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The Beginning Of The End Of Waiters and Waitresses?

Waitress_taking_an_order

An interesting report in USA Today this morning about casual dining chains looking at placing tablets at customer tables to assist in the ordering and payment process:

That endless wait for the restaurant check soon may be over.

Applebee’s, the nation’s largest casual dining chain, on Tuesday will announce plans to place tablets at every table in every one of its U.S. restaurants by the end of 2014. Folks can use the tablets to pay whenever they want — and to order things like appetizers, desserts or even play video games.

The action follows a similar move by rival Chili’s, which already has begun the process of placing tablets at its company-owned locations. IHOP, also owned by Applebee’s parent, DineEquity, is looking into tablets, too.

The way Americans pay for and order food when eating out is about to be turned on its head. If these high-tech moves — already common at eateries in parts of Europe and Asia — are a hit domestically, much of the $70 billion full-service and casual dining industry is expected to follow.

“Looking out over the next decade, it will become fairly routine for consumers in table service restaurants to use tablets to view menus, place orders and pay bills,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association.

Tablets will “change the way we interact with guests in restaurants,” says Mike Archer, president of Applebee’s, which has 1,865 locations nationally. The chain’s move to roll out nearly 100,000 tablets will rank among the largest-ever rollout of tablet technology in the private sector.

At Applebee’s and Chili’s, customers will continue to order their meals via waiters and waitresses. The move to tablets squarely targets Millennials, says Riehle, more than 80% of whom say they fully expect restaurants to offer improved technologies.

Chili’s president Wyman Roberts, says its restaurants with the devices have seen improvements in both guest satisfaction and customer “engagement,” though the company declined to discuss details of its ongoing rollout. Its 800 company-owned restaurants all will have tablets by the middle of next year.

Theft is apparently not an issue since the devices will be essentially useless outside an individual restaurant. More importantly, though, it strikes me that there isn’t any logical reason why this technology has to be limited to ordering appetizers and desserts, or to pay the bill at the end of the night. Why couldn’t they also be used to order the meal itself? If you have questions during the ordering process you can summon someone to the table for help. Other transactions that would likely still require human intervention would be ordering drinks, since someone needs to be responsible for ensuring that the people ordering are above the legal drinking ago. And, obviously, human beings would still need to deliver the food and drinks to the table. However there’s no denying that technology like this would most certainly mean that these restaurants could get by with a smaller staff than they do today. I doubt you’d see something like this at higher end restaurants where personal service is part of the dining experience, but at places like Applebees or IHOP it seems like a perfect fit and one that would make the high volume part of the day flow far more smoothly than it does when it relies on human beings to get the order from the table to the kitchen and back.

Quite obviously, a development like this will have a big impact on that segment of the work force that relies on the food industry as a place where they get a foot in the door of the job market, but in that case it would just be yet another example of how technology is continuing to disrupt the traditional economy as we know it. We’re a long way from the day when a restaurant like Applebees could function with almost no wait staff at all, but with technology like this, you’d certainly see a reduction in the demand for labor at least out on the dining floor and a redefinition of what these jobs actually entail.

Of course, it’s possible that a development like this won’t be quite so revolutionary. Restaurants may find that customers still prefer some degree of human interaction during the ordering process and, in those cases, the use of tablets is likely to remain limited to relatively routine items like bill paying, where a more streamlined process would work to the benefit of both customers who want to leave but find a busy night makes it hard to get the attention of their service and businesses who count on relatively quick table turnover to keep customers moving and reducing the amount of time that people need to wait for a table. However it works out, though, it looks like tablets are coming to a restaurant table near you in the relatively near future.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Butch Bracknell says:

    Humans required to deliver the food and drink? Oh, really?

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/12/01/amazon-bezos-drone-delivery/3799021/

    If drones can deliver a new copy of War and Peace (no pun intended), why not a hefeweizen and potstickers?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. gustovcarl says:

    Human interaction is part of the dining experience. Good or bad.
    Besides, wasn’t this tried before with the Automat?
    Didn’t last.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. C. Clavin says:

    I hope not… Because if we keep slashing public sector jobs and spending… like you want …the service industry will continue to be one of the only bright spits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Of course automation will come to restaurants, the only reason it has taken this long is that casual and fast food restaurants pay slave wages. But as the technology becomes cheaper and more familiar to people, it will make more inroads.

    I suspect technology is already having a greater effect on jobs than we think, and that’s going to accelerate going forward. We’ve already lost most bank tellers and travel agents, just to pick two obvious job categories. In 20 years there will be very few if any cab drivers or truck drivers, few waiters, few janitors, few warehousemen. The list goes on. At the point where a human being – even one not earning a living wage – can be replaced by an app or a robot they will be.

    I’ve heard the usual arguments that this has been predicted before and yet has not come to pass. But it is happening right now. And this time it’s different.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. Argon says:

    Hmm… Automated ordering but the US still doesn’t deploy credit cards with smart chips like the rest of the west and Canada.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    At some point we are going to have to realize that there are not going to be enough jobs for everyone who needs one and figure out how as a society we deal with that.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

  7. gVOR08 says:

    That’s actually the political question of the century, isn’t it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    Indeed. It’s one of the reasons libertarianism is so anachronistic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  9. @Ron Beasley:

    How is this any different from the Industrial Revolution?

    @michael reynolds:

    So you suggest what? That we smash all the technology so that people will have jobs?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    In 20 years there will be very few if any cab drivers or truck drivers, few waiters, few janitors, few warehousemen. The list goes on. At the point where a human being – even one not earning a living wage – can be replaced by an app or a robot they will be.

    Which means that (i) we’re going to have to find something for all these people to do, and (i) we’re eventually going to have to institute a national guaranteed income from the federal government. We will, eventually, and perhaps sooner than later, pay people not to work, because the need for the work itself will have disappeared.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  11. Mikey says:

    @Ron Beasley: That’s true already, isn’t it? But we still haven’t figured out how to deal with it. I mean, we do in the short term by providing unemployment insurance and social welfare programs, but what of the long term?

    On the other hand, a great many of today’s jobs could not have existed even 30-40 years ago, so we may see new sectors springing up and creating jobs we haven’t even thought of today.

    We could do a lot for ourselves as a nation if we broadened our educational focus and moved away from our lock-step everyone-needs-a-college-degree way of potential-limiting thinking. There are better ways.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So you suggest what? That we smash all the technology so that people will have jobs?

    I suggest that we figure out some way to get money to people that doesn’t require them to have a job.

    If we have 100 people, but we only need 30 people to produce all the goods and services in society, those remaining 70 people aren’t just going to disappear off the face of the Earth. They still need to find some way to exist in society, they need a way to get money and they need something to do with their day and with their life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  13. Ron Beasley says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    We will, eventually, and perhaps sooner than later, pay people not to work, because the need for the work itself will have disappeared.

    Kind of like paying farmers not to grow stuff – something we have been doing for decades!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  14. @Rafer Janders:

    And the money will come from?????

    I look forward to seeing answers to that question when I return later today.

    And, for the record, I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea of a guaranteed minimum income. Indeed, Milton Friedman proposed a similar idea years ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    They still need to find some way to exist in society, they need a way to get money and they need something to do with their day and with their life.

    This is why I would prefer so called “make work jobs” than just giving out money. There is plenty that still needs to be done that can only be done by people. Looking after the elderly for one and there are going to be a lot more of those.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My dining out days are nearing an end.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: It’s going to come from people who still have a source of income, yes your taxes will go up. But is that not better than massive civil unrest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And the money will come from?????

    Taxes on the people who still have jobs, for one thing. Or we can embiggen our thinking and start to consider whether we even need money for lots of transactions — if, for example, it costs virtually nothing to produce certain goods and services because of automation, then maybe those goods and services should be provided free of charge. We may be moving into a Star Trek like post-scarcity economy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    It’s ironic to me that the same people like Mataconis who are celebrating the “creative destruction” of the new digital economy don’t realize that one end result may be to make the government more, not less, entangled with the economy.

    If the capitalist economy can’t provide jobs for everyone — if, indeed, the capitalist economy is engaged in actively destroying jobs — then the government is going to have to step in to provide a living to everyone else.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    No, I suggest that we are going to have a more redistributionist future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  21. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    On the other hand, a great many of today’s jobs could not have existed even 30-40 years ago, so we may see new sectors springing up and creating jobs we haven’t even thought of today.

    Yeah, but (a) those jobs generally don’t provide the same sort of stable, secure, life-long benefits/pension middle-class lifestyle that the old jobs did, and

    (b) there aren’t as many of them. When GM was American’s largest company by market share, it employed 500,000 Americans. When Apple was the largest, it employed 50,000.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. john personna says:

    At bottom tier efficient restaurants you order from a counter, and maybe even walk back get your own food when it’s ready. At top tier least efficient restaurants you are introduced to 3-4 people who will assist you with eating.

    There are a lot of names for the chains in the middle, but being a solid food snob, I wouldn’t use “restaurant” for some of them, like Applebees. Better food is available up market, or down.

    That they’d try to shed some staff is unsurprising. Robot overlords, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    “…That we smash all the technology so that people will have jobs?”
    That’s just so f’ing lazy it’s ridiculous.
    ATMs now account for many teller transactions…so fewer tellers are needed. That’s where you conveniently stop. But if it costs less to operate a bank then banks are free to increase the number of branches in order to reach a wider market. More bank branches means more tellers. And indeed…there were more tellers in ’09 than in ’99…which kind of tells me your theory is bunk.
    The problem we have as a society today…and it all comes back to exploding inequality…is not that productivity has been increased by technology…its that workers no longer enjoy the benefits of that increased productivity.
    The benefits all go to the top…the rent-seekers…and that is the result of 4 decades of failed Republican Economic Theory.
    We will continue to struggle as long as we give these stupid ideas credence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  24. john personna says:

    (The picture above is of a tablecloth, linen napkin, place which isn’t in danger of losing its waitstaff to automation.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    FWIW, Chase is building new branches (and sometimes abandoning old) all over California.

