My letter to the NY Times: Why the Predictions of Luddites Never Happen

In the closing paragraph of her review of Daniel Susskind’s A World Without Work, Alana Semuels writes…
“The dire predictions of workers losing their jobs to machines have not come true in the past. That doesn’t mean they never will.”
If economics were an empirical science, Ms. Semuels would have a point. But economics is a deductive/a priori science. As such we can know without a doubt that increased productivity is a result of savings to accumulate capital in order to invest in processes to reduce the human effort and cost per unit of production of an economic good. Economic science is as true for labor as for any other scarce resource; i.e., man aims to economize its use. Unemployment, especially chronic unemployment, has other causes, mostly the result of policies recommended by Mr. Susskind, such as redistributing wealth through higher taxes. The most laughable of Mr. Susskind’s concerns is that government must “create leisure policies to help people occupy themselves in a world without work.” Is Mr. Susskind REALLY a fellow in economics at Oxford? I find that hard to believe.
Patrick Barron
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