The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

“The Useless Class” ?

02/11/2019

Ask an economist what determines growth in GDP, he/she will tell you it depends on productivity growth and growth in the labor force.  That’s the reason so many economists support increased immigration.

While I had not yet read “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari, I have already ordered it from Amazon and cannot wait to read it.  I did so because I heard so much discussion about it during a recent conference.

Among other things, it points out that we don’t need so many people in this world, especially in America.  Memories of The Population Bomb by Paul Erhlich come to mind.  It is not a question that the economy cannot absorb a growing population as Erhlich wrote, but a question of an economy that actually needs fewer — much fewer people.  (Bring on the wars?)

Some scholars at Oxford have predicted which professions will be completely eliminated by 2030,  such as cashiers, taxi drivers, and many others.  We’re talking about millions of Americans!  Vast segments of our labor force will become obsolete, made unnecessary by artificial intelligence (AI).  “If you don’t speak algorithms, there is no reason for you to exist.” While I think we have heard doomsday preaching before – the end is near – I think this is indeed different with the thunderous acceleration of AI.

We have all heard about the upper class, the middle class, and the lower class.  Maybe, those classes become just the working class and the “useless” class — people permanently relegated to a much lower caste.

As economists get their head around this, they will remain positive about immigration – not from Mexico to America but from America to Mexico.  As “the useless class” becomes a drag on the economy, economists will say GDP is a function of increasing productivity and negative growth in the labor force.

What are we going to do with “the useless class”?

The mind shutters . . .

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