EDITOR OF REDSTATE
Barack Obama Thinks an ATM Ate Your Job
Yesterday, Barack Obama gave away the game. Without actually using the words, Barack Obama admitted he is completely and utterly ignorant about job creation and economics. In an interview with the Today Show, Barack Obama declared that the unemployment rate remains so high because of ATMS.
Sadly, many people will agree with him because they lack the vision to see the whole picture. They see less bank tellers and more ATMs — much as Barack Obama does — and presume this must mean higher unemployment. This myth, and it is a myth, is older than even the great lament that cars put blacksmiths on the unemployment line by getting rid of the need for horse shoes.
This left-wing populist thinking does not create jobs and often leads to dangerous policies that stifle the innovation that create the jobs that spring forth from the ATM’s replacing the bank tellers. Barack Obama sees less tellers at the banks because of ATM’s. But he does not see new IT workers at the bank to manage the ATM — higher paid than the tellers. He does not see the computer programmers. He does not see the manufacturers of the machines and their component parts.
Barack Obama should read Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. The book was written in 1945 and debunks Obama’s myth succinctly. K. E. Campbell links to the relevant portion:
Among the most viable of all economic delusions is the belief that machines on net balance create unemployment. Destroyed a thousand times, it has risen a thousand times out of its own ashes as hardy and vigorous as ever. Whenever there is a long-continued mass unemployment, machines get the blame anew. This fallacy is still the basis of many labor union practices…
The belief that machines cause unemployment…leads to preposterous conclusions. Not only must we be causing unemployment with every technological improvement we make today, but primitive man must have started causing it with the first efforts he made to save himself from needless toil and sweat…
For starters, this Obama comment really is odd when he wants the government to subsidize the production of electric cars, which would destroy whole sectors of the economy centered around gas fueled cars. If he believes ATM’s destroy jobs, why does he want to subsidize government innovation in green jobs, which would destroy other jobs? Of course, the answer to that is that he wants to destroy the other sectors.
There, in fact, is the most important and revelatory bit of this whole statement. Barack Obama premises his world view that innovation kills jobs. But, Barack Obama wants to innovate and advance technology in certain areas of the economy, e.g. government and green jobs. Therefore, we can conclude based on his own presuppositions about innovation that Barack Obama is intending to kill off sectors of the economy by forcing government to fund innovation in other areas of the economy.
It all makes sense now, even though it is an ignorant and wrong presupposition.
Machines do not cause unemployment. They just move employment elsewhere — from the bank teller line to the IT line to the manufacturing line, etc.
What’s more troubling about Barack Obama’s statement though — and the White House doubling down on it — is that it leads to one of two conclusions, both of which are horribly wrong.
The first conclusion is that we should get rid of technology, declaring a veritable Butlerian Jihad. Doing so would cause companies to allocate resources more inefficiently, which might increase the labor pool in one sector of the economy, but assuredly wipe it out in another.
The second conclusion is that we must settle for this. It is arguable that we are in a period of stagnation with regard to innovation, invention, and technological progress. But settling for this as fact will most likely lead the government to take public policy steps to strengthen and expand the social safety net to compensate for lost jobs than to get government out of the way and fire up the private sector to move beyond the stagnation and innovation plateau.
We can see already that Barack Obama has decided to go with the second option — to accept a decline and prepare for the decay caused by the decline instead of taking proactive steps to get the economy firing up again.
Barack Obama shows himself to be clearly ignorant of the way a free market economy works and innovates. Consequently, his economy policy is founded on that ignorance, accepts as gospel the decline of the United States, and, until he is replaced, we’re screwed.