Once in a while I accumulate a little pile of articles worth sharing, but which don’t fit with others. Here is the latest.
The oldest is from over a year ago, but still pertinent: “Apps Are Helping to Gut the Restaurant Industry” (Greg Bensinger, The New York Times, December 8th 2020). The author related how the likes of DoorDash, UberEats, and Grubhub, which bring restaurant food to customers, are charging those places “30 percent or higher per order,” often too high for eatery profitability. Although this is a classic free-market situation, where the app companies can charge what they want and their two sets of customers can govern themselves accordingly, some cities and states have put limits on fees. If this service is too expensive, it will not be used, and, as it is hardly necessary to life or prosperity, that is fine. Meanwhile, if people are willing to pay, say, $10 to have a pizza brought to them, why should they be denied?
When commentators call for more job training, they are often vague about how it should work. In the April 7th New York Times, Steve Lohr got more specific in “Job Training That’s Free Until You’re Hired Is a Blueprint for Biden.” A good idea, and puts pressure on training organizations to ensure what they offer can lead to actual opportunities, but could get them too many students, so if so they would emerge with admission requirements. The schools would be forced to care, validating the article’s last four words: “They fight for you.”
As well, and not contradictorily, per David Epstein in Slate on April 27th, “General Education Has a Bad Rap.” In the late 1970s when I was in college there was a great controversy on whether that should mainly be for mind-furnishing, the choice I made, or for vocational preparation. Early in the next decade the careerists won, accounting became the most popular undergraduate major, and since then the names of some majors have looked like those for week-long corporate classes. The conflict, though, seems too timeless to go away forever, and it’s revisited here. Points in favor of learning less focused subjects Epstein made include excessively early specialization, problems when targeted careers end early or do not materialize at all, inflexibility, and narrower life experiences. As someone who took undergraduate courses in 15 different departments and eventually had careers in a 16th and 17th, I am biased, but doubt that was unique.
On October 8th in the New York Times, Peter Coy told us that “Tech Jobs Are Everywhere Now.” His now-data-backed claim was that, with more remote work, such positions are becoming less concentrated, with employees “moving all over the place.” That trend will not last forever, as the pendulum between home and office has moved back and forth since Clinton was president, but it is good for potential employees to know, as they are more likely to get started, from their hometowns, now.
We see far more material on how women are suffering, both from the pandemic and for other reasons, so in a way it’s refreshing to learn something about “How Men Burn Out” (Jonathan Malesic, The New York Times, January 4th). While less burdened by childcare, men are still under real pressure to be main or often only breadwinners, “are much less likely than women to talk about it,” and still too often buy in to career success as a proxy for personal worth. Extra-hours tasks and off-hours contacts make that worse, and it is clear that employers, who pay a real tangible and intangible price when their workers burn out, have choices to make here. That, if you include valuing less career-focused education, ties these five pieces together.