The nation today is still recovering from the unprecedented effects of widespread shutdowns in response to the coronavirus. After achieving a record low level of unemployment prior to the pandemic, economies everywhere have returned to the challenge of rebuilding. Many pundits and futurists now claim that the labor-savings about to come from algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robots, will take so many jobs that employment levels will never recover.
In response, this will require, the proponents argue, the creation of a universal basic income, not just for the temporarily unemployed, but for those doomed to be never-again-employable. We’ve seen this movie more than once.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a message to Congress focused on what he called “the inevitability” of job destruction from automation. He created an Office of Automation and Manpower and proposed that Congress fund training programs and create a readjustment allowance for displaced workers.
A few years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson convened a blue-ribbon commission on the impact of automation on work. One of its recommendations: a universal basic income.
Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute; a partner in Cottonwood Venture Partners, an energy-tech venture fund; and the author of the recent report “Mines, Minerals and ‘Green’ Energy: A Reality Check.”
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