    The new branches have 6-8 visible people, but no “tellers.” There are big screen self service kiosks, and then tables and chairs for more complicated transactions.

    Not really sure they are getting more efficiency, but no “tellers” anymore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. michael reynolds says:

    Robot socialism is coming, like it or not. Libertarians and assorted other conservatives hate it, of course, but they can’t really offer a coherent argument that goes beyond: it’s never happened before.

    But “it’s never happened before” also describes the shift from animal power (human, oxen, horse) to mechanical power (steam, electric.) You’ll notice we don’t have a lot of horse-drawn carriages anymore. Lots of things have never happened before. And then they do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And the money will come from?????

    From the rich of course. About time we turned the flow in the pipeline in the other direction, don’t you think?

    I look forward to seeing answers to that question when I return later today.

    I look forward to Doug’s proposed solution to the conundrum put forth by Rafer, one that does not amount to, “Let them eat cake.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Is it possible for the future to be more redistributionist then the present? I don’t think so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  29. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Robot socialism is coming, like it or not.

    I agree completely with this, but don’t think the Applebee’s story is such a great milepost.

    The drive-tru does far more to reduce “wait staff” at “restaurants” every day.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. JKB says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    So you believe the future is extortionist. Pay us or we’ll riot.

    Of course, those paying could always just move into enclaves with high security. Or, they coudl employ forces to “resolve” the unrest once and for all.

    You assume the non-contributors will continue to have a say in government and that morality will remain the same. Possible, but by no means assured.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @john personna:
    The point is that we have been dealing with technology since the industrial revolution in the 1800′s.
    Our problems are policy driven…a low minimum wage, weakened unions, globalization. And because policies are at fault…the policies can be changed. But before we can fix the problem we have to admit we have a problem.
    Walmart pays their workers a below starvation wage…while the Mr. Walmart pockets gazillions. That’s not technology…that’s greed. And the Mr. Walmarts of the world have bought and paid for the Government…which in turn enables their greed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. Rafer Janders says:

    And just to forestall some commonly used counterarguments, no, the answer would be “everyone should become a coder” or “everyone should become an entrepreneur and start their own company”.

    You can’t run an economy that requires everyone to be exceptional — otherwise there is no thing as exceptional. We’re always going to have the majority of our people be not that smart, not that engaged with work, not that motivated, not that technically skilled, etc. We need to find a way to provide for them — or they’re going to provide for themselves, and that often doesn’t work out that well (see, e.g., Revolution, The French).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  33. Ron Beasley says:

    BTW, I just sold my parent’s house so I had to close the utilities accounts I had been paying for almost a year. I talked to a real person at the electric company and the water bureau and was able to close the sewer account on line. All of this went well and the accounts are closed. The gas company was a different thing however – I talked to a robot and after 2 weeks I’m still not sure if I have actually closed the account.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oh, wait a minute, my bad. It’s only redistribution when it is from the rich to the poor. When it is from the poor to the rich it is “Free Market Efficiency” ™.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  35. Rafer Janders says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Walmart pays their workers a below starvation wage…while the Mr. Walmart pockets gazillions. That’s not technology…that’s greed.

    And that’s also redistributionist, only from the US taxpayer to Wal-Mart. They pay their workers low-wages knowing full well that those workers are often going to go on public assistance. In effect, Wal-Mart depends on the American taxpayer to subsidize their employees. It’s corporate socialism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    You assume the non-contributors will continue to have a say in government

    Citizens United kind of guarantees that, doesn’t it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  37. JKB says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Many make this error but the Federation depicted in Star Trek is not a post-scarcity economy. In fact it is a horrible defect in the story. What you see in the depictions is life of the military elite who are at the top of the socialist society. They almost never depict normal citizens of the Federation nor how they live or obtain their necessities.

    Not unlike the privileged upper middle class Ivy Leaguers simplistic view of society today.

    The energy for the replicator come from somewhere and the dilithium crystals are not plentiful. Not to mention, not everyone who wishes gets to zip about the universe on a starship. And, Star Fleet Academy occupies prime San Francisco real estate which makes such real estate scarce since no one else can occupy it.

    Yes, Star Trek is a nice view from the Party headquarters and Politburo.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  38. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    You prefer a future where Americans starve in the streets while the rich enjoy their mansions? Have you got anything beyond that? Or as usual have you spent no time actually thinking about the issue? Quick, check in with Fox News for a talking point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  39. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And the money will come from?????

    Sounds like a job for that keen, supple, problem-solving Mataconis mind, doesn’t it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. C. Clavin says:

    @Rafer Janders:
    Right…exactly…and then the right-wing wants to go ahead and eliminate that public assistance…in order that Mr. Walmart can keep more of his money instead of paying the taxes needed to pay for that public assistance. And then dupes like Doug go ahead and blame it all on technology.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  41. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Weeeelll. The industrialization of America did allow agricultural work to be highly reduced while new factories supplied even more replacement jobs. Good times.

    The dynamic now seems to that waves of globalization and automation coincided to displace great numbers of jobs.

    It’s possible that we are reading too much into too short a timeframe, and that jobs will come from somewhere, but if not, “robo socialism” has to be the endpoint. Robots gotta work, and people gotta eat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  42. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Sounds just like the gilded age to me. That’s exactly where the Republican Economic Project will inevitably take us if not changed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  43. Ron Beasley says:

    @JKB: People with no source of income and unable to afford to provide for their families riot. That is really what the “Arab Spring” was all about, not politics or religion. And as for this:

    Of course, those paying could always just move into enclaves with high security. Or, they could employ forces to “resolve” the unrest once and for all.

    Yes, they could move into those enclaves but don’t those just become comfortable prisons? And as for the resolve argument, are you arguing that everyone without a job should simply be killed?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  44. john personna says:

    I don’t think JKB believes his own BS on this, and so won’t bother.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  45. C. Clavin says:

    @john personna:
    But the problem is not globalization itself…the problem…again…is greed. Walmart sells a lot of things made in China…that’s globalization…enabled by low Chinese wages and shipping containers. But that doesn’t explain why Mr. Walmart pays the workers that he does have a sub-starvation wage…whilst he takes home gazillions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  46. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Especially since JKB will wind up as the prole without a job, not the 1% rich tech entrepreneur.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  47. Mikey says:

    @JKB: There are plenty of statements made by various characters in the Star Trek series that point to a post-scarcity economy.

    From Star Trek IV:

    Gillian: “Don’t tell me they don’t use money in the 23rd century.”

    Kirk: “Well, we don’t.”

    From Star Trek (TNG):

    Picard: “A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of ‘things’. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions.”

    From Star Trek (VOY):

    Paris: “When the New World Economy took shape in the late 22nd century and money went the way of the dinosaur, Fort Knox was turned into a museum.”

    I think Picard’s statement is most significant and indicates a society where it’s not just “the military elite” who live in a post-scarcity economy, but everyone.

    (It’s not explored very deeply, but it is also indicated the Federation does maintain a system of medium of exchange to deal with worlds that still maintain currencies. The abolition of money is intra-planetary rather than interplanetary.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  48. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    Not unlike the privileged upper middle class Ivy Leaguers simplistic view of society today.

    Jeez, why drag Mitt “Mr. 47%” Romney into this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  49. anjin-san says:

    And the money will come from?????

    Oh, maybe we could end welfare for oil companies. And money sinks like the joint strike fighter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  50. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Keep in mind too that you and I are paying for the Government that makes the shipping container business and globalization possible…shipping became cheaper by shifting cost on shore…while the Republicans only reason for being is to slash Mr. Walmart’s contribution to that Government. Technology and globaization are excuses used to mask theft by the wealthy from the rest of us. (well…I’m actually in the top 4 or 5%…but anyway)
    The gains from productivity and globalization should be shared with all the stakeholders…not just the shareholders.
    Fix that…and we are getting somewhere.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  51. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Sure, you can choose Mr. Walton as a villain. He certainly forces taxpayers to share the burden of supporting his workers. I think it’s much wider than him though.

    I mean, we love Costco because they pay a living wage, right?

    They actually do as much to eliminate total product-cycle employment. You just pick from the pallet yourself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  52. rudderpedals says:

    The government owns many printing presses. There is no money problem, Doug.

    Be good to get away from the Dennis Moore redistribution. The one where he steals from the poor and gives to the rich.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  53. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    The Star Trek universe is set up to provide an isolated Captain with a world he can control.

    Did you notice the lack of cruise ships?

    We pay for a lot of experience, over things, now (and psychologists say that’s good, more rewarding).

    Cheap “things” will not eliminate the need for money.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  54. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I offered no preference, only a possible choice that must be considered. Another would be to start evaluating survival on “social benefit” of the individual as was just this week explored for the elderly in the NY Times.

    When individuals become enough of a burden upon others, these types of evaluations start being discussed. One should also look at the support for public education. If the populace is to simply be supported then why educate them? All these issues arise. Perhaps not in the next 30 years but soon, especially with the assault on Christian values, morality could migrate to a more primitive state.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  55. john personna says:

    (Maybe “wireheading” experiences would finally eliminate money … and the species.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  56. Hal_10000 says:

    Not to be glib or anything, but we’ve heard this “what are we going to do with people when X job doesn’t exist anymore?” stuff before. The advancement of technology threw tens of millions out of farming, many hundreds of thousands out of mining, many hundreds of thousands out of manufacturing and thousands out of buggy-whip making. Each time, there was much hand-wringing about what people would do without those jobs (in many cases, that they had relied on for generations). And each time, the concern turned out to be overblown.

