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Education and Men without Work (nationalaffairs.com)
192 points by mighty-fine 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 317 comments



The article is long on detail and short on suggestions (which is understandable). However, the suggestions it does make are not obviously going to work. The men illustrated in the article do not seem incapable of work, but rather disinterested. Vocational training isn't going to fix the fact that the government benefits the article cited allows the men to stay at home playing video games all day. Most people (but especially men, given the propensity of the male psyche to become dependent on dopamine) would rather take the short term thrill of continuous dopamine hits provided by video games than working to make a living.

Who can really blame them? For the vast majority of history, the main impetus for men to seek status of any kind is to impress women and provide a legacy for families. As the article mentions, men who are cut off from each of these simply stop participating in the kinds of behavior that make modern society possible. Enabled by the preponderance of easily accessible government money, drugs, etc, these men, lacking any legacy or dependents to speak of, would rather bide their time hedonistically. Some, realizing their situation, choose not to bide their time at all (look at the rise of middle aged male suicides).

Unfortunately, the two causes the article cites (dissolution of family structure and rise of single male households) are unaddressed. This is understandable as even mentioning these problems in high society today would be frowned upon. The article admits this, but, the writer, being part of the same society he's criticizing, falls into the same trap.


I don't think the two causes listed in the article are actually the causes. I think both are yet another symptom of an underlying problem. I would argue that men doing worse in schooling is likely another symptom of the same issue.

I think that the heart of the issue is that more men nowadays feel that they just don't matter. Not to society nor to anyone else. This leads to a situation where they will simply sacrifice less and try to enjoy more.

So why would men feel that way?

My initial thoughts were that perhaps it is due to the recent demonization of men and the removal of some of their privileges, while the burdens (selective service, unfair family court) remained. While I think that these could be contributing (accelerating) factors, I don't think this is at the heart of the matter. We see similar trends in other countries, where lots of (young) men are essentially checking out from society. Japan is an example of a country where this problem has likely progressed further than in the US. My initial thoughts don't fit, because they couldn't explain why this same process would happen in countries with a pretty different culture from the US.

I'm stumped. Perhaps it's somehow linked to the falling testosterone levels in men that we have observed?


What about the idea that the passing on of power (wealth, social, political) is happening less as people live longer? It would explain why the problem's more pronounced in Japan (long life expectancy, culture of seniority).


One thing to consider: passing of power is happening less in the US because there are so many baby boomers, and our economy may be growing more slowly.


this is a very interesting idea


Did cavemen have a conception of worth? Probably nowhere near what we would think of it. I think if you took these men and tossed them on an island with a forest some would wait to die, many, most would start chopping wood just to have something to do. It's better than being bored.

I'm willing to bet very few of these social dropouts just lay in bed like vegetables all day, they're playing games, consuming media, doing something. And unfortunately that has a better, quicker mental payoff than going to work.

I think the problem is that in older societies you didnt have much else to do but work outside of certain hours because of strict social taboos. Work was the fruit of exploiting men's simple behavior of looking for something to keep busy. Now video games and YouTube are accessible all day long as long as you have a computer or phone and internet, which benefits can provide. I sont think there's any complex civilization level social phenomenon, we just gave men something better to do and the means to do it


I think those cavemen would be busy trying to survive and not doing things out of bordem because they have too many real problems to worry about.

What your comment reminded me of was Sebastian Junger's book Tribe. One of the central tenets of that book is that people need to feel valued by their tribe/family/society. Lack of this can lead to mental illness. Possibly manifesting as the type of malaise outlined in the article.

Maybe one way to address this is to collectively start valuing those jobs that we've denoted as "low status" for the last decades. The jobs like plumbers, linemen, etc. that help make society work.


I don't think plumbers, lineman, etc... are universally looked down on by society. Yes there are some people/communities who do, but there are also people who look down on those who have office jobs, or who do creative work (artists, actors, writers).


True, but the trades typically aren’t pushed as a viable option like “higher status” paths. For decades now, I think the system has pushed the “need” to go to college, regardless of after effects (debt, job prospects etc)


It depends on what the community you're from defines as "high status". In some parts of the US, a tradesman who owns their own small business is far more respected than, say, a lawyer or a software engineer.


