The Bright Side of Unemployment

Fifth in an ongoing series about the deeper reasons behind the difficulty of finding work

Don’t jump off any tall buildings yet.  Despite the abundant Direness, things are less bleak than they appear.  The problem may present as though we’ve run out of a scarce resource –namely jobs, particularly meaningful ones –but viewed from the proper perspective, it becomes clear that we are in fact suffering from an overabundance of a different resource –namely human labor.  And an overabundance is a better kind of problem to deal with than scarcity.

It may seem hard to believe that this could be a problem at all.  After all, the imagination is staggered by the sheer volume of worthy projects in need of more workers.  Desert reclamation, space travel, teaching in the inner city, bridge building, planting trees, the list goes on and on.  Yet the things that need done rarely seem to get matched up with the people who need things to do.

You can’t just throw the people and the projects into a jar and shake it up to see what settles out.  You need a system –a system with the following characteristics:

  1. It creates jobs:  Your Employment-Creation System (ECS) must have a deep (ideally endless) supply of projects that need to be completed.
  2. It distributes jobs: Your system needs a way to match people with projects.
  3. It makes jobs meaningful:  Most importantly, your system must provide a unified larger context for its workers that motivates them to complete their assigned tasks.

For those readers with an economics background, it may seem like there are some important things missing from this list:  Supply and demand, channels of distribution,  methods of production, and so forth and so on.  But what I’m describing here is not a economic system, but rather an Employment-Creation System.  For example, here in the United States, our economic system is Capitalism, but our employment-creation system is Consumerism.  Capitalism provides the overall system, but Consumerism generates the majority of the jobs.

NEXT WEEK:  A closer look at Consumerism.

I’m bright, talented, hardworking, well-educated and have good social skills. Why can’t I find a job? After I graduated from college I worked for about two years for a small company, but they went under over a year ago. Since then I’ve been pounding the pavement with no results. I couldn’t even land a retail job I’m overqualified for. What the [CENSORED] is going on?*

Dear Jobless,

In the smaller picture, you may be doing something wrong –looking for the wrong kinds of opportunities, not projecting a professional image, showing up for your job interview with spinach in your teeth –something that can be fixed. It’s quite probable there are specific practical steps you can take that would lead you to finding and obtaining a job you would be very happy with, at a nice salary, with friendly, cheerful coworkers. That’s all possible in the smaller picture.

This is a philosophy column, however, and the big picture has less to do with your brightness, your talents, your work ethic, your education, or your ability to carry on a conversation and chew gum at the same time, and more to do with the impending –some would say ongoing –collapse of our society’s economic system.

I am not an economist, nor do I play one on television, but there are three current trends that require neither a Harvard degree nor a psychic sixth sense to read as warnings of dire consequences ahead. Understanding them might just be your last best chance at a brighter future.

NEXT WEEK: Dire Trend # 1