L. Rafael Reif’s “Transformative automation is coming — the impact is up to us” (Opinion, Nov. 10) is laudable. But without a significant change in the political economic mind-set of this country, a smooth transition will be difficult to attain. Reif seems aware of the difficulty when he writes: “Whether the outcome is inclusive or exclusive, fair or laissez-faire, is up to us.”
Unfortunately, our economic mind-set is poisoned by the myth of laissez-faire. For well over a century, American capitalism has been based on the fake news that Adam Smith, the so-called father of capitalism, advocated laissez-faire. Smith never used the term. In fact, he advocated capitalism with justice, liberty, and equal opportunity. Smith also wrote that increased productivity, due to the division of labor, made it possible to spread wealth to the lowest ranks of the people. Automation could benefit everyone in society if Smith’s moral capitalism were combined with Reif’s proactive and thoughtful reinvention of work.
The writer is professor emeritus of politics and history at Curry College.