Hans and Franz Economics
The sidebar titled “Pumping Up the Economy” on page 8 of the Jan. 29/Feb. 5 issue [print only] touts the economic benefits of employing gas-station attendants. Prohibiting motorists from pumping their own gas, as is done in New Jersey and Oregon, creates jobs, after all. If this is a good thing, perhaps we should have stall attendants in public restrooms. I read online recently that self-checkout lines in supermarkets should be boycotted because they replace cashiers. This kind of thinking is similar to the flawed logic that President Trump uses to ease regulations on burning coal—so we can keep miners employed.
The notion that government should help lower the unemployment rate by mandating that businesses hire people to perform simple tasks—tasks that customers can easily do themselves—is foolish. Technological advancements often replace manual labor; this has been happening at least since Archimedes invented the water screw. Besides, the jobs these policies create are often low-paying.
Yes, automation and globalization have caused major unemployment/ underemployment in the United States over the past few decades. But the answer is not to thumb our collective nose at modern technology and say, “We’re going to keep doing it the old-fashioned way.” A better solution is to shorten the workweek so the US labor force is better matched to the reduced workload caused by technological advancements. A century ago, the labor movement got us from seven days a week to five. Way back in the 1970s, I first heard someone suggest that we go to a four-day workweek to compensate for advancements in productivity—and that was well before the digital age.
new berlin, pa.
Fear and Self-Loathing
“The Misogynist Within” [Jan. 15/22] was a superb article, but its target should be more universal, should go beyond men, because, sadly, women are also prejudiced against women. I know this because I am a woman and I have felt it, too. It’s subtle and insidious, but it’s there. I find myself preferring to see a male doctor. When I’m comfortably aboard a plane, I think of the pilot as a man. I belong to a writers’ group and find myself subconsciously dismissing the work of female writers, especially older ones—and I am one of them!
This is the ugly elephant in the room. It’s not that women aren’t as strong as men, but many have not yet learned the distinctive nature of their own strength. Achieving equality is going to involve facing lots of obstacles, and the toughest of all are the internal ones.