What jobs still benefit from a man's physical strength anymore? Most things that need serious brawn use 'hydraulic muscles'? Soon women won't even ask us to twist the lid off jars anymore, there will be an iRobot for that. Where are men needed these days?

We automated away manliness. It's worth less these days. The least valued men are now valued even less. Frankly, I think these disaffected men should go back to the countryside where it's still relatively cheap and grown their own food and drugs. It's not economical to grow your own calories the old fashioned way, but neither is collecting welfare. And it'd be a heck of a lot gentler on the psyche to create something with your own hands. I remember Richard Feynman talking about researching topics that already had been written about just for the joy of discovery. It wasn't needed, but was done recreationally.


Landscaper. Arborist. Construction. Orthopedist. Orderly. Bouncer. Soldier. Sailor.


Agreed. The entire construction and trade industry is huge and these people get paid ridiculous money because nobody wants to do these jobs. These are pretty manly jobs imo.


Construction and trades get paid ridiculous money because no one wants to do those jobs? Bollocks they do. Have you actually spent any time doing any of these things?

Most of the jobs that nobody wants are outsourced to illegal immigrant labor -- the housing boom of the 2000's was built on their backs and their hard word.

Most of the tradies are pulling $50-80k USD, and that's a lot of hard work. That's good money if you're 20 year old, but a Network Engineer with a CCNA, some kinda degree, and 5 years experience will pull $105k USD in a big US city, all while at an air-conditioned desk. And those are the well paid tradesworkers; basic labor and less in demand trades often pays like shit, and doesn't provide benefits.

I ain't saying you can't make good money doing it -- I knew a carpenter who was like #1 ranked on Angie's List and pulled well north of 6 figures -- but those are the exceptions.


How do you suppose these disaffected men will get the capital to afford land, supplies, tools, and everything else needed to survive in the countryside?


It's interesting to me that you equate masculinity to physical strength but nothing else of value


The dating dynamic changed too. As a man, you will be able to date if you are in the top 20% on height and general attractiveness. It wasn't always like that. In the recent past, you could have a girlfriend if you were average good looking and if you showed your worth. Good grades, good work prospects, etc. as long as you committed to a woman. That doesn't seem to work any more.


I've heard this oft repeated, but no evidence that dating overall works by the 80-20 rule except for Tinder, which hardly represents the dating world at large. It's perhaps true for casual sex, but for monogamy, which is still the most common dating pattern for the overwhelmingly majority of Western civilisation, the math just doesn't work out.

I can't help but feel that this belief is understandably motivated by a desire to see oneself as belonging to the bottom 80%, rather than belong to the bottom 20%, or worse.


A lot of current dating move to online, for better or worse, vide https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2018/08/17/the-irre....

An in the online tools, physical attractiveness and the first impression matter much more, vide https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11469834.


Sure it works. Plenty of women are looking for a healthy, devoted, average looking man.


You haven’t tried hard enough. You give women little credit in their ability to sift through useless traits. In fact, most optimize this skill, and are patient. It is important not to delay. The best mates are gone more quickly.


> I think that the heart of the issue is that more men nowadays feel that they just don't matter.

Isn't everyone feeling this? Maybe men are feeling the ways that others have felt for a long time?

I agree that the loss of privilege is definitely happening, which is honestly a good thing imo, but I'd tie this back to greater cultural unease about one's economic future more than anything else. Most of the folks I know are in their 30s and don't believe they'll ever retire.

If the system is squeezing every ounce of your labor out and you're only seeing a small return on it, what's keeping you motivated?


> but I'd tie this back to greater cultural unease about one's economic future more than anything else. Most of the folks I know are in their 30s and don't believe they'll ever retire.

>If the system is squeezing every ounce of your labor out and you're only seeing a small return on it, what's keeping you motivated?

But by any metric you choose these things were worse in the past. We didn't have safety nets for the elderly. You worked in a factory and not only were the wages bad but the work was dangerous. I don't see how these variables explain the problem now since they had a worse value in the past.


