Andrew Yang | Flickr

Andrew Yang, 44, is an entre­preneur from New York with no pre­vious political expe­rience. His social platform is standard Demo­c­ratic drivel, with promises to protect abortion rights and gay mar­riage. He is not overtly Christian, and he rarely ref­er­ences Reagan or the Con­sti­tution. He is cur­rently polling in the single digits and has almost no name recog­nition. Despite this, his cam­paign has the potential to gal­vanize con­ser­vatism in the upcoming decade, if only con­ser­v­a­tives hear Mr. Yang out.  

Andrew Yang’s platform could be summed up with one question: What is America going to do about automation? In much the same way that Trump’s 2016 cam­paign moti­vated voters on the immi­gration issue, Yang has thus far focused on one topic: job-stealing robots. Mil­lions of jobs will be lost in the next decade as automation and arti­ficial intel­li­gence expand into every sector of the economy. Retail workers, fast food employees, and truck drivers — some of America’s most common jobs — are all on the ropes. In an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Yang said:

“I think it would be insane to just sit back and watch this automation wave overtake our com­mu­nities and our economy… We need to evolve, we need to start pushing the way we think of eco­nomic progress to include how our fam­ilies are doing, how our children are doing, and things that would actually matter to the American people, because GDP is gonna lead us off a cliff. Robot trucks? Great for GDP! Ter­rible for many, many American com­mu­nities.”  

As automation con­tinues to push America’s labor-force par­tic­i­pation rate down to levels on par with Ecuador, seismic social shifts are bound to occur. Jobless fathers tend not to be good fathers, if they remain in the family picture at all. Labor flight to cities leaves rural com­mu­nities like Hillsdale County with decreasing pop­u­la­tions. Automation makes it increas­ingly harder for anyone without a college degree to find work, which forces aspiring young workers to shackle them­selves with debt in order to attend cesspools of pro­gressive indoc­tri­nation. Yet, for some reason, ques­tioning automation and tech­no­logical advancement is a non-starter for con­ser­v­a­tives because deep-seated ide­o­logical com­mit­ments to the free-market cloud the thinking of the con­ser­v­ative non-profit world. These talking heads are quick to point out that lower labor costs mean cheaper con­sumer goods. Con­ser­vatism today, for all prac­tical pur­poses, is syn­onymous with con­sumerism: What is good for the con­sumer is good for the country.  

The expe­rience of a state like Michigan proves oth­erwise. The rising tide has lifted all boats, but some pas­sengers have fallen seasick. As social sci­entist Charles Murray points out, crime, welfare depen­dency, ille­git­imacy, divorce, drug usage, and suicide have all sky­rocketed among lower-class whites in recent decades. Income inequality — which Aris­totle iden­tifies as one of the chief dangers facing a political com­munity — has increased dra­mat­i­cally and con­se­quently sparked ten­sions which have led to renewed calls for socialism. American life expectancy has declined in recent years, and experts are saying America’s nationwide suicide epi­demic could be the cause. Indeed, it is doubtful that anyone reading this piece does not know someone who has suc­cess­fully or unsuc­cess­fully attempted suicide. Unre­stricted internet access has phys­i­cally reshaped our brains, debased our social inter­ac­tions, and left mil­lions with pornog­raphy addic­tions. Obesity is ubiq­uitous, thanks in large part to low-price, low-quality food. Churches are shutting their doors for good as each gen­er­ation of Amer­icans grows less reli­gious than their fathers. Our aca­demic insti­tu­tions no longer seek to inculcate virtue; their only goal is to create mar­ketable alumni. These social ills have mul­tiple causes, to be sure. But con­ser­v­a­tives seem unwilling to con­sider profit-seeking cor­po­ra­tions as sus­pects in the case at all. Caesar’s wife is above sus­picion.

This is where Andrew Yang comes in. If his cam­paign does nothing else but start a con­ver­sation, it will have been a massive success. Can America survive as a nation, in a mean­ingful sense of that word, without addressing the social ram­i­fi­ca­tions of automation? We have seen what glob­alism has done. GDP has increased, unem­ployment, deceit­fully defined, hovers at man­ageable levels, and the NASDAQ shatters records every day. Mean­while, Amer­icans lose their jobs and towns are hol­lowed out before drugs, crime, and father­lessness sweep in. Automation promises to maintain this status quo: profits for share­holders and losses for fly­overs. Andrew Yang wants to shake things up. In 2016, America faced a Flight 93 Election. Now that we have the cockpit, let’s not make the mistake of putting the plane on autopilot.

Teddy Birkofer is a junior studying Phi­losophy and Religion.