I largely agree with the premise of this article: increased minimum wages will accelerate the automation of tasks usually done by low-wage labourers, and I’m torn on whether it’s a good or bad thing.

On one hand, I think workers deserve to be paid a fair wage for their work, a wage that ensures they’re not still stuck in poverty despite working full-time. However, that could result in fewer total jobs. How do we react to such a development? Do we attempt to create more jobs, or do we accept the direction in which the economy is moving, and instead adjust our societies to fit the automated future?

This discussion reminds me of why Karl Marx supported free trade. He didn’t think it was necessarily a positive thing, but thought it would lead to worse conditions for the average worker, pushing those workers to more swiftly support revolutionary change. While the same could be said of increasing the pace of automation, it doesn’t feel right to advocate worsening conditions for the working class with the hopes they’ll overthrow the capitalist system. Clearly, it didn’t work for Marx, and it could just as easily backfire into support for fascism, as we’re seeing among some of Europe’s poor and unemployed masses.

But what happens if we don’t raise the minimum wage? Sure, more workers will continue to have jobs for a while, though they’ll probably still have to find second and third jobs to pay the bills, and automation will still come, just a little slower because labour costs won’t rise as quickly.

If automation is inevitable, should we keep avoiding the tough discussion of how we build a society that continues to support people when there aren’t enough jobs to go around?

While it may hurt in the short-term, I think the right decision is to raise the wages of workers, and deal with automation now. Why delay the inevitable just because we’re scared of what kind of society it may result in? The structure of society is up to the masses. If we don’t like it, we can change it, but I think too few people actually realize that we have that power when we work together.

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