If the Robots Come for Our Jobs, What Should the Government Do?
The economist Mark Paul writes that a series of policy steps that are, in isolation, not all that radical would go a long way toward ensuring that the benefits of technological advancement would be widely enjoyed.
As an example, he says the Federal Reserve and other policymakers should commit more energetically to pursuing a “maximum employment” goal set in federal law, even if it means being willing to tolerate a bit more risk of inflation.
Mr. Paul argues for overhauling intellectual property law so that the companies that develop valuable patents and trademarks don’t have such a lengthy monopoly on their innovations. Over time this would probably mean that more of the benefits of technology would accrue to labor rather than capital.
And he sees promise in work-sharing programs like those that have been used to help keep unemployment low in Germany even during economic downturns. The idea is that if a company needs to cut 20 percent of its work force because of new innovations, it is better for society if it cuts each worker’s hours by 20 percent rather than laying off 20 percent of its staff.
Mr. Paul argues that rapid shifts in the skills and technologies demanded by the modern economy strengthen the case for publicly funded higher education and training to help workers adapt.
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