Back in my undergrad days at The Evergreen State College, I had a professor who introduced me to the concept of “surplus population”. He believed that global trends in robotics, globalism, and post-industrial capitalism would render many American workers obsolete. “What is there to do when there is nothing left to do?” he would often ask his students. It was an idea that deeply concerned him but that I couldn’t really grasp at the time.
In this era of permanent unemployment, I think I understand the concept much better. There are some hopeful counter-trends, but the pessimism at the end of this article is hard to argue against.
Are the American people obsolete?
Offshoring and immigration, then, are severing the link between the fate of most Americans and the fate of the American rich. A member of the elite can make money from factories in China that sell to consumers in India, while relying entirely or almost entirely on immigrant servants at one of several homes around the country. With a foreign workforce for the corporations policed by brutal autocracies and non-voting immigrant servants in the U.S., the only thing missing is a non-voting immigrant mercenary army, whose legions can be deployed in foreign wars without creating grieving parents, widows and children who vote in American elections.
If the American rich increasingly do not depend for their wealth on American workers and American consumers or for their safety on American soldiers or police officers, then it is hardly surprising that so many of them should be so hostile to paying taxes to support the infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority of the American people. The rich don’t need the rest anymore.