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Monday, December 10, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Robots and Robber Barons": For Whom the Bell Tolls

"Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee."

- John Donne

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Robots and Robber Barons" (, Paul Krugman observes that corporations are growing wealthier, while labor compensation is down, owing in no small part to advances in technology. Krugman writes:

"Still, can innovation and progress really hurt large numbers of workers, maybe even workers in general? I often encounter assertions that this can’t happen. But the truth is that it can, and serious economists have been aware of this possibility for almost two centuries."

Regarding the resultant damage to the labor force, Krugman concludes:

"As I said, this is a discussion that has barely begun — but it’s time to get started, before the robots and the robber barons turn our society into something unrecognizable."

Query: Is it only "the robots and the robber barons" who are turning society into something unrecognizable? When was the last time Krugman attended a classical music concert? What I find shocking is the virtual absence of persons in the audience under the age of 60.

On the other hand, President Obama and his family will be attending the "Christmas in Washington" concert on Sunday night, which includes a performance by Psy, creator of "Gangnam Style," who, in a 2004 rap song, called for the murder of "Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives" (see:

Society long ago turned into something "unrecognizable" for me.

However, I stray from the theme of Krugman's opinion piece.

Do you recall the 1962-63 strike of The International Typographical Union against four New York daily newspapers? Even then, it was clear that automation and other technological advances would eliminate most of the jobs represented by this union, and indeed by the end of 1986, the ITU had all but ceased to exist.

Newspapers in general? The New York Times in particular? All dying. There will always be a news industry, but the manner in which news is distributed is undergoing radical change. Some 40 years ago, I commuted to Manhattan on the Long Island Railroad, and almost every passenger carried his or her copy of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily News or, on the return trip, The New York Post. In our Internet age, printed newspapers, and even printed books, are on their way out, and subscription rates are declining as news becomes available from CNN, Yahoo and Google for free, and tablets replace paper.

Remarkably, I agree with Krugman: Technology will continue to render many jobs obsolete, and I do not foresee a wellspring of employment from new industries for college graduates or anyone else for that matter. I don't fault my niece for leaving college to build a career in restaurant management, where she is blossoming.

Discuss the impact on jobs of technology and innovation? Answer: Should newspapers still be manually prepared by typesetters? It's not going to happen.

And what about Krugman's The New York Times? Is this corporation also a "robber baron"? Be it robber baron or fairy godmother, ultimately the Times is toast.


  1. Sorry, Jeff, but Krugman is right. I am very happy that your niece is happy, but when a society has only "managers" and slaves, this society is in trouble. Not to mention millions of slaves.
    Personally, I don't care whether young people attend classical music concerts or only Goebbels and Stalin. Sorry to inform you, Jeff, but the most "musiezierte" nations were Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. The most "musiezierte" friend (actually ex-friend) of mine, a prominent member of the Waaagner society, is probably now in some neo-Nazi camp.
    Since I view classical music concert halls as places where Goebbels meet Stalin, I couldn't care less about their fate. The snobs will find other places for "oh, ah."

  2. Apparently you don't know what is involved in "managing" a restaurant: 16 hours a day, from dawn until midnight, on your feet, purchasing fresh produce, ensuring compliance with sanitation laws, dealing with both employee and customer complaints, and also waiting tables and assisting in the preparation of food during peak hours.

    Me? I like The Who and I also like Mozart, to whom I listen most often in the privacy of my home. Snobbery? Sorry. In the future I will try to keep the volume down.

  3. Jeff,
    Yes, sorry, Jeff, I am not American born and I have very little patience for nonsense in this style - poor billionaires - they work sooooooooooooooo hard.
    And the reason your niece works 16 hours a day is ... let me guess .... idiocy (a born defect?) or idiocy (result of American brainwashing?)
    In other words, and the reason anybody works 16 hours in times of high unemployment ... is?
    Is it possible that hiring another person would result in her working 8 hours? Also, I checked my bible and nowhere is said that the owners HAVE to be billionaires. It does says about sabbatical and jubilees and widows and orphans (whether victims of wars or EXPLOITATION - look up the word)
    The reality is that most people who work in service industry (one of the few left) work 16 hours on minimal wage (many probably as highly educated as your niece) without any benefits and whose health (destroyed by owners and managers) is restored at my cost (Medicaid and other subsidized help). Nice.
    Ah, Mozart. Not so long ago, every hour or so NPR would pronounced with an absolute awe: "Austria, the land of Mozart and Beethoven"
    They stopped when I suggested that they should try next time: "Austria, the land of Hitler and Himmler (not Austrian, but rhymes and close)"
    Sorry, I am right. There is this posturing in your comment - where are all these civilized people who went to ...? Sorry, again, they were (and are) much less civilized than you think.

