Uncle Dave’s Provocative Idea of the Week

He’s back with another brain-stretcher of a mega-concept. David Brooks is writing about a national “gentility shift,” a long-term trend in how Americans are organizing their society, that he suggests may be a root cause of today’s new kind of economic pain. This has to do with younger people mostly—what those with more options are choosing to do to earn their livings and how well prepared others are if they don’t have a lot of choices. Read what old Uncle Dave has to offer today, and consider buying the NYT if you appreciate the attempt to make sense of “it all.”  Here’s a small piece of the column:

… Manufacturing firms can’t find skilled machinists. Narayana Kocherlakota of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank calculates that if we had a normal match between the skills workers possess and the skills employers require, then the unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent, not 9.6 percent.

There are several factors contributing to this mismatch (people are finding it hard to sell their homes and move to new opportunities), but one problem is that we have too many mortgage brokers and not enough mechanics.

Finally, there’s the lower class. The problem here is social breakdown. Something like a quarter to a third of American children are living with one or no parents, in chaotic neighborhoods with failing schools. A gigantic slice of America’s human capital is vastly underused, and it has been that way for a generation. …