The Future of Labor

by Conor Friedersdorf

Reihan is thinking about less skilled workers:

One wonders if the deterioration of the labor market position of less-skilled workers might lead to a more "Confucian" arrangement in the United States, in which shared cultural practices are used to mitigate sharper economic inequality. The increasing cultural heterogeneity of U.S. society suggests otherwise.

Another possibility is that skilled workers will continue to consume more in-person services, thus creating an incentive to invest in the noncognitive skills of the future labor force. In a postmodern economy, most "needs" are invented. An abundance of relatively low-cost labor will presumably lead to the consumption of more labor-intensive services, just as the influx of less-skilled Mexican workers has kept the agricultural sector in the arid Southwest afloat. The problem, of course, is that the market wage for this kind of work might prove unacceptably low, as Greenspun suggests, thus creating pressure for expensive forms of redistribution.