Humans’ Comparative Advantage: Wanting Things

Frances Coppola sums up and expresses a great deal of great thinking in her recent Pieria piece, The wastefulness of automation.

I’d like to highlight one point, one that I’ve been pondering for a long time. There’s one area where machines — until they get sentient — can’t replace people (here from her response in comments):

only humans desire to consume in excess of basic living needs. Show me a robot that wants a Gucci handbag. Or a Shire horse that wants an iPad.

Or…an expert system or drill press that wants a massage. As she concludes the article:

Maybe capitalists DO need a large labour force. Their survival depends on it.

Which leads me, once again, to wonder why I’m not hearing a lot more people discussing Ed Lambert’s work on “effective demand” and its relation to labor’s share of income.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.








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