That manufacturing becomes more efficient is no surprise: it always has. The question is whether they have fewer workers at the same compensation level, fewer workers at a higher compensation level or the same number of workers with fewer hours.
Owners are pushing for the first, labor wants anything except the first. And while Keynes envisioned the last, that has clearly no been allowed to happen. It is an archetype case of who benefits from technical improvements and forces driving inequality.
> Owners are pushing for the first, labor wants anything except the first.
There are two important actors left out of this analysis: consumers and parts suppliers.
It doesn't fit the evil owner narrative, but often these efficiency gains translate largely to reduced prices for consumers. Consumers vote with their wallets, so it is often the case that unless the evil owners conspire against consumers by fixing prices, businesses are often forced to pass on efficiency gains as cheaper prices.
As for suppliers, a very large portion of an electric car price is in the battery. If the size of the pie is remaining the same, then this new player is taking a lot $$ off the table, offsetting efficiency gains.
This is indeed plausible and has happened for other commodities but note: 1) since the model-T, inflation adjusted consumer prices for automobiles have never dropped and 2) car manufacturers have historically replicated or bought any serious profit centers in their supply chain.
Shareholders act in their interest, employees act in theirs. Often everyone ends up fairly satisfied. Is that not how the system is supposed to work and is describing it plainly without effusive praise now automatically suspect?
That might be linked to the lack of price reductions. I selling a model-T were still legal it would be likely be laughably cheap.
A lot of technology improvements that would have reduced prices are eaten by increased government regulation. The consensus position is that that is a good outcome.
While that may be true, the word 'car' is hiding all of the consumer surplus. Cars are not simply repackaged model Ts. Todays cars are orders of magnitude better in myriad ways than a model T. The fact that the price merely hasn't dropped in inflation adjusted terms really means nothing here. What consumers are getting for their money has increased dramatically.
So we clearly agree, sticker price has not gone down since the assembly line. So to say it is happening now is not really justified. Especially since, far from say the Yugo approach, electric currently is very much billed as an improvement over petroleum (correctly imo). But while cost of ownership maybe less, nowhere is the sticker price pitched as a cheap alternative to petroleum. And this is what affects manufacturers and the point I was addressing.
> Shareholders act in their interest, employees act in theirs. Often everyone ends up fairly satisfied. Is that not how the system is supposed to work and is describing it plainly without effusive praise now automatically suspect?
Apologies, I think I mistakenly inserted an implied value judgement when reading your original post. Rereading your post I see that your words can be read with a neutral tone.
Nobody produces the cheap base-model car of yore, if they did they could easily do so for well under 10k. But that doesn't support the bottom line especially when you have to cut in the dealership.
Furthermore smartphones in general _have_ been getting cheaper. It's only top of the line flagships that are getting more expensive while also being much more powerful and with better (AKA more expensive) tech inside them.
Right now the margins on gasoline vehicles are much better than electric vehicles, partially due to the technology being relatively immature. The internal combustion engine has more than 100 years and hundreds of billions of dollars in R&D behind its infrastructure.
Apart from that, most dealerships (which is not the same as the automobile manufacturer, but they are closely related) make most of their money from maintenance and servicing vehicles. One of the big selling points of electric vehicles is that they're simpler and cost less money to maintain.
A cursory analysis suggests your opening statement is actually wrong - there will be less revenue if there is widespread shift towards electric vehicles.
Good. Dealerships are generally horrible consumer experiences at the best of them. They prey on upselling cars off their lot with lock in maintenance these days. "Oil changes for life" - baked into the cost of the car using the cheapest materials they can source in bulk. And once they have you locked into this built in service plan they incentivize you to come back in the door by giving you an "all other maintenance under your plan is automatically 10% off". Except that 10% doesn't matter when you control the parts and labor chain on a cost that is unknown before the discount. Dealerships are leeches of businesses focusing on the maintenance and repair of overly complex ICE engine and drivetrain. We move from thousands of parts to 10s of parts comparatively by going to electric. Electric cars will have lifespans similar to that of long haul diesel trucks, and better when you consider batteries and electric motors are easy to swap. So the dealers will feel the squeeze in about 15-20 years when those old ICE vehicles are finally in the minority and/or have been banned (hopefully).
Good riddance to the dealerships we know of today. They're there to suck money out of a sold car, almost treating it as a "subscription" model these days.
American automakers make all their profits on pickup trucks, because they have no foreign competition in the giant gas-guzzling family-mover-with-a-vestigial-tail market. They have little incentive to innovate, and haven't got around to electric pickups yet. There may also be technical reasons EVs would currently be less profitable, but for now in America crony-caplitalism and cultural decay alone would suffice to maintain that dynamic.
Here's an unfounded but different perspective: Electric's reliability and return on investment will only make the transportation industry that much more profitable, and the amount of transportation will only increase as time goes on. The total size of the pie will increase.
