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The Jobs Crisis: Bigger Than You Think


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the-jobs-crisis-bigger-than-you-thinkVia Meadia:

Walter Russell Mead



Of the Big Five questions facing America today, the most pressing and urgent is the question of jobs. This is more than the problem of recovering from the last economic slump; it is more than the impact of globalization and automation on manufacturing jobs. The American economy is shedding jobs, especially long-term, well-paying jobs with good benefits, and the jobs that replace them are often less secure and less well paid. The relentless transformation of the American labor market is changing the nature of American life, calling into question some of the basic assumptions and building blocks of the last fifty years, and generating a complex mix of political and social pressures that will shake the country to its foundations.


Essentially, the problem is this: automation and IT are moving routine processing, whether that being processed is information or matter, out of the realm of human work and into the realm of machines. Factory floors are increasingly automated places where fewer and fewer human beings are needed to transform raw materials into finished products; clerical work and many forms of mass employment in business, government and management are also increasingly performed more economically by computers than by trained human beings.


The transformation is only beginning to kick in......(Snip)



The question, and it is not only a question for Americans, is where do we go from here? Is the new economy locking us into permanent inequality, insecurity, polarization and class conflict? Are we at the early stage of a Great Unraveling that will roll back the clock on the social achievements of the twentieth century and fall back from Blue Model Fordism to Victorian capitalism red in tooth and claw? People in Italy and France are asking this as much as people in California and Connecticut; these changes in the labor market are stirring huge and justifiable anxieties across the entire developed world.




A service economy resting on the high productivity agriculture, manufacturing and information processing will be a more affluent and a more human economy than what we have now. Human energy will be liberated from wringing the bare necessities from a reluctant nature; energy and talent will flow into making life more beautiful, more interesting, more entertaining and easier to use. By 1960 few American suburbanites really envied their hardscrabble, uneducated ancestors shivering through the winter in sod huts on the open prairie; one suspects that few Americans in 2060 will be pining for the glorious old days of 9 to 5 at GM.


But the change will come hard. The tax system and the financial system will have to change to promote the rise of a new world of jobs. The educational system will have to change to prepare young people for new kinds of lives. We are going to have to make all kinds of changes as our society comes to embody a new kind of economic logic. The changes won’t be easy but they aren’t optional.


Our jobs problem won’t be solved by macroeconomic policy shifts or money manipulation by the central bankers. It’s not going away anytime soon. Like the nation of family farmers as the industrial revolution took hold, Americans used to blue model Fordism are going to have to move on.




X-Posted at Hinge Of History

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jobs Jobs Jobs

Walter Russell Mead



As the latest round of scandals swirls around the White House, there is the usual empty chatter from various spokesmen about the President’s intention to “pivot toward the economy” (again!) and to prioritize unemployment.


If only that would happen; America’s jobs problem is big enough and crucial enough that it should be the President’s priority every day, not something to pivot toward every now and then. Creating an environment conducive to job creation is make or break for our society, and there is much to be done to get things on the right track.


There are really two choices before us as we think about the future of jobs in an age of information. Either most human beings are about to become economically obsolete, or the information economy can find a use for their talent and hard work. Much depends on which of these two pictures turns out to be the best description of the future.




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Is Bladerunner with food stamps Americas future?

James Pethokoukis

May 22, 2013


Walter Russell Mead outlines two possible futures for middle-class Americans: one where most of us lose the race against the machine, the other where smart government policies enable an eventual successful transition to an economy where IT and robots do a shockingly large percentage of the jobs humans do today but the carbon-based life forms still have plenty of meaningful work to do.


Mead calls that first scenario, Bladerunner with food stamps. Mead:




Of course, right now we are doing none of these things. At this point, Obamacare is a disincentive to hire full-time workers. And liberals have attacked conservative ideas to inject more choice and competition into government programs. Does Washington have an explicit entrepreneurial agenda? I dont think so.


Meads essay make a great companion piece to Brink Lindseys excellent new book, Human Capitalism, where he notes a disconnect between the demand for high-skill human capital and out current ability to widely provide a fertile environment for its development. His similar agenda: 1) maintain economic growth by encouraging entrepreneurship, 2) reform K-12 education by unleashing competition, 3) compensate for disadvantaged environments through early childhood interventions, 4) combat social exclusion of low-skilled adults, 5) improve higher education by limiting tuition subsidies, 6) remove regulatory burdens to entrepreneurship and upward mobility.

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The Demographic Blues

Walter Russell Mead



Back in the late 1960s, when I was a callow youth with no common sense to speak of and a huge, misshapen ego, the Big Scare energizing the United Nations, the foundation world, the leaders of civil society and the intellectual establishment of the day was the Population Bomb. It’s hard for young people today to understand how terrified, urgent, self righteous and utterly convinced the Population Bomb movement was. The closest analogy today is the global green movement and its apocalyptic warnings about climate change. The Population Bomb worriers didn’t have as many grassroots organizations in support of their agenda as the greens do today, but the establishment, the mainstream press, and the great and the good were even more worried about the Bomb then than they are about global warming today, and the forecasts we were getting were even more dire.





Two big changes left Dr. Ehrlich with egg on his face: just as he was adding up the numbers and projecting the trends into infinity, food production rose and baby-making slowed. Neither change could have been predicted; the technological breakthroughs that made the “green revolution” in agriculture possible had been brewing for some time, but until the new strains of rice and other crops had been actually planted it was hard to know how successful they would be (or how willing and able poor and uneducated farmers would be to cultivate new crop varieties and use new methods successfully). As for the baby-making, the social consequences of cheap and reliable birth control were only beginning to be felt when Ehrlich wrote. People could have all the sex they wanted in the post-pill world, but for the most part they could limit the number of pregnancies pretty well.


Since the 1960s, cheap forms of birth control have been spreading from the developed world into poorer countries; at the same time urbanization has led many people around the world to limit the size of their families......(Snip)


Part of the population is in fact exploding; it’s just from a financial point of view the wrong part. Ehrlich expected the youthful population to lead the explosion. Actually, in many countries around the world, it is the elderly population that is growing most vigorously. It’s a combination of two factors: life expectancy continues to increase, and the population cohort now in its sixties is the Baby Boom segment born in the years after World War II, when Europe, North America and Japan were basking in a wave of prosperity.


Meanwhile, the size of the workforce that needs to pay in the taxes or otherwise support the transfer payments to older people is turning out to be much smaller than the architects of our social system expected.....(Snip)

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