A Non-Essential Economy – The American Conservative

Over the summer, these flyers began appearing all over town. “We are desperately looking for school bus drivers!” they say. “For more information, call…”

With the school year about to begin, I doubt they will fill these positions. And just between us, I hope they don’t. I have this vision of Ron Paul laughing maniacally as the Department of Education crumbles because they don’t know how to get your 17 year old to the nearest daycare.

But employers everywhere are struggling to fill low-wage, part-time jobs. Many businesses that have survived Covid are now having to cut their hours or close completely due to ‘labour shortages’. On Tuesday, my wife and I took our daughter to visit my parents, and they offered to take out for takeout. three restaurants we called closed because they couldn’t find enough help. I’m sure the same thing has happened to you, dear reader, at least once in the past few months.

But where does this “shortage” come from?

At first glance, the numbers don’t really make sense. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is now back to pre-Covid levels. The employment rate for teenagers is slightly upper than it was in February 2020.

The problem is that these BLS statistics do not account for “missing workers”: people who are neither employed nor actively seeking work. According to a government study, there are more than two million missing workers in the United States today, although the true number is almost certainly higher. This means that about one in a hundred adults have simply decided that they no longer want a job. And it’s a safe bet that the majority of them are under 30 years old.

Hence the labor shortage.

Now think about it. We are enjoying the worst economy since the 1970s. We could soon find ourselves in the worst economy since the 1930s. You would expect to see young men standing on the side of the road with signs that say, “Will Work for Food”. And yet, the opposite has happened. In fact, they quit their jobs and they don’t look for new ones. .

Last year, my colleague Micah Meadowcroft chronicled the rise of NEET culture. NEET means “not working, studying or taking training”. NEETs are young men (and women, but mostly men) breaking free from the chains of wage slavery. They happily resign themselves to mopping up their parents and/or the nanny state. Meadowcroft began his article by quoting their fight anthem:

Wagie wagie enter cagie. All day you sweat and rage. NEET is comfortable. NEET is cool. NEET is free from work and school. Wagie trapped and wagie dies. NEET eats tendies, gravy and fries.

Among those who don’t yet have the guts to go full NEET, we now have the phenomenon of ‘leaving quietly’. As one TikToker explained, “You don’t quit your job completely, but you give up on the idea of ​​going beyond. You still perform your duties, but you no longer mentally subscribe to the culture of hustle according to which work must be our life.

In my years working in restaurants and retail (on and off from 2013-2017), I have never met anyone who believed work should be our life. There were no doe-eyed loyalists whose hearts skipped a beat every time we got a memo from headquarters.

We knew how the game played, of course. If you wanted to go anywhere in the business, you had to at least to pretend to be a businessman. On the day of the inventory, you were working double shifts. At Christmas, you wore antlers or an elf hat, and you did it with a smile.

But we don’t care about getting promotions because neither of us wanted to work in retail. We all expected to find a better job in a year or two. Also, we knew that our “career progression” was limited to store manager. All of those earning more than $50,000 were outside employees with a Penn State business degree. So we spent the inventory day smoking behind the dumpsters. And we certainly weren’t carrying the antlers.

That said, I don’t think NEETs and quiet givers dismiss the idea of ​​hard work. They have three more worthy enemies.

The first is how employees are regularly degraded by their employers. The silly little costumes they make you wear on vacation are just the start. Ask anyone who has worked as a salesperson or waiter. If a customer starts chewing on you because there aren’t enough parking spots or their coupons expired in 2003, you’re expected to smile and take the abuse. You have no dignity. You have no rights.

Second, there is the fact that for many young people there is little chance of ever find decent work. About 20% of American workers work in retail and hospitality. That doesn’t include other dead-end jobs like walking dogs or driving for Uber. Many of the young people who dominate these industries are saddled with unnecessary degree of debt that they didn’t really want in the first place. Their highest goal in life is to get a purple underlight on their 2011 Honda Civic. Ask them about buying a home and watch their eyes widen. You might as well offer to check their thetan levels.

Third, NEETers and silent quitters refuse to get excited about jobs they know are completely useless. And here we come to the heart of all this madness. It doesn’t matter if they slack off or stay home, because their “work” doesn’t really need to be done. Their jobs don’t make sense because the jobs themselves are bullshit.

Think about it. Countries experience a labor shortage when a third of their able-bodied young men are killed in a war or wiped out by disease or something like that. But not ours. We are the first company to experience a labor shortage simply because workers are choosing not to work.

What is amazing is that they get away with it. The economy is not at a standstill. Lazy people don’t starve in the streets. Some just hang around their parents’ house. Others share a studio with four other welfare queens.

How can this be?

The answer is quite simple. During Covid, we started dividing our compatriots into two categories: essential workers and non-essential workers. Now that these have been officially declared useless, they are starting to act like this.

Put it like this. When the Covid pandemic started in 2020, the government started ordering businesses to close. They also beefed up welfare benefits and handed out Trump Bucks to help people get by. In other words, they paid the pizza delivery guy. not deliver pizza.

Eventually the lockdown orders began to ease, until they ended completely. Now the pizza delivery boy is wondering, “Why shouldn’t the government keep paying me for not doing my job?” If my work is “non-essential”, why should I do it? And I’m not sure we have a good answer for him.

That’s why I say Andrew Yang is the most important politician of our time. Mr. Yang would give everyone in the country a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $12,000 a year to start with. He’s more than a pizza boy who works 20 hours a week for $11 an hour. Why force him to do useless, degrading, dead-end work when we couldn’t?

Some say a UBI would discourage people from pursuing essential jobs. But the police make about $55,000. Registered nurses earn on average more than $70,000 per year. They deserve more, of course. But I don’t think RNs are going to take an 85% pay cut just so they can stay home and watch TV.

A UBI would prevent us from solving the “labour shortage” in retail and hospitality. But is it such a bad thing? Does every town in America need three pizzerias, two burger joints, and a Chinese restaurant? I mean, for most of our country’s history, few cities even had a pizzeria. It may sound hard to believe, but it’s true! And yet we got away with it. Not only have we survived, but we have thrived. We invented jazz. We beat the Nazis. We put a man on the moon.

So maybe we looked at this the wrong way. If employers can’t afford to pay their employees a living wage, they may not be able to afford to do business.

The problem is not “non-essential workers”. This is our non-essential economy. It’s the fact that many (if not most) of us are doing work that doesn’t really need to be done.

To be clear, I don’t support UBI. My vision is even more radical: a society in which every man can support a family by doing a useful task or making a useful thing. This contrasts with the current system, where 99% of the wealth is owned by men who do evil things (like investment banking) and create evil things (like Facebook).

Either way, “non-essential work” has no future in this country. It is a historical anomaly, which is rapidly disappearing from the earth. All we can do now is find real jobs for these young men. We can pay them to do real work, like farming or carpentry. Otherwise, they will vote for politicians who pay them to do nothing at all.

Admittedly, we may have to settle for just one pizzeria per city. We may even have to pick up our own orders. Yet, I believe in the intelligence and resilience of the American people. One way or another, one day we will find a way.

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