Maintenance will still be needed, especially on many generations of electric transport not limited to cars or trucks.
Hyundai is another more recent-ish example. Hyundai cars were absolute garbage for a long time, they improved but the market didn’t know. So they their money where their mouth was by offering a 100k warranty. (Audi did something similar in the 80/90s).
I’d be cautious in assuming that electric cars will be better. Scheduled maintenance is reduced, but there are plenty of quality and repair issues with Tesla as evidenced by consumer reports. Unscheduled maintenance is still a factor of assembly and engineering quality.
Also, from a cost POV, franchise laws aren’t going away right away. So the price of that ICE maintenance dealer margin is going to be baked in, or the dealers won’t move the cars.
Less maintenance and higher reliability means the fear of maintenance is not as strong of a motivator for a new car, resulting in lower customer frequency.
But in the company core, final assembly? Yes.
As battery prices continue to fall, electrics will get cheaper than ice's, so there will be less revenue. Beyond that, fsd means many people who now own a car will use robotaxis instead, which means many fewer autos needed. In addition Tesla is working on making its cars last a million miles. So total auto industry revenue is due to go way down.
Instead of vehicles driving 150K miles over 11 years (~~ average car age now in US) a robotaxi could burn through 500 miles in a day or 500K miles in 2.7 years. They'd certainly need the interior replaced several times in that period.
Overall miles driven, could it increase with robotaxis, if the cost per mile is less than for owned cars? I'd think so, since it would open up car usage to whole new classes of people who don't use cars much, since they can now 'buy' the usage of the car a lower rates and in the smallest package, of only the miles they need.
Anyone have some data that points more strongly in either direction?
The bigger problem will be aligning incentives with the customer. Especially regarding safety, since riders can hardly evaluate that by themself.
Yes, that's a big one, and indeed may be setting up a commons problem, if not strongly regulated.
For the short term, and for each individual company, cutting corners for safety will be in their interest (save funds now at no cost).
But for the industry and the long term, the entire concept could be destroyed by a relatively small but tragic number of safety failures. A few high-profile passenger deaths will probably be covered in the volume of terrorist attacks, and even if the actual risk is still small, give the impression of horrible widespread risk.
I'd like to hope that all the players are responsible and far-sighted, but the experience with Uber killing the cyclist in Arizona does not bode well -- they had many lapses and corner cutting, only reforming a bit when they killed someone.
Perhaps, but when robotaxis are a thing then robobuses will be too, which can drive vehicle-miles down even as passenger-miles go up.
Rental is overrated. When I need to drive, there better be a car in my driveway with my gear in it already. Rental may work for urban, but not suburban/rural.
You’re overlooking many points.
Firstly, it’s not just a question of management vs labour. Capital needs to be compensated, or no-one will provide it.
Secondly, not all labour is equal. With increasing automation, some labour will become more productive, and more highly compensated. Other labour will become obsolete. The total size of labour compensation could go either way.
The size of the cake is not fixed. Greater efficiencies could lead to greater margins, greater sales and more for some, or more for all. Or it could simply lead to the same product being delivered more cheaply (and at this point, the world needs more efficient transportation, it doesn’t need even more cars).
No-one, not management, not the investors, not the labour force is entitled to a particular stake in the future by virtue of the status quo. If personal automobiles were magicked out of existence by some revolutionary new device, I’d say good riddance.
Valvetrain parts, pistons, rings, crankshafts, starters, heads, oil pumps, exhaust manifolds, mufflers, fuel injectors, sensors...none of this stuff is needed on an electric car.
Hearing UAW members talk about the strike and concessions, they often say things like "they need to guarantee our jobs"...they know electric is coming.
At the extreme you have factory workers who are just in denial. "How can electricity have more power than gas?" You can show them a video of a Tesla P100 racing a <insert_fast_car> and they will tell you to your face that it's fake and they don't believe it.
Not disagreeing that electric cars concern them, but asking for job guarantees is not proof of it.
they have to answer to their unions who have board seats and the know that EVs will gut jobs. it will clobber more that just the manufacture of the cars and those jobs but also all the the third party parts suppliers will take a huge hit as the majority of their stocked parts are related to petrol engines and transmissions which have quite a few wear parts.
Is it? How many EV models will be available from Volkswagen next year?
For instance, you could conceivably machine a spring from a piece of solid metal, but it would be quite expensive and wouldn't function very well as a spring.
Despite general purpose programmable manufacturing technology, the majority of stuff made today avoids those techniques and is made by molding, casting, punching, forming, extruding, and so forth. I'm looking around me in my little office, and I don't think I see anything with a machined part in it.
This sounds more like mythology than reality. Can you show me some concrete examples of this to back your claim?
Maaayyyyybe, but if it is, it won't become obvious until we've gone through a period of economic devastation similar to that of the Great Depression.
