My brother is a Mechanical Engineer who designs capital goods in a factory that makes large valves and plumbing. He has expressed that whenever he starts to inspect machines which are not entirely unmanned for automation the workers express fear for their jobs. In a lot of cases these are older people who are completely unskilled laborers (for instance they have one guy that makes sure this one machine threads the pipes correctly and he has worked on the same machine for 30 years).
I got in a debate with someone else over it, and they expressed to me that they felt the fear was warranted: If an older worker is unemployed, they would be the last to be rehired since no one wants to pay to train someone to do a new job that they’ll only get a few years out of.
His current job basically required no training to begin with though, I just thought of that. What’s your response to this?
If we had a free enterprise economy, then their fears would be baseless. As long as a person is able to work and willing to accept a wage commensurate with his productivity, there will be an entrepreneur willing to hire him. In our interventionist economy, government regulations make it tougher for workers. Entrepreneurs have their capital taxed away, their ability to hire constrained by rules and regulations, costs of employing mandated by the state, and so on.
When the G.I.s came home from World War Two, entrepreneurs started new businesses and expanded old ones to employ over 10 million ex-soldiers in a matter of several months.
Generally, labor is the most adaptable resource to changes in use. Unskilled workers can move into and out of a multitude of different activities and still be productive and therefore, find a job and earn a wage. Capital goods are not so easily moved from one task to another and may experience under-utilization, or even obsolescence, more readily.