    Maybe “this time it’s different”. I accept that this is possible that we have reached some kind of turning point where millions will find work unavailable or unnecessary. But I think there needs some evidence of that before we start hyperventilating. Because we have heard all of this before.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  57. C. Clavin says:

    @john personna:
    It’s not just Walton…he simply exemplifies the problem quite distinctly.
    Costco paying a living wage is great…but wages are only a small part of the problem we face. Along with living wages (a higher minimum wage) we need to strengthen not weaken our public assistance, strengthen not weaken our unions, and strengthen not weaken our tax and transfer (progressive redistribution) system. All of these are policy problems.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  58. JKB says:

    My God, there is a lot of economic ignorance here.

    Money is simply a measure of value. It, in its physical form, is also a medium of exchange.

    So Doug’s question of where the money would come from, should be viewed, where will the value be extracted to make it available to those not adding any value? It will most likely be extracted in the denomination of money but it will actually be value someone else created, that is being expropriated to transfer to those who are not producing value. Economic value, this is not a moral value question.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  59. john personna says:

    @Hal_10000:

    We have a significant datum in the labor force participation. The tricky thing is knowing how voluntary the decline really is.

    (I just heard from a group I worked with 30 years ago. They stayed on with that employer but have now been “given” retirement in their 50s. Not all are really ready.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  60. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    What the f~ck do you know about Christian values?
    You spend almost every single day advocating for the denial of Health Care to the sick and poor.

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  61. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I think Michael and I are looking past this, with the recognition that with even better automation, and unless someone builds trade barriers, there simply will not be enough jobs. “Strengthening public assistance” at that point becomes what we call “robo socialism.”

    “Strengthening unions” won’t help you with that, if there are no jobs. Unless you want to outlaw self-serve throughout the economy.

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  62. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Did you notice the lack of cruise ships?

    Well, I can’t remember if the Trek world have cruise ships, but they certainly had vacations and resorts. More than once we see, or hear mention of, major characters going to such places.

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  63. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    Money is simply a measure of value. It, in its physical form, is also a medium of exchange. So Doug’s question of where the money would come from, should be viewed, where will the value be extracted to make it available to those not adding any value? It will most likely be extracted in the denomination of money but it will actually be value someone else created, that is being expropriated to transfer to those who are not producing value. Economic value, this is not a moral value question.

    You know, that’s actually well stated. It’s a good point, and an interesting question.

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  64. JKB says:

    As for Star Trek, the poorly supported ramblings of the characters do not support the theory of a post-scarcity economy. Even if we grant that basic necessities are no longer scarce that simply moves the needle to other scarce goods. Such as getting into Star Fleet Academy. It seemed like a very fiercely competed after good to me. Or a place upon the Enterprise as opposed to a fleet tug at a remote space dock. Or being consigned to whatever fate awaits those who remain in the general economy.

    And let’s not forget the profit motive. The series, as everything in life, reeks of it. All the characters seek to advance their careers, i.e. profit, from their actions. All seek to profit from their experiences. Even the poor red shirt, hopes to profit from being in the away team. I doubt he is resigned to his fate as the dramatic casualty when he steps on the transporter.

    The Federation hopes to profit from the Enterprise’s journey by learning of new worlds and going where no man has gone before.

    And let’s not ignore that one of the scarcest goods in the Federation is being on an away team, especially to survive the experience. For the rest of the crew, it’s day in day out in a tin can, with the wistful longing as they nurse their synthanol in 10 forward before clamoring in their bunk in the crew bay to do it all again the next day.

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  65. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I think Original Star Trek imagined a mixed economy, much like our world, and simply left it behind to create the dynamic of one ship’s captain as sole authority. As I’ve mentioned it is much like early seafaring memoirs. Or for that matter, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”

    For whatever reason, the Next Generation briefly floated this “no money” thing.

    It was a stupid idea because, as I say, matter replication doesn’t actually end shopping or aspiration. If “things” were free, then obviously, given what humans are, aspiration and status competition would move to something else.

    That is, unless you want to re-engineer the species, and take the Kahn path!

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  66. JKB says:

    @Rafer Janders: but they certainly had vacations and resorts. More than once we see, or hear mention of, major characters going to such places.

    It was the same with high party members in the Soviet Bloc as well.

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  67. john personna says:

    (If replicated shoes were free, then people would want the hand-crafted ones.)

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  68. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    It was the same with high party members in the Soviet Bloc as well.

    You know who else took vacations….?

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  69. C. Clavin says:

    @john personna:
    Yeah…I’m just not buying the premise that there won’t be jobs. It’s been 150 years since the civil war ended and the industrial revolution took hold.
    Remember…most of the joblessness we are experiencing now is driven by lack of demand…which is driven by bad policy decisions…based on…again…40 years of failed economic theory.
    I mean…you and Michael and I tend to agree…so in my mind we are discussing nuance. And not much is as complicated as the economy. So my guess is that none of us is exactly right.

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  70. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    It was the same with high party members in the Soviet Bloc as well.

    Because if there’s one thing that distinguished Soviet Communism from the Free World, it was the existence of high-end vacation resorts behind the Iron Curtain. A free people wouldn’t tolerate such places.

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  71. Mikey says:

    @john personna: I wasn’t asserting anything besides JKB being incorrect about Star Trek economics (which, admittedly, are not particularly developed in the context of the series and films, and sometimes appear contradictory).

    There are, however, some pretty good extrapolations from what is considered Star Trek canon, like this one by Rick Webb.

    I believe the federation is a proto-post scarcity society evolved from democratic capitalism. It is, essentially, European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to.

    In the Star Trek universe, production of vast quantities of both necessary and leisure goods and services has become so cheap and simple that these things are simply available, to everyone, all the time. In such a context, the arguments we have over who would “provide” a living to people who don’t work become irrelevant.

    Webb closes with something I think is relevant to the discussions in this thread:

    If robots do all the dirty work, and the US is hugely rich, does every single person really need a job? Are we going to let all of that money pile up in the 0.1% ruling elite, or can it be distributed to everyone? Does wealth being distributed to the people in an equal manner mean communism absolutely? Of course it doesn’t. The US isn’t communist. The UK isn’t communist. Denmark isn’t communist. What happens when the surplus is more than enough?

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  72. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    (If replicated shoes were free, then people would want the hand-crafted ones.)

    Maybe. But, on the other hand, no one would have to go barefoot.

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  73. rudderpedals says:

    @JKB: That Althouse post is a real piece of work (in a Soylent Green shade).

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  74. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:

    “…My God, there is a lot of economic ignorance here…”

    Pot…meet Kettle.

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  75. JKB says:

    @Rafer Janders: A free people wouldn’t tolerate such places.

    A capitalist society would bring such places and experiences to within the reach of most if not all the population rather than leave them for the well-connected. Oh, wait, the Free World did do that. True, the uber wealthy have much more exclusive places still but those places are not substantially better, just stylistically. The faucets may be golden but the water is not substantially purer than that piped to the poorer guest in the less exclusive resort.

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  76. Mikey says:

    @JKB:

    As for Star Trek, the poorly supported ramblings of the characters do not support the theory of a post-scarcity economy.

    Yeah, let’s just dismiss out-of-hand the clear and specific statements of Kirk and Picard because they’re inconvenient to your point.

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  77. gtleviathan says:

    @JKB: The “value” comes from what this whole article is about: increased efficiency/productivity through automation. Restaurants sell just as much (or more) food while incurring less costs. Profits rise. It’s just a matter of redirecting that profit to those who would have had the waiter jobs.

    The real problem, of course, comes from the moral hazard of providing “lazy humans” (which I am most certainly one) a wage for no work. Talent is siphoned away from providing value to the public. Do efficiency/productivity gains from automation more than offset this drain on human ingenuity?

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  78. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Remember:

    The writer was complaining about some of his colleagues and their notions of their genre’s strengths and weaknesses. “They always point to that story as an example of how science fiction forces people to ask themselves the sort of hard questions that mainstream fiction glosses over,” he said. “That’s what that story is supposed to be about, who would you save, tough moral choices.” He paused, and sighed. “But at a certain point I realized that’s not really what that story is about. It’s really about concocting a scenario where you get a free pass to toss a girl out an airlock.”

    IMO, Star Trek was about putting the great age of sail into the future. That’s all.

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  79. Brian says:

    @C. Clavin: Actually, you mean that they are cutting private sector jobs. Public sector jobs are “government” jobs. Federal jobs have been growing. Heck, thousands of IRS jobs were added to enforce heathcare penalties; oops, taxes.

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  80. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Come on dudes, slow down on this stuff.

    Everybody got shoes in East German. And yet they died trying to escape.

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  81. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    IMO, Star Trek was about putting the great age of sail into the future. That’s all.

    Yeah, it probably was. But that’s not where it stayed.

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  82. george says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I suggest that we figure out some way to get money to people that doesn’t require them to have a job.

    Really? I’d just suggest we shorten the work week. If the standard job was 20 hours a week instead of 40, you’ve just doubled the numberof jobs (yes, its more complicated than that, but not by too much).

    In fact, I think that’d be great. Everyone working (with all the good mental and emotional benefits that come with that) fewer hours seems much preferable to just a few people working (imagine the resentment that would build).

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  83. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    A capitalist society would bring such places and experiences to within the reach of most if not all the population rather than leave them for the well-connected.

    I’m sorry, have you ever lived in a capitalist society?!?! That’s pure nonsense. Are you actually asserting that in the United States, for example, that everyone has the money and time to take a high-end resort vacation….? That the well-connected aren’t materially better off than everyone else?!?!

