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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Charles Murray's New Solution to Unemployment: Call them Names!

Here we learn that Charles Murray, like I guess all right thinking moral people these days, hates and detests white males. What we need to do, he says, is insult white males all day every day, until they get their acts together. No one else is to blame, it's just white male bums. The recession doesn't matter, automation doesn't matter, women in the workforce don't matter, the massive influx of tens of millions of immigrant laborers don't matter, nothing matters. White men are just evil and the solution is to call them names.

His evidence?
In the 1960 census, the mean annual earnings of white males ages 30 to 49 who were in working-class occupations (expressed in 2010 dollars) was $33,302. In 2010, the parallel figure from the Current Population Survey was $36,966—more than $3,000 higher than the 1960 mean, using the identical definition of working-class occupations.

Let's just accept this theory that a full day's work earns a tiny amount more today than it did in 1960. That's great. But it's ridiculous when you consider that productivity levels have at least doubled since that time, so what you're looking at is workers making half as much as they should be making. Perhaps knowing that you're being ripped off by your employers because you produce twice as much wealth but earn the same amount as your 1960's forebears could be a problem? Nah.

It isn't right that workers today should be earning as much as if they had lived in 1960. We have had 52 years of technological progress since then. In a normal economy, the purchasing power of a worker today should be twice that of his ancient ancestors, not a tiny bit more. We have had economic growth for decades, but you're telling me none of that growth has helped the working class whatsoever. Wouldn't this be dispiriting for anyone? Why, when you see other people, relative to you, earning boatloads of money, would you still be content with the same wages as your grandfather earned in the 1960's? Charles Murray ignores relative income and pretends that only absolute earnings matter. Well guess what, only relative income matters when it comes to social status, and whether you make $0 a year, $10,000 a year, or $30,000 a year, you'll still be treated like a low class loser.

The gini index is the distance between the rich and the poor, and it is now at the highest level it's ever been since 1920's America. We are one of the least fair countries on Earth. The poor have no reason to celebrate earning $3,000 more a year when their neighbors are earning $1 million more a year. Can you imagine how dispiriting it is to know that your entire year's worth of labor isn't worth a second of Bill Gates' time? Or that your entire lifetime of labor won't earn even one hour of Steve Jobs' labor? When you think of it in these, relative, terms, you suddenly realize how utterly worthless working is for the entire lower class. Since lower class wages didn't rise at the same rate as upper class wages, income inequality pushed the low status, low paid workers into a fugue of despair. The answer, of course, isn't to confront income inequality, but to call the already low status workers even worse names than before. That will show them.

Charles Murray neglects another important aspect of money's 'buying power' in 1960. In 1960, it may well be true that white men earned $33,000 a year and were happy with it, but this ignores the critical difference between 1960 and 2012. In 1960, a white man who earned $33,000 a year was considered a good marriage prospect for women, many of whom intended to stay housewives their entire lives. For these women, a man with a steady job, any job, was someone they would marry, have kids with, and stay married to for life. Now consider a man today making that same salary. Would he be a hot marriage prospect among women? Could he trust said women to not divorce him in the future? Could he really have, say, four kids, like they used to in the past, and deliver all of them a bright future, without any ability to pay for their college educations, with a salary of $36,000 a year?

Money staying the same is a useless metric if you ignore the 'price' of things. Perhaps you can buy the same amount of butter today as you could in 1960, but you can't buy things that matter -- respect from your peers, attractiveness to mates, the ability to raise and place your enormous brood of children in respectable positions in the future, a stable, happy home -- In fact, Charles Murray's new book states quite clearly that marriage is basically an upper class only activity. No lower income individual can hope to attract, and keep, a mate. But those same low income men in 1960 could expect to do both. Now do you see a difference in incentives to work?

What's the use in getting a low paying job when it won't be enough to start a family? Now that women can work for themselves, and are nearly 60% of the college-going population, they aren't interested in a working class loser who can make $30,000 a year. That's a drop in the bucket compared to their own earning power, it would be a joke to flourish your paycheck in front of them and say, "Look how useful I am to you, honey! Aren't you glad I work so hard every day?" In terms of attractiveness to women, you may as well earn $0 a year, it's all the same to them.

If you want men to work, you can't just offer them the same cramped living conditions as 1960 and pretend it's the same quality of life as 1960. In 1960 you could have high social status, a wife and kids at $30,000 a year. Today you can have $36,000 a year, but your income inequality is infinitely vaster from the actual middle and upper classes, and you can't attract a wife or have kids. The equation is on paper the same, but in reality is dramatically different. Why work? So you can eat? But then, why eat in a world like this? Why breathe?

If you want to get men out of despair, the answer isn't to kick them and call them names. By God. That's a great incentive. They already hate life and everyone in it, but now that you've called them bums they'll be sure to cheer up and join the work force.

Plus, Charles Murray is ignoring a much bigger problem than unemployment. Suppose you call an unemployed person a bum and kick him every day until he gets a job. You can be assured that it won't be as a doctor or lawyer or engineer. The only job he will be able to get is some sort of make-work. For instance, maybe he'll stand outside in the heat with a sign hung over his body, advertising some dumb store or other to passing cars. Or maybe he'll sit at a call center and endlessly ring up phone numbers of homes where he can then tell them to buy Folger's Coffee.

