… is from page 224 of Robert Cooter’s and Benjamin Chen’s 2019 paper “Creativity, Economic Freedom and Human Rights,” which is chapter 11 of Economic Liberties and Human Rights, a 2019 volume edited by Jahel Queralt and Bas van der Vossen (footnote deleted):
There is little to be said for spending one’s days on a factory floor cutting wires for pins. However, repetitive and mindless tasks are increasingly undertaken by machines, not humans. More than ever, individuals enjoy opportunities for creativity in performing and structuring their work. Economic life has emerged as our biggest canvas for self-authorship. One’s efforts in securing the necessities and conveniences of life are today articulations of one’s individuality. The right to economic freedom therefore derives from a basic right to liberty.
DBx: So true.
And to the extent that we today do indeed “enjoy opportunities for creatively performing and structuring” our work, government-mandated work rules – such as minimum-wage statutes, mandated overtime pay, mandated paid leave, and occupational-licensing restrictions – shrink the range of those opportunities. Such mandates reduce not only our freedom, these restrict also our creativity. Neither the method nor the outcome is in the least progressive.
Note also that Adam Smith was likely correct to predict that labor-saving tools – some people call them “robots” – are most likely to be invented to perform those tasks that are, at the time of these tools’ invention, among the least-creative and most rote that workers currently perform. Therefore, the substitution of tools for human labor will generally free human workers from the performance of those tasks that currently are among the most tedious and least creative. Efforts to save such jobs are, thus, efforts to keep an artificially large number of workers in jobs that are among the most dull and least creative. There’s nothing progressive about such efforts.
When one surveys the many complaints that progressives issue about modern society, as well as progressives’ proposed “solutions,” one is struck by how very much of progressivism is an attempt to prevent actual progress – and by how similar progressivism is to right-wing populism of the sort that is today peddled by Donald Trump. It seems that the only feature of progressivism that apparently justifies its lovely name is that it is a philosophy whose adherents proudly reject classical-liberalism’s 18th-century-style suspicion of the state and its reliance on the trial and error of decentralized and depoliticized human action.
Of course, the only genuine progress that society has ever really experienced has been that which arises within societies that are classically liberal.