Larry Summers on technological unemployment in history

This bit is from the Q&A session:

LS: So, I guess I think there is both a, you know, Keynes as usual I think was pretty smart and you know, Keynes began his essay on economic possibilities for our grandchildren by saying that there was this really pressing cyclical problem that had to do with demand which was really important but not all that profoundly fundamental. And there was this more fundamental thing which was that technology was marching on and he thought the dis-employment effects would show up as everybody working 15 hour weeks. And it doesn’t look like that’s quite what they’re showing up as. But the basic idea that technological progress comes with reduced labor input, sometimes it’s early retirement, sometimes it’s people who aren’t able to get themselves employed, sometimes, it’s lower hours, but that is basically the story of the last 150 years.

So, I would not back off of my putting a lot of weight on technology as something important here.

The talk and dialogue (pdf) are on macro more generally, interesting throughout.  In general I believe there should be more transcribed and summarized dialogues, both the NBER and Brookings have had intellectual success with that format.


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