Why require it to be work? Giving out a UBI would be more productive than inventing filler work.
I was thinking residential-scale agriculture but for the most part I agree with your conclusions. This doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. If all that's left to do is pick our own veggies from the fields, then we've won the game. Probably we can offset the use of environmentally toxic substances with all the extra labor we'll have.
End stage capitalism may start to look a lot like communism in certain aspects.
But here you can see actual evidence of a similar phenomenon. Slowing down emissions reductions for short-term incentives.
Ouch, my poor planet.
Working in an auto plant is hard, backbreaking work that will leave you physically broken by retirement - and while the transition to electric cars may slightly reduce the amount of labor needed, it won't change how hard or backbreaking the work is.
Maybe 80 years ago. These fellas workin the forges and lifting those blocks certainly went home more sore than someone operating a pneumatic driver all day.
There is so many ergonomic and Health/Safety stuff now.
Maybe it's hyperbole, but I wouldn't call auto assembly factory work 'backbreaking' by any stretch.
Is it? I've watched a lot of modern car assembly line videos and it doesn't seem to be hard or backbreaking at all. Boring and tedious? Sure, here's one for GM's best selling vehicle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Nr3I-Fddv8
At no point do you see anyone lift something heavy without the assistance of overhead cranes.
That's a promotional video showing you what the most automated parts look like when automation goes perfectly. Not everything is so automated, and everything doesn't always go perfectly.
Sure, backbreaking work exists within the industry, but you can also tell from how some people are dressed (just street clothes with no safety gear) and by how fast the line moves that there's a lot of jobs that are no more physically demanding than some office work or fast food work.
E.g. it's someone's job to sit in a new car and make sure all the buttons and interface elements work, or to visually inspect the paint job and flag blemishes for fixing further down the line etc.
Yes, this is important. Expect to see benefit reductions result in more strikes.
When will companies start to lobby for single payer in the face of predatory industries cutting into their compensation packages?
Here in this case I don’t think it’s quite the same, but this sort of thing is NOT going to go away, and we need to figure it out. Just retraining of “find another job” isn’t good enough.
Agreed that it will be a cultural shift: there is a divide between meaning and economics.
People need meaning in life, but meaningful work and economic value aren't always the same.
Raising children or providing caregiving to the elderly can be very meaningful and happens to pay poorly. Building community is incredibly meaningful, and is usually volunteer work right now.
> People go all in on retraining (even though it obviously can't work for everyone)
I've heard that federal retraining programs have a success rate (defined as difference between placebo of nothing) of 0-15%. The current government solution to displaced workers is in practice is getting on disability.
Why is everyone so convinced people need to be told what to do to stay busy and engaged in the world?
And even in a post-scarcity society, some things (like attention and social status) will always be valuable.
In our current scenario "work" is generate economic value, and "outcome" is dollars.
In another scenario "work" could be stories / media, and "outcomes" could be attention.
In another, "work" is playing video games, "outcome" is level.
In all these scenarios you have people feeling the dopamine and at some level deriving satisfaction. It seems a bit dystopian (and anti-social) even to me, but if we're just talking about "human limitations on society" then I don't see why it couldn't be the case.
If we really lived in a post-scarcity world like The Culture, I'd imagine we'd have to evolve how we think about "work" and "outcome" in the same way that most of us no longer "work" for the glory of god for an "outcome" in the afterlife.
Well, we don't live in a fictional world. We live in a real world.
We just need to realise that life happyness and meaningful work doesn't mean generating profits for some ceo.
> We just need to realise that life happyness and meaningful work doesn't mean generating profits for some ceo.
I believe that's GP's point in a nutshell. The thing is for the USA "just need to realize" is a major cultural shift. Not to say it's insurmountable by any means, but making people just realize something is very tricky IMO.
Totally agree. I think the combination of emphasizing on STEM for all, along with smaller colleges facing shrinking enrollments, will result in losses to society that won't be obvious/measurable.
Look at the list of notable Hampshire College alumni: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampshire_College
They range from Ken Burns, to one of the founders of Stonyfield Yogurt, to a Debian contributor, along with many other musicians and other creators.
We need to keep this kind of educational freedom alive.
Most Americans don't continue to work for status—they continue to work to eat.
I was speaking with regards to American society under UBI, not the current day.
The thing that prevents people from having jobs isn't a lack of demand for labor- it's the unwillingness of companies to pay for a worker's full cost of living. A UBI could correct for that.
The society that benefited from having these workers should give them time, money and resources to retrain. Some of these people have their identity wrapped up in their job (as you allude to), so the psychological jump may be the most difficult of all.
Maybe we should have insurance for large industries that are essential to society (I can't see how that could go wrong!) ;)
You grossly underestimate how many people would be content watching cheap entertainment, copulating without concern for consequences, and otherwise enjoying a life of mundane leisure.