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  84. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Everybody got shoes in East German. And yet they died trying to escape.

    Yeah, so? They weren’t trying to escape from or because of the free shoes, were they? They were escaping from the political repression. One doesn’t imply the other.

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  85. JKB says:

    I don’t see this tablet innovation replacing the server or at least most of them. It seems to me to be more an efficiency to replace low value-added tasks of a server. Applebee’s and Chili’s aren’t places for cheap food or places for really good food. They sell atmosphere, the party. The server taking the random orders for appetizers and then doing the tab paying circuit takes time away from them, first doing regular ordering but also from being the bubbly hostess of the party. A good waitress, even bartender, keeps everyone feeling comfortable at the party. Then people want to come to the party and spend money, but they come to be social. Even if they don’t socialize.

    It’s been a long while but I read a story about the guy who started TGIF in NYC. It was an innovation, the neighborhood meeting place after work. It would be foolish to lose that edge over the fast food (feed on the cheap and fast) and the sit-down private-like dinner party type restaurant.

    These meeting place restaurants make a lot of profit off appetizers. But if someone has to wait to order for the waitress to come around, they might re-think. A few taps and its done is a real advantage. Now the server can concentrate on drinks and flirty talk. Making people feel “seen”. There’s good tip money in that skill.

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  86. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    Jesus-Gawd you are dumb.
    Poor people don’t go to resorts.
    Poor people drink the water poisoned by the Koch Brothers…and the Koch Brothers get away with this because they have bought and paid for the Republican Party which fights regulations that would require the Koch Brothers to stop poisoning the water that poor people drink…and to fight the taxes that pay for the Government that provides the infrastructure that the Koch Brothers used to get rich…and that they use to get richer.
    I know you aren’t smart enough to understand this…which is why you are a Republican.

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  87. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Everybody got shoes in East German.

    A joke (it’s a German joke, so please excuse the fact it’s not particularly funny) from early 1990:

    You wake up lying next to the Berlin Wall after a night of drinking. You have no idea whether you are on the East or West side. How do you figure it out?

    Place a banana on top of the wall. The end that gets bitten off is the East.

    (Because nobody in the East had ever eaten a banana, you see. The distribution chain was so bad they couldn’t get bananas to people before the bananas started to rot.)

    I may have related this story before. In late 1989, friends and I were hanging out in a bar in Nuremberg and some visitors from East Germany showed up. We started talking, we gave them American cigarettes (which they loved), they gave us East German cigarettes (which were awful beyond belief). Another friend showed up with some band’s new CD and started showing it around. The East Germans had no idea what it was. “Music? How? Where are the grooves?”

    It occurs to me the economy of the West might have looked a lot like post-scarcity to an East German, circa 1989.

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  88. Rob Miles says:

    @JKB
    “especially with the assault on Christian values, morality could migrate to a more primitive state.”

    This is getting off the subject, but such a bald statement shouldn’t go unchallenged. Exactly what “Christian value” is being assaulted that will lead to a more “primitive” morality? I suppose first you’ll have to define what a “more primitive state” morality is versus a “less primitive state.”

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  89. C. Clavin says:

    @Brian:
    Sorry pal…public sector jobs are down…way down…
    If your opinions are based on factual mis-information…then your opinions are wrong.

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  90. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    They weren’t trying to escape from or because of the free shoes, were they?

    Well, given what I’ve seen of the quality of East German goods, it might not be surprising if they were…

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  91. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    True, the uber wealthy have much more exclusive places still but those places are not substantially better, just stylistically.

    Spend a day on the beach at Coney Island. Then spend a day on the beach at the Cotton House on Mustique. Then report back to me whether the second day was not substantially better.

    http://www.cottonhouse.net/gallery/beach-gallery

    The faucets may be golden but the water is not substantially purer than that piped to the poorer guest in the less exclusive resort.

    The water may be the same, but everything else — the quality and preparation of the food, the attentiveness and professionalism of the wait staff, the quality of the furniture and decor, etc. etc. — is, indeed, substantially “purer.”

    That’s assuming, of course, that your $20K a year minimum wage job even leaves you the money and time to go a “less exclusive resort.”

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  92. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    The NG worlds are not even self-consistent, because as we know from our own world, having “things” does not end aspiration.

    East Germany is actually a fair toy model of the NG worlds because it did provide “things” to everyone, just not really good things.

    So NG will give you the best shoes ever, for free. Will they give you a racecar and a track to drive it on? Does everyone get every dream for free? Would they have money to ration rare experiences?

    If not, does one have to “escape the Federation” to go to racecar planet?

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  93. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    The ex-SOVIET woman I knew in California told me she had never been as happy here as she was in Russia when she found shoes that fit. Here, it was too easy.

    That might have some bearing on the “free stuff brings Nirvana” argument.

    (The Buddha wasn’t that big on stuff, was he?)

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  94. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    A capitalist society would bring such places and experiences to within the reach of most if not all the population rather than leave them for the well-connected.

    I mean, think about what you’re saying: that what distinguishes a capitalist society from a communist one is that in the capitalist society, the rich CAN’T afford substantially better goods, services and experiences than the poor? That money DOESN’T buy you distinction?

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  95. stonetools says:

    This thread has really blown up. SF has discussed the problem of technology and unemployment. The classic story here is “With Folded Hands” by Jack Williamson.

    Seemingly perfect robotic “Humanoids” appear in the town of Two Rivers and offer residents a life free of work, stress and danger. But at what cost? “With Folded Hands” follows Mr. Underhill, as the Humanoids threaten his household, destroy his android business and take control of the town in order to “Serve and Obey, and Guard Men from Harm.”
    A precursor to Williamson’s novel THE HUMANOIDS, which Damon Knight called “without a doubt, one of the most important science-fantasy books of its decade.”

    The post-scarcity economy is discussed in a number of SF stories. Star Trek really only touches on this in a superficial way. Try the “Midas Plague” by Frederik Pohl and the Culture novels.

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  96. john personna says:

    @stonetools:

    I also recall a story with a “work lottery.” The idea was that robots did most things, but there were more people who wanted productive roles than there were slots to fill. So they “won” and went to work.

    In a non-play environment though, I’d expect something more like the “national guaranteed income” being batted around by economists right now. It would provide a _base_ from which people might aspire (to either more things or more experiences).

    I wouldn’t expect everyone to get track-time in a post-scarcity world, at least not until or unless you also got the falling birthrate and population added to some stories.

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  97. JKB says:

    @Rafer Janders: That the well-connected aren’t materially better off than everyone else?!?!

    Well, now that depends on your usage of ‘materially’. Yes, the well-connected do have/possess more matter. But if you use the common definition, the are not better off than everyone else to a significant degree. They have luxury in style and fixture but the less well off enjoy high quality and abundance.

    The well-connected/wealthy are materially better off in one important sense. Even as a good portion of their created value is expropriated, they still have freedom and liberty that cannot be enjoyed by the dependent class. The dependent class must act and behave in a manner that curries favor with their bureaucratic overlords lest their subsistence become entangled in red tape. This freedom can only be gained by becoming self supporting but is the threshold is increasingly being raised by meddling regulation designed to put more citizens are risk of government whim and thus deny them freedom of thought or action without high cost.

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  98. marginoerra says:

    @Brian: As Clavin noted, public sector jobs have been declining. And the notion that the IRS is hiring thousands to enforce Obamacare was debunked long ago.
    http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2012/jul/10/tom-price/price-16000-irs-agents-will-enforce-obama-health-c/
    Turn. FOX. Off. Just turn it off.

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  99. PJ says:

    @john personna:

    Everybody got shoes in East German. And yet they died trying to escape.

    In Europe a lot of people gets free health care and free eduction, how many of them die trying to escape that hell hole?

    Sadly, there’s seems to be a lot of people who die trying to get into Europe. Can’t recall many people dying trying to get into East Germany, free shoes and all…

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  100. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB
    WTF are you talking about?
    The poor are incrementally the same as the wealthy?
    No wonder every comment you type is stupid…you are an idiot.

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  101. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    But if you use the common definition, the are not better off than everyone else to a significant degree. They have luxury in style and fixture but the less well off enjoy high quality and abundance.

    I’m sorry, you’ve completely gone around the bend here. In order to make a point — about god knows what, at this point — you’ve started asserting that what distinguishes a capitalist society is that it fairly allocates resources to all. That you don’t have to work hard to do better but that society will allocate to you based on your want. That capitalism, is, at its base, communist.

    And you were doing so well for a while! You even had a comment that I praised! But the lure of the stupidest-common-denominator argument drew you on as inexorably as the sirens’ song, didn’t it?

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  102. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    A capitalist society would bring such places and experiences to within the reach of most if not all the population rather than leave them for the well-connected.

    No, that’s a what a socialist society tries — very explicitly! — to do.

    Capitalism, by contrast, works by putting a price on everything. If the price is low enough, then everyone can participate. But sometimes the price is so high that you can’t afford it. Not everyone gets a car — some have to walk.

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  103. john personna says:

    @PJ:

    I think the recurring theme of East German escapees was “to make a life in the West.” That was actually a pretty non-political outlook. It’s pragmatic and personal. It was about building something for ones self and ones children.

    A flaw of the communist system was that The Party became the path for that, building something for ones self and ones children, in the east. This of course lead to much dysfunction.

    But yes, modern refugees trying to get into Europe also want “to make a life in the West.” They want a car at least as much as a vote.

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  104. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    I think the recurring theme of East German escapees was “to make a life in the West.” That was actually a pretty non-political outlook.

    No, I had family living in East Germany. It was pretty political. They hated communism and what it had done to the country.

