*Posted by Kirk Spencer
There are certain numbers I hear bandied about as if people know what they mean. I call them “knumbers” because people don’t know about the No.# (number) but think they do. So I thought I would attempt to make sure a few of these knumbers are known for what they are. I will begin with the Unemployment Knumber in this post; then the Oil Reserve Knumber and The Divorce Rate Knumber in subsequent posts.
The Unemployment Knumber
The Unemployment Rate is not the percentage of people who do not have a job. The Unemployment Rate is the number of people actively looking for work compared to those who already have work. So a 10% Unemployment Rate means that the number of people actively looking for work is equal to 10 % of the total workforce. And the total workforce is defined as the sum of those who are actively looking for a job added to those who already have a job. So, in the Unemployment Number, there is no consideration of:
- Those who are too young to work
- Those who have retired
- Those who cannot work
- Those who can work and have given up hope and stopped looking
- Those on welfare benefits
- Those who are only working part-time but want full-time work (“under-employed”).
What often happens (and has happened recently), is that during a prolonged recession people give up hope and stop actively looking for work. This causes the Unemployment Rate to go down. And the Unemployment Rate goes down because those actively looking for work are considered part of the workforce—the unemployed part. They lose hope. They stop looking for work. The work force shrinks. The Unemployment Number gets smaller. People think the economy is getting better because the Unemployment Knumber is going down. But things are actually getting worse because people are giving up hope.
Giving up hope of being productive is something more serious than just a bad economy or losing a job. There is much more at stake—more than just producing and consuming. Ultimately working (being productive) is about who we were made to be. Good leaders will understand this and work to make more work for others. Not-so-good leaders will just spend their time working diligently on taking money from those who work and giving it to those who won’t work. I have long suspected that there is a common progression in the lives of both those who cannot find work and those who work hard only to have most of their wages taken from them. Both of these groups progress from inactivity, to redundancy, to lethargy. It is a progression from not caring about work, to feelings of uselessness, to depression and forgetfulness. The word “lethargy” comes from lethargia which means “forgetfulness” in Latin and Greek. When we stop being active, we pass, in our passivity, through redundancy to forgetfulness. It is a “death” of sorts. A death to what the Creator created us to do… namely to create. We forget who we are and we become controllable—dependent.
Both those who work only to have it taken away and those who don’t work become dependent upon those who redistribute: one through regulation and the other through distribution. To take from the working “rich” to give to the non-working “poor” seems compassionate… but only on the surface. The compassionate thing to do is to work in such a way that anyone who can be productive is productive; and that includes most everyone not in a vegetative state. And when I say “vegetative” I’m certainly not including “Couch Potatoes.” Rather they are a prime target for what I’m about to say. Also the concept of the Couch Potato illustrates an important point about eating and working. One of the lessons of an empty stomach is that we were made to work just as we were made to eat. If we don’t have bread to eat, we will eventually look for work. If false compassion feeds us the bread of idleness, we will eventually lose taste for our own bread (and the productivity required) and become busybodies in the redundant unproductive life.
In short, everyone should be employed (productive) at something, even if they are not drawing a salary. Not just the Unemployment Knumber, but all who are unemployed (meaning unproductive) should be 0%. When we work, we are who we were made to be. When we are nonproductive, we are something else. Work is a gift from God… when we stop working and give up looking for work, we will soon forget who we are and cross the River Lethe to be controlled by those who redistribute and regulate.
However, when it comes to employment and unemployment, for the Christian at least, it’s much more than production and consumption or even fulfilling who we were made to be. It’s something much more childish. My kids taught me this—or rather helped me to remember. Each of my kids, in their turn, when they were very young, helped me remember what work is all about. They taught me this every time they help me work at home. I would begin doing some work around the house and they would come running to me because they wanted to “help.” They wanted to work too. They were not trying to be producers or consumers. They did not care what we produced, or when we would finish, or what they wound be paid. Working around the house, my kids just wanted to do what daddy did—to be with dad—to be like dad—by being in my stuff.
Half the red-lettered words spoken in the Bible by an adolescent are on this very subject:
“Did you not know I would be in My Father’s house getting into My Father’s stuff?”
Payment and the good we can do with what we are paid is just a fringe benefit. Everything we employ ourselves to do, in the way we do it, should mimic and bring honor to our Heavenly Father… for we were made by our Creator to create along with Him. When we stop, we become something else—remote, controlled and a bag of couch potato chips.