The US poverty line is 80th percentile of world income. That’s pretty comfortable for most.
"Generating value" is such a capitalist fake idea though.
With UBI, people could potentially pursue whatever fulfills their soul, whether or not it creates economic value for others.
But the capitalist notion of "handouts" being personal failure and "generating value" as the meaning of life is so ingrained in American culture that I don't know how we'll ever move beyond it.
That's the government providing baseline competition (and non broken-window public works) to serve as something for private entities to beat.
Pragmatic considerations may override your personal beliefs in this matter. American culture strongly ties self-worth to productivity. Take away folks' ability to meaningfully contribute to society, and they will cease to see themselves as a part of that society. On the other hand, we have a strong cultural identity surrounding gun ownership, and we're seeing rapid polarization in politics. So what's the natural consequence when your populace is bored, disenfranchised and heavily armed? Sounds like a powderkeg to me
If you give people a floor like that, you have to keep them doped up enough to be content with it. Or engineer a more complacent human.
I enjoy the constant learning curve, but not everybody does. Professions that used to last a lifetime, don't any more, but we aren't given those expectations at the beginning of our journeys. Additionally, even though I enjoy the act of learning I'm starting to notice that it takes a little bit more effort year by year to learn the new tricks. And yet our earning potential (which directly drives a wide range of personal and family decisions) is dependent on staying on the treadmill.
I can see the day, eventually, where I'm not as fast a learner as the latest round of college graduates and where whatever wisdom I may have gained isn't of any value or relevance. I hope I am wrong about that.
I think over time those things are not as significant as the changes in disciplines (titles?) or verticals. E.g. Changing from an embedded SE to front end UX is more difficult than the languages or tools involved.
Edit: is it harder to retrain from front end to embedded? I've traveled the ≈embedded to ≈ux road (via ≈applications). From ≈employee land to ≈owner land.
The language or framework you use really shouldn’t matter all that much. That’s just a matter of taking some time to acquaint yourself with the vernacular. But fundamentally, the maths stays the same.
I think this is very different from the high cost 4-year undergrad or masters programs that are expensive and take a lot of time. A UAW worker will have a hard time, I think, getting a degree but should have an easy time taking a few 1-4 week programs at night or from home to pick up useful skills.
I’m not sure what other program will really work unless UBI gets here real soon (I don’t think it will). Programs where GM has to pay workers who don’t work will just kill GM. I suppose it will be ok for a few years, but once GM dies then no one will be able to pay.
But in all the cases I’ve seen so far, most of these people built their whole identities around being a coal miner or an automobile assembly line person. That’s the only thing they know how to do, and the only thing they are willing to do. Nothing less than the exact same thing will suffice.
In the case of widespread intransigence, I don’t see how you can solve this problem. Those people are going to be out of a job, in a career that doesn’t exist any more, having wrapped their entire concept of existence around something that simply no longer exists.
Yes, I agree that we as a society need to take care of them, otherwise we as a society will be paying a much higher price due to the problems they will cause.
We recognize part of this issue when it comes to soldiers who have come back home from war and are now trying to live during peacetime.
We need to come up with better solutions for people who have been obsoleted by the March of technology.
This might also be an example where we have to teach and support and encourage resiliency early in life. I’m sure there are some people who lock their life around their job, but that’s not healthy. Especially if it’s literally a shitty and unhealthy job like coal mining.
Are things so broken on the employer side that they won't take a 1 week risk on a new hire?
This is for software engineering which is a in demand field, I can't imagine how bad it would be for a field where there was a glut of people trying to apply
I saw a kid not get a job because she hadnt ever used a fax machine.
That being said it’s weird how many companies don’t pay for training, even simple stuff like LinkedIn Education and Coursera. So it would be nice to have more of these, especially curated, by a more independent source like a library or community college so it wasn’t tied to jobs.
There are also some great week or less trainings that can help improve performance. It’s surprising how many people can’t use Microsoft Office. I recently got to help people use Word and OneDrive and it was neat seeing how much work sucked before they figured out how to save files and edit files. This is someone that is simple to digital natives but a little bit of training can help extend careers.
The plasticity of humans in the face of adversity and changing times is a fundamental part of humanity.
From entire Nations migrating across the world in search of a new Homeland in ancient times (e.g. Helvetii) to the mass migration of people in modern times (Irish potato famine and mass emigration), to entire industries being automated many many times. e.g. the etymological origin of sabotage is from labor disputes over automation. Similarly luddites engaged in sabotage in the 1800s. And many industries have either been virtually automated (farming) or made obsolete (blacksmiths), resulting in dramatic reductions in labor demand in those areas.
In any of these cases, humans persevered and ultimately found new purposes.
And while automation is only going to increase at an exponential rate and displacement similarly so, given that there is still so much productive potential left in humans, it would be a folly to simply give up on a group of people and just give them UBI.
