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John Barnes

The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore has a great piece today on how public sector employment now dwarfs private sector employment.

If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills.

Every state in America today except for two—Indiana and Wisconsin—has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods. Consider California, which has the highest budget deficit in the history of the states. The not-so Golden State now has an incredible 2.4 million government employees—twice as many as people at work in manufacturing. New Jersey has just under two-and-a-half as many government employees as manufacturers. Florida’s ratio is more than 3 to 1. So is New York’s.

Even Michigan, at one time the auto capital of the world, and Pennsylvania, once the steel capital, have more government bureaucrats than people making things… (continued here).

On another cheery note, Andrew Ferguson directs our attention to the Ivory Tower of Babel that is modern academia. It’s the time of year when soon-to-be college students face the important decision of choosing an institution, and universities pull out all the stops to make an impression:

The highlight of this wooing, or so the schools hope, is “Accepted Students’ Day.” My own experience from a few years back was, from what I can tell, typical. Our big state university—BSU, as I came to think of it—invited our just-accepted son to bring his parents for a special program over an April weekend.

A bright and energetic upperclassman led us on a campus tour, walking backward while enthusiastically describing the school’s unrivaled attributes. He spoke of the majesty of the new gym, the Olympic size pool, the hot tub—one of the largest on the East Coast—the saunas and steam rooms. The food court, we learned, offered a number of vegetarian and macrobiotic options. We might be surprised, he said, how many bars were within easy walking distance of campus. (We weren’t.) When someone inquired about course work, he offered his cheerful assurance that BSU professors were “really great.” …

At another table representatives of the LGBT Resource Center boasted that free condoms and dental dams were available round-the-clock at their office, where confidential meetings would be held for fraternity members who are “bi, gay, or curious,” along with coffee hours for “transgender, transsexual, and gender queer individuals.” …

But as Ferguson discovers, college isn’t all about debauchery and deviancy:

I started to wonder about education, since this was, you know, a school. Our only contact with academics came in an early morning presentation by the admissions dean, held on the quad. Looking out on a sea of bed-headed moms and dads and sleepy post-adolescents in hoodies, he welcomed us to the “psychological heart of the campus—a place for celebrations and protests.”

The professor boasted of his history course, which had transformed merely curious students into “social activists.” Under his guidance the young scholars read books by Sally Belfrage, author of the Cold War memoir “UnAmerican Activities,” and the socialist historian Howard Zinn, author of “A People’s History of the United States,” and they emerged “ready to change the world.” So we have that to look forward to. …

Indeed. We have a lot to look forward to.

The professor’s speech was just a hint of what was to come: Later my son told me that he had three choices for a mandatory writing class: “History of the 1960s,” “TV’s Mad Men,” and “Intro to Queer Theory.” (read the full article here)

And still my father wonders 1) why I left academia years ago, and 2) why I thought the military a better option for my younger brother than university.

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3 replies to this post
  1. I keep saying, and no "economists" ever respond except John Medaille and other distributists, that there is no such thing as an "economy" that does not grow stuff, make stuff, and fix stuff. China has an economy; we have a chimera. We trade paper, keep borrowing, and pretend the "stock market" is a market that sells actual shoes and fish and bicycles.

  2. John, another corker! Reading the tour of BSU I can imagine Dr. Kirk cooking it all up as a joke (I recall many similar conversations with him), pointing out the protest area and the macrobiotic food-court and of course the Homosexuality Lab built where the library once stood. Kirk's friend Wyndham Lewis was right when he wrote that satire becomes impossible in an age with neither norms nor roots. I don't get to socialise with many Chinese, but when I do it takes about three drinks before the mask drops and these diligent, thrifty and studious people display their superficial pity and deep disgust for modern Americans and their decadence. My advice to Europeans and American regarding the Chinese: don't expect any pity.

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