Patterico's Pontifications

4/17/2011

Congressman Says iPads Cost Jobs. And He’s Right.

Filed under: General — Stranahan @ 10:04 pm



[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?

Adapt.

25 Responses to “Congressman Says iPads Cost Jobs. And He’s Right.”

  1. “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.”

    Yeah, it sucks when tried and true technologies go out of fashion. Used to be you could use a black slave, or at least a poverty-stricken sharecropper to pick your cotton by hand. Now, everybody uses those newfangled mechanized cotton picking machines!

    Bummer.

    Not.

    Dave Surls (de16bb)

  2. Actually, Mr. Stranahan, I think you have this backwards. Once these political beasts figure out information technology, we are all in big, big trouble. For example, we have the technology, right now, to “listen” to all cell phone calls for specific keywords. Homeland Security and DoD are using this.

    What happens when the DNC or RNC start doing that?

    The old Soviets made mimeograph machines illegal for good reasons from their point of view. Hopefully these political beasts will not embrace technology and begin to use it as I suspect they will.

    Besides, most politicians are shockingly ignorant of anything technological. And perhaps that is great news.

    Simon Jester (491b9e)

  3. Jessie Jackoff needs to be kicked in his piehole.

    DohBiden (15aa57)

  4. Barnes and Noble is doing just fine. They came out with the Nook 2 years ago in anticipation of the eBook revolution!!

    I bought a Nook Color 2 months ago, and I’ve already spent more on books (ebooks) in the last 2 months than I did in the previous year.

    BTW, US book retailers reported that more eBooks were sold last month than regular books.

    Xmas (05f55e)

  5. Did not the PC doom the typewriter industry?

    Michael Ejercito (64388b)

  6. Exactly, Michael. Oh, and who was big into electric typewriters, but made the jump at the right time to PC’s? That’s right — IBM.

    Welcome to capitalism, Representative Jackson. The innovators thrive; the dinosaurs die. As it should be. Jeez, talk about sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing!

    [BTW, in 1978 (or early ’79, I forget which) IBM came to my junior high school to plant the seeds of thought for future careers in the PC industry. I still have the pocket notebook they gave us, with “IBM” emblazoned on the cover.]

    Icy Texan (715d68)

  7. To bad that Congressman Jackson was not around in the 1880’s through 1920’s, he could have saved all those blacksmith, livery stable, stagecoach driver, and railroad jobs.

    slp (b92ec6)

  8. With all due respect, Lee, what about Amazon? It’s eating the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks of the brick and mortar stores and most of the online presences. This is not a new thing. It predates gadgets like the iPad by years.

    I also see an implicit lament about buggy whip manufacturers who did not branch out into something that would survive the end of the use of horses for travel.

    Progress happens. The real challenge is to recognize it’s coming and figure out a way to work with the progress rather than fight it and bitch about it.

    {^_^}

    JD (bcdcf2)

  9. Can you use a different handle, other JD?

    Patterico (c218bd)

  10. Think of all of those canal jobs that were lost to the railroads. Something should be DONE!

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  11. On the plus side, there will always be work for tax-sucking, corrupt Congresscritters.

    Horse drawn carriages come and go, but stealing the taxpayers blind? That’s forever.

    Dave Surls (d00af3)

  12. Think of all those teamster jobs that were lost to the canals.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  13. Think of all those porter jobs that were lost to the teamsters.

    Milhouse (ea66e3)

  14. See? I told you so.

    Ned Ludd (815ef4)

  15. I agree that the Dems are trying to “conserve” (you’ll pardon the expression) an outmoded economic model, but in the same paragraph you bring up the canard of kids learning at their own pace through technology. It is dream as seen from the top of the academic pile. Down in the middle and bottom of the class room (where I spent most of my years in school) the teacher is indispensable in overcoming the apathy, sloth, recalcitrance, flights of fancy, lack of focus and discipline endemic to the species of students getting C grades. Technology can’t do that. Technology also has no way to deal with students who come from homes where education is something that only happens in school, where self discipline is non-existent for both student and parents alike and an “I don’t have to take that from anybody” attitude is misconstrued as a healthy sense of self worth.

    quasimodo (4af144)

  16. Jetstream Jesse Jr. is probably in favor of an open borders immigration policy. Go figure.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  17. I think most would agree that as consumers we do adapt, continually move forward, and depending on what we can afford to purchase we subtly determine which nascent products and industries meet our needs and therefore which of them will survive and grow and which will not. However, Lee’s post is getting at something else. The effects of technology on production of all sorts and the high probability of ongoing net job losses.