I'm not saying UBI isn't part of the solution, but the solution also has to involve utilizing the productive capacity of humanity. Bc we have too many big problems to solve to switch an ever growing percentage of our population over to only be consumers (and not producers). They will be an ever growing tax on the rest of the population the will prevent us from putting as much investment into R&D and problem solving.
I read this as "buggy device drivers union" and had a sudden moment of clarity.
That would have replaced blue collar jobs with blue collar jobs.
We need a carbon tax and federal funding to build these facilities.
Carbon extraction paired with more nuclear is what we need to invest in.
It leads to judges corrupting their own judgement to allow workers who probably aren't disabled to get onto the disability roles, it's a ratchet where once on permanent disability, an employee can no longer legally get a job again, it's almost certainly a downsizing in wages and quality of life expectations, and it leads to depression, higher suicide rates, and high rates of opioid abuse.
"Learn 2 code" was attempted because offering food stamps and Section 8 housing in coal country gets you immediately shut down. Those people, generally, don't want to perceive themselves as a burden on society.
Our government should help the unemployed, but paying them off "until they reached retirement age" means that the people who are still employed are paying for them to do nothing.
That's literally the point. The cost to society of having a large, disgruntled, restless, unemployed population is high. If this population decides to revolt, the cost could be catastrophically high.
The goal is to pay this population less than the total dollar value of the expected damage, but still enough to stave off the most expensive / disasterous outcomes.
If you prefer, employable people like living in a world where they're employable. If the unemployable decide to revolt, that world could be threatened. It may hurt your sensibilities, but paying them to do nothing could still be the least expensive option.
I would suggest helping those people move on to something else that enables them to care for their families. It’ll make change far more palatable and is better for people
In Spain several coal mines shut off. The initial idea was to just retire this people. In some cases they made them hop trough some recolocation programs.
IMO retiring people is just cheaper. The administrative overhead of managing this people is not worth the cost.
Can somebody go into depth on this? Everyday I interact with people who have jobs that suck way more than coding and pay way less.
Why wouldn't people want to work 40 hours remotely with full benefits making decent wages?
"Learn to code" is great advice in general and can change the lives of certain individuals but it's not a winning strategy for shifting a mid-career workforce from one career to another, at scale.
Unrealistic in what sense? That most people are unable to learn managing state and code flow?
I never hear anybody say "it is unrealistic for workers to learn Spanish/Russian/Mandarin/Japanese", yet I really feel basic programming is even easier to learn than a spoken language.
I think it's more likely that the basic math (algebra, geometry, etc) is missing when you look at men who started working in the mines before they finish high school. Without the math foundation, it's not "hard work", but a weak foundation which just causes frustration.
That, and a 58 year old guy learning to code will soon have to compete against a 20-something with far more education + computer + social media experience, especially since coding can be done overseas.
Oh and age by itself has nothing to do with it. There are old people who could pick it up because
they have the right fundamentals. Sure there are some challenges that come with age, but let’s not sweep all old people into the category of “cannot enter a programming career.”
I’m not saying that’s what you were doing. I think you were talking about age as a further factor compounding the difficulty on top of already lacking basic related skills.
I mainly taught a handful of college educated people who studied things like earth sciences, arts, and ocean science, but struggle to understand a for loop or a function call.
And now I understand how it can be un-fun to struggle, especially if you don't intrinsically enjoy writing scripts and mucking around the terminal.
I am a senior full stack developer and typically in the top 10% of the developers in my org wherever I've gone past 5 years.
I do 0 algebra or geometry. I call APIs, I put stuff in databases. I store state.
I really don't think it's "math"y at all. I transform data, I use libraries. I can't think of any algebraic examples of anything I've done in the past 5 years, let alone geometry.
That's not something to be happy about, that's something to be terrified of. If nothing the average coder does requires any particular specialized skills beyond gluing together libraries built by experts, what do you think will happen when, like the coal miners, some technological or societal change comes along that reduces the need for average coders?
Demand for coders isn't infinite.
middle age blue collar workers can't learn a natural language or a programming language
I really have to ask, what makes us "programmers" so elite? I find it hard to believe that if your average person spent 90 months learning programming that they couldn't scrape by as a mid-level web developers. I have developers in my org who go weeks without committing and management seems to have no problem with that. If that's the quality accepted, why can't that be taught in 90 days?
Telling blue-collar workers to learn to code is in their analogy like telling them to be rocket-scientists. If they could, they probably wouldn't be blue-collar in the first place.
It's all about what you've been exposed to.
What are some basic white-collar jobs other than "go to meetings" and "Excel"?
