April 17, 2011

Blaming the Future For Present Pain Ignores the Lessons of the Past

I'm sure this (Slashdot) played well to some of his constituents, but it's short-sighted in the extreme. Perhaps Jesse Jackson, Jr., would like to subsidize an industry whose day is passing? From his rant:

'Why do you need to go to Borders anymore?' asked Jackson. 'Why do you need to go to Barnes & Noble? Buy an iPad, download your book, download your newspaper, download your magazine.' Jackson continued: 'What becomes of publishing companies and publishing company jobs? And what becomes of bookstores and librarians and all of the jobs associated with paper? Well, in the not too distant future, such jobs simply will not exist.

Well, yes. Those jobs will exist in fewer places, and fewer people will be able to make a living at them. Young people, entering the workforce for the first time, will choose other career paths. Others will be forced to change careers in mid-stream, or see the writing on the wall (so to speak) and move on earlier. Older workers, caught in an economic upheaval brought about by technological advance, will lose their jobs and their livelihood. There will be suffering.

There will be opportunity in new industries, too. Not manufacturing, long ago moved elsewhere as Americans came to expect a higher standard of living than employers were willing or able to pay for. But surely jobs in design, content creation, and other creative industries. Jobs engineering new technologies, like the iPad. Jobs in industry not yet established. Sustainable, well-paying jobs.

Achieving successful employment requires a greater degree of education and training now than in the past. That's the natural result of sending a majority of high school graduates off to college during the past half-century. We've raised the bar. There weren't a lot of people making a living from software engineering forty years ago. Demand for new technologies combined with expanding higher education made it a viable career path. What new industries and career paths will exist forty years from today?

I wonder how many of Congressman Jackson's staff are using iPads and other late-generation electronic devices in their official duties for the people of Illinois?