Y’know, all through the slow, painful and bloody centuries of human progress, there has been a shortsighted individual who has steadfastly refused to disappear from the scene. No matter how much you show him to the contrary, he still doggedly hangs on to his outmoded beliefs.
He’s the person who is against better tools and faster ways of doing things.
When the steam engine was invented, workers by the thousands rose up and said that this invention of the devil would put them out of work. Because of the harnessing of steam, millions were employed that otherwise would not have been and everybody’s standard of living went up.
When the sewing machine was invented, mobs smashed them and wanted to lynch the inventor, claiming that hundreds of seamstresses would be thrown out of work. The sewing machine has given employment to additional thousands.
All sorts of roadblocks were thrown up by harness makers, wagon builders, and blacksmiths to keep automobiles off the streets. For the few thousand people employed in the horse-and-buggy industry, it was a sad day when automobile makers swung into mass production. Today the automobile, either directly or indirectly, gives employment and a high standard of living to ten million people.
And yet, every time we move closer to new and better ways of doing things through automation, you can still hear the short-sighted doom proclaimers hollering that it will throw millions out of work. Anything, anything at all, that lowers the cost and increase the capacity of production will result in more jobs and a higher standard of living. We’ve been proving it for hundreds of years. What do you have to do to get through to these characters?
Take the auto industry, for example. To build today’s car with the few tools and machines they had in 1900 would cost $35,000 (In 2019 dollars, this translates to roughly $332,000 dollars). What the automakers did was spend hundreds of millions of dollars designing and building machine tools that would reduce the number of man-hours required to make a car. That wasn’t money spent to knock people out of their jobs. It was an investment in machines which, by helping men do their work faster and easier, reduced costs, opened up the market for more lower-priced cars, and thus stepped up employment.
Any time you hear of opposition to new tools, or the stupid featherbedding which detracts from the efficiency of new tools, you’re hearing the voices of those who oppose progress.
They’re like the Pony Express riders who fought against the building of a transcontinental telegraph line. Fighting against progress has always been a losing battle – because in the end, it’s better for everyone.
One of the strangest and most confounding things about people is their adamant refusal to learn from experience.