Wealth owned by the lower and middle class used to be higher. Not always, but certainly we're in a period where wealth inequality is wildly different than it used to be.

In periods of increasing wealth inequality, I'd expect less class mobility and increased anxiety and hopelessness.

Combine that anxiety with climate change, political gridlock, loss of privilege, a sense that retirement will never happen, and generally feeling like your parents generation had it better... I can see why people might check out. All these things seem so systemically inevitable.


> Wealth owned by the lower and middle class used to be higher.

Where? In the US?

Post-WW2 saw the rest of the world blown to bits, and the US and USSR being the only two powers left standing. Incomes shot through the roof for the average USA-ian because everyone else who could have done cheap labor was dead or busy rebuilding.

Pre World Wars there was plenty of deep, deep poverty in the US, and there was much labor unrest (e.g. the Pullman Strike, etc.) because of it.


"Most people (but especially men, given the propensity of the male psyche to become dependent on dopamine) would rather take the short term thrill of continuous dopamine"

Please don't spread misinformation. Take an study like Sex differences in addiction (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5286725/). If anything the propensity of the female psyche is more likely to become dependent on dopamine, but its an effect that only impact around 10-16% of the population.

> the main impetus for men to seek status of any kind is to impress women and provide a legacy for families.

Games provide an readily accessed environment for status competition among men. Women also gained a similar environment, called social networks. In both environments the objective is less about impressing the opposite sex and more about dominating the same sex. Unsurprisingly, if we look at what young men and young women spend their free time we see similar mount of excess from men choosing to play video games and women play the social network game.

With women reaching equality in the work force it seems that men are also moving closer to equality in free time, especially at younger ages.


This is an interesting comment to think about, I hadn't thought of comparing Women's social media usage to Men's video game playing.

There are a lot of similarities at least on the surface, definitely an interesting one to think about.


Right, but as you said this

>men choosing to play video games

is just an extension of this

>status competition among men

and this

>With women reaching equality in the work force it seems that men are also moving closer to equality in free time, especially at younger ages.

is not necessarily an axiomatic good because of the above mentioned points.


> Vocational training isn't going to fix the fact that the government benefits the article cited allows the men to stay at home playing video games all day.

> Enabled by the preponderance of easily accessible government money, drugs, etc, these men...

The benefits we're talking about here are disability benefits, and the intended outcome of those is that some people will be able to stay at home all day.

"Fixing" this problem by curtailing the benefits would not fix anything, but rather just reintroduce the problems that the benefits solved (like increased economic burdens on loved ones, homelessness, etc.).


> “ Fixing" this problem by curtailing the benefits...

Another way to address a partial fix is to decriminalize getting a job after previously being on disability. Currently that is used as evidence that there was no previous disability and can lead to prosecution for fraud and attempts to claw back those previous benefits.


It's even worse it works both ways. Trying to get a job can stop your benefits and if the job doesn't work out you'll have a hard time getting your benefits back. Better to not try.


Wow those are absolutely terrible incentives that we've setup. I didn't realize that it was so bad.


Consider housing assistance programs. Using rough numbers. Say you make $25k/yr. And benefits are capped at 26k. You get 500/mo towards rent, or 6k/yr. Unless you get at least a 6k raise (add ~30% for taxes, 7.8k) you would be stupid to take a different job or even a pay raise.

Warning: There's probably a bunch of mathematical errors ahead.

This example does not take other assistance programs into account like snap/EBT, fuel assistance, cars for low income families, Medicaid benefits, etc. Snap/EBT can be $200+/mo iirc, fuel assistance 200-1k/yr, Medicaid for a family is $600+/mo. Assuming 100ebt/mo, 500 fuel/yr, 600/mo Medicaid that's an additional 8.9k.

6000 housing 1200 ebt 500 fuel 7200 Medicaid ~15k ×1.3 for taxes = 19.5k in benefits that cap if you make 1k more. 25+19.5=44.5k

The parent earning 25k would need to nearly double their income to fill the gap between left by benefits they no longer qualify for.

This didn't consider health care deductibles, dental (children get dental on Medicaid), or out of pocket expensive covered by Medicaid.

My health insurance plans max out of pocket is 8k. Add that.

