Thursday, June 22, 2017

Creative Destruction Versus Social Destruction From Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg is one of our successful billionaires who who cares about more than his own well being.  In this article he talks about a very important problem and offers some suggestions about how to survive creative destruction.

Creative destruction is built into capitalism.  It has many benefits, according to Bloomberg, but it has consequences that require solutions to social disruptions.  Bloomberg starts out with a good example of creative destruction in the coal industry.  We are producing about the same amount of coal today as we produced in the 1920's with 10% of the workforce required to produce that output in the 1920's.  Automation has eliminated 790,000 jobs.  That has been a disaster in the coal mining regions of America but it is an essential feature of capitalism which drives producers in the direction of efficiency and lower production costs.  The good news is that a large number of jobs have been created in producing cleaner energy.  We are left, however, with the problem of dealing with the disruptions in our coal producing regions.

One way to deal with creative destruction is for government to redistribute income to those who have lost their jobs through progressive tax policies.  Bloomberg is OK with that idea as long as the money is well spent by government.  That separates Bloomberg from most Republicans who are committed to cutting taxes for those who can afford to help out the coal miners.  They want to take an ax to government programs that redistribute income in order to provide tax cuts.  On the other hand, that leaves us with the problem of making good use of the funds provided by taxpayers.  It also fails to satisfy another problem.  Most people would rather have a job instead of collection paychecks from government.

Bloomberg did a good job of describing the problem of creative destruction.  He then turns his attention to some of the areas that need attention like healthcare and education.  The thrust of his comments in these crucial areas is to argue that each of them has flaws based upon their place in history.  Healthcare should not be dependent upon receiving benefits from employers, and education is mired in the dark ages when the school year was determined by the need for young people to work in the farms in the summer.  He also has problems with community colleges which are too expensive and leave poor people with excessive debt.

Bloomberg is a more defensible billionaire than Donald Trump and his friends.  However, he did a much better job of describing the problem of creative destruction than he did on solutions to the problems that have become highly visible.  That is because the problems are evident and the solutions are less evident.  They will require changes that are difficult to perceive and hard to manage in a divided political system.  We have president with a 36% approval rating and a Congress with an even lower approval rating.  That may be an even bigger problem than creative destruction.  The people that we elect to office are better at winning elections than they are at solving critical problems.

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