The official rate of unemployment, according to the government, is currently about 3.7%, which is very good. But John Williams’ ShadowStats website puts the unemployment rate at approximately 21%.
Well, which is it, a low 3.7% or a very high 21%?
I don’t trust the U.S. government on much. They have ways of fiddling with numbers and with reality. If half of the U.S. population died, the government take on it would be a report noting that “Housing Problem Eases Dramatically As More Homes Open Up.”
Doing some basic (very basic) Internet research, it turns out that there are about 94 million people who could be working but are not. Many of those are not working because they really don’t want to work, however. Retired people make up many millions. Another 15.3 million are ill or disabled (at least officially disabled, if not so in real life.) About 14.5 million are in school or in job training. (Again, this can be tricky. Are some of them in school because they could not find a job, or were unwilling to find a job?)
Only about 1.6 million were listed as being unemployed for the reason that they had given up looking for work. About 5.9 million gave their reason for not working as “Other.”
I actually came away somewhat encouraged. I would have thought that people who had given up looking for work was a lot higher. Despite our trillion dollar budget deficits each year, despite the madness of adding to the money supply which drives prices higher, if someone is out there working–even if at a low-paying job or even at a completely useless job–it becomes more difficult to ruin the country completely. The fact that lots of people get up and go to work each day is encouraging.
And if we look on the bright side, there are plenty of ways in which we could easily become more prosperous. Let’s think briefly about Gross Domestic Product, which is defined as “the total value of goods and services provided in a country in one year.”
GDP is a very deceptive figure. According to GDP, if we work and earn a salary we are adding to the nations goods and services. But what if our work is not productive of any good?
Here are three examples of types of workers who earn salaries–often very high salaries–but who produce nothing or almost nothing of value to the country as a whole and to us as individuals.
1/The Department of Energy has lots of workers and a high budget. The contribution to our well-being is zero. Well, actually it is far below zero, because these people could be working at real jobs and if there were no Department of Energy then it could not steal tax money from us taxpayers. Energy is a very important part of life! Which is why we can and should leave its production in the hands of the free market. We used to live without a Department of Energy, and we did fine. We need to get rid of it, and when we do so we will be moving in the right direction.
2/The Department of Education has lots of workers and a high budget. Which is fine, because we are turning out so many well-educated and thoughtful people in the U.S. Okay, I admit I was joking in the last sentence. Everything we said about #1 can be said for #2.
3/The armed forces have a lot of workers and a high budget. They cause us nothing but misery. They butt their noses into the business of foreign countries, cause our soldiers to be killed and crippled, and they kill and cripple a lot of foreigners. We are loved, oops I mean hated, by lots of countries as a result. I don’t blame those countries for hating us. Many of the founding fathers tried to warn us of the dangers of a standing army, but we are currently too smart to listen to them. To our own destruction, and to the destruction of others worldwide.
According to the GDP, the people involved in 1 through 3 are adding to our goods and services. But they really aren’t adding anything of value. They are bankrupting us. We are actually paying them our taxpayer money to do silly stuff. What they are doing is the equivalent of carrying a pile of small boulders from one spot to another spot, then carrying them back to the first spot from the second spot, repeating day after day–punctuated with occasional breaks to kill or cripple our own people and foreign people. No wonder they call it “gross” domestic product.
Now picture all the people at the departments of Energy and Education, and in the armed services, working at real jobs. They would really be producing a good or service that we need or want, instead of drawing salaries at taxpayer expense to do nothing of value. The free market would figure out what was that something of value. It might take some time, but it would happen, and relatively quickly. Those “workers,” currently bankrupting us, would when working at real jobs be adding to our prosperity by producing a good or service ordinary people want.
The three items listed above are examples only. Dozens of other applications could be made.
There are lots of other things we could do to make our nation more prosperous. I will start with a point which seems to have nothing to do with economics. We could stop killing unborn children. First, if God exists (and to me it seems like He insists upon existing), then He is in control of world history. When you kill His children, He doesn’t like it and He has the power to do something about it. We need to get on His good side, or for a start at least less on His bad side. Just a thought.
Secondly, when you kill unborn children, they eventually don’t grow up to work and produce something of value. Selfish of them, but there you are–dead human nature is almost as bad as living human nature.
We could end the minimum wage, so that people of very low skills could join the job market and produce something of value to all of us, earn a modest sum, earn some self-respect, gain working experience and improve their skills. At the same time we could end welfare payments so that people would not be tempted to avoid work. (Keeping in mind that welfare payments include Social Security and Medicare and all forms of public education, of course.)
We could stop adding to the money supply (that means we would stop inflation) which would have the effect of stopping the growth of prices. Over time, prices would fall rather than rise. Which would allow our wages, small or large, to purchase more both in the short run and in the long run.
We could preach a more biblical brand of Christianity, which would encourage people to save, to want to earn their own way and the way of their family rather than to resort to the property of taxpayers. Biblical Christianity also encourages us not to expect to live beyond our means, and not to live wallowing in materialism. When Christian morality dies out, some other sort of morality replaces it. The welfare state morality most of us possess is deadly. Granted, biblical Christianity is a pain in the rear, because it sets high standards for our behavior, but it covers our need for a sensible morality which helps us and helps others.
So, what is the real unemployment rate? I don’t know. It seems clear that we could easily have full employment–everyone who wants to work would be working–and moreover we could have a full employment that had all of us working at a job which really produced something the rest of us wanted. All of us–and I mean all of us–would be earning enough to feed ourselves and our children. There would be no “food insecurity.” But to have that kind of world we would have to be more honest with ourselves. I am not holding my breath for that to happen.
Still, it is all fun to think about, and I find myself encouraged on the whole.