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  105. Rafer Janders says:

    @george:

    Really? I’d just suggest we shorten the work week. If the standard job was 20 hours a week instead of 40, you’ve just doubled the numberof jobs (yes, its more complicated than that, but not by too much).

    That works for some jobs, but not for others. You can be a 20 hour a week cashier or taxi driver or life guard. You can’t really be a 20 hour a week brain surgeon or public defender. Some jobs just inherently require a lot of time and/or prep work.

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  106. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    But if you use the common definition, the are not better off than everyone else to a significant degree. They have luxury in style and fixture but the less well off enjoy high quality and abundance.

    True, my works 2 jobs a year lives in Queens row house takes no vacations kids in bad public school $30K/yr waitress friend enjoys a life of high quality and abundance just as much as my lives in Tribeca penthouse vacations on Ibiza kids in Exeter $5mm/yr hedge fund analyst friend. His life is not better than hers to any significant degree…..

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  107. rodney dill says:

    If there’s no servers who will be willing to leave a tip? And if they increase their prices they’ll be competing against restaurants with servers that don’t raise their prices. Knowing full well that it will take people a while to adjust to comparing tipping vs non-tipping prices, if they ever do.

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  108. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    Wow, I expected dumb from you. And boy did I get it. You are just comically clueless.

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  109. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    No, I had family living in East Germany. It was pretty political. They hated communism and what it had done to the country.

    That’s a funny answer. You say “no” but “communism and what it had done to the country” is all about blocking family progress and wealth.

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  110. john personna says:

    (Gosh, we could still be living in a cold and crumbling apartment … and our feelings about that are “political.”)

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  111. Ben says:

    @JKB:

    But if you use the common definition, the are not better off than everyone else to a significant degree. They have luxury in style and fixture but the less well off enjoy high quality and abundance.

    This is laughably ridiculous. High quality of what? Abundance of what? Methinks you’ve have very little experience being poor if you’re going to say something so incredibly dumb. Oh, and as for the “lesser resorts”, I wouldn’t know. I can’t afford to go to them.

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  112. Gavrilo says:

    If there are no more waiters and waitresses, how will we be reminded that we still live in a country full of racists and homophobes?

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  113. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    You say “no” but “communism and what it had done to the country” is all about blocking family progress and wealth.

    No, that’s not what it’s “all” about. Partly, but not totally. In a communist society, the personal and political are inter-twined. It’s hard to come up with a neat separation.

    (Gosh, we could still be living in a cold and crumbling apartment … and our feelings about that are “political.”)

    Well, yes, they are. Because the communists don’t just exile you to a cold and crumbling apartment…they also decide what city you can live in, what job you can have, who you can be friends with, what you can say in public, what you can write, how you can worship, what you can read, etc. Don’t like it? Then it’s a visit to the police station for you. It was all political.

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  114. grumpy realist says:

    We don’t even need the tablets. Japan is full of cafeteria-style places where you buy a ticket from an automatic ticket vending machine, march over to your place at the rail, and in exchange for your ticket (already paid for), pick up your noodles/fried rice/whatever.

    People will want to go to restaurants with waiters and waitresses in them for the experience. The only thing this whole tablet thing will do is make it easier for those waiters/waitresses in cheap “restaurants” who are already understaffed to not piss off the clients who hate having to wait around trying to catch the attention of someone for the check.

    We’ve got several places here in Chicago which have great food but serve it cafeteria-style. Doesn’t seem to have hurt their sales.

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  115. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    (Gosh, we could still be living in a cold and crumbling apartment … and our feelings about that are “political.”)

    You lived in a cold and crumbling apartment in West Berlin, and you complained…and nothing happened.

    You live in a cold and crumbling apartment in East Berlin, and you complained…and the next day all your neighbors got a visit from the police to ask about you, and you show up to your job as a lab technician to find you’ve been re-assigned as the lab janitor.

    That’s what makes it political.

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  116. JKB says:

    @Rafer Janders: In a communist society, the personal and political are inter-twined. It’s hard to come up with a neat separation.

    It wasn’t the communism that was so bad. In fact, the communism fell by the wayside quite early in the evolution. But rather the socialism that oppressed the people.

    That Communism is essentially negative, confined to the prohibition that one shall not have more than another. Socialism is positive and aggressive, declaring that each man shall have enough.

    It purposes to introduce new forces into society and industry; to put a stop to the idleness, the waste of resources, the misdirection of force, inseparable, in some large proportion of instances, from individual initiative; and to drive the whole mass forward in the direction determined by the intelligence of its better half.

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  117. Rob in CT says:

    Here’s the thing:

    I think “robot socialism” sounds kinda dystopian. Less dystopian than “rich in high-security enclaves, with possible cleansing of the poors” of course, but pretty unappealing nontheless.

    I do think we’re headed for a more redistributive future (in part due to a correction to ~30 years of Reagan revolution-inspired regressive drift). That’s not something that makes me happy – I view it as a sad necessity. I’d love to hear a better idea, but the alternate ideas I do here are warmed-over versions of “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

    I like the reduced work-week path, but as has been pointed out that doesn’t work for all professions, and we already have a large and seemingly growing gap between “knowledge workers” and others. And hell, as I think about it, it occurs to me that there is a trend towards more part-time work going back at least a decade now. Maybe more. For low-paying work, anyway. Full-time salaried employees? Not so much. So I put the shorter work week idea under the “sounds nice, how do you make it work?” heading.

    As for UBI… two thoughts:

    1) Ugh. Better than nothing? Certainly. Better than our current web of safety net programs? Possibly, not sure. But the best choice? I really, really doubt it. It’s easy to make too much of the idea of dignity through work, but I do think it’s a real thing.

    2) Doug asks how to pay for it and later notes that he’s aware Milton Freidman proposed one. Well, Doug? How did Freidman propose paying for it? (Wild guess: taxation). I figure if you were to take all the money spent on our various programs (including administrative costs) and put all of it in a pot and then used the Social Security Administration to distribute it to every American, you’d have a pretty solid chunk of change there. Now the $ amount reachnig the neediest Americans might fall because you’re now giving the money to everyone instead of means-testing, so I’m not sure it’s a great idea. But I just can’t get past your question. How do you pay for it? What, have you never even considered the issue before?

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  118. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    It wasn’t the communism that was so bad.

    Dude. When you’ve twisted yourself into such a knot that you’re defending communism, it’s time to stop.

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  119. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    Hey dumb-f~ck…you’re in a hole…stop digging.

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  120. C. Clavin says:

    I think we can re-title this thread:

    “…The One Where JKB Finally Loses It…”

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  121. JKB says:

    There were four periods in East German political history.[37] These included: 1949–61, which saw the building of socialism; 1961–1970 after the Berlin Wall closed off escape was a period of stability and consolidation; 1971–85 was termed the Honecker Era, and saw closer ties with West Germany; and 1985–89 saw the decline and extinction of East Germany.

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  122. JKB says:

    @Gavrilo: If there are no more waiters and waitresses, how will we be reminded that we still live in a country full of racists and homophobes?

    More importantly, what will all those masters of the Liberal Arts do?

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  123. JKB says:

    @Rob in CT:As for UBI… two thoughts:

    How much? Rafer and Ben are all ready upset some get higher thread counts and tastier mints at their hotels.

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  124. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Doug doesn’t like to use the “T” word.

    I think the essential point is that yes, finally, we’re beginning to reach the point where we can not only produce every good and service we want, but keep up with steadily rising expectations, without employing every single human in the country. There will be people, maybe just 8 or 10% early, with the number rising over time — who will simply not be needed to do work better done by a machine.

    I think if you subtract the effects of the tech and housing bubbles, I suspect we’ve been seeing this for some time now. We have serious increases in productivity – and no rise in wages. We have a roaring stock market – and few new jobs. Traditional thinkers still want to believe everything will be the mythical good old days again if only we do something Left or something Right. Reduce inequality, reduce the role of government, push this number, pull that law. I suspect things have changed more profoundly than that and that the old ideologies have stopped being relevant.

    I don’t know how this all plays out, but I do think we should put a bit of thought into it, and resist our usual urge to retreat to Adam Smith or Karl Marx. Or in JKB’s case, Adam Marx.

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  125. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    More importantly, what will all those masters of the Liberal Arts do?

    That’s actually a good question: what will they do? If there aren’t jobs for them, how are they supposed to make money? What should they do with their lives?

    And the traditional answer of “buckle down and get a real job” won’t do, because a lot of those “real jobs” will also have been automated away. Can’t get a job on the line at Chrysler anymore since that’s done by robots. Can’t get a job on the trading floor at Goldman since that’s all done by high-speed algorithms.

    So…what will they do? Because they’re not suddenly going to disappear off the face of the Earth. We do actually need a solution.

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  126. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    This particular master of the liberal arts makes high six figures, and is married to a mistress of liberal arts who does the same. You?

    You’re welcome.

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  127. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:
    They will do what they always do…become Doctors and Lawyers and Architects and Scientists and Mathematicians and on and on and on.
    They will draw maps and run Libraries and get Graduate Degrees.
    They will work anywhere communication skills are required. Because unlike you…people in the real world know that hard skills can be taught…while the soft skills that Liberal Arts Majors are learning have to be developed.
    The three irreducible forms of thought are Art, Philosophy, and Science. All part of a good Liberal Arts Education.
    It’s pretty f’ing clear from your comments that you have an extremely limited range…but that shouldn’t cause you to expect the same from the rest of us.

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  128. grumpy realist says:

    I myself am very much in favour of higher and more progressive tax rates to pay for everything. Tell the rich people that they can think of it as insurance against the revolution and getting hanged from lampposts.

    Add to that increased corporation taxation. If Walmart wants to pay salaries so low that its employees need to get food stamps, have the government charge them for the cost of the food stamps. No more privatizing the profits and putting the burdens on the taxpayer.

