The Reverse Luddite Fallacy

Pandora's Brain

Economists can be surprsingly dangerous


Most economists are convinced that automation will not lead to lasting unemployment. They point out – rightly – that it has not happened in the past. Instead, it has made products and services cheaper, which raises demand and creates new jobs. They say that the Luddites, who went round smashing weaving machines in the early nineteenth century, simply mis-understood what was happening, and this mis-understanding has become known as the Luddite Fallacy.

einstein-with-brawnBut in the coming decades, automation may have a very different effect. Past rounds of automation replaced human and animal muscle power. That was fine for the humans who were displaced, as they could go on to do jobs which were often more interesting and less dangerous, using their cognitive faculties instead of their muscle power.

It didn’t work out so well for the horse, which only had muscle power to offer. In 1900…

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