Chapter 15

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Economic efficiency is how everything gets better and everyone gets richer. In the 1950s the only electronics that a family had was one TV and one or two radios. Now everyone has everything, including welfare recipients with pocket computers that can actually let them talk to anyone in the world at any time.

Of course, there are unintended consequences.

I see two. When economic efficiency is at its best, a very broad public is served by very large entities. This brings very large amounts of money to these entities, and there are some people who think that some people make too much money.

The other is that a great many people will never make any money. Production is now so efficient that a very large number of people are simply unnecessary. We see that in unemployment figures. It is inevitable that when we no longer need rows of bookkeepers punching buttons and cranking handles, or lines of human ditchdiggers and carburetor assemblers, or masses of printers and paperboys, the people who did things like that have nothing to do anymore.

Presuming that we want to remedy this excess-people problem, our options are now either to return to nonmechanized farming and manufacturing, which will bring everyone's standard of living back to 1950s levels, or maybe tax those who can do productive work to support those who can't, or maybe dispose of half the population.

None of these options is particularly attractive, but we have to choose one.