He spends hours every year at tax time, carefully collating his paper records onto a paper ledger that he shares with his accountant. If he'd enter the data into even the most basic of bookkeeping systems or even an Excel spreadsheet, tax time would take him a few minutes (and he wouldn't be paying his accountant so much to handle the paper). And he'd have a better handle on monthly expenses, revenue, etc. his system works for him, it's just labor intensive.
But he still makes a good living at what he does, he just prefers to do it with a welder while climbing on a truck. Even if he were offered free coding classes, he wouldn't take it -- he can't understand how I can possibly sit in front of a computer all day long, stuck in an office.
I've been on both coasts. I've been in big cities. The prosperity is there. The hope is there. The schooling and resources are there.
My family came from the Appalachians. Hill country. they live off the land, cause the only money is from tourists. They used to work in the mines, but 'them environmentalists' ruined their livelihood and ended their bodily suffering so their kids could do better. But in doing so, the coastal elites destined those cities, those families to poverty.
But this poverty is working in restaurants, working menial service jobs that pay $8/hr, no benefits, and no vacation. And remember that in the USA, your property tax is linked to school funds. Sure the feds pitch in a bit, but not that much.
So you get: bad education, bad jobs, no upward mobility, low/no healthcare. You get poverty equal to what we'd call 'Third World'.
So when I see a bunch of coastal elites say blasely, "Why cant the blue collar workers just learn programming and be rich?" It's about as tone deaf as Marie Antionette saying 'Why can't they just eat cake?'
They don't have the prior education to learn programming. They don't have the free time due to working 50-60 hour weeks. Or they don't have the ability to afford computers or the know-how to use free and open source software effectively to learn.
We need socialism, especially when policies end up destroying counties, towns, and cities founded in old paradigms we now kill for being bad. We can end dirty jobs - but we should never end the people. But that's what we're doing.
This is often the situation faced by the poor and working classes on the coasts, also. Even if they have different beliefs from you on, i.e. social issues, on economic fairness there is a lot of agreement.
> We need socialism, especially when policies end up destroying counties, towns, and cities founded in old paradigms we now kill for being bad. We can end dirty jobs - but we should never end the people. But that's what we're doing.
The fleeting, once in a generation chance to turn the country in the direction you propose (cleaner jobs, more support for people and communities) begins in the upcoming primary election. Arguably, how people vote in places like Appalachia and the Midwest will decide if we enter your hopeful future, or continue down the current path toward the greater concentration of wealth in fewer hands.
I actually co-founded a non-profit to address this to the extent that I can with entreprenuership training in the Appalachian region. I think building up the area and creating successful businesses where people live is the way to go.
I hope that what I said here makes sense. It’s based on my own work and experience,
> from their perspective it’s the government coming in and destroying their way of life and then not even bothering to help
It's not our jobs as taxpayers to maintain coal miners' "way of life". Coal mining was a massive improvement to the world in the mid 1800s between whale blubber and refined petroleum, but the world doesn't owe coal miners anything more than a paycheck on the open market, where coal is a commodity and has to compete against fracking (cheaper) and solar and wind (far cleaner and create more jobs). They have cashed 200 years of paychecks and chose to send their young boys into the same coal mines rather than invest in a better life for their kids.
But I also don't look at this in a vacuum. As far as I know, coal mining companies don't offer great pensions for their mine workers. No state in the US has a decent job/vocational retraining and placement system. The coal mining states don't vote politically for good welfare programs that would allow what you claim to want (retirement at their current standard of living). If coal miners wanted a retraining system, they have the ability to vote for political leaders who could do that -- but there is no political will. They could start their own companies or non-profits (like you), but I don't hear about them (doesn't necessarily mean they don't exist). The guys that made billions in coal aren't investing in the same regions that have historically been single-industry areas.
And when it comes to coal, I would argue that
- (1) it was largely beat by innovation and fracking before the EPA / federal government / renewables started reducing coal jobs. The largest coal mine in the world is in Australia finished in ~2008 and idled because it was no longer cost effective to run the mine at those current coal prices.
- (2) it has massive negative externalities to the entire air-breathing world just to keep a few thousand coal miner jobs. Coal miners know this acutely, but they continue to work in the industry (to the extent that it's possible).
I think it's important to help others, but self-agency has to play a role. Your anecdote about the chat lady shows that she had enough agency to quit her job willfully (I've worked at jobs long past when I had decided that management) and that she didn't bother to go to read a book or internet article about how to move up in the workplace shows a great example of the possibility of agency, but the unwillingness to execute.
I think this kind of complacency is why we are losing jobs to other countries. The Netflix documentary "American Factory" perfectly describes the mismatched expectations of American union workers in 2020 thinking they have the same bargaining power as in 1960 and international companies who know they the Chinese workers doing the "996" work ethic is a far better value than the American who clocks out after a very safe 40 hours a week and demands much higher for producing the same exact product.
When it comes to the entire US, I think we should adopt a more comprehensive employment-and-reemployment program, more like Germany's. But we like to pride ourselves on "being free" and not accepting government handouts or entitlements, so we reap what we sow.