    Politicians yammer about “creating jobs” or “jobs coming back” or “unemployment going down” once the economy improves. But considering that many of the middle class jobs in America in the last decades were tied tangentially to the housing and construction industries and to the rampant consumerism paid for by HELOCS et al, and since we are so over built and underwater, it will be decades, if ever, before those jobs come back. The green industries and jobs that the administration is trying to force feed are a (misguided) attempt to put people to work but despite regulation and subsidies will fail because they are government driven, not consumer driven.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think many people- including some of the smartest friends and business associates I know- have really thought this through or have yet come to the understanding that we may be entering a time when normal unemployment is 10-15% particularly among the non-degreed and when so much of the manufacture of basic consumer goods has moved offshore. JJJ is incorrect about the ability to put the toothpaste back in the tube, but I think he is not wrong to posit that we need to start talking about what comes next and to start getting the public thinking about what our government and our society may look like a decade and a generation from now with many people permanently unemployed and unable to contribute to the nation’s upkeep and obligations.

    elissa (b1ae22)

  18. Unfortunately, I don’t think many people- including some of the smartest friends and business associates I know- have really thought this through or have yet come to the understanding that we may be entering a time when normal unemployment is 10-15% particularly among the non-degreed and when so much of the manufacture of basic consumer goods has moved offshore. JJJ is incorrect about the ability to put the toothpaste back in the tube, but I think he is not wrong to posit that we need to start talking about what comes next and to start getting the public thinking about what our government and our society may look like a decade and a generation from now with many people permanently unemployed and unable to contribute to the nation’s upkeep and obligations.

    Unemployment is basically a surplus of available workers. That surplus will disappear if labor costs go down.

    Michael Ejercito (64388b)

  19. Elissa summed it up very well — that’s exactly what I’m getting at. The entire ‘job’ concept is something that’s going to go away for many people. So – what’s next?

    Nobody is dealing with that right now.

    Lee Stranahan (708cc3)

  20. To the contrary, Lee, Democrats are “dealing” with it by stamping their feet, and holding their breath.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  21. What’s next? That would be a set of some sort of population reduction policies.

    ropelight (6c1d6b)

  22. What’s next is that the social service burden of a larger and larger group of people who can’t pay taxes will be unsustainable. And while there will also be a more productive class, I’m not sure they can shoulder that burden.

    I’ve long said that we shouldn’t allow someone to graduate high school without a trade skill. These more productive, concentrated beneficiaries of the ipads should be able to spend their money on all kinds of things, and we should try to make sure as many people are ready to earn that money as possible.

    It’s not a zero sum game, and this is a rich country.

    There’s still a lot of manufacturing in this country of complex commercial products. That type of product will be in more demand, rather than less, in the kind of future people imagine. I just worry that we regulate away some of this potential. We should educate the next generation of Americans to be the best craftsman of sophisticated machines in the world (A la West Germany in the 1980s), while making sure regulation of these industries is not stifling. We especially shouldn’t allow well connected companies to survive failure (GM) because this prevents recycling.

    Or, we could just accept that we’re a service economy and wait for China to adjust their currency back where it’s supposed to be. That’ll be fun.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  23. I don’t mean to dismiss Lee (and Elissa’s) thoughtful, sober point with my pie in the sky refusal to accept that this has to happen, but the world has tremendous demand for things America could provide if she wanted.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  24. Both hilarious and scary as hell: On the subject of jobs, a Congressmen interrogates official EPA drone on regulations and whether impact on jobs is even considered in their “economic analysis” leading to industry pronouncements. After almost 5 minutes of evasion, equivocation and total nonsense in front of his subcommittee the congressman compares the witness to Yogi Berra.

    http://blogs.freedomworks.org/truthinjobs/uncategorized/epa-is-not-concerned-with-jobs/

    elissa (b1ae22)

  25. elissa, that link was amazing. How in the hell are we supposed to grapple with complicated problems if our bureaucrats can’t even answer a yes or no question honestly, free of weasel words?

    Dustin (c16eca)


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