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March 05, 1986 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-03-05

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4

OPINION

Wednesday, March 5, 1986

The Michigan Daily

4

e t a n t Michigan
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Consequences of technology

Vol. XCVI, No. 104

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board

A danger sign

T HE ASSASSINATION of
Palestinian Zafer el-Masri,
Israeli-appointed Arab moderate
mayor of Nablus has become a
boon for extremists on all sides -
adding momentum to an already
crumbling peace initiative in the
Middle East.
Masri's December installment
was part of Israeli Prime Minister
Shimon Peres' plan to delegate
more local authority to West Bank
Palestinians not closely associated
with the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), by
army officers who have been
running cities in the West Bank.
:Masri's appointment had tacitly
been approved by the PLO once his
popularity among Palestinians was
determined. Ironically, it was his
genuine concern for the Palestinian
people that, in effect caused his
eath. In an attempt to further his
people's cause by endorsing the
.peace initiative of Jordan's King
:Hussein he proved himself a
,moderate and a pragmatist,
therefore a threat to extremist
NJews and Arabs opposed to any
territorial compromise.
d Because King Hussein has recen-
:tly broken with PLO leader Yassar
Arafat over a proposed joint peace
initiative, the mayor's
assassination has been interpreted
by some as a warning by extremist
Palestinian factions that there can
.be no peace talks without PLO par-
ticipation. It is also indicative of
A Legacy
ASSASSINATION of Swedish
Prime Minister Olof Palme
was a tragedy; the death of any
respected world figure can be
nothing less. But it is much more
than a tragedy, for Palme
represented an ideal rarely found
in today's world, and almost never
found in the political sphere.
Perhaps Palme's greatest ability
was his skill at breaking down
political stereotypes. He was a
politician, a successful one, who
also held ideals of justice, equality,
and responsibility for society's less
fortunate. When asked, during
times of economic strain, if he
would consider cutting Sweden's
vast social welfare programs, he
always responded vehemently in
the negative. As Prime Minister,
and head of the Swedish Social
Democrats, Palme devoted his life
to search for justice.
Palme cut through the super-
power rhetoric, refusing to caddy
for either the United States or the
Soviet Union. He was a principled
man, who acted to realize his often
controversial beliefs, as evidenced
by his involvement in a 1968 peace
march with the North Vietnamese
ambassador to Sweden, and more
recently his criticism of U.S. policy
in Central America, and a call for a

nuclear freeze.

the violence that has surrounded
Palestinian leadership power
struggles for the last seventy five
years.
Conversely, the assassination
has provided right-wing Jews in
favor of complete West Bank an-
nexation with an opportunity to
condemn implementation of local
Arab leadership in the West Bank
as a failure - and label any at-
tempt to exclude the PLO an
"illusion'.
The danger now is that the ex-
tremist voice on both sides will
dominate, discouraging moderate
Palestinians and Jews from sup-
porting the Peres-Hussein peace
efforts. Such a situation only
exemplifies the urgency of
distinguishing the representative
of the Palestinian people. Masri
recognized this need by calling for
a democratic vote by the
Palestinian people to determine
whether the PLO should join King
Hussein in negotiations with
Israel- and subsequently he lost
his life.
Peace talks will never
materialize unless Jews and
Palestinians alike can ignore the
defeatest, manipulative ravings of
extremist voices on both sides, and
keep pushing toward negotiations.
Only the eternal hope for peace
seems to remain at this point. But
only through increased striving
and understanding can this hope be
manifested into concrete results.
of struggle
Though he was prime minister,
Palme related well to the people
and exhibited a sensitive, educated
understanding of serious issues. He
spoke a number of languages,
travelled extensively, and earned a
degree from Kenyon College in the
early 50s. After graduating, he
spent time hiking across America,
and was dismayed by the gross
economic disparity he encountered
in this country.
Palme's down-to-earth lifestyle
ended violently, largely because he
refused bodyguard protection.
Having shrugged them off, he was
assassinated on the way home from
a movie. His senseless murder is
an example of those elements in the
world Palme was dedicated to
change.
Unlike so many politicians,
Palme was a true leader who really
cared about people. He was able to
earn the respect and admiration of
both his supporters and those who
disagreed with him. Together, the
world can mourn the loss of this
peace activist who struggled to of-
fer realistic solutions, and whose
legacy of enduring struggle is a
glowing inspiration to believers,
dreamers, and leaders of the

future.

By Clay Agree
Our nation is entering upon a period of
economic transition which holds both the
threat of a major social upheaval and the
promise of a tremendous enhancement in
the quality of our lives. Advancements in
technology are rapidly reducing the number
of job hours which employers have to offer,
yet we cling to a number of notions which
are in conflict with this trend: We feel that
one must have a full-time job in order to
lead a fully dignified life; we consider such
a job to entail at least forty work hours per
week. The prospect of working much less
than we do now seems either slothful or
utopian. If a job must consist of a fixed
number of hours, and if technology is
reducing the total number of such hours
which the economy can provide, then
clearly we are heading towards a situation
in which there will be an ever increasing
shortage of jobs. The potentially explosive
implications of this should be obvious.
Warnings of a crisis may seem hopelessly
out of touch with reality in the present
political climate; indeed, we are inundated
with rosy economic news from Washington:
Inflation, interest rates, and unemployment
are down relative to the levels of a few years
ago; consumer spending is again ap-
proaching the record levels of the mid- to
late-'70s; industry is working closer to
capacity; the stock market and capital in-
vestment - the two leading indicators of op-
timism for those who wield economic power
- are both up. When Reagan asked us in
1984 whether we were better-off than we
were four years prior, most of us answered
in the affirmative. Despite all this, there are
some contrary indications.
The news media are also presenting some
disquieting information on the economic
front, usually in anecdotal form: In recent
months there have been massive layoffs in
Silicon Valley, with many jobs eliminated
for good or moved off-shore (Apple, Intel,
Digital Research); many of those thrown
out of high-paying industrial jobs during the
first few years of this decade are employed,
but now in low-paying service sector jobs
with no prospect of regaining their former
standard of living; corporations reporting
record profits are forcing industrial
workers to make wage concessions under
threat of losing their jobs to robots or to
Agree is a recent LSA graduate
currently involved with the Center for
New Work.

