Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Robots and Unemployment--letter to Wall Street Journal

To the editor:

Holmon W Jenkins [“Robots to the Rescue?”, Jan. 9, 2013]  worries about a future labor shortage caused by an aging population with fewer people producing what “idle oldsters” would like to consume. 

As one who is far from idle and who has been receiving Social Security for ten years,  I take umbrage at the snide generalization “idle oldsters.”  And I can’t understand how it will improve the consumer-producer ratio if people “save [more] for their retirement and depend less on Uncle Sam.”   If you are retired,  you are retired,  no matter what the source of  your income.  

Perhaps Jenkins should spend more time worrying about actual, current problems, and less time extrapolating dubious hypothetical problems into the future.  At the moment, as some of us have noticed,  not only is there no labor shortage, but there is a terrible surplus.  We call that surplus unemployment. 

As the numbers of young producers decrease, perhaps the chronically unemployed will be able to get jobs.   And if an actual shortage threatens to develop,   remember that shortages exist only at a given prevailing price.  Any shortage will evaporate once wages rise to the level where the amount of labor demanded equals the amount supplied. 

Paul deLespinasse
Corvallis, Oregon

A version of this letter was published by the Wall Street Journal.

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