From the Vaults: Doom and Gloom, 1965

I know that many of you, like me, couldn’t resist spending a few hours of your weekend reading through 1965 magazine articles. On the off chance that you missed the Winter 1965 issue of the democratic socialist magazine Dissent, I enclose an extract below from one article in that issue as it contains a very important message:

Automation and the Unions

Ben B. Seligman

Dissent Vol. 12, No. 1 Winter 1965, pp.33-53.

Enough has been written by now to demonstrate that automation destroys jobs. Just two years ago, the Department of Labor told an Arden House conference that 200,000 manufacturing jobs a year would be lost by 1972 because of the advanced technology brought on by the computer. From 1953 to 1959, a short span of six years, 80 per cent of the decline in factory openings could be traced to automation. Ewan Clague, Commissioner of Labor Statistics, observed in connection with this study, that most unions are to be found precisely in those industries where technology has hit the hardest and where offsetting employment increases are the least. Little wonder that unionists speak so feelingly about automation. Jobs evaporate under them, while new ones, like miracles, are in the future and elsewhere. Moreover, the government’s report said nothing about those file clerks and accountants whose positions evaporate every time a piece of data processing equipment is installed in an office. Some private observers are even gloomier—estimates ranging up to 40,000 lost jobs a week, or two million a year, are offered as the tribute exacted by the computer. At this rate, the work force would be completely abolished by 1999. A vision of empty idleness haunts us all.

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