  4. Ah, just out of friendliness.
    The greatest job creators in history were Hitler and Stalin and Mao.
    I think I am warning - don't go there.

  5. Classical music has nothing to do with the point the Krugman is making. That is not the sort of change that is making life hell for people. The interests of people change with time, but they don't make the lives of people a living hell.

    It is a great thing that people of America are finally realising that working like a dog five days a week generally for the sake of money is stupid. Many people are working in jobs in which they have no interest at all. The poor people, who are lucky enough to have jobs, have to work two or three jobs a week.

    There is no point in this system, as has been said by many people. Noam Chomsky has always said that corporations are private tyrannies--private totalitarian states. That poor man has grown old trying to talk some sense into people here in America. Also, I read the comments of a person about the post by Krugman and he said that his parents thought that with the coming of the computer hours of work for people would reduce. But they never do. They only get higher and higher. A system should be such in which the advances in technology actually make the lives of people better rather than pushing them into mindless consumerism to compensate for their harried existence.

    A democracy is one in which people have some sort of equal property and an equal say in running their lives and the destiny of their country and the world. When people are wage-slaves afraid of losing their jobs because their jobs pay for their home loan and the college-education loan of their kids, that is not democracy. It is slavery. A wage-slave is not free.

    When the "citizens" of a country are ignorant of the laws of their country and do not directly pass the laws, giving some elite exploiters who have the privilege of converting bills to laws and in the process keeping them enslaved, that is not a democracy.

    I must say that I don't expect you to agree with me: I expect you to disagree. I don't expect you to side with those who are poor, destitute or suffering the worst form of modern slavery--slavery in the developed world---for it is a slavery of ideas: I expect you to champion this tyranny. However, I must say one thing that even you must pay heed to: there are people suffering in the United States because an elaborate infrastructure has been built to keep them oppressed and show up at their "mind-numbing, spirit-crushing" jobs even as their miserable compensation keeps dwindling as the corporate profits soar...don't insult them by such trivialities as the lack of interest of the youth in classical music.

  6. Of course, classical music has nothing to do with what Krugman is saying.
    Noam Chomsky is the last person on earth I would listen to. Yes, unlike him, I was raised ethical.
    You don't need this narcissistic bastard to know that wage slavery is unacceptable - you just need non-American education.

  7. "That poor man has grown old trying to talk some sense into people here in America."
    Sorry, Anon (4:12), but this "poor man" has had a very privileged life and is extremely rich.
    Yes, scoundrelism is well paid and rewarded. Non-scoundrelish people don't survive in corrupt American academia and are not promoted by Breshnev's Soviet Union and all sorts of terrorist organizations.

  8. Noam Chomsky has one or two million from the sale of his books, and that is understandable since he has written hundreds of books. Also, socialism is not corruption. "Breshnev's Soviet Union and all sorts of terrorist organizations" is a nonsensical statement and means nothing.

  9. Noam Chomsky has much more than one or two millions rewarded .... for being a scoundrel. Selling your own ethno-religious group for "applause, applause" of antisemites and the status of the premier "intellectual" is much more than scoundrelism.
    Nobody in the world would care about his theories (linguistic or not) without the support of the Soviet Union. The reality is that his books were translated into Russian (and probably other Soviet languages) when the ink was still wet, very wet. Ask Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky about Soviet publishing tendencies.
    It is a known fact that Noam Chomsky has been catering to the most vicious antisemitic groups in the world. Sitting comfortably in Lexington, when the elderly, who unlike him had tragic lives, the babies and everyone else are showered by missiles and giving interviews to the Guardian, Al Jazeera and worse (f possible) about bad, bad Jews seems to be an utter and absolute scoundrelism (my coinage and I like it). Jewish history and antisemitism are some of the areas of my expertise, so please take you statement somewhere else.
    Socialism is not corruption, but among socialists there is a fair share of bastards.

