Paul Krugman is worried that lots of jobs will be replaced by machines in the near future. What will all those people do!? Brad DeLong thinks there’ll still be plenty of jobs, but massive income inequality. Some of Brad’s commenters think that the reserve army of unemployed will take up prostitution on a large scale. Oh dear.
Allow me to suggest a third possibility. Instead of mass unemployment or horrendous inequality, technological improvement could reduce the time people spend working to meet their needs and give them more free time. Free time that they could use for other purposes (such as their all-round human development) . The Jerry Cohen video that I posted the other week centres on this very point. For more discussion see ch.11 of Karl Marx’s Theory of History , which, I now see, furnished much of the script for that talk. Of course, if you take “free markets”, extensive private property and the domination of the political system by money (so that you can’t do much about the first two) as givens, then the third possibility will appear impossible or utopian. So you’d have to be an incompetent idiot to mention it, wouldn’t you?