Snafgz and I are having a brief conversation on Twitter about online casinos. He thinks its dumb the USA tries to regulate them, I disagree. Mostly because I work at a bricks and mortar one. This is bigger than the argument though-online commerce and technology is destroying jobs and not creating enough to replace them.
Lets take Netflix.
Netflix is awesome. Streaming video, mailed DVDs and Blu-Ray. It’s a useful net business that is a vast improvement over traditional video stores. Except for one thing. It doesn’t employ that many people. A brief Googling puts the range of people at 600-2000.
Now think of how many people used to work at video stores.
I had roughly about 8-10 in my local area. Let’s put the employee number at 40, give or take. Is Netflix’s 2000 jobs comparable to 40 jobs per city, not even counting home office or distribution of chains? Blockbuster and Movie Gallery closed all locations.
It isn’t, not by a long shot. So a net subtraction of jobs.
Yes, they were low paying service jobs. (Although managing a store isn’t, and the home office jobs are comparable to anything Netflix does except the server and IT side of the business.) But you know what? We need lower paying service jobs too. Those Blockbuster employees are not going to magically go to college and become biotech workers. They are going to go on unemployment and/or try to find jobs at Target and Walmart.
The argument I have with Snafgz is that online commerce is doing just that, destroying jobs. He thinks progress is inevitable and we have to adapt. I think we will adapt by not having any, or lesser jobs.
I don’t say this lightly. I’ve watched it happen. I mentioned I work in a casino. In my area, the casinos were the only things that prevented the local economy from dying when manufacturing jobs were destroyed en masse. I saw the scary sight of 18+ year tool and die operators and engineers asking me if my retail store was hiring. A lot of them only found work when the casinos were approved, and while it wasn’t as good as being a skilled trade, it enabled the people who had houses and families in the region to stay, and attracted more people to the area.
These are the jobs of last resort. And now, through the net, they are being taken away. What will rise in their place? Nothing. An online casino is a server farm somewhere in a tax haven, to avoid regulation. Things like that hire a handful of people. Amazon.com will never hire enough to replace losses in Borders, and Apple wont bring back all the record stores they killed with Itunes.
I don’t know. Maybe it will take 15% unemployment for people to wake up from this.