Sure, organized labor has sometimes been a mixed bag, but we need it more than ever, and Andy Stern has been a force for good in the modern labor movement. I think his views on the future of labor and the need for a universal basic income (UBI)– what I have previously referred to as a BIG– are spot-on, as is his sober realism about the political prospects of getting there anytime soon. Like young Payton Foy, seventh grader, Andy worries about a Hunger Games future...
Q: If we don’t implement something like a UBI, what does work and the middle class look like in 30 years?
Andy Stern: It looks like the Hunger Games. It’s more of what we’re beginning to see now: an enclave of extremely successful people at the center and then everyone else on the margins. There will be fewer opportunities in a hollowed out and increasingly zero-sum economy.
If capital trumps labor, the people who own will keep getting wealthier and the people who supply labor will become less necessary. And this is exactly what AI and robotics and software are now doing: substituting capital for labor.Andy is less pessimistic than some about how Americans will fare in a world without wage labor...
Q: Work has always been tethered to identity in this country. Do we have to completely rethink the concept of work in this new world?
Andy Stern: Women have always worked historically raising families, which everyone sees as a great value, but it was not paid work. UBI will solve this problem.
People have always taken care of their parents, which in some cases is a paid job and in other cases it’s not paid work. The same thing is true about tutoring your child, or volunteering at a hospital or as a Little League coach or with any other service organization.
We need to decide that creative activity, such as learning a language, painting, writing plays or books, is work. Or that trying to build a business or solve a problem or learn new skills is work, even if you’re not being compensated.
We’re also going to need to appreciate that there are many other things that people can do to self-actualize, which may be the most important adventure that people can travel to make life fulfilling, and it may not be what we now call work.Something here rings a bell... The German Ideology...
... in communist society, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.