workers in "right to work" states; and
finally there is the chronic unemployment in
the black community, an old story which we
have grown accustomed to and are
seemingly willing to live with. Trends
towards fewer high-paying jobs, massive
displacements in the labor force, more
widespread "underemployment," and the
persistence of pockets of high unem-
ployment within certain segments of the
population demonstrate that the economy
suffers where employment is concerned.
Global economic issues play a role in our
employment situation, and this is where
most public attention has been focused. We
are led to believe that we can blame many of
our problems on the Japanese and solve
them through a more aggressive trade
policy; this is a sort of "Rambo economics,"
impatient with complexities and convinced
of the existence of a quick fix. Much less
thought and public dialogue has concen-
trated on the impact of technology upon em-
ployment, though this by far is the more
central economic and social issue facing us
today; it is not, however, an issue which can
be summed-up in simple formulas.
The Impact of Technology
Technology reduces the total labor hours
required to produce a given useful output.
This can be utilized to increase output from
a fixed amount of labor or to decrease the
amount of labor while fixing the level of out-
put. From the time of the industrial
revolution of the last century through the
1970s, we saw a balance between these two
utilizations - some workers were
displaced, the workday was reduced from
twelve or sixteen hours to eight, while total
output grew tremendously. If the economy
grows at a sufficient rate it is possible to in-
crease productivity while maintaining a
more or less constant level of employment.
New jobs can be created at about the same
rate as old jobs are eliminated. We may,
however, beapproaching a "zero growth"
stage of economic development in .which
ever-expanding foreign markets will be a
thing of the past. At this point we are expor-
ting a huge amount of technology itself -
exporting the very means to produce ef-
ficiently - in addition to the end goods
which we ourselves produce efficiently. In
the long run this ought to reduce the net
amount of U.S. labor time spent in
producing goods for export, since our end
goods will become less competitive as our
high level of industrial efficiency is spread
to foreign producers. Without the economic
growth provided by foreign trade, increased

efficiency can only result in a net reduction
of job hours available.
The long term impact of technology upon
domestic employment is just now beginning
to be felt. The production of this technology
has absorbed a good part of the displaced
labor force, but this is only temporary: The
huge push towards automation is creating a
great demand for new high technology
equipment as industrial and white collar
facilities modernize. Once this initial tran-
sition period is complete and this technology
in place, the demand will decrease and
level-off; high tech will become what
economists call a "mature industry," one
which grows no faster than the economy as
a whole. The labor required to produce a
given example of automation technology is
obviously much less than the labor it
replaces, this is what makes it economically
viable. High technology becomes applied to
itself and further reduces the employment
which the industry can provide: We already
have computers doing most of the work in
designing new computers; we are not far
from the day when computer programs will
generate most of the specific application
programs which highly-paid professionals
now produce; robots will no doubt perform
the bulk of work in plants which produce
robotic equipment.
Computers are increasing the produc-
tivity of engineers, educators, managers,
secretaries, typesetters, accountants,
lawyers, librarians, and many others. The
demand for the services these people
provide is unlikely to increase at the same
rate as their productivity. As high
technology becomes increasingly more af-
fordable, it will become economically
feasible to replace many of the low-paid
workers in stores and fast food restaurants
with machines, and this is a growth sector
which has thus far absorbed many displaced
workers. A worker thrown out of a high-
paying industrial job into a low-paying ser-
vice sector job obviously has much less
disposable income to spend on goods; as
more workers are displaced in this manner,
domestic demand for all sorts of non-
essential goods and services will decrease,
further exacerbating the employment
situation. The number of traditional full
time jobs is diminishing; the time has come
to reexamine our current notions of what a
job is and what its place in our lives ought
to be - notions clearly incompatible with
emerging realities.
First of a two-part series. Tomorrow,
Agree looks at how we think about
work.

Wasserman

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4,

LETTERS:
RSG lacks faith in its own position

0

To the Daily:
If you think about it, this is
really quite surprising: a
newspaper that praises those who
attempt to restrict free
discussion of ideas. (I refer to
your March third editorial on the
RSG elections, "Worthy of re-
election.") After all of their
semantic gyrations, it is still true
thatthn ~rrn nnkhnm

presented strongly enough. One
gets the impression that the RSG
leadership, in its attempt to
decide for us what constitutes
fair "interplay and exchange of

ideas," really has no faith in the
strength of its own philosophical
and political position. It is clear
that they have no faith in our con-
stitution. Can't we be liberal

without falling into the habits of
our right-wing opponents?
-Philip Bateman
IPPS, Class of '86
March 3

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Food service director misrepresented

To the Daily:

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