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Photo: Eric Chretien/Gamma-Rapho/Getty
For a century and longer, the individualist quality in U.S. workers has been falling away as Americans have moved to the city and labor become more about big companies and playing well in the sandbox. Now, some of the last loner purists are being forced to conform, too.
The transformation of some of the few surviving archetypal individualists — doctors, farmers and now truck drivers — is powered in part by three of the most potent forces today: automation, monopoly capitalism and the new surveillance economy.
The big picture: Earlier this year, we profiled the disappearance of the independent U.S. farmer as Big Ag companies have come to control virtually the whole sequence of raising hogs, cattle and chickens.
"This is what they are known for — an outlaw culture mentality," said Karen Levy, a professor at Cornell. "Many of them are deliberately in this profession to make their own decisions. There is a lot of resistance to being told what to do. That is what is slipping away."
Technology's push into trucking has not come suddenly: For decades, trucking has been open to trying out new automating technologies ahead of other industries, said Steve Viscelli, a professor at UPenn. This has included satellite tracking of trucks, GPS mapping and internet communications.
But looked at another way, this technological uninhibitedness has stripped skills from many trucking jobs, driving down wages along with shipping costs, two factors that help enable fast delivery.
The instinct for the next best thing has pushed trucking into some of the most controversial new technology out there — 24-hour monitoring.
The bottom line: A consequence of the working conditions has been one of the highest worker turnover rates of any profession on the planet. In some segments of long-haul trucking, 94% of the drivers quit or are fired each year, said Stephen Burks, a professor at the University of Minnesota.
Inside a Vietnamese factory. Photo: Nhac Nyugen/Getty
As the trade war with Beijing drags on, dozens of firms — from high-tech electronics manufacturers to apparel companies — have the same idea: relocate out of China to dodge the tariffs, Erica writes.
One seldom-discussed consequence of those moves is a potential labor shortage in places like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Cambodia, where many U.S. companies are fleeing.
What's happening: Clothing and consumer goods companies that require low-end manufacturing had already been leaving China in search of cheaper labor before the trade war. Now, tariffs and threats of intellectual property theft are pushing the higher-tech firms, like automakers and electronics manufacturers, out of the country as well.
The bottom line: "These countries are smaller, and the supply of land and skills and labor doesn't match that in China," says Joy Dantong Ma of the Paulson Institute. "And it's not just the labor but the roads, bridges and airports. It will take a while for the infrastructure to catch up."
President Trump has racked up a staggering carbon footprint, Kaveh Waddell writes.
Last year, his plane emitted about 11,500 tonnes of CO2, more than 700 times of the average American, according to an analysis from AtoB, a flight booking company
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Trouble for Walmart's e-commerce business (Jason Del Rey — Recode)
Why the migrant crisis is happening now (Stef Kight — Axios)
Driver photos are a gold mine for ICE and FBI (Drew Harwell — Washington Post)
Germany: the new scooter battleground (Tim Bradshaw — FT)
A threat to Amazon's dealmaking (Dana Mattioli — WSJ)
Ariana Grande headlining Coachella. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty
In 1981, the average price for a concert ticket was $12. By 2017, it had jumped to $64, Erica writes.
If the price of tickets had risen alongside inflation, they'd cost about half as much, reports Quartz, citing recently released research by the late economist Alan Krueger.
P.S.: Speaking of the state of music around four decades ago, Sony's Walkman celebrated its 40th birthday last week.