Low income Families are also eligible for school lunch assistance, subsidized day care/after school programs.

School breakfast and lunch at my school was 5.5/day/180 days. ~1k.

Day care, summer programs,holiday programs, and after school programs can add 20k/yr.

Add another 29k. (37.7)

Which brings us to 78.2k

This parent who smartly took advantage of every opportunity they could recieves 200% their take home in assistance. Now after filing hundreds of forms to take advantage of these programs how much time do you think they'll have to spend towards tripling their income?

How much time will they even have to spend with their children between the constant battles with bureaucracies for benefits and their job to spend with their child?


Yeah, what this article fails to address at all is the way people like this got by historically. The truly 100% disabled were put into work houses or left on the street.

Those partly able bodied had a much more diverse array of employment/living arrangements that society accepted. i.e. you could be partly disabled and get yourself a live in job as a domestic or farm hand. This ensured your room and board was covered and that daily you worked with a group of people who understood your needs. But it virtually guaranteed you'd never have a home or family of your own.

The able bodied shirkers who didn't feel like working would do a few siffert thingsb, bum off family, work as cons or professional criminals, or find themselves a sweet job with a group of like minded shirkers or lackies that would cover for them.

This changed a bit with the middle of the 20th centuury needing so many workers but then the U.S. unleashed women into the work force. The vast majority of them were bound to outshine the bottom 11% of men easily.


> the fact that the government benefits the article cited allows the men to stay at home playing video games all day

Is that actually the case?

The article takes issue with the narrative that supply and demand are involved ... but I don't think this article proves this idea that folks are enjoying government benefits and that results in them not working. The article certainly mentions it, but is pretty short on evidence.

Plenty of US states have been cutting benefits, and they're not seeing people go back to work.


Disability is a federal benefit (not state) and according to the article a whopping 2/3 of these men are on at least 1 federal disability benefit. Furthermore, 1/2 of the men take prescription pain medication daily.

The government benefits certainly make it easier to not work, but the article does pain to say that correlation is not causation - it is a multi-factor phenomenon. Government benefits may enable the behavior but it isn't a cause.

What really had my brain going is why is this not the case in the Western Europe? Social benefits are just as generous and marriage rates are lower than in the United States.

According to the article in the US marriage and children were the strongest statistical differentiator between men who stop seeking work and those that do.

All I could come up with is that in the US it is the pain medication and the fact that it is easier to isolate yourself and hole up in your home.


> What really had my brain going is why is this not the case in the Western Europe?

Can you explain? Western Europe by and large suffers from the same problem. According to Brookings (https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ccf_201...), while the US has a faster rate of male labor de-participation, the UK, Canada, and France are experiencing similar issues (Figure 2). No idea about the cause though.


The article says that in Western Europe the rate at which men drop out is much lower than in the US. I only had the article as a frame of reference for my question, I did not have the Brookings institution study for additional color. Interesting reading, thank you.


In Europe the benefits are not necessarily tied to being diagnosed with a disabling condition. In the US they are, so people do what they can to manifest a disabling condition so that they can qualify for generous benefits along with drugs that can be resold on the black market. Clearly this was not the intended result but it's sort of a third rail politically so there has been no real movement towards reforming this in any meaningful direction.


Could be the difference in pay for low wage jobs. It seems that this is what it comes down to.

Many male, high-school dropouts have decided it's a better deal to just coast by on disability and money from friends/family then to work for $10/hour at McDonald's or similar.

The way to bring them back into the workforce, IMO, is to offer them a better deal. If low-wage jobs in the U.S. were as good as they are in Eastern Europe, maybe more men would take them.


Another person commented below what I think is brilliant insight.

"In America (USA) you ARE your job; it defines you. The American Way is to be hard working and self sufficient. If you can't do that, there are tremendous psychological effects. You can't blame these men for giving up."

It is absolutely true that worth and career are highly correlated here in the US. Most of us talk about work even when we aren't at work. I think this is probably the big difference between US and Europe having read it.


Meh. The idea that Americans talk only about their job is mainly only true in the upper classes of professionals. Most Americans, the poor and lower middle class, do not talk about their jobs, because talking about being a taxi driver or walmart greeter is not as engaging as talking about being an investment banker, lawyer, or software engineer.

