Our Bright Economic Future?

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 13 2012 @ 9:17am


Walter Russell Mead, keeping hope alive, believes that the service industry will produce better and better jobs: 

Much of the work of the 21st century will be in the field of personal service rather than factory work. And at the moment wages for this kind of work are relatively low, as wages in factories were once relatively low. With the old sectors of the economy shedding jobs, there are lots of people chasing all the jobs that open up.

This will change as the new economy grows, as entrepreneurs build new businesses and industries. Indeed the relative cheapness of labor is one of the factors that will help the new sectors grow – just as the cheapness of labor helped manufacturing grow in the past. But market forces will ultimately drive wages up and they are likely to stay that way despite the competition from overseas. Many personal services cannot easily be performed at a distance: your morning frappuccino can’t be made in Guatemala, at least until teleportation technology is ready for prime time.

My wonderful sister – whose 50th birthday I came over to the UK to celebrate – has started over her life as her kids got to college with a stint in a hair-dressing academy. She’ll soon be working in a job that will never go away and that will enable her in part to stay comfortably above water – with her husband’s salary – for quite a while. She just found her pension now won’t kick in until she’s 66. And with the new tuition fees for universities, we’re all chipping in to help.

Austerity is beginning to bite in Britain. But the Brits – more later – have something Greeks don’t: bitter stoicism. The Tories may be flirting with disaster on the economy, but politically, they’ve done remarkably well on the argument of not-becoming-Greece (or, more to the point, France.)

(Photo: a view from Arctic London right now. The smudge on the window is dirty rain residue.)