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New Jobs Emerge

In a post a few weeks ago I envisioned a future for middle-class job growth in light of the contraction of American manufacturing employment. By leveraging the power of the internet, a wide range of services may spring up in which experts aid laypeople in navigating complicated systems such as health insurance and college selection:

Value added intermediation is the rationale for a whole range of services that entrepreneurs will be building in coming years.  You might have a family tech agent that for some reasonable fee reviews and manages your communications life: helping you select the right phone package for your family’s patterns and needs, advising you about major electronic purchases, making sure you get the most out of your equipment and software, serving as your tech back up and troubleshooting.  When something goes wrong you don’t call New Delhi; you call the people down the street.

These jobs of the future are already beginning to appear; a new report in the Washington Post describes a rapid increase in demand for home-based health personnel as seniors try to avoid nursing homes. Right now, it’s mostly relatively poorly paid home aides, but the potential for a broader range of better paid jobs is clearly there.  The phenomenon of trained professionals who work directly with their clients on a personal basis is becoming increasingly common; this service revolution will increasingly create rewarding jobs while improving our lives.

Manufacturing fundamentalists see these jobs as “fluff”; if you aren’t bashing pig iron you aren’t doing anything worthwhile.

Wrong.  The fact that fewer people have to spend their lives growing food and making widgets means that more people can spend time making life better and richer.  It’s called progress and, while it’s sometimes unsettling, it’s a good thing.

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  • Richard F. Miller

    On national security grounds alone, there is something to be said for the “manufacturing fundamentalists.” Perhaps some future federal government will decide (as they do now in a more limited fashion) that our security oriented production interests require subsidizing.

    Your point on white collar derivative jobs is sound. But only if they are established on a proprietary basis and also are exportable. The point of “manufacturing fundamentalism” is that the U.S. should be making something, rather selling, reselling, and re-re-selling the same goods/services to the same market. At bottom, there must be a source of original wealth.

    It is for that reason that (for now) the only war I’d wage with China is that over patent and copyright protections for U.S. products abroad.

  • Mrs. Davis

    The problem with these jobs is that they are not subject to substantial improvements in productivity. That is what leads to higher standards of living. But if the government is kept out of them, unlike health care and education, perhaps there may be an opportunity for productivity gains in the future.

    In any case, Michael Barone is calling the bluer model the Midwest model.

  • Joe

    A friend of mine (recent college grad) is starting up a “tour planning website” for the Milwaukee, WI area. Who knows if it’ll take off or not, but if you look at something like Groupon or Living Social, there’s certainly a precedent there. So there you go.

  • WigWag

    Got it! Professor Mead thinks America will still lead the free world when former auto workers, school teachers, college professors, lawyers and construction workers make a living in the “new” economy changing adult diapers, emptying colostomy bags and dispensing medicines to senior citizens no longer capable of taking care of themselves.

    Perhaps he can answer a question; where are these new valued added health care intermediators supposed to get their own health insurance?

    One thing that blue states like New York and red states like Texas have in common is that it is either too expensive or completely impossible to buy an individual health insurance as an individual. Obamacare fixes this but we all know how popular Obamacare is amongst the red state crowd who is hoping the law is overturned in the courts.

    So there we have it; Professor Mead’s vision of the future – Ph.d.s changing the diapers on seniors yet unable to get health insurance themselves.

    I wonder when the former Professors are spoon feeding invalids what the high school drop outs are going to do.

  • Jim.

    Well, if Dr. WigWag doesn’t like spoonfeeding invalids, perhaps he shouldn’t have gotten his doctorate in a major ending in “studies”. Engineering PhD’s are doing just fine, thanks very much.

    Anyway, I think Mead is on to something. Face time cannot be outsourced. Good English is tougher to outsource than offshore-happy call center bosses expect. And people need a purpose in life, even if it’s chasing that next few dollars. The London Riots have given us a very handy example of what happens when you give everything to people, except usefulness.

    And what’s WigWag’s problem with the nuts and bolts health care in any case? Colostomy bags need emptying, one way or another.

    The alternative is a return to the 50’s, with women’s work in the home extending upwards in the generations as well as downwards. Would solve our unemployment problem and our family collapse problem, all at once.

  • Kenneth P. Katz

    The new jobs that Professor Mead describes are consumption. Consumption is good and a healthy economy must have it, in fact without it what would be the point of an economy? But before wealth can be consumed it must be produced. The American economy is very good at consumption, but decreasingly good at wealth production. You can produce wealth in many ways (technological innovation, manufacturing, mining, farming, fishing, etc.), but one way or another wealth must be produced before it can consumed or the economy is not sustainable.

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