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The end of capitalism as we know it?

  1. May 1, 2004 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Since I help to automate factories and to develop new automated processes in general, in order to make a living I often eliminate other people’s jobs. That once weighed heavily on my mind, but I know that in order to compete in a world economy this process of worker displacement simply must happen. Orville Reddenbackers Popcorn Company now operates what’s called a “lights out plant”...I think in Colorado. In effect, during normal production no one works there so the lights in the plant are turned off. The factory becomes a big black box with raw corn, plastic, paper, oil, wood pallets, and electricity going into one end, and pallets of ready for sale popcorn coming out of the other end.

    Given that some fewer numbers of new better jobs replace the old nasty ones, I was thinking about where this will lead. I see a clear separation of classes occurring though the course of this change; with fewer and fewer general labor jobs available for the average person who has no college degree or advanced training. One day even the advanced jobs may go to the robots, nanobots, and to the engineering algorithms of quantum and/or biological computers. Where does this leave the workers of the world - us?

    Just shooting from the hip, it seems that what we see is that the money that once went into workers pockets is instead put into the pockets of stockholders. If left to run freely in this manner, eventually one might expect the classic two class society to emerge, with perhaps 1% of the world’s population in control of 99% of the world’s wealth. Clearly this cannot be left run amok, but even if it does civil wars and rebellions will surely act to level the systems eventually, so again, where do we land in all of this? How do we transfer the wealth once paid to workers into everyone’s pockets? The way that I see it, the factory must eventually become a public institution.

    I have played with many scenarios about how this situation might evolve. What are your thoughts? Do you agree in general with the picture that I paint here? I see this as potentially one of the great changes in the social and economic structure of our soon to be “one world”. Basically, it strikes me as a second industrial revolution.
     
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  3. May 1, 2004 #2

    selfAdjoint

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    I think you are absolutely right. One thing though. The US is currently functioning as the world's prime consumer. We are the purchasers of most of the exports of the rest of the world, and it is said the if the US consumer sneezes, the rest of the world comes doen with the flu.

    So when the majority of the working class of the US, including the majority of white collar workers too and some of the middle management, are permanently out of work, who is going to buy all those products? This day is coming, unless some "socialistic" measure are taken to prevent it.

    That day is coming. The anomolous growth in productivity in the last five quarters is the writing on the wall.
     
  4. May 2, 2004 #3
    New technology replacing jobs is what the Luddites revolted against, and not without respectable concern. There is very real job loss as a result of new technology.

    I believe that new automation technology is essential to progress, but if not done right, it could be progress only for a minority. As stated before, new technology causes people to lose jobs. So far, new jobs have popped up in other sectors, but there is a time gap. What we need is some sort of mechanism to accompany automation that will provide for the lifestyle of those laid off while the economy adjusts.

    Thinking farther into the future, what if one day this cycle breaks and the job losses are not replace by fewer jobs? We needs a system that will provide for those laid off or born into an empty job market indefinitely. This could be accomplished through welfare, or some sort of socialistic ownership. Each method has its own concerns.

    If no method is in place, and this "final" layoff stage begins, the economy may not be able to support itself. What you would have is a few rich guys serving a few rich guys. And how many trinkets hoola hoops can a rich guy buy? In addition to the new proletariat, whole sectors of the economy that were built on selling to the mass consumer base would collapse. This is all assuming no violent revolution.

    Even if such a "final" stage never occurs, it would be a great step for the advancment of quality of life for people to have to do little-to-no work as just about everything would be automated.

    The welfare system would be good because it would still allow for capitalists to have greater wealth to shoot for, thereby avoiding the tragedy of the commons and providing incentive. Those on welfare would provide a consumer base for the capitalists. Of course, the only way that the consume base would have money in the first place is if the capitalists had to give currency to them (and, I suppose, the capitalists would essentially be competing for shares of the other captialists' wealth) or they had something else that the capitalists would desire (their souls! haha, j/k). That is a major flaw in this system. Concentration of wealth could be a major problem with this system.

