[Guest Post by Lee Stranahan]
HuffPost discusses how Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. says iPads cost jobs. Before you start digging into him however, I will point out two things. 1) He’s right. 2) I’m glad you brought it up because it’s about time politicians started to deal with this.
On Friday, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) addressed the United States’s current unemployment crisis and claimed the iPad was "probably responsible for eliminating thousands of American jobs."
Jackson, himself an iPad owner, expanded on his statement by pointing to the recent bankruptcy of Borders Books.
"Why do you need to go to Borders anymore? Why do you need to go to Barnes and Noble? Just buy an iPad and download your book, download your newspaper, download your magazine," the Congressman said.
He also cited Chicago State University’s initiative to replace textbooks with iPads for freshman students. Jackson stated that the goal of the University was to create a "textbookless campus within four years."
"What becomes of publishing companies and publishing company jobs?" Jackson asked the House. "What becomes of bookstores and librarians and all of the jobs associated with paper? Well, in the not-too-distant future, such jobs simply won’t exist."
He’s right! Those job are gone and the iPad is part of that. And I will go Congressman Jackson one better – it’s not just the iPad. It’s my Android phone and netbooks and all things digital.
Now, of course he’s not pointing out all the news jobs created by such a device – like app development or a bunch of businesses that exist that depend on the iPad. But I don’t even want to compare those numbers because guess what – there very well could be a net job loss.
But as I said at the start I’m very glad that Congressman Jackson brought this up and I hope it leads to more discussion of what to do about.
Of course, the stupidest thing that could happen is probably what Congressman Jackson is sort of hinting at, which is that we stop this digital progress in some vain attempt to keep the job genie in a bottle. Honestly, I don’t think politicians could really do that at this point, but I hope they don’t even waste time trying.
What I’m hoping will happen is that some politicians will start to realize that the future is here right now. In fact, the future was here about a decade ago and the reason we’ve had such a huge drop in jobs in the past 10 years is that digital technology has rendered many many jobs obsolete. As I said before, this is not George W. Bush’s fault and it’s not Barack Obama’s fault — it’s the fault of Moore’s Law, which has the computing power doubles every 18 months or so.
I don’t think that either political party has come to grips with what the digital revolution means for institutions. I was hopeful that Barack Obama got this, because of his age in some of his campaign rhetoric. It’s become painfully clear to me that he doesn’t. In fact, the Democrats are at a huge disadvantage in being able to craft policies that would be able to deal with this change because of their close ideological and structural ties to unions.
In this sense, the Democratic Party is the home of the real "conservatives" right now in the sense of trying to hold onto an outdated economic system. This was one of the reasons that while the protest raged on in Madison about teacher benefits, I just did not care. That whole system of education? It’s ridiculously outdated given the access to technology that we have right now. It’s based on teaching large groups, when the reality is that every individual student in those groups learn at their own pace. The slow students struggled to keep up with the average students. Meanwhile the average students hold back the fast students. It’s a stupid way to learn but up until recently it was more or less the best you could do.
But our modern technology means that we could replace the entire system right now with something where students learn at their own pace, not the pace of the student next to them. This would alleviate a tremendous amount of frustration, boredom and wasted time in the learning process.
The single biggest roadblock replacing that system, however, will be the teachers’ unions. And those roadblocks exist for any number of endeavors that the digital revolution has made more simple. Our current copyright law, for instance, is a disaster that stifles innovation and benefits old media companies.
So rather than arguing the Congressman Jackson is somehow incorrect for pointing out the "dangers" of iPads, let’s acknowledge those dangers and then figure out what comes next.
- Lee Stranahan
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: In short, the “danger” we’re discussing is the “danger” of consumers exercising their right to make choices in the marketplace. All hail such “dangers.” And if that costs you your job, guess what?