Straight, no chaser:
The May 18th New York Times included KJ Dell’Antonia’s “How High School Ruined Leisure.” The author is a novelist, but this story was hardly fiction. It showed us more about how we are implementing what in the 20th century could have been called the Japanese model: very difficult high school followed by much easier college, and subsequent professional opportunities often circumscribed by the university attended. Dell’Antonia correctly described what were once called extracurricular activities, often in sports or music, as the students’ de facto careers, making these ventures no longer “leisure,” and could have cited Mark Twain describing work as “whatever a body is obliged to do.” After the former great structuredness of their lives, young people often arrive in college with no idea of what they really like to do when taking a break from preparing for their futures, so will need to develop that life skill.
A question for 2019, “What even is a data-obsessed, project-juggling digital ninja?,” was the subtitle of a piece in the June Atlantic. Here in “America’s Job Listings Have Gone Off the Deep End,” author Amanda Mull chronicled “the obnoxious state of the modern job listing,” with perplexing and intense-seeming requirements of which the above are only a few examples. I stopped off after a page or so to wonder if employers could really identify whether a prospective worker, or even someone on the job, was an “online warrior” or had “a passion for incredible customer service,” then saw the real problem with this sort of thing, that they are going to end up with a heavy share of the applicants they want the most, those young and male. It is sad that, in an age where bogus accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and so on are almost ubiquitous, the true discrimination here, until this article, has gone unnoticed. This is old wine in a new bottle, with ever more shameless emphasis on workaholism, and, if as Mull finished, top salaries and flexible labor practices are still lacking, ultimately “few people” will “seem to want to do the duties of a rock star if they’re not going to get paid like one.”
Eric Ravenscraft, in the June 5th New York Times, broached an issue I have called a real problem with setting minimum legal pay rates, “What a ‘Living Wage’ Actually Means.” He started with understatement, writing that “the definition” of that “can get muddy,” then told those somehow unaware that different geographical areas require different amounts of money. The piece was biased toward a high base living standard, and did not touch the reality of people having varying wants or even needs, but I was glad to see this headline.
A June 6th Niskanen Center piece, the basis for a related Salon article, considered “The Economics of a Job Guarantee: Wage and Employment Effects.” Author Ed Dolan might have been channeling my AJSN when he named as the first point in favor of assured employment “a gap between the number of people now working and the number who would work if jobs were available at a living wage.” Also the “pay gap,” any difference between what employers are offering and the most they could, and “a public service gap,” or the value of tasks that people working such jobs would do above what they would cost. Although Dolan, through his selection of sources, made some rather fanciful statements such as companies having “business models that require that their workers live in abject poverty” and “the minimum wage has little or no discernible effect on the employment prospects of low-wage workers,” he considered possible problems, such as a too-high guaranteed starting wage rate pulling away low-paid government workers, and acknowledged that, much or most of the time, the public service gap would be negative. His muted conclusion that “there are many reasons to question how large a role guaranteed jobs should play” constituted an objection from the left, which does not bode well for this idea.
Did you know that, per The Motley Fool’s Daniel B. Kline, in USA Today on June 9th, “many Americans have had a work spouse”? Kline used that phrase to describe strong workplace friendships with people of “the gender you’re attracted to,” which he found that 44% of men and a hair over half of women have had. While most have told their romantic partners about their work spouses, many have also lied, and it has been common for such pairings to “lead to full-blown emotional affairs” and, not rarely, even to physical ones. It is adaptive for people to form personal or semi-personal relationships at a place where people spend much of their time, but the real problem is that the closer and therefore more effective they are, the greater the danger. So, unless you are unattached or your relationship is open, watch your step here.
That’s it – no bar bill either.