I, for one, welcome our robotic communist jobless future
Everything will be so cheap, you won't NEED a job
And all of this has been going on because we have been mechanising tasks formerly done by human labour. So the analogy with what is going to happen as we mechanise more of said tasks is obvious: we'll be using more of the new wealth to take more leisure.
In fact, if we go to the extreme, we end up where Marx said True Communism would take us. Keynes calls it solving the scarcity problem, Marx, extremist that he was, takes the point rather further. To the position that industry has become so productive that there's just no need for anyone much to labour in it any more.
This is sounding a bit like the robots are going to take all our jobs, isn't it? And Marx thought this was just fine. For it would mean that human beings could go off and do whatever entered their pretty little heads without having to work for it. As I also think this is just fine, and Keynes did. As long as everything does indeed still get made and we all get to consume it then what the hell's wrong with the idea that we don't have to work to get it?
Over on the economists' side of this same story we've got people worrying that all the money will go to the capitalists. Since they own the robots that will be creating everything, they'll thus get all the cash from the things that are created. Which would be true if we had a system of monopoly capitalism (another thing Marx got right, monopoly capitalism is a very bad idea). But we don't have monopoly capitalism: we have capitalism combined with free markets. This means that there will be several firms making the robots and making the things that can be made with robots. They need to sell what they're producing to somebody and it's this competition for our business that will drive prices down. After all, they've not got to pay anyone anything, remember, and once they've made a robot that can make a robot then the prices really are going to come tumbling down.
The end result of the roboticisation of the entire economy is going to be that everything is as cheap as chips (and chips will be really cheap) so we don't need to do any work to speak of to get the things that we want. It'll actually be rather like The Culture as envisioned in the books of the late Iain M Banks: not all that much of a surprise as the economy of that universe is lifted directly from Marx's speculations of what it would be like once we'd conquered the scarcity problem.
Now you might start thinking that this is just speculation from one of those market fundamentalists. Glorying in the fact that markets will bring us that communist future and we don't have to shoot all the bright people this time. But I can actually prove it.
Think back to what happened with the mechanisation of agriculture. Yep, loads of people, almost everyone in fact, lost their jobs: but what happened to the price of food? It's been falling ever since, hasn't it? Food made up the majority of the family budget just as mechanisation started, well over 50 per cent of a working family's weekly cash. It's now down to 10, 11 per cent: and the diet is considerably better too. And if the-capitalists-are-going-to-get-all-the-benefits story were true then we'd have seen all the farmers becoming gloriously rich as we mechanised agriculture. Which isn't what happened at all.
Mechanisation reduced the cost of producing food considerably: competition between those who could do that drove food prices down, so much so that near all the farmers went bust and they've been living on the taxpayers' teat ever since. Far from the new robotic future meaning that the capitalists are going to be swimming in gravy it's probably going to bankrupt most of them. As should be obvious: the robots will make capital more productive which is the same as stating that we've increased the supply of capital. Things that rise in supply, by and large, go down in price: if we've a market, that is.
The robots taking all our jobs means that we get more leisure and everything made by the robots gets much cheaper. True communism will have arrived and nirvana is close at hand.
Bring it on, quite frankly. ®