Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Despite the fact that current statistics have been making the point that there are about six unemployed Americans for every current advertised job opening, there appears to be a Conservative undercurrent of resentment at people who are not working. While it's not a big deal, I do wonder why we don't hear any pushback against that figure, when people trot out the tired old line of "there are jobs out there, if people are willing to work." While there is a tendency among Liberals to push back against Conservatives with charges of willfully ignoring the facts in order to push their cause, I suspect that a better explanation may be a political blind spot.

In the end, one of the primary differences between the political Left and Right is their understanding of the concept of fairness. Put very generally, my understanding is that the Left tends to view the world as an Unfair place, and part of the role of the State is to make things more fair, while the Right views the world a naturally fair place, and sees Government as a threat to that fairness. Both of these worldviews create rather remarkable blind spots. Modern Liberalism has difficulty with the fact that during good economic times, that opportunities can come along even for the otherwise disadvantaged. On the other hand, modern Conservatism tends to shut down when faced with the idea that during bad times, doing everything right isn't a surefire ticket to success.

But sometimes, I will admit to the uncharitable suspicion that the stereotypical conservative blame game directed at the unemployed is due in part to a feeling of deprivation and/or compassion fatigue. One of the common refrains one hears is "if these people aren't doing everything they can to find work, why should the rest of us support them?" The implication being that if people were doing enough to find work, they should be entitled to public aid. And as in other things, people tend to justify the decisions that they make, so it seems reasonable that when people feel that times are tough for them, they'll be less willing to judge others as being worthy of a piece of the shrinking pie.

Tangentially, I have to say that my first response to a news story that proclaimed "State's jobless rate lets employers ask more from potential hires," was: "In other news today, it's been confirmed that water is wet." But something else occurred to me as I read the article. The majority of people don't receive new jobs through answering want ads. Being a preferred candidate for a job when it becomes available is more common. But I suppose one has to compile statistics somehow, and counting up the openings on Monster is as good a means as any other.

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