Welcome to the Machine
Not a day goes by that I don't hear a story about self-driving cars or automation in commerce and industry. As the debat continues to rage about whether automation or free trade has had a bigger negative affect on the American job market (newsflash, it's automation) we hear of the wonders of cars that transport their passengers without the use of a human driver. Drones are carrying out, quite clumsily, the more pugilistic exertions of our foreign policy. There is more and more talk of artificial intelligence and even meat that is being grown in laboratories without the presence of animals. Yes, ladies and gentlemen,we masse the day where the local grocery store is peddling Petri dish pork chops. It seems there is nothing that our machines cannot do for us.
The Industrial Revolution came with the promise of greater efficiency, shorter work days, and a more prosperous and better life. Factories drew people to cities. No longer would people be required to live with the indignity of working on their own land, with their own families. Jobs would be plentiful,money would solve the world's problems.
The War Between the States represents the victory of the industrial economic model of New England over the agrarian economic model of the Deep South. Beginning with Reconstruction northern companies moved their operations to the South where cheap labor was plentiful and regulations were fewer. Doesn't that sound familiar?
And by some measure, this brought good things to the South. Schools, stores, basic utilities,and other "progress" came along with industry. People began to workin factories and mill towns were established and thousands of Southerners have family stories of the generation that grew up and earned a living in the cotton mills. Instead of putting cotton on ships bound for Liverpool, Southern cotton was spun in these mills. But often the workers found themselves hopelessly in debt to the company store. Chances of people making a living independent of corporations shrunk and the only people who got rich off of it all were the Northern barons and the politicians that helped them. And now the mills are either being transformed into loft apartments and shopping centers or they're being disassembled to take advantage of the salvage price of vintage bricks and beams. The large work force that used to make thread are forced to scramble to pickup the fewer jobs babysitting robots in today's automated industries. Those cotton mills have all moved to Mexico or other places where cheap labor is plentiful and regulations are few.
And wuile this practice is common with big corporations, it takes little effort to find the instances in which our government has determined that these companies are "too big to fail", not because their strength and power insulate them from failure but rather because big centralized government is a machine as well. These are the bedfellows who are running the country - the economy, the environment, every policy you can possibly imagine. This will start sound like an Alex Jones conspiracy theory.But that isn't really what it is. There is no large scarle collusion needed when the powerful are in charge of everything. When 535 members of Congress have something or someone that can benefit them,there's no need for a larg scale conspiracy. But find a small operator that needs some help. Those folks aren't too big to fail.
And then there is the dog and pony show of regulation. They pass such legislation promising to place the yoke on the rich and the big companies and to make the world more fair for those less fortunate. But the problem with that line of thought is that the people who can afford the lawyers and litigation to wade through all the regulation are the major corporations and the rich. So the only ones being limited by the regulations are the small businesses and working folks.
Sowhen I take to this keyboard and rant against these machines, when I advocate for small businesses and advocate for aloof those people brave enough to try to make a living on their own land alongside their families, when I groan every time Ihear another story on a self-driving Carroll artificial intelligence, it's not because I oppose free markets or progress (as the modern world calls it). On the contrary, I'm fighting for a fair shake for those people who aren't working as a gin a machine, who haven't been reduced to a number on a spreadsheet,Ned I'm hoping for a day when more people will be free to find their own way in this world without being beholden to a big business, and big bank, or a big government.
That, my friends, is Liberty.
3/24/2017 11:44:57 am
Sam, this is more history repeating itself; specifically, the history of the Industrial Revolution as played out in Victorian England (and the history of my family). When you have time, seek out a history of Victorian England. A bio of Victoria herself might be good. Follow the trajectory of her life and her governments and the great divide between the haves and the want-to-haves and the have-nots as they scramble to adjust to this new normal. Here we are, almost 200 years later, repeating the whole ugly mess as we struggle to embrace a new economy from industrial to internet. The parallels are too keen to miss.
3/24/2017 01:03:20 pm
Absolutely. We've drug people into cities with the promise of success in a modern world. Now we have huge pockets of people with no meaning, no purpose, and, worst of all, no way to find their way back to a way of life that gave them more control over their survival or success.
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Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire