Jilara (jilara) wrote,

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The Old Rules and the Economy

More and more, I find that we truly live in a brave new world, or perhaps what some might term "the new world order." (Notice I did not put initial caps, there.) The economy is a strange new world, hard to understand. The rules we thought we knew don't apply.

It's a world where it's easier to find a job if you have only a high school diploma or less. (This comes from the report on jobs and the economy in the morning paper.)

It's a world where engineers are being encouraged to "retrain" to take on lower paying, perhaps vocational, positions, because we can't afford educated, highly trained, people--all the while other folks are still encouraging kids to go to college and go into positions like engineering, saying we will be suffering a shortage in the near future.

It's a world where you can sell good costume jewelery for more than people will pay for real precious metals and precious stones. I know this because I have personal experience. Oh, did I mention you can't even get more than a pittance for a diamond, because it's an "old style" one, from the 1920s? Of course, diamonds are getting to be pretty cheap, nowadays (since the monopoly has semi-broken) unless they're the size and quality of the Star of India.

It's a world where people go to expensive culinary schools and rack up lots of student loan debt, so they can take fairly low-paying jobs in restaurant kitchens, in hopes that they someday will become celebrity chefs. Or stars on the Food Network. But the reality is that they will be slaving to pay off those loans for most of their adult lives.

It's a world where if you want or need something that can't be produced and marketed in vast quantities, you might not be able to get it at all. I hear all the time the lament "I used to be able to get x, but since the places I used to get it (or places that manufactured it) were bought out by Worldwide Megamart, I can't find it any more." Yes, there is cottage industry, but often the sites where such things are sold are bought by Worldwide Webmart, and suddenly people can't afford to sell, any more.

It's a world where small businesses are forced out by safety legislation spurred by problems with large manufacturers who can afford to pay the new fees, but the little guys can't. A classic example is small almond growers. There was a problem with salmonella at a processing plant used by the megagrowers. The small growers had better quality control, so they never had a problem. However, now all almonds must be heat treated to kill possible contaminants. The guys with good quality control who were operating on a shoestring couldn't afford it. They're gone, now. The megagrowers remain.

It's a strange world out there, and it's going to take a while to figure out how to survive under the new rules. Because the old ones probably aren't going to be back anytime soon. I might hope for it, but my gut feelings are that a shift on the scale of the Industrial Revolution has occurred, and we are only starting to get a feel for the new territory.
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