The Corner

re: Robots v. Helots

Sorry to have blogged and run earlier, but I spent Saturday in a flying tin can trying to keep three young children from going berserk. In highlighting robotics in Japan, I was not, as JPod suggested, succumbing to the “Japan is No. 1″ craze of the 80s (as absurd then, I might add, as the more recent “democracy is sweeping the Islamic world” craze), but rather pointing to the seemingly self-evident fact that mechanization has more positive, and fewer negative, externalities than the importation of a foreign peasant class. Apropos of which, here’s an excerpt from an op-ed in, of all places, the New York Times: 

Employers facing higher labor costs for low-skilled workers would raise their prices, and to some extent they would change the way they operate their businesses. A farmer who grows winter iceberg lettuce in Yuma County, Ariz., was asked on the ABC program “Nightline” in April what he would do if it were more difficult to find the low-skilled hand harvesters who work on his farm, many of whom are undocumented workers. He replied that he would mechanize the harvest. Such technology exists, but it is not used because of the abundance of low-wage laborers. In their absence, mechanical harvesters – and the higher skilled (and higher wage) workers to operate them – would replace low-skilled, low-wage workers.

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