“The prevailing historical pattern however, is different. When advancing technology in supplying goods, or evolving tastes among those who demand them, release workers from one kind of work, over time some other kind absorbs most of them—and, at least in the West, and since the Industrial Revolution, at equal or higher pay. The “Okies” who fled not just the dust storms but more importantly the advent of the tractor, and moreover had to do so during the Great Depression, suffered all the hardship that John Steinbeck described; in time they and their children became the prosperous suburbanites of Orange County.”
—in “Whither China?” by Benjamin M. Friedman, professor of political economy at Harvard and author of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, in The New York Review of Books, April 5, 2012.
Up to now, Friedman notes, economic progress has proved the Luddites wrong; the victims of innovation have not ended up permanently worse off. Within at least a generation or two, economic growth along with technological progress has provided them with accessible, alternative productive work. Today, however, Friedman worries: Could the pessimists be right?
Are the new Orange counties going to be open? Will there be enough of them in America?