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The Great Devaluation: the value of labor?
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Raw labor used to be valuable. It was how the crops on fields and in orchards were harvested. Raw labor was the commercial fisherman casting and pulling the nets, the stevedore lugging stuff from a ship onto the dock, the loader of freight between trains and trucks or transportation and warehouses and between warehouses and stores. This was also the person who did the unskilled work of construction and maintenance of highways, railroads, and canals. This fit the classification of 'unskilled workers'.

Slightly more skilled work, the semi-skilled work, implied assembling objects on a production line, driving vehicles or operating other machinery, or running a cash register. Maybe cleaning, which could also be unskilled. But such work as a rule required little training. This was semi-skilled work.

These workers were the proletariat of Karl Marx, the class that Marx contended would eventually dominate political life as economic orders became more sophisticated in technology and richer in the accumulation of capital. But the worker had nothing to offer except his toil, and capitalists could be relied upon to exploit the helplessness of the worker in his weak position of negotiation as the political order allowed. Owners of the assets would thus debase the worker as completely as possible with the aid of bourgeois governments that the capitalists dominated. This would end in a socialist revolution... yada, yada, yada... and with astute guidance from  vanguard leadership, workers would be in a position to see their world transform into the post-scarcity world of Communism, a world in which all human needs could be met easily, exploitation would be impossible, and people could develop their human qualities to the fullest. This Communism is not to be confused with the reality of Marxist-Leninist states such as the Soviet Union that called them selves 'socialist' states attempting to make the hard transition to Marx's ultimate Communist world of humanistic abundance.

Hey -- Marx established much of the language of social science, and we are stuck with it.

We all know that beginning in the 1950s in America that as unskilled labor became less important in the economy, high-school students got the admonition to not drop  out of high school. Raw labor was becoming less reliable as a source of work. Even semi-skilled work was beginning to be deprecated as a career choice. Manufacturing had always been seasonal and cyclical in its demand for assembly-line workers.  Skilled work was still sophisticated enough that one began to need a high-school diploma to enter an apprenticeship program. It still paid better than most white-collar work.

In recent years means have been found in which to greatly the number of people doing such tasks. Containers might be loaded at a factory so that they would never need to be opened (with a high possibility of pilferage) at a dock between an electronics plant in China and a retailer's warehouse in America. Even in retailing we find self-checkout that allows people to check out merchandise; no checker needs count cash, bag groceries or clothing items, weigh produce, or even approve a check or credit/debit/EBT purchase. We see ATMs supplanting bank tellers. Robots can now do the stereotyped work that assembly-line workers once did without the risk of someone getting carpal-tunnel syndrome or back pain.

So guess what happens? The demand for raw and even semi-skilled labor shrinks.

OK, so what about the lower-middle-class clerks who made a living pushing papers, inputting data, and filing? We need far less of that as computers do the work. Computers are even reducing the need for attorneys, mathematicians, and engineers!

Question: what happens if workers completely lose their value in an economic order, or find their value reduced to that of slaves or share-croppers? Do the remaining economic elites get to act with consummate arrogance, cruelty, and indulgence?
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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The Great Devaluation: the value of labor? - by pbrower2a - 10-26-2017, 01:36 PM

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