What is the capitalist answer to automation?

Just look at the answers... anything from crystal balling various futures to saying capitalism doesn't have an answer.

What makes this a good question? (Don't tell me HNQ.)

Frankly there are better questions & answers on Quora (relating to that); they have one on whether Capitalism is an ideology or something else.

Also, it looks to me that despite not even being out of beta, politics SE might already need to start using the historical lock. And I'm saying that because there are presently two more questions on the main page about automation and the future; the asker was inspired by that old question (links to it one of his):

  • To me the linked question in fact should have been posted on philosophy as it asked about theory (political philosophy) and not practice (politics).
    – rus9384
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 0:36

2 Answers 2


Historical locks are a bad call here. Those are basically saying the post was made under old rules that have changed, but we keep the question around because it's interesting/useful. SO uses them the most, because it's the oldest and had much looser rules back in the day. This question is barely a year old and we've had no major rule changes. So normal closure would apply.

The political angle here is that many Socialists are saying we need things like Universal Basic Income to counterbalance the believed coming job shortage that automation is supposed to produce.

The question is asking

Can capitalism avoid collapsing in a highly automated world?

It's implicitly pitting Capitalism against other socioeconomic systems. The answers (some poorly cited) tend to draw on historical references (automation was supposed to have destroyed Capitalism by now, according to some).

Your examples aren't exactly the same thing

The difference is education. This is an ongoing problem (I've voted to close over 30k SE questions) and sometimes you have to explain

Your question is not the same as that one

  • This is still confusing far too many things; for instance, total collapse is possible if there is perfect substitutability of human/robot work (don't take my word for it, it's in an IMF Working Paper). It just so happens that perfect substitutability didn't happen in the past. But even if substitutability is partial an "answer" is that capitalism offers ever-deepening inequality, (according to the same paper). I don't even know if this is the OP's idea of an answer. Collapse (his question) is rather trivial to avoid, but that is not answering your issue with basic income etc. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 1:51
  • Paper I was talking about: imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2018/05/21/… Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 1:54
  • And a part of his question which you didn't quote "my main objective is to seek how capitalism could save itself from the reduction work/wages resulting from automation, assuming it's possible." That's completely different from collapse (in the usual sense of the word). I don't see a single question there, as you seem to do. On the more complex question of reduction of wages due to automation... tons of papers have been written; NONE are mentioned in the answers! Probably because the question was easy mark for opinions because it equated unequivalent things. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 2:22
  • "It's implicitly pitting (sic!) Capitalism against other socioeconomic systems." - Well, I thought that under capitalism we can count any system with private property involved. In their absolutes, they are different like how big is different from small. This does not mean mixed systems are unavailable. However, there are only two possibilties: either private property is the case (in the sense it's protected by the law) or there is no laws protecting property itself. And law is essential as the notion of property without laws is vacuous.
    – rus9384
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 2:34
  • No (sic) needed, 'pitting' is correct. Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 20:50

In my reading, the question should have been re-tagged as . It essentially asks how a particular theory () would address a particular social concern (automation). Reasonable non-opinion answers could be written if they are based on capitalist theory.

While at least one user did that, nearly every other answer is opinion. Even the most upvoted answers from high-rep users are basically opinions without any form of being backed-up.

Re-tagging the question won't solve the problem. We can (and should) close the question to prevent future harm, but unfortunately the only available strategy at this point is to contain the harm as much as we can and educate users (both askers and answers) in the future.


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