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17 August 2006

The Slack is Back

According to the "keep it loose, keep it light" crew of cheerleaders at the Today Show,
the slacker concept is making a comeback.
Apparent voluntary unemployment has been observed in American adult males by people in the social sciences.
I'm sure if they look they'll find a few female slackers too.
I say apparent because I am strongly of the opinion that the methods of guesstimating
unemployment that are used by government agencies and apparently many scholars,
are simply fraudulent.
Part of the reason for this is the use of a fraudulent definition of voluntary.
The unemployment statistics from official sources are based on a definition
of an unemployed person as an unemployment insurance-eligible worker
(which is to say a worker who has broken out of the rut that is the contingency labor market)
whose strategy for getting re-employed includes using the placement services of the unemployment insurance system.

An intellectually honest estimate of employment would have the following features:

  • u=1-(p-j)/p,
    where u is the unemployment rate (on a scale of 0 to 1--multiply by 100 for percent),
    p is the number of working age adults in the economy,
    and j is the 'effective' number of occupied full time jobs in the economy.

  • Adults who are dependents of others can be subtracted from p only if the voluntary nature of their nonparticipation
    in the workforce can be verified.

  • Filling a permanent full time job with benefits increases j by 1.
    Filling some other type of job increases j by some number between 0 and 1.
    Terminating (with or without cause) decreases j according to the same pro rating schema.

  • In general, a 20 hour per week part time job should be considered 0.5 of a job.

  • Likewise for a 6 month per year seasonal job.

  • A job that pays 0.5 times poverty line also counts as half a job.
    I suggest using the number of minors divided by the number of working-age
    adults as the number of dependents for calculating poverty line.
    The amount of intellectual dishonesty in the official definition of the poverty line
    and the CPI is also legendary...that however will be dealt with in a later post.

  • A job w/o bennies counts as a full job (1.0 jobs) only if the compensation exceeds the poverty line
    by enough to buy bennies, at non-group rates if necessary.

  • Jobs requiring overtime do not count as >1.0 jobs,
    because unemployment is not a measure of how
    much labor is being utilized, but how many laborers the market is failing to utilize.
    Frankly, unemployment (and its evil twin underemployment) is an indicator of market failure, not personal failure.

The Today piece, of course, is a condemnation of individuals, not the system,
toward which "they don't bark and they don't bite."
Apparently the new nonworking class is into cybercafés, particularly the two
activities of drinking coffee and surfing the web.
This, I suppose, is par for the course for the morning babblefest that regularly
features financial sector cheerleader Jean Chatzky, who preaches retirement preparation
through coffee denial. Don't forget Murphy's law, the one that states:
"A penny saved is a penny."
Coffee and tea have always been popular with economically marginalized groups.
I believe this is due to the popular belief that caffeine acts as an appetite suppressant,
making hunger more tolerable.
Read Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier for a fuller discussion of this.
The Internet appeals to marginalized people in general,
including the ideologically as well as the economically marginalized,
because (in spite of the damage done to its innocence and honesty by the Clinton-Gore-era commercialization)
it is still noticeably less main$tream and prostituted than any other means of communication so far.
For the record, I drink only cheap store brand coffee.
If you want to lecture me about fair trade coffee, hire me first.
I access the Internet only at the public library.
Perhaps in the part of the country where the Today show piece was filmed, the
suffocation of the public sector is even more complete than it is here,
so people have to fork $ into the hands of the cybercafé industry.
Hopefully at least they're patronizing the non-chain joe joints.

Main$tream media types seem puzzled that some might find participation in the economy
as an employed or self employed person is not sufficiently palatable.
Main$tream media types themselves are of course employed. The on-camera ones for the most
part seem to be gainfully employed, although the number of back office media jobs outsourced
or otherwise deprofessionalized or contingentized I would imagine is steadily increasing
as it seems to be in all industries. People who work in visible parts
of the main$tream media are clearly de facto prostitutes, which is probably why they
don't get it about the fact that normal people trying to survive in the real world consider the current economic situation
in America (not to mention the quality of life situation in general) to suck.

The trend from gainful (permanent, full-time, benefits)
to marginal (or 'contingent,' as the HR and PR whores call it) employment
has done much to shift the labor-management balance of power even more decisively in favor of management.
There are other labor market trends, probably also structural, which are just as unmistakable:

  • The continuing deprofessionalization of scholars.
    For a detailed accounting of this trend, see the Invisible Adjunct website.
    It's been frozen (made read-only) but last I checked it was still there.
    It's a good read.
    With dramatically fewer jobs to be had in academia, the percentage of intelligent jobs outside the intelligence sector is plummeting.

  • The explosion of the so-called dot com bubble (freeing up talent in the information sciences),
    followed by the Ultimate Pretext (9/11) for
    the further authoritarianization of society. The deprofessionalization of scholars
    slashes opportunities for nonproprietary research. Then the bubble bursts in commercial
    opportunities in math and computer science, mostly opportunities subject to proprietary controls over
    knowledge and the people who create it, but opportunities nevertheless.
    Then the inevitable happens (see Toffler, forgot whether it
    was "Third Wave" or "Future Shock") and the pretext for dumb (i.e. main$tream) Americans to regard
    civil liberties and transparancy as things as luxuries the world can no longer afford.
    Now an even larger share of the jobs for technical professionals are classified.

  • Main$tream media types like to make a lot of hay about American workers
    having a sense of entitlement and considering themselves "above" menial work.
    I can't speak for Americans in general, but I certainly am not above doing low-skill work.
    I no longer have my resume on the "public" portion of the Internet, but I
    can assure you I have yet to score a job title more impressive than data entry.
    Non-college-type job descriptions in general are being more or less totally
    obliterated from all first world economies. Being a "lunchpail Plato"
    is no longer a viable alternative to accepting professional roles
    in (usually significant) service to austere and cynical (and in my opinion murderous) agendas such as Hobbesianism and Straussianism.

  • The combination of immigration policies and security clearance policies definitely amplifies these trends.
    This has been clearly visible at least since the mid 1980's, when I was an undergraduate math student.
    The large number of visas for international graduate students intensifies the competition over graduate
    school admission.
    United States citizenship as a requirement for a security clearance, combined with ma$$ive Reagan-era
    defense industry giveaways, meant Americans with BS and higher technigal degrees
    had no good reason (other than a value system that values published over secret research)
    and certainly no economic incentive to continue their education further, and non-citizens
    (especially in hopelessly spooky fields such as aerospace engineering) are barred
    from the lion's share of non-academic technical jobs.
    This is ironic considering that in the present campaign to exploit the so-called unipolar moment,
    non-citizens are literally earning their citizenship in American military uniforms.

As usual the main$tream media whores blame individuals,
for the shortcomings of the System, which is clearly beyond repair.
They need to learn from Bob Black:

If you're not rebelling against work,
you're working against rebellion.

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