You Gotta Have Standards
By Amy Willis
When machines make workers more productive do workers wages rise? Does technology destroy jobs across the entire economy? These were two of the key questions EconTalk host Russ Roberts explored this week in his conversation with James Bessen.
1. This week, Adidas made news by announcing it was moving production back to Germany from Asia…but using robots. What is the mechanism discussed by Bessen that could cause this to increase jobs elsewhere in the economy?2. Bessen notes that wages during the first decades of the Industrial Revolution were largely stagnant. How does this square with the story about rising real incomes in this past Feature Article by Clark Nardinelli? Do you think workers will eventually benefit more from today’s innovations than they are right now?
3. It’s easy to see how standardization benefits consumers. But how does standardization elicit greater relative benefits for workers, according to Bessen?
4. When Russ asked Bessen how to avoid the sort of technological job replacement Bessen sees in the future, Bessen’s answer is to teach people to be lifelong learners. But he doesn’t really tell us how. So how do you think we can teach this to young people (or can we)? Explain.