More on Charles Murray and the Jobless Future

BY Paul Solman  April 12, 2012 at 2:00 PM EDT

Occupy Wall Street 1
A man participates in the Occupy Wall Street protests on Oct. 4, 2011. See more, including a slideshow, with “A Day With the Occupiers of Wall Street.” Photo by Jackie Weir.

Paul Solman frequently answers questions from the NewsHour audience on business and economic news on his Making Sen$e page. Here is Thursday’s query:

Name: Brett Coty

Making Sense

Question: In your interview with Dr. [Charles] Murray, you point out that so-called “replacement jobs” offer less remuneration. I would argue that the plutocracy arises (as you briefly implied in the interview) from advancement in technology:

  • More and more specialized technical expertise is becoming more and more essential in the workplace.
  • It’s not brains that are being rewarded, but WHAT KINDS OF BRAINS are being rewarded.
  • There are a number of available jobs that have replaced (or have incorporated) assembly-line jobs.
  • But they remain unfilled because the manufacturing base cannot find ways to retrain or else lack the necessary specialized aptitude to hold down these positions, successfully. (Automation, of course, is an additional factor, here.)

The speed of development for advanced technology in the workplace very likely reflects the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in the country, and speaks directly to the notion of a rising plutocracy, a class-related snob mentality, moral decline of the working middle class and socio-economic activism, such as Occupy Wall Street. (Of course, the global economy is a factor, as you pointed out).

Any of this make sense, or is it self-evident?

Paul Solman: I’m very sympathetic to this analysis, well articulated by Zachary Karabell in a Making Sen$e segment last September: “Can America’s Jobless Fill American Jobs?”

Eric Brynjolffson of MIT makes similar points here: “The Great Stagnation: Why Hasn’t Recent Technology Created More Jobs?”


For some of the high-tech creations the Lab has been up to, see our photo essay “Furry Robots, Foldable Cars and More Innovations from MIT’s Media Lab.”

For an even more extreme view, see Martin Ford’s Book, “The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future.” Or just stay tuned to the NewsHour and watch our upcoming series on Singularity University: the technological promise of the future, and the perils of technology, especially with respect to jobs. See a Making Sen$e post from last year that addresses this issue: “How Badly are Fear, Finite Resources Hurting the U.S.?”

And please don’t forget my CCC-like policy initiative: the MMM – Mass Massage Mobilization. One massage per week for every American: 10 million new American (and unexportable) jobs — for people with hands and hearts as well as brains.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions