Johnson’s Productivity Crisis

Concerns over automation and joblessness during the 1950s and early 1960s were strong enough that in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson empaneled a“Blue-Ribbon National Commission on Technology, Automation, and EconomicProgress” to confront the productivity problem of that period—specifically, theproblem that productivity was rising so fast it might outstrip demand for labor.

The commission ultimately concluded that automation did not threaten employment:

“Thus technological change (along with other forms of economic change) is an important determinant of the precise places, industries, and people affected by unemployment. But the general level of demand for goods and services is by far themost important factor determining how many are affected, how long they stay unemployed, and how hard it is for new entrants to the labor market to find jobs. The basic fact is that technology eliminates jobs, not work” (Bowen 1966, p. 9).

However,the Commission took the reality of technological disruption as severe enough that it recommended, as one newspaper (The Herald Post 1966) reported, “a guaranteed minimum income for each family; using the government as the employer of last resort for the hard core jobless; two years of free education in either community or vocational colleges; a fully administered federal employment service, and individual Federal Reserve Bank sponsorship in area economic development free from the Fed’s national headquarters.

From ”Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation” by David H. Autor

Source: Johnson’s Productivity Crisis

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