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July 31, 2006


Michael Tanji

There is a three-letter word for people who are capable of working but for various self-imposed reasons opt not to. Since I’m in polite company I’ll use a longer one: unmotivated.

In this country you can go up or down the ladder, but it apparently these guys, having slipped down a few rungs, just decide to stop climbing. Heaven forbid they cut back on nap time and maybe update or gain some new skills so they can get their foot in the door somewhere. So easy to say you don’t think about the future when by your own actions you decide to not have one.

Ken Hagler

Keep in mind that just because someone doesn't show up in government employment statistics it doesn't mean that he isn't working. At least some of those people are almost certainly working on "off the books" jobs.

James Bowery

Charles Murray's "In Our Hands" has a good explanation of the phenomenon: The advent of the New Deal cum Great Society has replaced local social networks with special interest groups politicking for ever increasing transfers to their primary loyalty groups. In such a situation it increasingly pays to participate in rent seeking via the government's transfer programs and it is exceedingly difficult to do that while one is earning a subsistence living upon which one is also paying taxes.


I read somewhere that almost the opposite is true - its not that people don't want to work its that peoples expectations when they leave school are super-high to the point where they just don't want any old job.

Leaving school everyone wants to be a pop-idol, artist, dancer, web/design guru etc

Few people come out of school thinking - I want to be a plumber, builder or electrician. Which is why trades-people are turning into the new elite and can afford to charge what they like and be very picky about the work they undertake :-)

Doesn't explain lazy middle aged men though :-)

The Hook

To think of this in another way, perhaps this is an indication of the massive wealth that Americans have accumulated over the past 100 years. People can retire earlier or need only one spouse to work.

Maybe these lazy men are members of 2-person or 3-person families that do not need as much wealth to maintain a standard of living to their liking.

There are plenty of middle-aged men from my hometown that were down-sized in the early-90's with IBM that have lived a comfortable retirement since their late-40's or early-50's.

Michael Tanji

Good point Raj. Some days being an electrician or HVAC tech seems like an ideal situation. We balk at the money they charge just to show up and choke when we get the bill, but you can't live without them. Any yahoo can learn to use Web design software. Take your car to a dealership for service lately? Mechanics don't even have grease under their fingernails anymore and depending on where you live labor/hour is $100+. When you can bring home mid- to upper-five figures wearing overalls it is hard to argue that the work is beneath you.


Doesn't this phenomena also expose the ludicrous myth that everyone should go to college? If you have millions of 18 year olds going to college and being told that their incomes will be twice or three times as great as they would otherwise, only to graduate (5 to 6 years later) with an art history degree and the only job they can find is a $25,000 entry level position. This a rather harsh wake up call. A contemporary graduate is typically in debt, has few tangible skills, and is not going to earn the type of income that the individual was under the impression they would earn. 5 to 6 years where actual experience could have gotten a person ahead (while they attended school at nights,) the opportunity is wasted.

Do not misinterpret me. An entry level position is perfectly acceptable to begin learning actual skills, but when high schoolers are continually inundated with propaganda about going to a four university I can only imagine that they are somewhat disgruntled when they finally graduate.

There is nothing wrong with a trade school or an aprenticeship. Not everyone is prepared or has the capacity to be a doctor or chemical engineer. I would argue that even for a business degree it is not necessary to attend a four year liberal arts university (what's wrong with a 2 or 3 year business college and a concurrent internship?)

Might this trend be contributory factor to the "Missing Men" phenomena?



Having been out of work for an extended period because the dotBoom went dotBust, I can tell that the above folks haven't been out of work, and also that the above folks aren't over 35.

One can't get a job flipping burgers because the restaurant managers know you'll bail when the economy picks back up. To hide that, they'll use the phrase "overqualified" to turn you down.

The above posters also haven't tried to work in the construction industry, nor the restaurant industries. The reason so many illegal immigrants get hired in those industries has to do with the subcontractors/managers taking kickbacks from the illegals. On paper, they're paying $12 or so per hour, but in reality, the illegal is getting half that, and the rest is returned to sub/manager as a kickback.

When you start running into those scenarios, no amount of positive mental attitude will save you from corruption.


I do not know how the consturction industry works, but I know quite a bit about the restaurant industry (I worked at a family restaurant from 12 to 17 and managed a restaurant for two years while completing my undergrad.) Furthermore, I have been out of work (in fact a I am currently a job seeker) so I understand what it is like (yes I am under 35.)

You can get a job flipping burgers when ever you want as long as you are willing to accept the pay (which will be ~$6-$8/hour.) If you are unwilling to accept the pay, then it will be hard to gain employment. Also, what is relevant is the type of experience you have and whether or not you have gone an extended period out of work (if it is longer than 6 to 8 months, employers start asking question as to the reliability of the candidate in question.) As for the restaurant business, it is probably the best environment for temporary employment. Waiting tables is ideally suited for transitory periods and many have accepted ~$3-$6/hour + tips to make ends meet. Employers also give credit to those who have been unemployed in their field of interest, but have still found work.

I reject the criticsm of Tangurena, because everyone has gone through a period where things do not work out as expected and it is unfair to say that someone who does not have similiar experiences has not suffered (life in incredibly random and does not work out according to any plans we make.)


P.S. The "you" in my post is generic and is not intended towards any other commentators.


"The advent of the New Deal cum Great Society has replaced local social networks with special interest groups politicking for ever increasing transfers to their primary loyalty groups."

Is this process that Murray alludes to something similar to what Halliburton and other corporations have achieved in Iraq?

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