    The socialistic system would, if done correctly, provide the goods that the collective owners decide are desired. There could possibly be the tragedy of the commons involved. This system would probably work best at a factory- or corporation-level, as that should optimize efficiency and should also allow for free-market type trade among the different factories/corporations. This system would directly provide the workers with the fruits of their factories.
    Concentration of wealth in certain factory/corporation-based communities could be a problem with a market economy.

    You could possibly where goods are distributed in a socialistic manner, except that you have administrators who are given more than the typical person in exchange for their labor (in order to provide incentive). Some selection-replacement process such as voting would be required to keep things efficient and working.

    OK. That's enough futurizing for one night.
     
  5. May 2, 2004 #4

    russ_watters

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    You posed the question and I'd like to hear your answer to it. A lot of people say with technology and outsourcing, jobs are going away (you?, Dan and SA). But are they really? What I see is the developed countries getting robots and foreigners to do the jobs we don't want, leaving better jobs for the people who are left.

    I had a similar conversation on another board about outsourcing and a couple of guys said over and over again that jobs were leaving and thats bad. And they had hypothetical anecdotal evidence ('hypothetical phone support guy is now unemployed...') But on the other side, I and others posted the DATA which shows the opposite. Our economy is strong and unemployment is low.

    If technology and outsourcing are hurting our economy and our workers, where is the data that shows it?
    Or how about this: if the need for workers ever does decrease (like I said - it hasn't yet), we should have the same number of workers doing less work. In the US, we work more than just about every other developed country. How about shorter hours and more vacations?
     
  6. May 2, 2004 #5

    selfAdjoint

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    Your better jobs are for better qualified workers, which is a definition that goes beyond mere training to questions of talent. Suppose that all the jobs teaching piano were to vanish, or be outsourced, and that this somehow doubled the number of positions for concert pianists. What good would that be to all the ex-piano teachers who could never make the cut?
     
  7. May 3, 2004 #6
    If you read my post thoroughly, you will see that I did not state that jobs are permanently leaving. I said that there is a period of adjustment during which jobs are lost. I also put forth the possibility that this cycle may one day end, and the jobs may be gone for good. Will it? I don't know. I'm not saying that such would necessarily be a bad thing. If done correctly, it could be a pinnacle of progress.
     
  8. May 3, 2004 #7

    russ_watters

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    I think our workforce is diverse enough that that isn't going to be a problem. We're a long way from robotic garbage men and janitors.

    Dan - fair enough.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2004
  9. May 3, 2004 #8
    Are we? There are experimental cars that have been able to navigate themselves on public roads. Robotic floor cleaners aleady exist (http://www.roombavac.com/buyroomba/defaultB.asp). Changing the trash would be a little harder to implement, but it's probably just a matter of clever programming and getting the technology cheap enough.
     
  10. May 3, 2004 #9
    You miss the obvious. Who maintains and repairs the cars? Who maintains and repairs the roads? Who maintains and repairs the systems that make these cars function? Who maintains and repairs the the floor cleaners? Who maintains and repairs the system that changes the trash?

    If we do away with horses for transportation, will all of the people who shovel **** be out of work? How about the people who manufacture saddles and bridles? How about the people who bale our hay? This would be a disaster! We'd all be out of work forever! Capitalism would be DEAD!
     
  11. May 3, 2004 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    I am going to post more a little later but I wanted to interject a bit here. We are not talking about the loss of an industry, such as the horse and buggy industry, we are talking about the loss of a good part of all industry.
     
  12. May 3, 2004 #11

    Ivan Seeking

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    If you were a skilled lathe operator for Boeing, would you consider the position of garbage man or janitor a good career option?
     
  13. May 4, 2004 #12

    Industries come and go, they always have. As each one dies, two or more new ones are born.
     
