2012 RobotsandRobberBarons

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Subject Headings: Technological Unemployment.

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The American economy is still, by most measures, deeply depressed. But corporate profits are at a record high. How is that possible? It’s simple: profits have surged as a share of national income, while wages and other labor compensation are down. The pie isn’t growing the way it should — but capital is doing fine by grabbing an ever-larger slice, at labor’s expense.

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Still, can innovation and progress really hurt large numbers of workers, maybe even workers in general? I often encounter assertions that this can’t happen. But the truth is that it can, and serious economists have been aware of this possibility for almost two centuries. The early-19th-century economist David Ricardo is best known for the theory of comparative advantage, which makes the case for free trade; but the same 1817 book in which he presented that theory also included a chapter on how the new, capital-intensive technologies of the Industrial Revolution could actually make workers worse off, at least for a while — which modern scholarship suggests may indeed have happened for several decades.

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References

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 AuthorvolumeDate ValuetitletypejournaltitleUrldoinoteyear
2012 RobotsandRobberBaronsPaul R. KrugmanRobots and Robber Barons2012
AuthorPaul R. Krugman +
titleRobots and Robber Barons +
year2012 +