Saturday, December 03, 2016

Book review, "This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy," Harvard Univ. Press

This is a link to a book review of "This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy," at Jacobin magazine.

Matt Karp is an assistant professor at Princeton University.

The book basically shows that slaveholders dominated American government before the Civil War and that slavery wasn't dying out globally and bound labor of different types in a racial hierarchy was seen by slave holders as having great prospects.

This book demolishes the idea that slavery was historically on the way out.

The title of the magazine, Jacobin, will be noticed by neo-Confederates. Neo-Confederates and their antecedents have always expressed a horror of the French Revolution and Jacobins.

To forestall red-baiting I am not a socialist. I look for good material where I find it.

What free enterprise economic theories I had in my youth I have left behind. The one theory I think I have really believed in was that automation in one area would not result in overall unemployment, but the release of people for new types of work in new industries or occupations. The steam shovel was my example.

I used to believe if a machine could do it, a person shouldn't.

However, technology has gone a lot further than I ever imagine, and technology  is moving faster than ever now then in the past. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is moving along. Self-driving cars are here or close to being here. Self-driving trucks can't be long behind, trucks which don't need sleep and can drive 24/7.

So there may not be enough jobs in the future. Sure there might be job openings for experts in femptosecond lasers or something like that. For the great majority, however, there might not be many job prospects.  (fempto is a millionth of a billionth of a second.)

Even for technologists, we are aided by technology to do many things and one individual can do more and more.

Ominously I have read the phrase "surplus humans" in an article last week. I can't think anything good will come of this. The author was arguing for more leisure time or just paying people not to work. I think though, in the scheme of things, if you have no opportunity for work, your worth in a political system might be very low. You could end up in a dangerous situation as a "surplus" person. The term "surplus humans" is sinister.

I think we are rushing into a future where it can be question whether any current or past economic idea has the answers. In short I am an economic agnostic.

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