Notes From My Journal
What’s the Truth About Employment in America Today?
It’s also tough to find qualified people for the publishing and marketing industries. It’s a good time to be looking for a job. Not a good time for finding employees.
I don’t know how this cut of the employment situation is countrywide, but in claiming “victory” for making America great again, President Trump has cited (among other things) record low unemployment statistics.
My colleague Bill Bonner had something to say about this recently on his blog https://bonnerandpartners.com.
President Reagan’s budget advisor, David Stockman, writes that, while the official unemployment rate has gone down, the number of full-time, “breadwinner” jobs in America, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in July, was 73.83 million.
When the century began 18 years ago, the number was 72.73 million. Only 1 million decent new jobs have been created – while the U.S. population has grown by 48 million people!
Almost all the rosy jobs numbers are traceable to 1) people dropping out of the workforce, 2) low-paid, part-time jobs in the leisure and medical service sectors, and 3) inflation.
From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket
Should I Care Even Less?
Next on My Passion Diet: Economic Theory
Popular philosophy today promotes the idea that a good life is a passionate one, that by caring more we can lead fuller lives.
I used to feel this way. Do it with passion or don’t do it at all. I can’t say it was an idea because I didn’t actually think about it. It was how I approached my life. I was passionate, sometimes get-into-trouble passionate.
So when I was introduced to Buddhist thinking in my college years, I was appalled at one of the “four noble truths” – that desire (i.e., passion) is a primary cause of suffering and that the proper path in life was to get rid of desire.
The idea seemed prima facie absurd and/or repugnant. All my fun came from my passions. Why should I give them up?
Moreover, it didn’t seem possible to live without desire. I cared strongly about everything and everyone. And that felt right. Vanquishing desire was equivalent to vanquishing love. It was a life of dullness, a life without value.
But as I grew older, experience taught me that some of the psychic pain I was experiencing was the result of passionate attachments. (This was particularly obvious when I reflected on the anger I felt when things didn’t go as I wanted them to.) And lately, I’ve been thinking that I should move farther along this Buddhist path of freeing myself from desire.
Several years ago, without conscious intent, I stopped caring about “keeping up” with the news. I used to read no fewer than three newspapers every day to feel that I was properly “aware.” That took at least an hour a day. An hour a day is a precious length of time. In a year, it amounts to nearly two weeks.
Why did I do this?
I think it was because I wanted to be seen as intelligent and informed. And I was fearful that being unaware of the news would mark me as intellectually dismissible.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see that my passion for being informed got me no intellectual credit in the minds of my friends and colleagues. Quite to the contrary, my readiness to debate current events made me disagreeable. And knowing I had been disagreeable left me with agita and regret.
So I’m going on a passion diet.
I’ve already cut my keeping-informed passion down to 15 minutes of the NYT online every day. I might just cut that down to 5 minutes of scanning the “top stories” and click the links only when I feel it will do me some good.
Next, I’m going to stop caring about economic theory.
In my late teens, I was an earnest Socialist and could not respect the intelligence of anyone that favored a different point of view. More recently, my economic perspective became closer to Libertarian, and I found it difficult to believe that my leftist friends even had the capacity to think.
But all this passion hasn’t done me any good. As with my former passion for keeping up with the news, caring about economic theory has gotten me into stupid fights with smart friends.
And for what? To prove that my theory is right?
I’ve had enough experience in business to know that there is no such thing as a theory about anything that works all the time. Economics is not a real science. Free markets work sometimes and controlled markets work at other times.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nobody that has more theories about business than yours truly. But when I’m actually involved in the day-to-day of making things work, I don’t rely on any theory at all. I take actions that if analyzed over time would prove that I have no loyalty to any of my theories at all.
Here’s a hypothetical example of what I’m talking about…
Let’s say my friend Ben (an ardent Socialist) tells me (a free-market person) that he is going into business down the block from me, selling the same hamburgers I’ve been selling.
As a committed Socialist, Ben is going to pay his employees according to their needs, not their output. Furthermore, he will let them do the work that they feel they can do and demand nothing more from them.
Once upon a time, I would have argued with Ben. I would have told him that he’s making a foolish mistake and tried to make him understand why he should treat his employees as I treat mine, rewarding them for their output and encouraging them to do more than they want to do.
What good would that do?
Ben wouldn’t listen. He’d go ahead run his business the way he wanted to. If it worked, he would come back and tell me I was wrong. If it failed, he wouldn’t speak to me. Most likely he would make some adjustments to his theory in practice while insisting that he hadn’t veered from it.
Arguing with Ben now would do nothing for me except to exercise an emotional attachment (care) I have to an abstraction (the ideal of Capitalism and the free market). But that wouldn’t actually help me… and it certainly wouldn’t help Ben.
So if Ben wants my opinion on his theory of management, I will give it to him. But I will give it dispassionately. And whether he follows it or discards it… well, I just won’t care.
Today’s Word: acolyte (noun) An acolyte (AK-uh-lite) is (1) one who attends or assists a leader, or (2) a follower. As used by the musician John Fahey: “From a social perspective, I am looking for friends, not acolytes.”
Did You Know? The honeybee kills more people worldwide than all the poisonous snakes combined.
Worth Quoting: “I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.” – Oscar Wilde
This video is entertaining… clear, funny. I’m sure the kid that made it is getting offers.