Posts tagged ‘standard of living’

The Fallacy Behind Populism and Automation Fears

The rise of global populism and anti-immigration sentiments, coupled with the perpetual rising trend of automation and robotics has stoked the fear fires of job security. Many stories perpetuate erroneous stereotypes and falsehoods. The news reports and blog articles come in various flavors, but in a nutshell the stories state the U.S. is hemorrhaging jobs due to the thieves of illegal immigration and heartless robotics. The job displacement theory is built upon the idea that these two sources of labor (immigrants & robots) are cheaper and more productive than traditional blue collar and white collar American workers.

Although these logical beliefs make for great soundbites, and may sell subscriptions and advertising, unfortunately the substance behind the assertions holds little water. Let’s take a look at the facts. In the most recent April jobs report, nonfarm payrolls employment increased by 211,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since early 2009 the unemployment rate has plummeted from 10.0% down to a historically low level of 4.4%. Over the similar timeframe, the economy has added over 15,000,000 new jobs. Does this sound like an environment in which immigrants and robots are killing all American jobs?

Sounds like a bunch of phoney-baloney, if you ask me. Just look at the employed person chart below, which shows a rising employment trend over the last seven decades, with the exception of some brief recessionary periods.

As I point out in a previous article (see Rise of the Robots), from the beginning of the United States, the share of the largest segment of the economy (agriculture) dropped by more than 98%, yet the standard of living and output in the agriculture sector have still exploded. There may not have been robots two and a half centuries ago, but technology and automation were alive and well, just as they are today. Although there were no self-driving cars, no internet, no biotech drugs, and no mobile phones, there were technological advances like the cotton gin, plow, scythe, chemical fertilizers, tractors, combine harvesters, and genetically engineered seeds over time.

Source: Carpe Diem

And while there most certainly were farmers who regrettably were displaced by these technologies, there were massive new industries fostered by the industrial revolution, which redeployed labor to new burgeoning industries like manufacturing, aerospace, transportation, semiconductors, medicine, and many more.

While it may be difficult to fathom what industries will replace the workers displaced by self-service kiosks at restaurants, airports, and retail stores, famed economist Milton Friedman summed it up best when he stated:

“Human wants & needs are infinite, and so there will always be new industries, there will always be new professions.”

As globalization and technology continue permeating through society, it is true, the importance of education becomes more critical. Billions of people around the globe in developing markets, along with automation technology, will be stealing lower-paying American jobs that require repetitive processes. Educating our workforce up the value-add food chain is imperative.

The bottom-line is that integration of technology and automation will improve the standard of living for the masses. Sure, immigration will displace some workers, but if legislative policy can be designed to cherry-pick (attract) the cream of the skilled foreign crop (and retrain displaced workers), skilled immigrants will keep on innovating and creating higher valued jobs. Just consider a recent study that shows 51% of U.S. billion-dollar startups were founded by immigrants.

The populist drum may continue to pound against immigration, and horror stories of job-stealing robots may abound, however the truth cannot be erased. Over the long-run, the fallacies behind populism and automation will be uncovered. The benefits and truths surrounding highly skilled immigrants and robots will be realized, as these dynamics dramatically improve the standard of living and productivity of our great economy.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

May 6, 2017 at 11:11 pm Leave a comment

Living Large – Technology Revolution Raises Tide

It’s hard to believe that my kids will never truly know what it is was like to live without a microwave, VCR, GPS device, internet connection or many of the other modern day inventions. In my elementary school days, when I had to write a report about Alfred Hitchcock, I was forced to drag my mom to the public library, chase down some librarians, and comb through floors of book shelves, only to find the book I needed was already checked-out. Today, it’s amazing to watch my kid, barely old enough to pull the milk container out of the fridge, scamper over to the computer, type in a few search words on Google (GOOG) and access an endless pool of information for a homework assignment. Fortunately for my wife and me, my daughter has not discovered Facebook yet.

Rising Tide Lifts All

In the uncertain times we live in, many people lose sight of the incredible advancements achieved over our generation, and ignore the difficult challenges and problems entrepreneurs are solving today. And many of these advancements have trickled down to wide swaths of the population. The minimum wage worker, cleaning dishes at the local restaurant, may not be able to afford the new $500 iPad from Apple Inc. (AAPL), but technology advancements have benefited the less privileged in different ways. For example, similar computing power used in the iPad has also been used in the logistics and sourcing departments of retail chains like Family Dollar (FDO), thereby making goods cheaper for lower-income consumers.

One person who has not lost sight of these advancements of productivity is Mark J. Perry of the Enterprise Blog. In a recent article, Perry compares what a consumer working 152 hours in 1964, earning an average wage, could purchase versus an average consumer today (46 years later) working the same 152 hours. Beyond the average wage of $2.50 per hour increasing to $19 per hour, Perry shows the unbelievable increase in the quality and number of products.

Perry places the continuing technological revolution in context by stating:

“Americans today can purchase low-priced electronics products that even a billionaire in the past wouldn’t have been able to buy.”

 

Another person that knows a little about technology, Sergey Brin (Co-Founder of Google Inc.), put recent technology advancements in perspective in the company’s 2008 annual report:

“Our first major purchase when we started Google was an array of disk drives that we spent a good fraction of our life savings on and took several car trips to carry. Today, I walked out of a store with a small box in my hand that stores more than all those drives and cost about $100. Similarly, the processors available today are about 100 times as powerful as those we used in 1998.”

 

Advancements in our standard of living are not only limited to electronic gadgets and internet searches, but also tangible benefits continue to be realized in the most important elements of our human survival. A picture says a thousand words, and these charts speak volumes about our standard of living:

Lives are Extending and Food More Affordable

Obviously, everything is not a bed of roses and some of these improvements have come at a cost. Our country has lost millions of jobs over the last few years, and globalization has significantly increased foreign competition in broad areas of our economy. But before you succumb to the devastation rhetoric of the nay-sayers, please do not forget about the almost imperceptible rising tide of technological innovations that are allowing us to live better lives, even in uncertain times.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®  

Plan. Invest. Prosper.  

www.Sidoxia.com 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, GOOG, and AAPL, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in RSH, FDO, Facebook, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

July 13, 2010 at 10:24 pm 7 comments


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