> Coal-mining employment increased rapidly in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and peaked in 1923 at 798,000. Since then, the number of miners has fallen considerably since, due to mechanization. By 2015 it had fallen below 70,000.
When you legislate the job away for the benefit of society you have an obligation.
These people think they saved the U.S economy?
What are they smoking. They still us the government 11.3 billion dollars from the government bailing them out.
>GM also chose to rip away our health care coverage in the dead of night, effective immediately and without warning.
This is a crucial topic that must be addressed. Should companies be responsible for employee health care? I do not know the answer, but that seems to be the trend.( Cut full time workers, hire part time works to avoid having to pay for healthcare.)
That's like saying the poor bastard that ended up in Normandy during WWII didn't help win the war.
Obviously they didn't do it single-handedly, but they did make sacrifices that kept the automakers from going completely under. The auto industry might not be very important to people on the coasts, but it's a big deal in Michigan.
The people made real concessions and now that GM is posting record profits, they don't see why they should be conceding further. And they have a union behind them. So they are raising a fuss. Because they can.
The UAW definitely made sacrifices to put new GM on solid footing. But my opinion is that the tough truth is that I don't think you can readily expect things to go back to GM 1.0, ever.
It's just tough to assess how much GM genuinely acting on what it feels are existential threats. I will readily admit, I'm sympathetic to the company making hard to swallow decisions in its long term interests.
I'm just thinking, if GM fails again, that's going to do zero good for the UAW, and I really feel like the UAW isn't taking that seriously enough.
It’s cases like these that give unions a bad name.
If america had invested in a social safety net for the past 30-40 years, we might be in a different place. People would be ok with change because they'd know that society was going to have their back while they find a new career.
Would be more accurate to say “if America had expanded the social safety net”.
If we continue promoting industries that cause the global climate to worsen more rapidly, we're going to pay a MUCH bigger price down the line.
Taking jobs from folks who work in such an industry is a price worth paying, considering the alternative.
The options are not fire them or keep screwing the planet. There's a third option: fire them but don't HANG THEM OUT TO DRY. Provide a social safety net - retraining, early retirement, health care, etc. This is the whole idea behind the "green new deal"... catch the people who would otherwise be ground up by the transition away from fossil fuels.
America has an education problem, and we need more people taking microeconomics in high school.
I don't think that's worked out very well so far. America is polarized on economic lines, and as long as some people's interests are unaligned with the environment / global needs, then this will continue.
The way you actually remove these jobs for good is to change the incentives for these workers so that they benefit from the new order.
This is why I think elements of the Green New Deal are a good idea: because it says that these folks have an even better future with green jobs than the present.
It’s not having systems in place like this that give our society a bad name. The US is one of the richest country in the world, no lies needed to say we can’t afford it (we can afford it) or don’t have the legal framework in place to institute it.
Transitioning to electric mobility is necessary, but if you’re treating workers inhumanly (possibly contributing to deaths of despair in middle America), what is the point of progress? We can treat citizens humanely and deliver on the progress we desperately need, I have no doubt about this.
I'd argue that the US needs some more fairness at this point in history given the income inequality increases since the 60s (gini coefficient), but without removing the incentives which drive the economy.
One option is remote work for governmental programs. It may even need to include a counter propaganda system similar in numbers to what other governments are employing to prop up internet trolls.
Simply calling something socialism isn’t the scarlet letter it used to be.
Its financially beneficial to use corporate control of the media to influence and propagandize culture to be antagonistic towards policies that would help the majority but would cost the rulers. Having a protracted half century long war against a nation self-proclaimed to be socialistic was the perfect scapegoat to justify their actions to moderates and rally a base against the ideal for purely selfish motives.
The Cold War is definitely why the S word is so reviled.
Socialism sounds great if you make the mistake of assuming there are no downsides.
Are you willing to right now, make the same sacrifice in the name of progress for humanity?
Also, the rise of robotics in factories has been visible and known for years.
These all add up to one thing: workers who don't plan ahead will lose their jobs. The farrier eventually lost his job when horses were replaced with cars. Would you argue that we should still have people making and attaching horseshoes in cities where nobody is riding horses?
 But to answer your question, I would not be in this situation because I pay attention and learn new things to stay relevant. Come one, we're mostly software developers here: we're very familiar with having to learn new things to stay relevant (have jobs, get paid, eat). While the auto worker may possibly be less technical and perhaps less educated, they are not stupid. This argument that their jobs should be protected is just laziness (or they are being (mis)led and manipulated by some party with an agenda).
Specialization is for insects.
