| This is from the Carpe Diem site written by Mark J.
| Perry. Manufacturing workers can now buy 11 appliances
| with 152 hours of labor what used to cost them 886 hours
| of labor back in 1959.
That's quite an intellectual can of worms:
It's interesting, but is it true? There are a lot
of factors hard to calculate. What exactly does
manufacturing mean in each era? How exactly
did the Fed calculate their numbers? In 1973 I
was making $1.90/hour as a drug store clerk. In
1975 I was making $5.05/hour, but that was only
because I was doing back-breaking warehouse
work, on the night shift, with a Teamsters union
payscale. Yet they say manufacturing jobs were
averaging $3.95/hour in that time period. Could
that be because far more people were unionized,
or are the numbers faulty? There's no way to know,
Did you know that the AEI, who published this
article, are a right-wing, pro-business organization?
They call themselves a "think tank", which essentially
means a propaganda manufacturing and lobbying
operation. Their "About us" blurb sounds libertarian.
One of their "scholars" is Dick Cheney! Could they
possibly print anything that *doesn't* say everything's
hunky dorey for blue collar workers? The whole purpose
of the AEI is to publish propaganda like this in order
to mold the opinion of readers like you.
* Product comparability?
What about quality? A toaster
back then was heavy steel and lasted many years.
A toaster today is light sheet metal and burns out
quickly. Likewise with stoves. The new ones have
electric ignition, but they're little more than sheet
Many of those items work better than the older
versions, but are also more cheaply made, with
shorter life spans.
* Real relation to cost of living?
Then how do we calculate other cost of living
factors into it? If this is the good old days, then
why is it that a high-paid white collar worker can't
afford a condo, while in 1973 a janitor could raise
3 kids and own a house?
People on many tropical areas can have a roof
and food while not even working. They don't need
central heat and their groceries literally grow on
trees. Their cost of living is near zero. Are they better
off than us,or are they worse off because they
don't have cars or cable TV? If there's no easy
answer to that question then what does it really
mean that I can buy cheap toasters?
* Dubious ethics?
Manufactured goods are
generally cheap, but of poor quality, and the cost
savings is mainly derived from exploitation of others.
Cheap clothes come from China or Brazil. Cheap
appliances come from Pacific Rim countries or
China. Much of that work is done with virtual
slave labor. Elimination of tarrriffs and trade restrictions
means that rich American business owners can do
business free of American legal and ethical
restrictions. (Tim Cook even has the nerve to claim
that Apple's offshoring of billions to avoid corporate
tax is "outdated" and harmful.)
NAFTA gave us more slaves in Mexico.
TPP will open up new slavery opportunities in
Asia. All of which gives us cheaper prices but a
worse economy, because jobs are leaving the US.
And what does it do to a country spiritually that
we create an economy based on slavery we don't
For awhile there was the popular scam that the
US was transitioning to a "services economy". But
along with the scam of "inevitable globalization",
that idea has lost its credibility in the light of day.
The whole country can't be wealthy waiters and
waitresses, or "consultants".
* Social factors?
Another intriguing point that's partially related:
Juliet Schorr, from Harvard, did a study -- I
think it was back in the 80s -- which she based
a book on, called Overworked America. In it she
documents how the only modern appliance that
saves time is the microwave. We actually do more
work now, cleaning our houses more often, washing
our clothes unnecessarily, etc. We're uncomfortable
with the freedom these conveniences have created.
In the 50s there was an idea that modern
convenience and automation would lead to a 3-day
work week. But we didn't consider two big factors:
1) Exploitation by the rich: Higher productivity has
only led to a greater salary disparity between workers
and business owners. Most people are not benefitting.
Instead, CEOs typically make 450 times what workers
make, whereas it used to be more like 20 times. We're
turning into a banana republic.
2) Existential doubt: Most people can't handle having
4 days off every week. Many people do work or create
busyness schedules for themselves that serve little
purpose aside from giving them a sense of purpose.
We're a productivity-obsessed culture.
That exact same issue is coming around again now.
In just the past few days I've seen articles about how
AI and robotics will eliminate lots of jobs. So we face
the same question again: Do we enforce a sharing of
the wealth or do we just let the economy sink further
and let homelessness increase while jobs disappear.
I can guess what AEI "scholars" will say on that score.
They'll probably cite studies showing, essentially, that
idle hands are the devil's playground, so that any sharing
of wealth would necessarily be harmful to society.