    For the average human? You work a 40 hour work week, you get a decent wage. You don’t work? Unless in absolutely dire cases (such as absolute disability), then you don’t eat. No welfare. There’s always something that people can do to help the rest of society. In a wheelchair? Then you can help put books on tape for blind people, etc. For younger people, they can help with the aging population and help keep them out of nursing homes.

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  129. Rob in CT says:

    @JKB:

    This is overblown. It is generally true that an engineering degree > a liberal arts degree in the marketplace. But this sneering contempt is unjustified.

    /liberal arts grad making good money.

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  130. Rob in CT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think if you subtract the effects of the tech and housing bubbles, I suspect we’ve been seeing this for some time now. We have serious increases in productivity – and no rise in wages. We have a roaring stock market – and few new jobs. Traditional thinkers still want to believe everything will be the mythical good old days again if only we do something Left or something Right. Reduce inequality, reduce the role of government, push this number, pull that law. I suspect things have changed more profoundly than that and that the old ideologies have stopped being relevant.

    I don’t know how this all plays out, but I do think we should put a bit of thought into it, and resist our usual urge to retreat to Adam Smith or Karl Marx. Or in JKB’s case, Adam Marx.

    Right. I think the last two bubbles helped mask the fact that these shifts are already happening. There’s been chatter over “structural unemployment” for some time now (before Great Man Summers mentioned it, though after he did it picked up).

    Now, it’s possible I suppose that globalization may play out eventually. In the long run, besides all of us being dead, we might see some rebound in employment/population levels in the developed world. I don’t have a crystal ball there, but I suspect things will get worse before getting better. Seems to me there are still plenty of poor workers in undeveloped countries available. [note: this process is not a bad thing for humanity in general. I think it’s actually a good thing, but it definitely puts strain on the developed socities social contracts).

    I think most of what we’re seeing is driven by international trade (globalization) and, therefore, the political choices made in the past ~30 years have been secondary. Often bad (exacerbating a problem), but secondary. With mobile capital and billions of poor workers available (especially after the breakdown of the communist bloc), I think a lot of this was inevitable. That doesn’t mean we should avoid trying to address issues with policy (say, like, I dunno… subsidizing poor people’s healthcare), but we shouldn’t be expecting any magic ponies. A little bit here, a little bit there, and maybe we nudge things in a better direction. At best. But hey, that’s the way it’s always been.

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  131. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    A capitalist society would bring such places and experiences to within the reach of most if not all the population rather than leave them for the well-connected.

    Area Man Passionate Defender of What He Imagines Capitalism To Be.

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  132. JKB says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I don’t have the numbers but my guess is that in the current waiter/waitress population with higher degrees the number of degreed liberal artists outnumber the number of degreed engineers.

    Now, there are options. Without the way station of waiting tables, the liberal arts grad may push harder to develop other marketable skills with a broader future. With UBI, then the liberal artist can sit around thinking deep thoughts since their food and lodging will be taken care of, be they ever so humble. A bit like the wayward second or third offspring of the historical gentry. Sadly many gained little from the university except for a deep victimhood and so are not prepared to take advantage of this leisure toward thought and would simply feel slighted.

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  133. C. Clavin says:

    @Rob in CT:

    “…I think most of what we’re seeing is driven by international trade (globalization) and, therefore, the political choices made in the past ~30 years have been secondary…”

    The hole in that theory is that other nations who participate in Globalization haven’t seen the same skyrocketing of inequality.
    Again…Globalization is real…but it is the result of acquiescent public policy…e.g. Shipping Containers lower costs because we make policy that moves the costs of shipping on-shore.
    It’s my position that the policy choices are primary…because they enable the actions that lead to things like Globalization.

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  134. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    Without the way station of waiting tables, the liberal arts grad may push harder to develop other marketable skills with a broader future.

    Such as….?

    Because “get marketable skills” isn’t a real answer unless you’re also able to say what those marketable skills will be — and whether you can tell if they’ll still be marketable skills in 20 years or whether that work will then be done by a drone or an app.

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  135. Rob Miles says:

    @grumpy realist
    No welfare for those who don’t work; right on, brother! And to hell with their kids, too! It’s their own damn fault for picking such lazy parents in the first place!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  136. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:

    I don’t have the numbers but my guess

    And your guess is that the lives of the poor and the lives of the rich are only incrementally different.
    This just in…your guesses ain’t worth $hit.

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  137. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Yeah, I think globalization was the leading edge, technological innovation the trailing edge, but in the end it’ll be tech that seals the deal. How cheaply can we make a machine/app to replace a man? At some point the tech becomes so cheap that even a human working at below survival wages cannot compete. Obviously we’re not there, but we’re heading there.

    It’s interesting to think that the robots sneak up on us. My car doesn’t drive itself, but it shows me the best way to get from A to B, and it adjusts the lights and warns me if there’s someone in my blind spot, and in an emergency it does the braking. It’s not a robot, but it’s a precursor. By the time the completely self-driving car gets here we’ll all be well-prepped. It has begun the job of replacing me as a driver, and the kicker is, I paid for the privilege.

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  138. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    JKB is what happens when you ignore the liberal arts part of your education. I’m sure he’s just a wonderful engineer of vacuum cleaner nozzles (a worthy job) but his brain doesn’t actually seem to work at all when tasked with what we liberal arts wusses like to call “thinking.”

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  139. JKB says:

    @C. Clavin: And your guess is that the lives of the poor and the lives of the rich are only incrementally different.

    So what is your universal basic income?

    How would you provide this income?

    No just saying raise taxes, if you want to raise taxes then say how and how you will avoid the disincentive to produce value when those taxes take all the income from that work. Our taxes are already very progressive, even more so after deductions and credits. The top 10% of earners already pay 70.6% of all income taxes. The tax rate on the top 1% is already twice the average rate for all taxpayers and 2.5 times that of the bottom 99%.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  140. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    The disincentive caused by taxation is part of the religious faith of conservatives, but not demonstrated. It only disincentivizes if the rates progress to the point of diminishing returns. I pay 50% in taxes now. I work harder because I want to maintain my lifestyle. If I paid less in tax, I’d work less because I could maintain my lifestyle with less effort.

    Now, if you said the next increment of income would be taxed at 90%? Yeah, then I might think, “screw it.” But if you raised my overall rate to 60 across the board? How does that reduce my incentive? I still want a nice car, right? Still want a nice house? Still like to go out to eat?

    60%, 70%, 80%, 90% yes, that kind of escalation makes the last dollar not worth it. But if all my dollars are taxed at X%, well, I still want to smoke good cigars and drink good whiskey.

    And since my work incidentally creates jobs for other people while my taxes keep the poor from starving, I guess it’s all good. Right?

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  141. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:

    “… the disincentive to produce value when those taxes take all the income from that work…”

    That’s just more of your nonsense.
    If you want to have an intelligent conversation…let me know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  142. C. Clavin says:

    @JKB:

    The tax rate on the top 1% is already twice the average rate for all taxpayers and 2.5 times that of the bottom 99%.

    You need to start talking about effective rates.
    Mitt Romney pays around 14%.
    I pay around 14%.
    While I do make 6 figures…I don’t make nearly what Mitt makes.

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  143. wr says:

    @JKB: “It wasn’t the communism that was so bad. In fact, the communism fell by the wayside quite early in the evolution. But rather the socialism that oppressed the people.”

    Congratulations. That may be the single dumbest thing ever written on the internet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  144. Rob in CT says:

    @JKB:

    More sneering contempt. I suspect this results from seething resentment.

    I’m in favor of more nudges for people to pursue STEM degrees. I’m very much in favor of more vocational education, or at least education aimed more squarely at attaining gainful employment (Jim Fallows’ blog over at The Atlantic recently had a couple of glowing posts about a Marine Trade school up in Maine, and I think it’s bang-on).

    So: more engineers would be a good thing (provided they get *some* liberal arts training, so they can communicate well, but most if not all engineering programs do that). I’m not claiming liberal arts is the bestest evah! Damn.

    Regarding taxes… please. The reason the rich pay such a high share is mostly (not entirely, but mostly) that they make most of the money. You could have a tax code that was entirely flat and the rich would pay most of the taxes, because of the distribution of income at present. The tax code is progressive, though if you view the entire tax system (including local & state taxes), it’s less so than if you look at federal income taxes in isolation. So when we talk about effective tax rates, what you tend to see is that the rich pay slightly more than their would-be flat tax share. They’re hardly being soaked.

    Speaking of which, my wife and I are looking at paying ~18% of our taxable income in federal taxes for 2013. Our household income is something like 4x the national average. Oh, how we are squeezed! Oh, how we bleed! [insert massive eyeroll here].

    It’s funny how in the conservative worldview, “soaking” the rich/well-off is supposed to result in withheld labor, loss of productivity, etc, but cutting benefits to the poor is supposed to motivate them in positive ways. I think this is bass ackwards.

    [I *could* get all ragey at the fact that Romney paid ~14% and my well-off but hardly superrich family has routinely paid 16-18%, of course. But THAT would be "class warfare."]

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  145. Rob in CT says:

    Actually, it’s not that I think it’s backwards. I think it’s massively incomplete. I think the superrich are just competing with one another and the absolute $ values cease to matter. They’re so far beyond the sort of money that makes you comfortable, it’s just a game. So higher taxes on them might cause they to whine (oh, how they whine!), but I think their behavior would be unchanged.

    Re: motivating poor people. The conservative approach basically boils down to using the threat of privation. Work or you won’t eat, and all that. Trouble is, there simply aren’t jobs for tons of people who do want to work. This renders the Conservative approach lacking. It’s not that it has zero utility: both carrot and stick have their roles in motivating people. But in our present circumstances, that side of the equation is, well, fully utilized. Heaping more on that side would be pushing on a string (with the non-trivial reality of causing misery, btw).

