. It’s only true if you accept US public policy has been irreversibly captured by the 1%.

    “The man who sees the world at 50 the same way as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” -Muhammad Ali

  60. Lynne
    Posted October 30, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    The extent to which this is true depends solely on deliberate US economic policy decisions to favor capital over labor. It’s only true if you accept US public policy has been irreversibly captured by the 1%.

    That is why it is especially cruel that our policy doesn’t include a widening safety net for the large number of people who have been harmed by those policies.

  61. Jean Henry
    Posted November 4, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    The Dalai Lama would remind Western citizens hpw fucking lucky we have it. He is not concerned about the financial welfare of Americans. Those concerns MUST seem silly to him. He is concerned about a lack of meaning in lives without purpose, aka work. He doesn not seem at all worried that there will not be any meaningful work to do– as anybody would who understand the rest of the global citizenry and its struggles. end of work is a stupid idea. I’m ok with a guaranteed minimum income but only if everyone who can work would be employed doing something to improve all of our lots globally. This could be a public program supporting private employers. I don;t necessarily think we need more public employees to do it. Just something like VISTA for anyone needing work.
    Maybe under-employment is the soul-sucking problem we need to solve, not just income.

  62. Lynne
    Posted November 4, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Interestingly I think a basic income could bring more meaning to people’s lives. ‘End of work’ is really ‘end of employment’. There is all sorts of meaningful things that people can do if we have a basic income. For one thing, it wouldnt stop anyone from getting a paid job if they can find someone to hire them. It also would allow people to more easily choose to engage in work that is more meaningful for them even if such work doesn’t come with a pay check and benefits. People might want to start their own businesses (which is what seems to happen a lot in experiments of basic income). We might see more scholars and artists.

    That doesn’t mean that some program designed to increase employment while addressing issues such as climate change wouldnt be valuable if we had a basic income or even if we didn’t. It just isn’t really a substitute for it.

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