Basic income after automation? That’s not how capitalism works!

Source: Katharina Nieswandt, The Conversation, October 6, 2016

….The fact that automation never increased leisure time is an inherent consequence of our economic system. Whenever machines let us do something faster, we tend to just plow that extra time into making more, instead of taking that time off.

Imagine a worker in a shoe factory, who produces 100 pairs of shoes in an eight-hour workday. Now suppose that the machine she operates during these eight hours is exchanged for a new model which suddenly cuts production time in half: Our worker now produces 100 pairs of shoes in only four hours. In principle, the factory could keep shoe production constant, in which case the worker would have the rest of her day off.

That is a political choice a society can make. As of yet, however, we have always chosen the opposite: Capitalist societies keep work-hours constant and increase production. Our exemplary worker continues to work an eight-hour day, but is now expected to produce 200 pairs of shoes during that day (and usually at the same wage). As the tele-teacher in Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” aptly explains: Until we reach the “Shoe Event Horizon,” we will simply produce ever more shoes.
On the way there, technological progress will indeed wipe out some jobs, but new ones will arise in their places……