I have, what is at the moment a completely wild guess about our economy.  I am going to flesh it out, and we will wait to see if I am right long term.  If I am right, I think it means good things for our country going forward.  If I am wrong, then I fear it means we have wasted a golden opportunity to change our culture.

I saw an article, which by the time you read this will be about three weeks old, stating that the workforce participation in the United States is the lowest since 1981.  Lets just take that at face value, since I have no way to personally verify that knowledge.  Setting aside all of the bellyaching about unemployment at 8.1%.  If you lost your job recently and are struggling, I am sorry.  I have been unemployed, it sucks.  I would also recommend you truck on down to your local Sonic, McDonald’s or Target.  All three are always hiring, and working is much better than sitting on your ass.  Its much easier to work into a better position when you are up and pumping.

So on the surface, that statistic is supposed to sound dire and scary.  After all, if fewer people are working, then the wheels of the economy will grind to a halt.  How can we possibly go on unless every adult between the ages of 18 and 65 is engaged full time in running the corporate machines that drive this country?

It will go on, just as it did before 1981.  This horrible phenomenon of both adults in a household working is relatively new in history.  Lets take a look at some Bureau of Labor Statistics findings.  Call them up and take a look, I found it fascinating.  Short version, in 1950, only 30% of women of all ages worked outside them home, in 2000, it was 47%. So that’s where I am coming from, and I will stop with the statistics now.  If you really want more, the numbers are out there.

I am beginning to wonder, if perhaps my generation is starting to shift how we view careers and family.  To the previous generation, it was just assumed that both people should work.  Kids were left in daycare, and parents went off to chase the corporate dream.  We were all told that our happiness lay in stuff, not in each other.  Now, I see many people I went to school with, having a stay at home mom with the kids.  In my own life, we were able to realize the dream of having my wife not have to work.  Sure, we have traded some plastic trappings to make that a reality, but we are both happier.

What if this current phenomenon in unemployment is not caused by true lack of work, but by people realizing the bill of goods we were sold?  What if following the college path straight into a cubical isn’t the American dream after all?  What if our happiness isn’t measured in a series of digits in a bank account, but in the beauty we can create with hearth and home?

Time never moves in a straight line.  It is a constant flow of action and reaction.  Thesis creates anti-thesis and moves forward, endlessly churning between two extremes.  The 1950s, often seen as the ideal white picket era, was created by the children of the roaring 20s.  The parallels between 2000-2010 and the 2os are almost uncanny.  Won’t our children move forward and create a new idealistic family era?

So my guess America, is that we will continue to see the labor participation drop.  We will see more focus on the home and family.  At first out of economic necessity, but then later out of an appreciation for what it brings to our culture. Yes, much damage has been done to ourselves, but we can still heal.  That is my great dream.  That we will rediscover what has been robbed from us, and we gain what is truly of value.

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