At Large : It's the henhouse, stupid
The nation's economy staggers on, diminished but not done for, though you wouldn't know it to read or watch the news. We avoid depression, barely. Or will we? We withstand geopolitical shock after shock. We slowly cleanse the system of the financial lightheadedness of nearly two decades. What keeps us ticking over, albeit in this depleted state?
To a degree, it's productivity. American workers are more productive, and steadily more and more productive, than they were in the past. As industry sheds workers, productivity figures actually improve. It's just astonishing, though it's meaninglessly statistical. Of course, this can't go on forever, because when it's no longer a business that produces anything, zero workers will naturally be as unproductive as can be. But, for the time being, we working stiffs are working harder and, we hope, more efficiently to outrun the chaos that's threatening to overtake us.
If there really had been a new economy in the last two decades, and if all the old economic rules had been rescinded, it would have been because of the increase in worker productivity. But while the new economy proved to be a crock, increasing productivity is for real. And while it and the growing global industrialization pressures employment growth in countries like ours, with high labor costs, productivity improvement restrains price inflation and improves the quality of jobs for those who retain them. It's a small plus, even today, when any plus you can point to is a big plus.
Recently, I am ashamed to report, I have let the side down a bit. Since fall, I've not been as productive as I should have been. I will probably be responsible for a slight downward tick in the next productivity report.
In my defense, it's because of the economic collapse. I am feverishly eager to know what's going on with the economy every moment, and everywhere, including China, Indonesia, India, and in Europe. (Though, as far as the latter is concerned, the news is relatively stodgy. The big slowdown looks like just another day of slow growth there.) I click repeatedly from the word processing file I'm supposed to be working on to CNBC. (Curse this high-speed, on-all-the-time Internet connection.) I compare the latest on the New York Times site with the latest on Fox business. I want to know what the bloggers think about it. I look at nationalreview.com for the right view. I look at the nation.com for the left. I visit the British tabs, the Financial Times.
What are the British thinking, what's the Irish Times say, the Jerusalem Post? What about the French? (Forget that, who can figure out the French?)
I'm a glutton for business news, although I've begun to suspect that none of these reporters, commentators, bloggers, economists, Congressmen, Senators, or Administration spokesmen knows any more about the economy than I don't. They're flying by the seats of their very well tailored trousers.
Writing in September of 1939, E.B. White recorded a response to the inescapably desperate circumstances in Europe and what the brewing war, the newest global calamity of his time, meant for him.