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

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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

“Updating tax rules to cope with the digital age” – is there an app for that?

OECD calls for crackdown on tax avoidance by multinationals” says the Guardian. The report Addressing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting outlines the problems national governments now have taxing big corporations as they move profits around the world in a shell game. Angel Gurria, the OECD’s head, is not overselling it when he says “democracy is at stake”: the legitimacy of democratic states is being undermined as they allow both large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid taxation, shifting the burden to taxpayers of lesser means and the users of public services. And it is refreshing to see the OECD out front on this: it has no authority, but as the leading think tank of the rich industrial democracies it can help shape the consensus and provide a focal point for action. Richard Murphy – an authoritative source these matters, and long a trenchant critic of the OECD’s half measures – is pleased by the report.

What is really funny is the line “The OECD said many countries had failed to update their tax rules to cope with the digital age.” Continue reading