  10. I see, so Noam Chomsky is a scoundrel according to you. So Israel is an exemplar of morality and conduct. Israel does not kill innocents and does not conquer and commit crimes against the Palestinians. The Palestinians are evil. And of course, not merely Noam Chomsky but Norman Finkelstein also is evil and corrupt. The crimes of the USA in the Middle East and South America are nothing but fictions created to malign them. Let's see...when was the first time I saw a group say that they were moral and unblemished and that their opponents were "scoundrels" and deserved to be punished...

    1. Finkelstein is also one of your heroes? Not surprising. From a New York Times book review ( of Finkelstein's "A Tale of Two Holocausts":

      "The main culprit, in the world according to Finkelstein, is 'the Holocaust industry,' made up of Israeli officials and fat lawyers, Jewish agents well placed in American political circles and ruthless Zionists determined to subjugate the Palestinians. Here he combines an old-hat 1960's view of Israel as the outpost of American imperialism with a novel variation on the anti-Semitic forgery, 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' which warned of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Now, however, the Jewish conspiracy is intended to 'shake down' (his favorite phrase) such innocent entities as Swiss banks, German corporations and East European owners of looted Jewish property, all in order to consolidate Jewish power and influence without giving the real survivors of the genocide anything but empty rhetoric.

      . . . .

      There is something sad in this warping of intelligence, and in this perversion of moral indignation. There is also something indecent about it, something juvenile, self-righteous, arrogant and stupid. As was shown in Peter Novick's far more balanced (though not entirely satisfactory) book, 'The Holocaust in American Life,' the changing perception of the Nazi genocide of the Jews has also opened the way for a variety of exploiters and small-time opportunists. Yet to make this into an international Jewish conspiracy verges on paranoia and would serve anti-Semites around the world much better than any lawyer's exorbitant fees for 'shaking down' a German industrialist."

  11. Yes, again we talk about the crimes of the USA.
    Yes, Hitler was a nice a wonderful boy when our anonymous' predecessors insisted that they couldn't support the war against the Nazi Germany because the US was ... an imperialistic power. I don't need to add that Stalin was of course a nice and wonderful boy too.
    Nothing has changed. Quadafi was a nice boy, Assad is a nice boy, all neighboring "charmers" are nice boys, but Israel ....
    Yeah, there are some two hundred countries in the world, in many of them people are boiled, cooked and fried, children are sold into slavery, army, brothels, women are stoned for being raped, etc., but our "socialists" care about ... you guess it ... the Palestinians.
    Many years ago, Michael Lerner wrote a little book: "The Socialism of Fools : Anti-Semitism on the Left." The book is pretty good, but the title is problematic - it should be: "The Socialism of Scoundrels."
    OK, many things have actually changed. Financing comes now from different sources.
    When an atheistic "socialist" of Protestant background declares Islam "a religion of peace" you know that it's not Putin who finances "opinions."
    This atheistic "socialist" is a former friend of mine who is now enjoining a luxurious neo-Nazi life in Southern California. This fusion of fascism/internationlism-weird left/islamism is a more recent development.

  12. It's interesting that we read occasionally about former pure neo-Nazis (usually very young people) who turn around. It's unusual to read about Chomsky/Cockburn style "socialists" who turn around. Frankly, I don't know what dominates there - scoundrelism or idiocy - but the result is the same - some individuals spend their idiotic/evil/prostitutional/so damaging (and soooooo comfortable) lives babbling about universal love, "druzhba narodov" and "miru mir."

  13. To anonymous, who would now refer to a "Palestinian holocaust," give your rabid rants a rest. I suppose you never stopped to wonder, for example, why the population of Gaza has more than tripled since 1967, why Gaza's infant mortality is lower than that of Turkey, and why Gaza's life expectancy is higher than that of Turkey. Prior to 1967, there were no universities in Gaza; now there are nine. This is all in keeping with a "Palestinian holocaust"? Sick.