Do you see what a soul-crushing job this is? What a painful, cruel thing it is to make someone work?

In 1960, a working class job that earned you $30,000 wasn't just a job. It was a job worth doing. Perhaps you were building houses, or roads. Perhaps you were a farmer, or manufacturing real goods like chairs or cars that people needed. Now people can earn $36,000 a year working in some despicable worthless job that they hate themselves for doing, which they know is utterly worthless and hurts more people than it helps. The pay isn't the sole satisfaction from working. Half of job satisfaction is knowing you're valued, by the customer and by your boss/coworkers. If the job market changes and people work at jobs where every day they're reminded that they are just parasites and aren't actually doing anything, it isn't true that their 'pay' is equal to the 'pay' of a 1960's worker who can look at his finished new house or car at the end of a long tiring day of work. Only a materialist would imagine spiritual factors to work don't matter so long as the pay is the same.

Furthermore, whether you earn $0 a year, or $80,000 a year, you're still a tax consumer instead of a tax payer, so why single out the unemployed to call names? Why hate solely on men?

Total government spending in the U.S.A. this year was $6.3 trillion, or about 40% of GDP, or $20,000 per capita. If you're this magical working man who earn $36,000 a year supporting a family of 4 (which is necessary for the human race to continue, and thus should be considered the minimum possible family a man should have the means to support), you're still receiving $44,000 more in government aid than your entire 'productivity.' IE, you're receiving more than twice as much in handouts as you make with your work, much less pay in taxes. Your very existence is a net drain on America. You are a mistake. Anyone who makes less than $80,000 a year is a mistake that should have been aborted ahead of time. So don't put on airs and get high and mighty talking about $0 a year bums vs. the noble working class. Everyone's in this together. EVERYONE has been made redundant and rendered a missed abortion opportunity by the grinding wheels of capitalism.

The median household income in this country is $49,445 currently, and yet those same households are receiving $80,000 in government spending. The median American is a 'bum,' a 'parasite,' a 'scumbag' who needs to be called names, according to Charles Murray. Why single out the unemployed? We're all in this together, according to libertarianism.

Anyone working for the government is also a tax parasite, but they just receive the money upfront instead of as a handout. Anyone who earns money by pointing guns at people and demanding they receive a 'service' they never volunteered to pay for or asked for in the first place, is just as much a bandit or parasite as any other. An unemployed person, by at least not pointing any guns at you, is comparatively moral.

When you factor in A) jobs no one should be doing because they're soul destroying, B) jobs that earn too little to pay for a person's own maintenance. C) jobs that were created by government force and have no intrinsic merit, what is the difference between the vast majority of employed people, and the unemployed? Let's not forget that labor force participation in America is merely 64% or so. The unemployed aren't the tiny 8% the government says -- they're nearly half of all Americans (labor force participation doesn't count children or seniors). Of those who are working, most fall under categories A, B, or C, and shouldn't actually be counted as employed.

There are only a tiny few producers in the world, and our income inequality expresses that truth quite clearly. Some people make billions, because they're the only people actually doing anything in the world today. Everyone else's labor is virtually worthless, which is why they're paid virtually nothing in comparison to these high earners, and they'd do just as well to stay home and leave it to the high income elites than to work at all.

We cannot produce more 'producers,' because their production relies on capital which is limited. Only so many people can own scarce goods and turn them into vast earnings -- be they the most entertaining video game on the market everyone wishes to play, or the best car manufacturer, or an oil field, or the company that gets contracts from the government due to the best lobbying, these are all natural monopolies that competitors cannot enter. There's no use making a bad car no one will buy -- you cannot enter the top 10% without pulling down and destroying a previous top 10% -- it's a game of musical chairs. Wealth, success, prosperity, however you want to term it, is a shell game that goes nowhere. One man's fotune is another's loss, because they claim the consumer dollars that would have otherwise gone elsewhere.

The only way to make the world richer is to improve technology, and, strangely enough, scientists and mathematicians are some of the lowest paid people in the country. So the only people who are genuinely doing any good in the world don't get any recognition for it at all. The people who do receive recognition are just the beneficiaries of monopolies. And the people who get spat on as 'losers' are just helpless cogs in the grinding machine that is capitalism, which has placed them in a position of low pay, no work, and no status because that is the best place for them -- they would just muck up the gears if they tried to interfere.

I don't have any problem with a capitalist system that generates a vast amount of wealth dealing people out unequal hands. What I do have a problem with, however, is demeaning and insulting people who are doing the best they can, and can't do any better, in the environment they've been placed, and are the least happy and most suffering class in the country. Charles Murray's low blow to the weakest and most vulnerable class in this country, unattached unemployed men, just smacks of smugness and snobbery. He could've just rewritten his article into a single sentence:

"Dear young white males, I hate you."

Well, thanks a lot. Right back at you, Charles.

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