The problem with stock compensation is that a worker’s incentives aren’t that of an owner. Let’s say that you give them stock, they hold the stock, and the company hits hard times. Now they’ve lost both their job and their savings. That’s bad. Let’s say that you give them 5% of their compensation in stock. They would keep wanting to make unprofitable factories because their stock compensation is minimal. Let’s say 80% of their compensation is stock. They’ll need to sell it to cover living expenses and so you’ve just given them cash with extra steps.
The ownership mentality only works if you’re dealing with rich people (like a CEO) that can defer realizing their compensation and where you’re willing to grossly overpay them.
Turns out a company with a lot of overpaid employees and out of date products is a lousy investment.
That's not a bad thing, but it's how the definitions and philosophies flow.
Automobile engine building, on the other hand, has been mostly automated since the 1950s.
I’d have to ask someone, but I’d bet Tesla is running like 30% off standard. It takes 180 days for workers to work-harden, and years to get the automation optimized. Robots are cheap and easy to buy, but tooling at the end of the robot to do something like install a seat takes a long time to design and make.
An EV has far fewer parts than an ICE-vehicle, if not now, then when their production reaches the same level of automation, they'll definitely be less manual labor-intense than ICEs.
Musk had to import two gigantic aluminium presses to stamp the car bodies, and Tesla was suffering a lot of ill fitting body panels initially. It's amazing what they've accomplished so quickly, but it's still early days.
Building these at the scale of GM, I can definitely imagine putting an electric one together with less work than a gasoline car with an automatic transmission.
History is full of labor transitions. Nobody makes wagon wheels anymore. Noboby cuts pins from wire. Certainly the job opportunities in auto manufacturing are waning, but new jobs are popping up in battery tech, solar, etc. Change is never easy.
So yes, change is never easy, and this next revolution is projected to be faster and larger in scope. One could expect similar social unrest and new laws.
Then eventually when you no longer need the Combustion Engine and Transmission, the two most complicated parts in a car. It's now 1000's of parts per car no longer needed.
If EVs were more like commodity electronics products and less niche, if there were broad competition, things could change faster than anyone expects.
There are a lot of entrenched stakeholders in the US though. UAW, dealerships, policy will control the outcome more than technology for a while.
It was this poor level of quality that made the Chinese government try to entice competition within the space by pulling back EV subsidies.
Links that are somewhat related:
The taxicab unions wanted to keep a medallion system in place and have pushed Uber and Lyft out of many cities, which will result in higher fares and less efficiency with the routes.
It reminds me of the record industry, trying to prevent things like Napster and the digital music revolution, because they didn't want to switch over from physical media.
Nowadays I’ll go months before seeing someone stranded on the side of the road.
It’s actually quite amazing.
From an auto worker standpoint the writing is on the wall. EVs have less parts, less complexity and that means less people and more robots. We as a nation, heck as a planet, need to think about how we are going to live when the manual labor need drops year over year. This is going to hurt China the most I think. I know at my last employer we started with production lines in China, but with in 5 years we moved to Malaysia due to lower cost and the fact that we figured out how to make the assembly less complex and needed less manual labor.
Sounds like many HN users liked the Volt. Thread also has some insights into the political nature of the Volt's disappearance.
This is 100% GM's fault because they learned nothing after the government bailed them out in 2009. They continued to scrimp on labor and build quality, and that resulted in horrible cars that no one wants. And their response? Scrimp even more on labor.
EVs make up a very small slice of the new car market and virtually none of the truck market. What we're witnessing is a form of kabuki theater, where it looks like GM's hands are tied and the only path forward is to build cars entirely in China. Mind you, this is at the same time that most foreign owned companies build and assemble their cars in domestic US facilities.
These union deals last 4 years. So the manufacturers have to think about labor and planning long term.
The energy density of battery technology will never reach that of petroleum. Just bolting on bigger and bigger batteries to try to overcome that has its own engineering, safety and environmental problems.
Not anytime soon at least. But that's besides the point. They don't have to do that, they just have to be good enough.
Most people don't want to keep multiple vehicles to cover all their bases. Just look at the number of pickup trucks sold in the US. How many of those people are hauling stuff or using it for work? While there are landscapers, tradesmen and laborers who do that, the vast majority of them are essentially commuter cars. People often get them, among other reasons, because they might come in handy if they need to move stuff. These are the same people who will never accept an EV because it doesn't have the overall utility of their other vehicle.
I’d be very interested to see what China does. 1+ billion people. Do they leave them without jobs? Legally mandate manufacturing to include vast human employment? 100s of millions of people without a purpose will not end well. Just look at the Middle East. People will fight hardest when the stakes are so low. We’ve already got Trump in the US, BJ in the U.K. What will we get next as human labor becomes less and less necessary?
GM (and almost everyone else) has structural overcapacity and fixed-cost issues that would be challenging to deal with, even if the market for electric cars went to zero this evening.
Losing money is losing money, and you can go bankrupt just as easily (even if you're losing less money per unit) making electric as you can making ICE vehicles.