Wednesday, September 28, 2011

WSJ: Obama vs. ATMs:Why Technology Doesn't Destroy Jobs, by R. Roberts

Mr. Roberts is a professor of economics at George Mason University and a research fellow at The Stanford Hoover Institution. The article can be found in the Wall Street Journal. The level of difficulty:**

·         Is technology destroying jobs?

·         Technology and jobs: should workers worry?  

-          What are some of the advantages of technology?

-          Are there any disadvantages of technology; if so what exactly?

-          Do you think the use of technology leads to unemployment?

-          Read the title of the text. How do you think the writer supports this view?

1.       Read the first paragraph of the text. Why does Freedman advocate spoons? Answer in your own words.

2.       Why do you think the writer chose to start with a story about Milton Freedman? Why not with Obama’s comments?

3.       What does “this” refer to in the phrase “The president calls this a structural issue” in paragraph 3? Explain in your own words.

4.       Read down to the end of page one. All the examples in this section of the text seem to prove that there is a positive correlation between ………………………………… and ………………………………..

5.       At the end of the first page the writer says “It’s a wonder that unemployment is only 9.1%. Does the writer seem to think it should be more, less, much more or much less?

6.       Read the first two paragraphs of page 2. What do lower costs ultimately lead to? Why? Provide an example of your own.

7.       Now put the following terms in logical order to form a causal chain: lower costs, technology, a higher standard of living and lower prices.

8.       Read two more paragraphs and state clearly what the example about the computer industry proves.

9.       Complete the text. What is the major structural problem in the labour market?

10.   The writer mentions two major problems in the American economy. They are: ………………..

11.   The solution the writer suggests for the housing problem is the market solution. True or False?

12.   America’s current economic problems will disappear when there is more……………………… generally.


Write an essay where you explain to what extent you agree with the views expressed in the text. Whose views do you agree with? Obama’s or Mr. Roberts’? Remember to support your views with examples.


The reading task above has been designed to be used with intermediate students in an intensive program quite near the beginning of the year. The purpose is to introduce the students to the reasoning skills they will require when tackling reading texts. The text may be easily located on The Wall Street journal website.

  1. Possible answer: it would take more workers to do the job hence solve the problem of unemployment.
  2. To get the readers interested; to attract their attention.
  3. The fact that a lot of businesses have learnt to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers.
  4. Technology and unemployment
  5. Much more
  6. Lower prices because businesses compete. Answers will vary
  7. Technology, lower costs, lower prices, a higher standard of living.
  8. So many job descriptions exist today that…. ( In other words, new jobs are created as a result of technological development)
  9. New jobs are being created but…
  10. Housing and the fact that businesses aren’t hiring.
  11. True
  12. Confidence