Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Threat of Job Loss to Automation


Strength to LoveIf manufacturers are concerned only in their personal interests, they will pass by on the other side while thousands of working people are stripped of their jobs and left displaced on some Jericho road as a result of automation, and they will judge every move towards a better distribution of wealth and a better life for the working man to be socialistic.
Martin Luther King, Jr., from his sermon On Being a Good Neighbor, from his book Strength to Love

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I am reading Dr. King’s book of sermons, Strength to Love. He was, as we all remember, first and foremost a preacher.

Yes, this book feels a little dated in places. But not much… He has a sermon on how Christianity is better than communism. But he also tackles some of the dangers of capitalism in places in the book .

Here’s a point that struck me. He used the analogy of the Jericho road, (where the man had been robbed, beaten, left half-dead, and then helped by the Good Samaritan). And he described how people displaced by “automation” are left on the Jericho road, beaten down, left half-dead — at least half-dead in spirit.

I am reading a lot about the encroachment of automation. That encroachment is increasing, threatening all kinds of jobs. (My selection for the February First Friday Book Synopsis, Rise of the Robots, is very much about this issue).

We may put our focus on just how big a threat this is. But Dr. King reminds us that we need to pay attention to the people left on the side of the Jericho road by automation, and any other threat that takes away jobs.

It is a pretty good reminder. What will we do as a society as people cannot find work that pays a living wage; as workers are replaced by automation, and other forces?

That question probably should be at the front of our minds more and more often.

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