Arnold Kling speculates that we’re going through a Great Restructuring that will eliminate middle-class jobs. What then? Excerpts:
The second challenge is the nature of the emerging skills mismatch. People who are self-directed and cognitively capable can keep adding to their advantages. People who lack those traits cannot simply be exhorted into obtaining them. The new jobs that emerge may not produce a middle class. Instead, if the trend documented by Autor for the period 1999-2007 were to continue, most of the new jobs would be low-end service jobs, for which competition will tend to keep wages low.
The recent trend in job polarization raises the possibility that gains in well-being that come from productivity improvements will accrue to an economic elite. Perhaps the middle-class affluence that emerged during the latter part of the industrial age is not going to be a feature of the information age. Instead, we could be headed into an era of highly unequal economic classes. People at the bottom will have access to food, healthcare, and electronic entertainment, but the rich will live in an exclusive world of exotic homes and extravagant personal services. The most popular bands in the world will play house concerts for the rich, while everyone else can afford music downloads but no live music. In the remainder of this essay, I want to extend further this exercise in imagination and consider three possible scenarios.
Bread and circuses Food, healthcare, and electronic entertainment? Who could ask for anything more?