Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rich get richer, the poor get a tiny bit less poor, and the middle goes nowhere

Why Job Market is Sagging in the Middle

Economists of the school that has gradually become dominant over the past 30 years never fail to amuse me. I love it: the most popular view among economists is to educate United Statesians more so that they'll be qualified for the jobs that are in greatest demand today (not the brow-wiping, drawing water and hewing wood types). If I may quote from a rap song that is more intelligent than this, the most popular view among economists:
"If everybody in the 'hood had a PhD
You'd say 'that doctor flipped that burger hella good for me'"

So the solution to the problem of a middle class in the process of being gutted is to prepare scores more highly-skilled workers. Because there is currently a high level of demand for highly-skilled workers. ... But what kind of headcount are we talking about here? Just how many jobs requiring "interpersonal or abstract skills" are out there? Even if we United Statesians do a gangbusters job at educating a new generation of highly-skilled workers - and given our record on education, I wouldn't give us good odds - at best we create more highly skilled workers than there are jobs, diluting demand and lowering wages, even at the top of the value-added food chain.

But what the hell, let's do it. Let's keep our faith in a school of economics that uses mathematical models, by necessity simplified with built-in assumptions that plainly do not obtain in the real world, that purport to make out the contours of immutable economic laws.

Wouldn't want to change horses in midstream, certainly not. How exciting that the implementation of currently favored economic theories is, by ending redistributive policies and liquidating public wealth, unveiling so awesomely the inherent gravity of wealth. It's like, thanks to our real-world experiments, we've found a beautiful truth in economics, like they often do in physics: that unrestricted capitalism moves societies towards a perfect Gini coefficient of 1. Perfection is beautiful. Oh but of course we won't achieve it: humans are imperfect and through implementation always mar the beauty of systems like capitalism (and, oh what was the name of that other one?). We'll never get to a point where one person receives all income, and the rest none. The king - or whatever they'll call him - will need to share the wealth to some extent to save his life, by allowing a small aristocracy.

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