Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Why is it so hard to find a job in almost every country in the world? One answer, of course, is that there are simply too many people chasing too few jobs. But as we saw in the introduction to this section, there was a time in America when the problem was that there were to few people with too many jobs. One thing is certain and that is that there is never a shortage of things to be done.

If you were to go to a typical third world country, say, in Africa. The thing that strikes you is the sheer number of things that need to be done. People are living in squalor. Most of them, from young to old, are sick much of the time, some with very serious diseases. They live in huts made of anything they have at hand. In the midst of a steaming jungle, they have no potable drinking water. They are always hungry and starvation is common. And yet, when you inquire about jobs, you discover that 60, maybe even 80% of their people are unemployed. Furthermore, they seem to lack any sort of initiative and even energy to do very much. They are largely dependent on outsiders. Charities provide them with food, dig the wells for their water, provide whatever medical care they receive, and give them what few educational materials they might have. Foreign governments, usually the US build the power plants they have to provide a modicum of modernity. The people seem curiously passive. They are interested in religion, but their religion seems unable to motivate them to save themselves even in this life, much less the next. They seem unable to do anything for themselves.

Of course, it is not quite so bad in the US, but it certainly seems headed in that direction. This is particularly true when you reflect that earlier in the history of our country, except in times of recession or "panic" jobs were readily available. Katherine Hepburn, in an interview describing her career, says of the time when she was young, "Getting a job was easy, anybody could get a job. Keeping it was what was hard." The journalist/economist, Henry Hazlitt, says almost the same thing in his story about how he became a newspaper man. He had started college, but the dealth of his father had made it necessary to find work to help support the family. He said he could always find a job. Men were eager to hire anyone they could find, but, he quickly discovered that he had a harder time actually doing the job than he had guessed so he lost one job after another until he finally found one working for a newspaper. He began, of course, doing menial work, and soon progressed to become a top notch reporter--a job, with the exception of a brief stint as an editor, that he held the rest of his very productive life.

The point here is that something has obviously changed. Today, the difficulty lies in finding a job. But once you have found it, your employer has a hard time firing you. The problem, of course, in our society, indeed, in almost every society of the modern world, is that we have burdened jobs to the point that it is a wonder that finding a job in any country is not as difficult as it is in that African nation. An employer who hires someone is getting a horrible burden. He is responsible for his health care. He has to provide for vacation and holiday pay. He has to pay taxes to take care of the employee for a period of time if he finds he has to lay him off. At one of my places of work they posted the notice of requirements for the environment. They had to provide restrooms, of course, but there were numerous other things. The two that I remember was that the floors had to be "tight", whatever that means, and the required drinking fountains had to have an arc of at least two inches.

The addition of every burden on a job, of course, reduces the number of available jobs. But, more seriously, it makes those in the society more passive, more dependent. The motivation for promising others that they will be "taken care of" is that those who make those promises will themselves be "taken care of" in addition to adding to their power and control. They live at the expense of others. It is this conviction, the conviction that it is alright to live at the expense of others that we will explore in future discussions.

1 comment:

Nathaniel Gee said...

Dad, I agree with the general points of this piece but do not agree with your bleak outlook of the availability of jobs, nor on the ability of jobs to fire people. Today it was anouced that unemployment hit a 5 year high at 6.1%. I don't know exactly how this is calculated but I assume that means that 93.9% of those that want to work have a job. I would also submit that of those 6.1% many are choosing unemployment because the job with the right salery is unavailable, they refuse to move to a location were jobs exist, or they refuse to try a new feild in which jobs are more plentiful. Also I am pleased to annouce that in the open market it is still easy to fire people, my company does it almost everyday. When I signed on to work here they made it very clear that they never garentee any work and can fire me at anytime, I have seen this carried out not just in layoffs due to lack of work but due to firing due to personal performance.