General Ludd bleibt tot

CAMBRIDGE – Eine wiederkehrende Furcht ist seit Anbruch des industriellen Zeitalters, dass der technologische Wandel Massenarbeitslosigkeit auslösen wird. Neoklassische Ökonomen haben prophezeit, dass dies nicht passieren würde, weil die Menschen eine andere Arbeit finden würden, wenn auch möglicherweise nach einer langen Phase schmerzhafter Anpassung. Diese Prophezeiung hat sich im Großen und Ganzen als korrekt erwiesen.

Die zweihundert Jahre atemberaubender Innovation seit Beginn des industriellen Zeitalters haben den Bürgern in großen Teilen der Welt einen steigenden Lebensstandard verschafft, ohne dass die Arbeitslosigkeit dabei tendenziell stark gestiegen wäre. Zwar gab es in der Tat eine Menge Probleme, insbesondere Phasen atemberaubender Ungleichheit und zunehmend schrecklicher Kriege. Alles in allem jedoch leben die Menschen in großen Teilen der Welt länger, haben deutlich kürzere Arbeitszeiten und führen gemeinhin ein gesünderes Leben.

Unbestreitbar ist freilich, dass sich der technologische Wandel beschleunigt hat, mit der potenziellen Folge tiefer gehender und profunderer Verzerrungen. Der große Ökonom Wassily Leontief äußerte 1983 in einem viel zitierten Artikel seine Sorge, dass das Tempo des modernen technologischen Wandels so schnell sei, dass viele Arbeitnehmer, die sich daran nicht anpassen können, schlicht nicht mehr benötigt würden – wie Pferde nach dem Aufstieg des Automobils. Sind also Millionen von Arbeitnehmern reif für die Leimfabrik?

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