increasing automation and consequent productivity means that less than the full possible labor force should be capable of producing all the goods that a society needs.
This is silly. A society will never stop “needing” more, it’s inherent in the human psyche. The billionaire doesn’t “need” a yacht that 10 feet longer than his neighbor’s, but he will buy it anyway. You don’t “need” a new car when your five-year-old Chevy serves you well, but you “want” a new car anyway. If you have a 42" TV you want a 56". If you have a 56" you want a 65"… We will never stop “needing” more, just as we will never stop using more and more energy (until society collapses, of course.)
Hi Goofy Hoofy, I think this is referring to a completely different issue. I watched a video of the automated Tesla car manufacturing lines and saw a couple of huge robots do the work of 50 skilled potential workers that were replaced. They never needed to be hired. It’s not just at Tesla either. Manufacturing has fundamentally changed. A couple of humans and a bunch of machines can do the work of 50 or 100 humans previously in a factory or steel mill, or wherever. Society hasn’t come to grips with this and I’m not pretending to have a solution. Automation isn’t something that is going away. The problem is that the skilled jobs that are being replaced are the ones that paid workers $40 or $50 an hour and allowed them to move up into the middle class. When they are replaced by a machine, they aren’t people who are going to find a tech job programming somewhere. Those are a totally different kind of skills. More and more large categories of jobs that used to be done by humans are now done by a lot fewer humans with the help of a machine, or maybe just by the machine without much human help at all. (Think of welding in any manufacturing factory, just for a simple example among hundreds). So what is going to happen as more and more of the human workforce isn’t needed any more except for waiters and delivery boys? What will happen in the not-so-distant future, when because of automation, humans simply aren’t needed any more for most jobs? Think of all those companies making industrial robots. What will people do when there are only enough jobs for 20% of the working age population? How will society organize itself so that the vast majority of the population has enough income to live decent lives, and how will they live them? I don’t know. But almost no one is talking about it or addressing it and it’s a serious problem, one that’s building up like a huge snowball.