Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where Have All The Farmers Gone?

Herewith some interesting numbers rarely discussed in the context I plan to provide. Let me start with a tabulation I derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, except for 1900, the data for which comes from Historical Statistics of the United States. I am showing the share of the service-producing sectors of total employment—with that sector excluding government employees and the total including agricultural employment.

Year
Employment Share of
Service Sector - %
Employment Share of Agriculture - %
The Sum of the Two
%
1900
25.4
43.5
68.9
2000
63.9
2.4
66.3
2011
68.3
1.6
69.9

This table tells the tale of our current woes. Some pundit on television, updating us all to the obvious, said the other day that “It’s the Economy, Stupid” should really be revised to “It’s Jobs, Stupid.” I couldn’t agree more.

What has happened in one century, one decade, and one year is that we’ve sent our agricultural work force into the cities, and there they have been delivered to a job market that only wants services—indeed cannot survive unless the services increase. They are now, of course, in the aggregate, our largest industrial sector.

The problem is that in hard times, which a capitalist economy is certain to provide, people still need bread, milk, meat, vegetables, and fruit. But they can cut back on services: they can, if they must, avoid tanning or massage parlors, hair salons, fire the personal trainer, curb their appetites for Netflix, postpone that trip, stop going to the movies, send the kids to the cheaper community college, settle rather than sue, and fix that fence on their own rather than hiring a craftsman.

Where have all the farmers gone? To that AAA office that provides you information and personalized maps. To that phone bank hired by the retirement home to raise funds to give you more amenities when you are finally institutionalized and employ other once-farmers to put that big bib around your neck before its feeding time.

1 comment:

  1. A possible answer to your question could be found in a couple lines from a once rather popular song:

    "Where have all the young men gone?
    Long time ago
    Gone for soldiers every one..."

    ReplyDelete