  14. May 4, 2004 #13

    selfAdjoint

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    Excuse me, but platitudes like this are small comfort to young people looking for a lifework. If the jobs picture is global, and it seems to be getting there, then the pay in two different countries will only differ by the cost of transporting the product. If the product is information, and travels via the web, the cost is very low, and we can expect IT jobs in the US to pay not much more than IT jobs in India. Likewise the manufacture of complex objects, where the value per volume makes transportation cheap, has already been outsourced.

    Where are those new jobs coming from? Real companies, not abstract forces, invest in plant and hire workers. The desirability of doing that in regions of the world where costs are low has been driving industry for generations, and I don't see anything that will stop them.
     
  15. May 4, 2004 #14
    It's a global economy, to survive you have to compete. If you don't want to compete, that's fine by me. Things have never been better than they are right now.
     
  16. May 4, 2004 #15
    Good grief. Ignorance abounds.

    The stronger the economy in developed nations, the stronger the unions, the more production is moved off-shore, to places without unions. Workers in said developed nations lose their jobs. So "things have never been better" is rather relative. Things have never been worse for the thousands of blue-collar workers losing their jobs as factories close. Things are great indeed, however, if you're in the minority, the money-shufflers and the management, who gain profits regardless of where the labour is performed.
     
  17. May 4, 2004 #16
    My idea is that our two last centuries has mostly been about making things more comfortable for us, giving us more time to think. That we're working ourself up to an adequate comfortable-level. When we are doing less and less manual work, we're going to turn over to more creative work, but basicly lively manual work. So more and more focus on arts, animals and plants(restoration and growing of nature) etc. It'll bring in our need for doing work, our need for making things better. There's always things to make better as long it's lively, lively is what making better is about. Also it's a result of people reading more and more fantasy stuff and disliking all the brick-walls; Square-0-1-culture. We want to go back to nature, our instincts and emotions scream for it.
    Probably there'll be some crisis along the way, but there's where we're ending up I believe. An optimistic guy I am.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2004
  18. May 5, 2004 #17
    This is ridiculous.... Capitalism in a purist state does tend to separate the classes, not that im against that, but just to play your view of things, lets call that a bad thing. We have watched automation over the last 50 years revolutionize our labor force. The US now holds the services industry as its primary employer. Manufacturing has taken a nose dive. And yet, we still have the same employment ratio, on top of that, we have double the population. Since a more marginal rift has already come about, and we have seen almsot 0% difference in our employment rate, I see it hard to prophesize such a thing.

    Secondly, I stated before that capitalism in its purist state does in fact separate the classes, but the fact of the matter is that the united states is socialist. Why? Democracy. No matter what happens in the US, as long as one individual has one vote, and that it counts for just as much as bill gates' does, then we will always have peasent pleasing politicians. If this class difference is evident, then the masses will milk this difference for all its worth.

    Lastly, I have never heard of, nor produced logic for, a rich business man not to withhold his money and quarantine it. The rich indeed do get richer, but only through the expansion of their own endeavors. Their own endeavors, usually the production of goods to feed demand of the consumer, is never going to go away. Rich people invest, and thus, move the economy for average joes.
     
  19. May 5, 2004 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    And the standard of living has dropped accordingly. We are losing the middle class. I have read that in 1950 the average middle class household was able to bank about 30% of the family income. This relied on a single source of income for the house. The latch-key-kids of the 70's were a sign of the decrease in living standards. What I see now is that entire factories are being nearly emptied in nearly every sector of manufacturing.

    I will be back later with some supporting information. I haven't had time to dig into the numbers.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2004
  20. May 5, 2004 #19

    Ivan Seeking

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    What is the average debt per capita now, as compared to one's yearly earning capacity, as compared to the 1950's.
     
  21. May 5, 2004 #20

    Ivan Seeking

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    I found one quick link that touches on this issue.

     
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