Robots may not want your job – they like to watch

Paul Krugman says the decline in truck drivers’ wages is “not a technology story … robot truck drivers are a possible future, but not here yet … the obvious thing: unions.”

Certainly, the collapse of union power in trucking had a lot to do with the collapse of wages. But that does not mean that technology was not a factor. In trucking, technology has done little to change the hours of work, or the level of skills, required to deliver a load. But technology has improved management surveillance of truck drivers. Continue reading

Trump & Putin would break EU to block climate action

The Trump-Putin connection can seem just a lurid sideshow in Trump’s horrific circus of racial and religious profiling, misogyny and authoritarianism. And, when that special relationship does catch our attention, the most obvious thing linking the two men (possible videos and blackmail aside) is their common political language of aggressive nationalism.

But this is no sideshow, and much as Trump would like it to be all about him, it is not his personal foible: the agendas of the Republican Party’s petro-backers coincide perfectly with those of the Russian oligarchy, and that is why Trump’s links to Russia were tolerated even before he was elected. The nationalist postures of Trump and Putin, which might seem to be simply ways of rallying some segments of the aggrieved masses to the banners of the countries’ respective caudillos, are instrumental for reshaping the international order in a way favourable to the oil interests.

The overriding need of the oil interests is to block anything that would cut the demand for oil – which is to say, to stymie any serious steps to mitigate climate change. International cooperation is necessary to fight climate change, and aggrieved nationalism undermines international cooperation. The cohesion of the EU is particularly important for international action on climate, and so European integration has become the enemy not only of Moscow, but also of Republican Washington.

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India’s tax reform: tortoise of regional integration inches ahead

Ajit Ranade in The Hindu
Economist Intelligence Unit
BBC
Concerns of India’s manufacturing states – A Sarvar Allam in Economic and Political Weekly

Regional economic integration is something usually associated with international trade blocs – the European Union, ASEAN, and so forth. But two of the most important cases aren’t international – they are happening within India and China. Both countries are more populous than any international “region” (excluding of course regional groupings which include either India or China), and both have had very poorly integrated national markets, for reasons to do both with internal transport infrastructure, and the protection of sub-national markets by various means.

Global economic integration – quick, and institutionally shallow – is the hare; regional integration is the tortoise.

“Anti-austerity” is terrible messaging

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Opposition to the UK government’s cuts, since 2010, in all public services – deep cuts in police, transport, hospitals, schools, fire, universities, disability benefits, mental health services, care for the elderly, legal aid for the poor, nursery schools, the army, green technology … everything – has gone under that banner of “anti-austerity”. And every time I hear the slogan, I despair.
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Ordinary surveillance, inequality, and fear

Our friends Giorgio and Gemma, visiting here from Rome, had this impression from a recent trip to New York: workers in New York are scared. Security staff enforced seemingly trivial rules – don’t step across this line – in a way that they couldn’t explain otherwise.

Workers watch you so nervously when they themselves are watched closely and their jobs are insecure. Continue reading

Fast food ≠ low pay

Continuing the fast food theme (yum): BK in the USA vs. BK in Denmark, fast food work can provide living wages, if the institutional environment is right. Read the report by Liz Alderman and Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times.
The fast food restaraunt is an organizational technology designed to use low cost labor – a restaurant that can operate without any employee who knows how to cook! Continue reading