Is Congress a Fossil?

Maybe not. May Congress itself, as an institution, is capable of addressing what a legislative body in one of the world’s great market economies in a century of quickly accelerating change ought to be addressing. Maybe the only real problem is that too many members of Congress are fossils or are fossilizing, stuck in various strata of thought and belief that have lost or quickly are losing their relevance as the very notions of what living and working entail morph dizzyingly with globalization and innovation.

We have mounting evidence, for example, that the pace of automation is quickening substantially, with robots of one sort of another taking over more and more jobs once done by humans. How many members of Congress regard displacement of jobs through automation as a pressing issue? Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see much talk about it, and I see no evidence of a critical mass of Congressional interest in addressing it through mechanisms that ease automation’s effects for those workers caught in the Schumpeterian transition.

Here’s an idea. Let’s give everybody a check every month. Sound crazy? Socialist, even? Actually, it’s an idea that’s been embraced across the ideological spectrum and has been kicking around among economists for a very long time now. It’s called various things, but Universal Basic Income (UBI) works well enough as a name. Why do it? For one thing, it’s an answer to the problem of folks being left behind when their old jobs no longer exist in the new economy, having been off-shored or assigned to robots. A UBI gives these victims of Schumpeterian collateral damage an income bridge as they figure out what’s next for them. I can’t name any member of Congress in either party who is calling for serious discussion of the UBI, much less championing it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.