Although not everyone see its, technological progress has meant progress in human flourishing, notes Dylan Pahman in this week’s Acton Commentary.
To answer the Luddites, first of all we must acknowledge that there is truth to what is seen. People see workers losing their jobs due to technology. When that happens (and it does), Christians and other people of good will should not be indifferent.
However, not all people who complain about the loss of manufacturing jobs see even this. The economic nationalists who oppose trade, like Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, clearly do not. According to economist Ben Casselman, “In 1994 there were 3.5 million more Americans working in manufacturing than in retail. Today, those numbers have almost exactly reversed, and the gap is widening.” He continues to note, however, that manufacturing production in the United States is still quite strong, having more than recovered since the 2008 recession. At the same time, manufacturing jobs have not increased proportionally with that production. Why? In part because of technology. Despite their smaller numbers and the relative unpopularity of their cause, the neo-Luddites have a better case to make than the economic nationalists.