Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A passage that has stuck with me for a while now

This Paul Krugman blogpost on economic insecurity rings really true to me:
Every time you read someone extolling the dynamism of the modern economy, the virtues of risk-taking, declaring that everyone has to expect to have multiple jobs in his or her life and that you can never stop learning, etc,, etc., bear in mind that this is a portrait of an economy with no stability, no guarantees that hard work will provide a consistent living, and a constant possibility of being thrown aside simply because you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There are a lot of political responses to this paragraph (Krugman argues for stronger state benefits in his post), but that's not what I am focused on. I do this that it is a remarkably apt counterpoint to Professor Whitesides' call for chemical entrepreneurship, or Madeleine Jacobs' comments about "thriving in the global workforce."

I think that this sentence says something true about industrial chemistry as an enterprise, and what the future might hold. Best wishes to all of us. 

11 comments:

  1. And yes, of course, I am not sure that we've ever had a time where hard work would provide a consistent living, but I get the feeling that we're further away than we've been from any local maxima of that condition than we've been in a while.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My father's generation got a gold watch, a retirement party and a pension; I have worked for 5 pharma/biotech companies (4 of which have been liquidated) over the past 40 years and have the 401K I sacrificed my lifestyle to secure; my daughter’s generation will have access to very few permanent jobs, hyper-short careers, will constantly need to retrain in a new specialty and never be able to retire; my granddaughter will be a permanent temp her entire life.So perhaps it is best not to invest too many years in getting a degree that maybe affords you a career lasting as long as your degree took to acquire. On the other hand, chemistry is fun and getting a PhD is an OK way to kill off 8 years of your life before you move on to Walmart greeter.

    The problem with Krugman is he assumes money grows on trees. Unfortunately there will be much less (non-inflated) money around to pay for his safety net as sources of taxes shrink away as a result of the downward drift on incomes and spending resulting from poor job prospects.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Unstable is a term that aptly describes how many people feel about their situations. Even the best of jobs are no longer safe from being eliminated in this day and age. I, personally, find it hard to project any plans out more than 6 months to a year in advance due to concerns about our jobs and the economy.

    Re-paint the house this year? Not sure, let's see what happens at the start of the year. Vacation? Let's wait and see....

    If someone asked me what my 5 year plan was, I'm not sure I'd have a concrete answer for them...

    ReplyDelete
  4. At ACS we continue to give our members the continuing education and life-long learning skills to enable them to have overseas assignments. I think our career services do help people through transitions, but we have to look at that to see if they are the right services in a global economy. Then we can give our members more tools in their tool kit to adjust. If they do lose their jobs, then we have to have the right kind of services to help them retool and get other jobs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. N.B. It is satire. Please note the spelling of the above name.

      Delete
    2. Satire? I think not! I _have_ said all these things!

      Delete
  5. So MJ you are saying the ACS now has continuing education programs on career transitions to waiting tables, Walmart greeter, Costco checker, janitor, night watchman ....? Wow what terrific retooling options and only for the price of my ACS dues. After 10 years training to be a drug discovery chemist, it feels great that the ACS is really looking out for my evolving career. I just hope I will make the kind of money the ACS pays you because I know as a newly employed Walmart greeter, I will be contributing as much to the chemistry enterprise as you do.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is hitting way too close to home. We've endured 3 job losses and a bi-coastal marriage (ending soon due to job loss). What I would give for stability. Why did we get Ph.D.'s? To take care of our family. Epic fail.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope that it is the bi-coastal part that is ending, and not the marriage.

      My sincere best wishes, and please e-mail me if there is anything that I can do.

      -- Chemjobber

      Delete
    2. I was a tempted to draft a response as my Colombian alter ego, and mind you, I have a good one, but it turns out I am not heartless enough.

      Delete
  7. CJ, good catch.

    Caught s.th. myself. Daniel Kahn.
    March of The Jobless Corps - Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird - YouTube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KFVVKFxr60

    And I think we can agree that this is (has been) the reality for chemists (BullShit, MoreShit, PhileHigherandDeeper) for, at least, 5-8 yrs.

    ReplyDelete