    Most people tend to think that those who are willing to work should get some help. But the market isn’t providing work, and a lot of the work being provided doesn’t pay much. We already supplement wages via the EITC (another example of an old GOP idea that is now apparently the work of the Devil). The EITC, of course, only helps you if you have a job.

    Another option would be a WPA 2.0. Just flat-out hire some people. Directly. The government. I can just imagine the Conservative response to such a thing today. Hair on fire doesn’t begin to cover it. Yet what’s the alternative? The ‘ole cut taxes on rich people and then magic happens routine has been exposed as a failure.

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  146. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob in CT:

    And as Atrios notes today:

    We don’t talk enough about how the working poor can face incredibly high effective marginal tax rates due to the fact that various credits and benefits are taken away if you manage to earn more money. We know that raising the tax rate on million-earners by one percentage point will cause them to go Galt and never create another jaayyyyaab again, but it’s the working poor who really face high marginal rates.

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  147. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:
    Now, there are options. Without the way station of waiting tables, the liberal arts grad may push harder to develop other marketable skills with a broader future. With UBI, then the liberal artist can sit around thinking deep thoughts since their food and lodging will be taken care of, be they ever so humble. A bit like the wayward second or third offspring of the historical gentry. Sadly many gained little from the university except for a deep victimhood and so are not prepared to take advantage of this leisure toward thought and would simply feel slighted.

    Wow, did you receive some poor service down at the cafe recently? I meet many young women who are in the process of putting it together and are working 2 jobs – maybe a waitress at one place and a barista at another, and the last thing they want is someone thinking that they are victims, because they don’t have time for that crap.

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  148. Rob in CT says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I’d like to see some concrete scenarios on that. I don’t doubt these situations exist, because so many benefits are means-tested.

    Anecdote: my wife used to go to dance classes. The instructor for one of them is pretty poor, and had subsidized housing. She started to make enough money from the dancing instructor thing that it threatened to set her up to be kicked out of said housing. Not good policy design, that (and an example for those who favor a UBI safety net rather than our current patchwork of means-tested programs).

    I’m sure there are other examples. Atrios, if memory serves, has long been making the point that though means-testing sounds like a good idea, in practice it often has harmful effects. We want to help the needy and only the needy, but when we set things up that way, the moment someone manages to escape poverty, they take a hit.

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  149. al-Ameda says:

    @wr:

    @JKB: “It wasn’t the communism that was so bad. In fact, the communism fell by the wayside quite early in the evolution. But rather the socialism that oppressed the people.”

    WR: “Congratulations. That may be the single dumbest thing ever written on the internet.”

    Yeah, Stalin wasn’t so bad, but Socialism in Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands – now THAT’S a tragedy.

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  150. Rob in CT says:

    I wonder… has anyone actually run the numbers on the following scenario:

    1) Take every safety net program in existance, tally up all expenditures (not just benefit outlays, but administrative costs and any other misc. $).

    2) Guesstimate the increased cost in social security administration costs if you used the SSA to distribute UBI checks (my guess: small increase).

    3) Calculate the total $ freed up for UBI (we can talk about whether there should be deficit reduction or benefit-increase later, start with deficit neutral), and then generate a per-person benefit number. The second part isn’t as easy as dividing by pop, because I assume you’d either: a) provide the UBI only to adults; or b) make payments to minors but at a reduced level.

    4) Guesstimate how many net government workers (local/state/federal) would lose their jobs as a result of getting rid of all those programs (but expanding SSA a bit), and then guesstimate the resulting economic impact of that.

    Seems like that would be a fundamental part of building a case for UBI. I’d be surprised if nobody had taken a stab at it, but I just haven’t seen one.

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  151. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’d like to see some concrete scenarios on that. I don’t doubt these situations exist, because so many benefits are means-tested.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-03/give-families-second-earners-a-break.html

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  152. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’m sure there are other examples. Atrios, if memory serves, has long been making the point that though means-testing sounds like a good idea, in practice it often has harmful effects. We want to help the needy and only the needy, but when we set things up that way, the moment someone manages to escape poverty, they take a hit.

    I don’t know how we avoid it. There has to be a cutoff at some point, and unfortunately it will end up being quite arbitrary for some people. Perhaps a graduated cutoff that sustains some payments in a way that ensures people losing eligibility for benefits don’t experience a decrease in actual income?

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  153. Rob in CT says:

    Related: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/12/wage-subsidies-might-be-good-idea-republicans-will-never-support-it

    Mikey,

    Well, you could set up a UBI and not means test it. You, I and Mitt Romney would get the same check. Or you could set up a means-tested system that phased out as you made more money, but that runs into the problem Atrios is on about. I could argue it either way, honestly.

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  154. Rob in CT says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Decent article. I made the mistake of reading the comments. I should know better.

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  155. Rob in CT says:

    An alternative some have proposed is a “Job Guarantee.”

    The trouble I see with that is that it basically boils down to the old trope about hiring folks to dig ditches and fill ‘em in.

    But… if you do believe having a job to get up and go to matters (and I do), that might indeed be superior to a UBI scheme.

    Another problem with UBI: it probably breaks down in severe cases (major, expensive disability, for instance).

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  156. JKB says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I’ll bet they aren’t liberal art grads either. Especially from the victim ‘studies’ genre.

    No matter, the English departments are killing themselves. All that remains is to sit back, watch and try to warn the latest victims of the damage such a department will do to their future prospects.

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  157. Rob in CT says:

    You know, it just so happens I came across this:

    http://www.olmis.org/olmisj/ArticleReader?itemid=00008016

    Granted, this is just data from Oregon.

    “Literature and languages” unemployment rate was middling. Pay was relatively low.
    Engineering was middling for unemployment, but high in wages.
    Computer/Math/Stats had high unemployment but high wages.
    Architecture had the highest unemployment rate, coupled with middling wages.

    Nifty graphs at the link.

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  158. C. Clavin says:

    @Rob in CT:
    Bush’s Contraction was rough on Architects…literally half of the industry was out of work.

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  159. Ben Wolf says:

    You guys need to think differently. It is conceivable that will experience a world with insufficient paid work in the for-profit sector. There will always be more than enough work in the interests of society, like environmental restoration, driving seniors to see their doctors, providing national daycare for our children, basic research, public works, beautification and the list is only limited by our desire for better quality of life and a more just, ethical society.

    With or without automation the definitive answer is a national Jobs Guarantee giving every citizen the right to a living wage rather than dependcy on business for paid work. We’ve been in a post-scarcity society since the 1930s: the point was made then by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve that America’s productive capacity could supply every basic need or want, yet here we are 80 years later letting our economy languish because. . . why, exactly?

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  160. MBunge says:

    @Rafer Janders: We’re always going to have the majority of our people be not that smart, not that engaged with work, not that motivated, not that technically skilled, etc.

    A better way of putting it might be “we’re always going to have people who are motivated by/interested in doing something other than making a lof of money”.

    Mike

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  161. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    No matter, the English departments are killing themselves. All that remains is to sit back, watch and try to warn the latest victims of the damage such a department will do to their future prospects.

    Do you actually get out, get around, and meet young people?
    I work with with an extremely bright person who graduated from an Ivy League university with a somewhat generic degree in Social Studies. She is without question the brightest policy analyst I have worked with in the past 30 years. A liberal arts degree is not a death sentence, the same basics always apply, can you organize yourself to solve problems?

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  162. wr says:

    @Rob Miles: “No welfare for those who don’t work; right on, brother! And to hell with their kids, too! It’s their own damn fault for picking such lazy parents in the first place!”

    Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

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  163. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: “Do you actually get out, get around, and meet young people?”

    I think JKB’s problem is that there isn’t a young person in the world — and probably not many middle aged or elderly ones — who would like to meet him.

    I mean, imagine the one person in the world you’d least like to sit next to on a long flilght. And then, who’s second on the list after Jenos?

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  164. Rafer Janders says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    With or without automation the definitive answer is a national Jobs Guarantee giving every citizen the right to a living wage rather than dependcy on business for paid work.

    I like it.

    And again I note the irony that the people like Mataconis who celebrate increasing automation aren’t smart enough to realize that the end result may be more rather than less government involvement in the economy. Sooner or later the pro-business crowd is going to have a painful realization that there’s less and less need for business….

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  165. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    I can’t decide if his personal jump the shark moment was when he claimed that the key fact of capitalism was that it was a redistributionist philosophy that allotted to each according to his needs, or when he started defending Soviet Communism….

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  166. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    I think a sarcasm detector fail there, friend.

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  167. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rafer Janders: They don’t get that business preferences are based in government policy. Right libertarians like Tyler Cowen love the high-tech sector, claiming it as the natural future of our economy, and so we’ll just have to accept unemployment for people with other skill sets. Never do they mention the emphasis in tech is due to a government which has been pouring trillions into R&D since 1950, creating demand for employment in that sector. Never do they mention that demand for health care workers is driven by massive government spending. And never do they acknowledge that if government wanted to emphasize clean buildings there would be a national surge in demand for janitorial workers.

    There’s this bizarre notion the economy is separate from and above us, that we are powerless to do other than respond to its needs. In reality an economy is a social construct and is therefore what we choose for it to be.

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  168. steve s says:

    Doug Mataconis says:
    Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 09:12

    @Rafer Janders:

    And the money will come from?????

    I look forward to seeing answers to that question when I return later today.

    Start taxing Mitt like his daddy George, would be a good start.

