Tell all your “Objectivist” friends and the libertarian gang at Reason magazine to break out the champagne. Americans may have skipped the movie of Atlas Shrugged, nor have many read any of Ayn Rand’s works, but they have taken the author’s advice anyway and gone John Galt, quitting the work force in record numbers. According to Zero Hedge, the latest figures show the labor participation rate at 35 year low.
Realistically, it’s even more than 35 because that figure reflects an employment bump when larger numbers of women joined the work force in the seventies and eighties. (They’re gone now, with or without Gloria Steinem.)
Currently a record 91.8 million Americans are no longer looking for work. That’s almost one and a half times the entire population of France.
Although I admit to libertarian tendencies, I don’t think any of us can celebrate because of this. It’s an economic disaster that should be blowing even Chris Christie off the front pages.
In fact, it’s much worse than that. It’s a human emotional disaster. Freud may have been wrong about a number of things, but he was right about this. Two mainstays that get us through life, other than religion, which Freud didn’t cotton to, are “love and work.” I don’t know about love, but the work part of our lives has been brutally kicked out from under us in the Obama years.
The implications of this are actually terrifying. What are those nearly 92 million people doing with their time, other than sitting around depressed?. Many, of course, are on some version of welfare. Some are panhandling. We see the homeless on the streets of all our big cities. Others are moving into a shadow economy, much of it illegal (drugs, prostitution), not paying taxes on whatever they earn. It’s truly a sad situation. No wonder so many states are moving toward legalizing grass. Everyone wants to zone out.
This is rapidly approaching a a pre-revolutionary condition, but not for a revolution many of us would want to undergo. To avoid it, a massive change must occur at the federal level. But Barack Obama, mired in a dead ideology, doesn’t seem prepared to do anything but prolong the situation with highly conventional liberal solutions that have failed for decades, maybe even centuries.
And yet there is so much he could do. The most obvious, many of us know, is to unshackle the energy industry. He should dismantle much of the bureaucracy as well. There’s a lot more, of course. But the point now is to realize that when you have nearly 92 million people deserting the labor force in a country of 317 million (many of who are children too young to work), you have a catastrophic problem on your hands.
And finally, let’s do away forever with the silly unemployment statistic (as in today’s 6.7% unemployed). It has no relevance to anything and is a form of disinformation. The labor participation rate is the true story.
Update: “The Obama jobs recovery in one handy chart” added atop post.