    1. This guy is a Holocaust denier. Not surprisingly so, since his hero (yes, Chomsky) is known among many other things, as a supporter of the Holocaust deniers. There was this notorious scandal in the 1970s.
      Among other things, our "defender of the people" has this implied comparison to ... the Nazis typical of so called relative (or inverse) Holocaust deniers.

    2. Honestly, I have little interest in discussing Israel and Palestine. However, when you started attacking Chomsky's character rather than his arguments, you allowed the comments to turn away from the discussion of Krugman's article to a discussion on the character of Chomsky. What you should have done is made sure that nothing other than Krugman's views were discussed; instead, we have a great number of posts for the purpose of character assassinating Chomsky and totally going into realms that it shouldn't have gone. Israel and Palestine and Chomsky's views of the conflict are a separate issue.

    3. I have little patience for demagoguery and sloganeering. You can't kill a non-existing character.
      Yes, some people are bad, some people are evil and some people are good.
      You started with Chomsky and ended up with the Holocaust denial and silencing of others, not surprisingly so.

    4. The internet is supposed to be the first place where free speech is allowed. It is now plain that you first don't even publish my opinion and then make comments about my views. Let the readers of your blog decide who is lying and who is telling the truth. Also, this is a post on Krugman's article which concerns unemployment--a problem with serious consequences for all of us. You have allowed the opinions on this blog to digress to the point that we are discussing the probity of Noam Chomsky when what we should have been doing is discussing Krugman's article. Why did you allow this to turn into a discussion on Chomsky, I don't know. Also, Chomsky's views on Israeli policy have nothing to do with Chomsky's views on anarchic socialism. But it seems plain that you were willing to allow the discussion to focus on Chomsky's character as long as Chomsky was getting attacked : ad hominem arguments are never good. However, you ought to realise that we are on the internet and you cannot stop the views of others. Your blog isn't the only blog. The time when mass media could control the content is over. Now we have facebook, twitter, youtube, email, etc. So your censorship of my views isn't really going to stop people from following free speech. You have a blog; well, so do many others. And you should consider the fact that only 9 members of the UN opposed Palestine's statehood (including the USA and Israel) and 138 voted for it. I wonder why 138 countries voted for it. They must all be liars too who don't see the "evil" of Palestine and the "angelhood" of Israel. And if you are a true American then you'll publish my opinion rather than not publishing it and then attacking my post without others having a chance to read it.

    5. Anonymous, I am not willing to tolerate your fanciful notions concerning a "Palestinian holocaust" on this blog. This is obscenity.

      Your far-left hero Noam Chomsky? You introduced him into the discussion.

      Free speech? Absolutely. Start your own blog, where you can write to your heart's content about a "Palestinian holocaust." There are also many anti-Semitic and far, far left (and far, far right) websites which will be delighted to publish your "thoughts" on the matter.

      Who ever said anything about the "evil" of Palestine and the "angelhood" of Israel? (I favor a two-state solution, but this is difficult when the Hamas charter calls for the murder of all Jews, not just Israelis.) However, among those countries that voted for Palestinian observer status are nations where they hang homosexuals, stone to death women, incarcerate journalists, and the list goes on. You find comfort in the actions of the UN, which has silently acquiesced to the murder of more than 40,000 Syrian civilians by the Assad regime over the past two years? Sweet. Go ahead and continue obsessing over Israel . . .

    6. So typical of .. a far right antisemites pretending to be "left," manipulative, silencing, threatening.
      "The internet is supposed to be the first place where free speech is allowed."
      No, you can't deprive Jeff of HIS right to have in HIS space what he thinks is appropriate.
      "And if you are a true American then you'll publish my opinion ..."
      What a tone? How dare you? Bullying, manipulating ...
      If you are a true American, you stop being a Nazi ...