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  169. steve s says:

    Ultimately, Mitt Romney released just one year’s return, 2010, as well as an estimate for 2011. His effective tax rate was just below 15 percent.
    George Romney’s returns tell a different story. His tax rate most years was two to three times that of his son. It topped 44 percent in 1963. That’s the year the elder Romney was sworn in as Michigan’s governor.

    linkage

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  170. steve s says:

    The US created a middle class by redistributing money from the rich. The US stopped doing that about 30 years ago. Surprise, the middle class is now shrinking, and people like me–young STEM grad working in a big box store with few opportunities and lots of student loan debt–are doing worse than their parents did. At some point enough people will understand this, redistribution will recommence, and the middle class will grow again.

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  171. wr says:

    @Rafer Janders: I still maintain that it was when he said that family and a home are traps designed to keep people from freedom. Once you’ve denied the most basic desires of not only humankind but every sentient creature, where do you go from there?

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  172. wr says:

    @Rafer Janders: What, for Rob? I got it — just joining in.

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  173. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    Once you’ve denied the most basic desires of not only humankind but every sentient creature, where do you go from there?

    Defense of Soviet Communism, apparently….

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  174. Grewgills says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The three irreducible forms of thought are Art, Philosophy, and Science. All part of a good Liberal Arts Education.

    Most liberal arts degrees will get you part way to two of those. I have yet to see a liberal arts degree that gave someone a good science education. I know several (and married one) liberal arts majors that have a good science education, but they are rather atypical and it was all on their own steam.
    At every school I have seen, those who can’t hack it in a STEM degree fall back to a more liberal arts degree. If you can’t make it in forensics, drop down to criminal justice, etc.

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  175. Grewgills says:

    @C. Clavin:
    I waited tables all through college and a bit after and in my experience and the experience of every waiter I have every spoken with at any length there are a LOT MORE liberal arts grads than STEM grads. JKB is wrong about a lot of things, but he/she is right about that.

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  176. Grewgills says:

    @Grewgills:
    That came off more dismissive that I intended. With any degree, you get what you put into it, but STEM degrees tend to have a considerably higher ‘floor’. It is much easier to skate through an anthropology degree than to skate through any hard science degree.

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  177. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    That seems like an argument against progressive tax brackets that could make the nonsense arguments about not wanting to make that extra dollar because it will put you in the higher bracket true.
    Re: The 90% bracket
    It didn’t seem to stifle productivity in the 40s and 50s.

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  178. C. Clavin says:

    @Grewgills:

    there are a LOT MORE liberal arts grads than STEM grads

    Um….that’s because there are a lot more Liberal Arts grads than STEM grads. If you can provide me with a link that shows they don’t track the general population…that might be interesting.

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  179. C. Clavin says:

    @Grewgills:
    I have an LA undergrad degree. I took Calculus, Physics, and Meteorology.

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  180. grumpy realist says:

    @Rob Miles: Well, it does get around the Free Rider problem. We’ll provide you the opportunity to have a living wage–but you had better contribute in some way to the smooth running of the socioeconomic sphere. We’re not going to pay you just to sit around on your ass and watch TV.

    I also like the idea because we can really buckle down and have a ding-dong argument about whether taking care of one’s offspring or relatives is “work” or not. (I think it is.)

    Maybe this all comes down to whether we want to consider the individual the economic unit of society or the family the economic unit of society. If it’s the individual, we had better have some official way to provide for people who take care of other people, whether it be their own children or senile grandmothers. Society obviously benefits from having the next generation raised and having someone making certain granny doesn’t wander out into traffic. So therefore society should pay for it. This would mean a minimum wage for anyone who does one of these caring jobs, whether they’re doing it for their own family or someone else’s family.

    If we want to make the family the economic unit and leave in the private sphere how it interacts with itself (and compensates certain members for work they’re doing for other members), then we should come down like a ton of bricks on anything that breaks up the family and really start treating it as an economic unit. No more no-fault divorce. Allow the same sort of tax deductions for families as we do for businesses–anything that improves the economic power of a family should be considered a tax-deductible expense.

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  181. stonetools says:

    @Grewgills:

    It didn’t seem to stifle productivity in the 40s and 50s.

    Well, every conservative will tell you that this is WRONG, according to conservative economic theory, so you shut up about your inconvenient facts.

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  182. Grewgills says:

    @C. Clavin:
    You are not typical. I don’t have stats on it easily available, but I have been working in education for a while and every year I see students encounter calculus and hard science courses and decide to move to a liberal arts or soft science major. There are some brilliant students in all majors. It’s just easier to skate through in liberal arts.

    Um….that’s because there are a lot more Liberal Arts grads than STEM grads.

    Last I looked there were more business majors than either and LA degrees did outnumber STEM degrees, but not by the percentages that I saw waiting tables. We are both speaking from anecdote and I don’t care enough to dig further than the 5-10 min Google search that didn’t turn up anything definitive.

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  183. C. Clavin says:

    @Grewgills:

    You are not typical.

    Truer words have never been spake.

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  184. wr says:

    @grumpy realist: “If we want to make the family the economic unit and leave in the private sphere how it interacts with itself (and compensates certain members for work they’re doing for other members), then we should come down like a ton of bricks on anything that breaks up the family and really start treating it as an economic unit. No more no-fault divorce”

    But if you’re going to do this, you’d better come up with a pretty good definition of “family” first. Because otherwise you’re saying that a family is whatever the state proclaimed at time of marriage, and that for the good of “society,” women must stay with battering husbands and men must live with philandering wives, and spouses who have come to despise each other must still live together until death.

    I mean, sure, if we decide the “family” is the “economic unit,” this makes a lot of sense. But is that really a world you want to go back to?

    Now granted, under this idea I suppose such strict laws will only apply to those who need government grants, so the rich and powerful will be free to live as they choose while the poor and weak will have their most intimate life choices dictated by the government. In other words, it’s another big leap away from freedom for most.

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  185. JKB says:

    @wr:

    Not to mention rewrite Obamacare. Apparently, the subsidies are such as to promote divorce and non-marriage. Oops.

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  186. Rob in CT says:

    Nobody (as in 99.9% of people) is gonna get divorced because of that. Some people will, however, not get married or delay marriage because of such things (that’s hardly the only example of it – other bennies work similarly, and the tax code has areas that do that too).

    We could, in fact, address this. If the GOP’s ask was to rework the subsidies to be more marriage-friendly, that’s doable. Let me know when ya’ll climb down off “repeal or death!”

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  187. Rob in CT says:

    Ben,

    How do you envision a jobs guarantee actually working. As in, here in the USA? Even if we set aside the frothing rage such a policy would produce on the Right (as we should, because at this point everything results in frothing rage on the Right), how do we make it happen and make it reasonably efficient? Obviously we want people to have jobs. Best case they have jobs that are useful to society.

    It’s one thing to say the market isn’t getting this done. Agreed, it is not. It’s another to say that the government will therefore decide. That there is central planning, at least to a degree, unless I’m misunderstanding how a jobs guarantee would work (and I very well may be! Enlighten me, if so).

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  188. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT:

    How do you envision a jobs guarantee actually working. As in, here in the USA? Even if we set aside the frothing rage such a policy would produce on the Right (as we should, because at this point everything results in frothing rage on the Right), how do we make it happen and make it reasonably efficient? Obviously we want people to have jobs. Best case they have jobs that are useful to society.

    I think before we start talking about things like a jobs guarantee, we should first remember even the European social democracies don’t have one. And they have far more extensive protections for workers than anything we Americans can even dream of.

    In other words, if the Euros aren’t doing it, there are very likely some good reasons why they aren’t.

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  189. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rob in CT: A Jobs Guarantee would be funded by the federal government, but it would be organized at the local and community level, and should (in my opinion) include non-profit organizations. So for example your town might decide to restore local habitat damaged by development, create wildlife tunnels so that animals can migrate safely around highways, or commission some public work. Perhaps an accountant is needed for the project, along with landscapers and electricians, etc.

    If you are that out of work accountant the Guarantee will create a job for you in that community, whether working on one of those projects, or at city hall, at a public bank, a cooperatively owned utility or even teaching public accounting to any citizen interested in furthering their understanding of the subject. A position could be created for you at a non-profit organization helping the poor and middle class sort out their personal finances. But the program can be much more than this. If you were tired of accounting you could request a position in animal care, ecology, civil engineering; the innate flexibility of its decentralized structure means it not only preserves skills which can atrophy during unemployment, it acts as a national apprenticeship program which can retrain and give useful experience as our economic needs change.

    There are other benefits such as taming inflation/deflation, establishing an income floor without need for minimum wage laws, better social outcomes. I think there will come a time people will think it absurd such a program did not always exist.

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  190. Rob in CT says:

    That sounds way utopian to my ear, Ben. But thanks for answering.

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  191. Ben Wolf says:

    @Rob in CT: Utopian in what sense?

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  192. george says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I have an LA undergrad degree. I took Calculus, Physics, and Meteorology.

    Out of curiousity, what level did you go in those? For instance, did you take say 4th year philosophy, 4th year calculus, 4th year physics, 4th year meteorology classes, or did you just take up to 2nd year (ie very elementary levels) in all of those and only take serious classes in your specialty.

    I figure a good liberal arts degree should involve taking at least a 4th year class in each of a humanity, a science, an art, and then in history and math (because I think the last two are central to understanding humanity and the natural world, respectively.

    If you’re only taking low level classes in any of those, then you haven’t got a complete education.

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  193. eric s says:

    and this is where the movies zeitgeist come in. BeSide some of the possible conspiracy garbage, it talks about this very thing technology placing people in the service industry and how the service industry is and will collapse. it also provides answers to how we could survive easily and everyone have a great life. Yes it’s message is essentially utopian but even it realizes there is no such thing but it comes pretty damn close.

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