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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 332 of the 1990 Transaction Publishers reprint of W.H. Hutt‘s marvelous 1936 book, Economists and the Public:

In spite of the perpetual recurrence of perturbation about the supersession of men by machines, intelligent thought about social relations must see that the tendency is merely a manifestation of mankind’s success in harnessing physical nature to perform the task of providing it with subsistence and clothing and other things which are fundamental to civilized existence.

Yes.  Of course.  And also, of course, the very same is true for trade: expanded trade and the deeper division of labor that it makes possible are just other techniques for reducing the cost – for reducing the quantities of resources, including human labor – required to satisfy human wants.  This cost-reduction is, to thinking people, unambiguously good and welcome.

Yet despite the clarity of this reality, people continue to worry about being impoverished by progress in the ages-old challenge of better supplying human wants.  And what makes this baseless worry especially bizarre is the fact that many individuals (calling themselves “Progressive”!) who worry that improved techniques for satisfying human wants make society poorer are the same individuals who insist that slavery was a means of making society richer (excluding, obviously, the slaves themselves).  These two claims are inconsistent with each other.

Also, many are the individuals who, with one breath, wax eloquently (if vacuously) about the need to “conserve” resources so that we live “sustainably,” and, with the next breath, oppose expanded trade and improved technology because they destroy particular jobs.


Here, by the way, is a short essay from June by John Tamny on robots.