Re: Fix unemployment

Mike Linksvayer (
Fri, 4 Sep 1998 01:11:37 -0400

On Fri, Sep 04, 1998 at 12:42:46PM +0000, Damien Broderick wrote:
> As people have remarked before, iirc, the black drug
> culture of inner American cities is not just about getting money to live
> on, it's about creating a meaningful social order, a working power
> hierarchy, all that mafia Godfather stuff - and it apparently isn't working
> all that well even in those terms.

No doubt participation in illegal drug cultures does give participants, and not only inner city blacks, a sense of purpose. However, the culture revolving around illegal commerce and associated violence is almost entirely a creature of prohibition. Note the lack of a criminal culture based on the distribution of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. End crack/heroin/marijuana/etc. prohibition and those involved will move on to other pursuits, some of them constructive, just as those involved in the illegal alcohol trade moved on after the end of that prohibition. If you cannot see this happening, you may consider questioning your racial prejudices.

I see unemployment as a) not much of a problem (the labor market is quite tight in the US), b) easy to make less of a problem (increase labor market flexibility), and c) impossible to do much about in the long term if technology makes the skills of most or all humans virtually worthless.

How can we address the alienation and purposelessness that appears to run rampant, particularly through impoverished sectors of society? As a culture, we could put less emphasis on material wealth. We could start by refusing to glamorize the rich and famous and the products they promote. We could also promote the idea that one can find personal value in things other than material wealth -- wisdom, love, art, even several of the Extropian Principles.

Politically, we could adopt a "help the poor first" set of libertarian policies -- end the drug war, eliminate taxes that fall hardest on the poor (e.g. the payroll tax), and kill corporate pork -- before even considering pushing for policies that are perceived as only benefitting the rich or only harming the poor, such as eliminating capital gains taxes or eliminating welfare. Inequality may not be morally wrong, but it is a major problem, if only because leftists claim to have solutions, and that makes leftism very appealing to many people. Libertarians typically ignore or even celebrate inequality.

As noted regarding the illegal drug culture, participating in a culture does give one's life meaning. Our society places far too much emphasis on participating in culture vicariously through consumer purchases and commercial entertainment. Obviously poor people have a hard time keeping up, although based on the number of poor people I see who look as though they have spent a large portion of their incomes becoming walking corporate billboards, they really feel the need to try to keep up. I would like to let people know that participating in culture created from the bottom up could be considerably more rewarding, empowering, and less expensive than aping movie and sports stars.

Mike Linksvayer