Friday, February 10, 2017

Labor Matters

“Machines are worshiped because they are beautiful and valued because they confer power; they are hated because they are hideous and loathed because they impose slavery.”
- Sceptical Essays, 1928, Bertrand Russell

"We need to overthrow, not the government, ... but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering."
- Dorothy Day , 1930's

"[Robots are] always polite, they always up-sell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case."
- Andrew Puzder, Secretary of Labor nominee, 2017

New Symposium: Rescuing Discourse from the Political Parties

The topic for Tuesday, April 18, 2017

“AI is killing Labor, but don't blame the Robots.”

In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations 1776, Adam Smith argues
“that the economic system is automatic, and able to regulate itself. This is often referred to as the ‘invisible hand.’ The ability to self-regulate and to ensure maximum efficiency, however, is threatened by monopolies, tax preferences, lobbying groups, and other ‘privileges’ extended to certain members of the economy at the expense of others.” Wikipedia
 But in Das Kapital [Capital: Critique of Political Economy] 1867, Karl Marx proposes
“that the motivating force of capitalism is in the exploitation of labour, whose unpaid work is the ultimate source of surplus value.  The [capitalist] is able to claim the right to this surplus value because he or she is legally protected by the ruling regime, through property rights.” Wikipedia
And yet neither Smith nor Marx envisioned a world where human labor, replaced by capital including robots and artificial intelligence [AI], would become a useless, vestigial reminder of civilization past. Are we unexpectedly and fortunately on the brink of a brave new world … or have we predictably and tragically arrived at the end of the world as both Smith and Marx knew it? In order to answer this and related questions about our future, we need to consider our past and present to understand how we arrived at this juncture in the history of political economy. And that will be the topic of our next New Symposium ... because labor matters.

When and Where

Tuesday April 18 ... 7:00 - 8:30 PM ... Room 200, Business and Technology Building, Friends University (NE corner of the campus, near the intersection of Maple and Hiram).

Questions for Consideration 

"Artificial intelligence is killing labor, but don’t blame the robots.”  Then who or what is to blame?  The human heart?  Excessive expectations of profit?  The maladies or unfitness of the working classes? The Federal Reserve?  The educational system? Globalism? The demise of labor unions?
We hope each of you will have time to think through your own responses to the following questions, maybe even do a little research and reading on the topic. The competition between capital and labor is longstanding. Investors seek profits. Workers seek wages. At what point of severity does the competition become too destructive to community?
  • When communities are impoverished as investors flee to more profitable labor pools?
  • When investors place short-term profiting before anything else?
  • When relationships within the workplace grow embittered as reduced wages deny workers the traditional purchasing powers of the middle class?
  • What about the effects of fiat credit on the competition between labor and capital?
  • Where is the justice when investors can gain cheap credit through government monetary policy and no longer have to rely on borrowed capital built from the saved wages of workers?
  • How deeply is the love of money rooted in evil?
  • What will happen to human labor as investors find it easier and easier to replace them with “robots”?
  • What kind of a world is it when robots are taxed so that the government can issue welfare to more and more former workers?
  • Is human nature dependent on labor for personal dignity?
  • How will this competition between capital and labor play out?

Featured Symposiasts [Panelists] 

After some internal discussion, the trustees of New Symposium Society think it best to return, for the time being,  to a more "open format." We will retain a panel of principal dialogists but make room for significant questions and comments from those in attendance. Mike will act as moderator and govern the flow of dialogue, when helpful.  At any rate, we'll sit close and see what wisdom emerges.

Our list of panelists is now complete.
  • Robert Love was General Counsel and VP of Administration in the family business, Love Box Company, prior to his retirement.  His ability and willingness to bring profundity to any topic makes Bob a highly sought dialogist.
  • Russell Fox is Professor of Political Science at Friends University and is a frequent contributor to government forums and important local conversations on current affairs.
  • Malcolm Harris is Professor of Finance at Friends University. He has been an expert witness on market-based rates for pipelines, cost of capital, and accounting issues.
  • Joshua Shorter is the Quality Assurance Manager of Integrated Components, a family-owned business that specializes in contract manufacturing for OEM companies.
  • Father Patrick Reilley is an ordained priest currently serving the Sacred Heart Parish in Arkansas City.  He will represent the ethics of Catholic Social Teaching.

Why not join the dialogue? 

We hope you will browse the suggested reading list and join the dialogue immediately by simply going to the end of the blog page you're currently reading.
  • If no comments are shown, just click the small comments:” link in the middle of the line . . . and voila ... the existing Comment-Replies strands will appear!  Blog on!
  • You may add a Reply to the train of thought in an existing Comment-Replies strand or introduce a new train of thought by entering a new Comment to which others [including yourself] can then Reply creating a new Comment-Replies strand.
  • For readability, we try to limit the number of separate Comment-Replies strands by entering a new Comment only when it introduces a new train of thought ... and remember that you can Reply to another Reply and the blog will maintain the proper hierarchy within the Comment-Replies strand.
  • But just hearing your thoughts is most important regardless of how you blog them!
See the page on Blogging Tips for help if you are new to blogging. And if you come across well-conceived articles on our topic, please apprise us at and we'll be sure to review/list those readings. Thank you.


 THANKS to everyone for an evening of shared opinions and thoughts on a subject that is important to all who labor for their living.

If you missed, here is a link to Paul Soutar's fine AV recording of the evening.

A special thanks to Malcolm and Russell and Friends University for hosting us ... graciously as usual.

To improve the quality of an evening at New Symposium, YOUR CANDID COMMENTS are essential. Leave them below ... or email them to us at

We hope to see you again soon ... and hope you will watch here for info about the next meeting of the New Symposium Society !!

Suggested Readings

Low interest rates actually hurt the middle class, 2015, Marc Miles
Restoring America’s Economic Mobility, 2016, Frank Buckley
Career advice for my future, egg-harvested child, 2016, Elmo Keep
French Socialist: Tax Robots and Pay Humans Universal Income, 2017, Tyler Durden
Moderator's POV, 2017, Bob Love

The Ethics of Money Production, 2008, Jörg Guido Hülsmann
[Chapter 13: "The Cultural and Spiritual Legacy of Fiat Inflation", pp 175-191]
[Conclusion: "Two Concepts of Capitalism", p 237]
A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All, Charles Hugh Smith