    7. Journalists Punched by Israeli Officers After Fatal Shooting at West Bank Checkpoint

      "Although the journalists had press credentials, they were not allowed to show them by the officers, who accused them of working instead for an Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, which provides video cameras to Palestinians to help document life under Israeli military occupation.

      Someone who was does work with the Israeli rights group managed to record video at the checkpoint in the city of Hebron, just after the fatal shooting of Muhammad al-Salameh, 17."

      Please publish this comment too for the sake of free speech.


    8. Turkey leads the world with respect to the arrest of journalists, journalists in Iran are simply murdered, but this champion of freedom of the press and Noam Chomsky acolyte gets livid when a journalist is allegedly punched in the West Bank. (Note that Mackey is also obsessed with anything and everything anti-Israel.) Never mind that the matter is under investigation by the Israel Defense Forces. Those darned Israelis!

    9. This compulsive Israel-hater couldn't give a damn that 27 people, including 18 children, died in Connecticut today. Disgusting.

    10. Sadly, Mackey is indeed well-known for his obsession with Israel. See:

    11. Oh, Mackey. Don't get me started.
      Mackey is running Lede which is declared as a place covering all the news in the world - local, national, international.
      I tend to have a split sleep. In the break, I tend to do something. I tried to listen to NPR, but they offered Mosley's BBC so I tried the NYT.
      My experience... On the front page ... there was of course Israel - something about one woman gossiping about another woman (or something similar). This masterpiece of journalism was of course Mackey's and was part of his Lede. This masterpiece followed in Lede some three other pieces about bad Jews - no news and no other locality, nation, or the world.
      This was last year when the world was shaking, thousands were murdered everyday, but our Mackey ....
      Seeing four pieces in a row about bad Jews (and nothing else), I hit the ceiling and typed a letter to the public editor.
      I did receive a reply, ... not from him but .... from Mackey who was praising himself as a wonderful person and attacking me as a ... bad person - no surprise here (I am Jewish).
      The guy is a sick antisemite. Yes, he's obsessed. No, it isn't labeling. Antisemitism is an area of my expertise and have all the tools and all the knowledge to analyze.

    12. "Please publish this comment too for the sake of free speech."
      Jeff, for the sake of free speech, can you explain to our obviously bright and obviously nice anonymous (yes, I like sarcasm) the meaning of free speech. I think you should do it slowly, using simple words.

  14. Speaking of Gaza .... I once died when I heard on NPR (National Prostitutional Radio) a program about Gaza (of course, the "national" part is a joke).
    A "journalist" started the program of suffering:
    - everyone suffers
    - small businesses suffer
    - we have a small business owner who suffers
    This small business owner confirmed that, yes, there was much suffering and the "journalist" commiserated happily/unhappily. The small business owner continued: "I am the owner of a small car dealership and my suffering is extreme - I can't serve my customers. They DEMAND more Mercedeses and I don't have them now, they demand more Mercedes parts and can't meet the demand."
    There was silence for a moment (apparently the "journalist" was so touched that she lost her voice) and the program ended.
    I never heard this "journalist" again. Clearly, this was a rookie who didn't get the right "BBC/NPR/NYT) training.

  15. Technological Unemployment is going to put people out of work without end:

    Andrew Mcafee: Are droids taking our jobs?

    Zeitgeist Moving Forward:

    Race Against the Machine: Andrew McAfee at TEDxBoston:

    Andrew Mcafee at IBM:

    The Reality of Technological Unemployment:

    Robots will steal jobs:

    Technological unemployment:

    Technological Unemployment:

    Technological Unemployment:

    Reworking the world of work:

    Will Robots Steal Your Job?

    World Wide Unemployment Under 10 Minutes

    Technological Unemployment:

  16. Not only technological unemployment, but also
    old fashioned exploitation.
    Nobody educated in America knows what was the promise of technological evolution - a better life. There is a reason why graduate students are marching zombies.
    In the future, we were told, machines will work and we will be on the beach. We will have a civilized life, short workweek and plenty of time to be human, be ourselves, be healthy etc. Let machines do the job.
    Ha, ha, ha. I think I hear computers laugh.
    If there is technological unemployment, why retarded humans work for two and three. One can find better purpose in life than enriching some monsters.