Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Skills Zombie, Or Blaming the Victim For Being Unemployed

It has become popular to blame the unemployed for being out of work.  Some conservatives attribute it to a preference for unemployment benefits instead of work, but another way to blame the victims is to argue that they do not have the skills that are demanded in our high tech economy.  Tom Friedman has been making that argument for over a decade.  There is little evidence to support that claim.  Common sense tells us that the economy today cannot be so different from what it was during the high tech boom in the late 1990's, when we had full employment, than it is today.  The skills zombie theory is also contradicted by empirical research which is described in this article.  There must be another reason for high unemployment.  The simple explanation for high unemployment is that the demand for labor has not kept up with growth in the size of the labor force.  That is not a popular explanation because it suggests that something might be done to stimulate demand.  The government might be able to stimulate demand by spending more money on infrastructure, but conservatives don't like that idea either.  They prefer to argue that the government is responsible for the lack of demand for labor.  This covers all of their bases.  Either the unemployed are responsible for being out of work or the government is responsible for high unemployment. 


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