Mr. R. Kay asks cogently: "So what exactly were these people doing from 1929-1941, or for that matter from 1969-1982?" [Or 2001-2011 and beyond, we might add. - MEM]As a tautology, the government tallies people they can count. They want people punching time clocks and getting paychecks from corporations. These "downsizings" have been going on since the mid- to late-1990s. I was still writing articles for business magazines about "Quality Circles" and stuff like that when it was obvious that things were not well. In 2001, I was still getting $40 per hour as a technical writer. But realize that since 1984, I was a contractor, always on someone else's books, as GM, Ford, and a dozen small companies kept reducing their declared overheads, by contracting out. So, they might be billed, but it did not show up as payroll, but as services.
Also, the government limit is 40 hours per week at minimum wage. Less than that, and you don't tally, even if -- as is often the case, you might have three part-time jobs.
I just put in a proposal that was accepted to teach a class in numismatics at my community college's continuing education department. I will make great money ... for five weeks... And I won't be in the employment figures announced by the government.
In addition, people work for "themselves" i.e. for informal markets. They trade favors. This theory of "inflation and the craftsman" goes back to libertarian thought in the 1970s. Last year at this time, my car needed a radiator. It seemed pretty easy, but it's not what I do. So, I paid a kid who was dating the daughter of a woman who worked with my wife to help me with it. See my comments elsewhere about time dollars and alternative currencies. They are just a way for local people to trade favors, which is what commerce is.
Then, there is credit. We have this big crunch since 2005, of course, but that too has antecedents, as the bankruptcy laws were re-written before 2000, so someone saw this coming. But basically, you can buy $100 in groceries and only increase your minimum payment by a few dollars. You can live for years like that and millions have and do.
eBay stands as the paradigm of informal markets. Flea markets, garage sales, they can be like the floating crap game, a temporary thing that is very permanent. Back in 98 I bought a PC from a guy who built them in his garage and advertised under "garage sales" in the local paper. Right now, there's a guy around the corner, in good weather he has a row of bicycles for sale.
WD: The latter includes any adult who is neither in the military, in prison or otherwise institutionalized... but also all full-time students, full-time housekeepers, retirees, volunteer workers ... surprisingly large 35.8% who are non-participants.Again, government numbers. That a woman's work for her home is not considered productive is an issue worth discussing, but I assure you that is worth a pretty penny to have your lunch made and packed and dinner ready when you come home to a clean house. The flip side is the guy clearing the walks and mowing the lawns. It is productive - there's firms that charge for it - but it is not counted by the government when you do it for your own home. Retirees are another problem: they are not counted, but clearly, they are spending savings and investments - and many are, indeed, working, but at less than fulltime, so they are not tallied. As awful as the prison problem is, it is still less than 1% of the population and less than 2% of the labor-eligible people. Total military active and reserve is only 2.4 million, again about 2% of the eligible popululation. And 800k are reservists who have other jobs, perhaps.
I think the numbers are right. That is what it means to be in an economic depression. We libertarians have been in denial as bad as the socialists have been on the actual consequences. Things will not get worse -- they got worse, two or three generations ago. We pretend that a million men punching timeclocks at factories is "productivity" even if what they do amounts to digging holes and filling them back up. And we ignore productive work that people do because it does not match the 19th century Marxist paradigm of "labor." But the bottom line is that socialism causes poverty and this is what it looks like.
(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 3/08, 10:12am)