I suppose that it all depends upon which statistics you focus on and which books that you read, but the international economics books that I read indicated that, as measured by comparing countries, that the difference between the richest and poorest countries has exploded, mirroring the same trend in difference between our average employee pay and their CEO’s pay. One book placed the ratio worldwide at 6:1 in 1900 and 750:1 in 1984. This difference can be attributable to the increasing reach of Empire into the affairs of others and manipulation of global currencies.
Additionally, this discussion doesn’t broach the important question of ‘where has all the wealth come from?’ even though the answer is: ‘much of it from increasingly effective exploitation of limited Earth resources.’ This increasing rate of exploitation DOES have an end point, and we will all feel the effects of that impovrishment which has, in some realms, already begun (for example, I have given up on finding fresh wild river trout at my local grocers). You could say that we are building up an enormous debt to the Earth which will have to be paid back at some point, if we are going to have what we need to continue to survive. The garden, when depleted, must be restored.
With those two points made, your overarching discussion about changes in the way that we see ‘Work’ in America is an important one. There’s still this weird idea that ‘Jobs’ are things that fall out of trees and that you have to pick one up before someone else gets to it. So many people I see working in “Jobs” that have no meaning to them beyond a paycheck.
But the Work we do is important, because it is our Life’s Work; it is the mark that we are choosing to leave in our world. I myself don’t understand how people can be unemployed when there are so many needs not being met on a daily basis. I’ve always been able to generate income by looking for the unique intersection of my own talents and interests with the identified unmet needs in my local community. This has always resulted in me being to create a niche identity of being able to provide an item or service that is not being provided, or at least not in way that I am offering it. Additionally, I have rarely had to spend much money on advertising at all, because when you are meeting a need that wasn’t being met and doing it well, people tell others about you and the word spreads without much in the way of marketing investment.
I think the real problem lies in our woefully outdated education system. The Maker movement has begun an important shift away from this travesty, but we need to not stop there, and to revisit ALL aspects of what is considered ‘important’ to teach our modern children. What is taught is increasingly irrelevant to daily life, and the kids know it (thusly behavioural problems at school, absenteeism, etc). Kids need to know how to take their dreams and turn it into a way to make a living; they need to learn the essence of ‘Work’ is their Life’s Work and that it can’t always be defined as a ‘Job’, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t pay your rent. Kids need to become savvy interpreters of media, and to use and care for their bodies (which houses their minds) in more intelligent ways (i.e. incorporating yoga into physical education). There’s so much more, this discussion needs to continue to evolve!