FWIW, the same is true in Europe. Rich people define themselves by the method in which they get rich.

> Most of us talk about work even when we aren't at work

People on hacker news are mostly upper middle class.


Another way to phrase that is that jobs at the lower end are not worth talking about. They're not a point of pride. Combine that with the GP notion that people use their job as part of their identity and what does that do to their self esteem?


> If low-wage jobs in the U.S. were as good as they are in Eastern Europe, maybe more men would take them.

Are you saying low wage wage jobs are good in EE? I can assure you that's not the case. Millions of low wage workes from EE left for Western Europe upon joining the EU. They still do low wage work, but the pay is so much higher in the UK, Germany, Norway etc.


In Germany, you can receive partial disability benefits ("Erwerbsminderungsrente"); that is, you might be evaluated as being capable of 3-6 hours of work per day, and thus receive only a portion of what would have been your full disability payment. Also, it's accepted (even hoped) that you might become fully fit again.

https://www.deutsche-rentenversicherung.de/DRV/EN/Leistungen... (under "Invalidity pension")

More details in German: https://www.deutsche-rentenversicherung.de/DRV/DE/Rente/Allg...


> Disability is a federal benefit (not state)...

Maybe in the state in which you live. I am currently on state (CA) disability.


-- which will expire after you've been on it for 52 weeks [1] after which, if you still cannot work, you can resort to (US) federal disability insurance.

[1] https://ca.db101.org/ca/programs/income_support/sdi/faqs.htm...


It's not the kind of safety net they're talking about, but a lot of the young are supported at a livable level by their parents. (source: am doing this)

I'd argue that this isn't inherently bad, but ultimately this can amount to "eating one's seed corn". In the long run, twenty-somethings that do this risk a financially more perilous life and a lower chance of being able to give their kids a good start in life.


Is there anything you have done that has improved motivation of your kids to get out of the house? I'm asking as a mid-twenty year old who has a few friends that haven't had a real job in years and wants to help. The main issue I've run into is that they just don;t care they are burdening their parents


I have friends like this too. you know them better than I of course, but I doubt that your friends don't care at all about burdening their parents. imo, guilt is just not a very effective motivator for someone to get their life together. it tends to make them feel bad and get even more set in their ways. the only way I've ever seen this work out is after some spark that gives the person an intrinsic desire to improve their own life (and the belief than they can).

as for what you can do for your friends, there's probably not much. the best you can do is to live well yourself and be a good example for them. also, be careful. there is some truth to the saying, "you become the average of your five best friends." if you get too involved in their day-to-day, you will experience friction when it comes to accomplishing your own goals.


When I was younger, everybody just wished for independence. What changed?

I'm betting on housing cost and low quality of life for youngs, but well, I do have very little evidence to substantiate it.


I have some twenty-something friends with upper-middle class parents who still live with them. they either didn't finish college or chose a less lucrative major than CS. they have low-wage jobs and mostly work less than fulltime.

the common thread I see is that living with their parents simply offers a higher standard of living than they could have if they moved out. I live in a relatively low COL area, so they would certainly be able to make ends meet if they cut the cord. but they would eat worse food, have a smaller room, and little money left over to save or go out. I imagine it's hard to find to motivation to work harder just to move out and decrease one's standard of living. I was very fortunate to land a good job straight out of college where I was actually able to increase my standard of living after moving out (although I do miss my mom's cooking).


> stay at home playing video games all day

Playing video games is monumentally boring after a short while. I just can't understand people who disappear into them.

Even the game I wrote for myself ( classicempire.com ) I rarely actually played, I'd spend my time trying to make the computer AI play better.


Video games are more mentally challenging & stimulating overall than any other task I regularly engage in. Especially Starcraft, which is absolutely exhausting to play competitively.

My day to day work as a programmer just doesn't push me mentally very hard. The kind of deep, exhaustive thinking I needed to get through difficult CS classes is unnecessary in most of my work (and the pacing is rather languid, most of the time).


Come join us in the D development effort. We have plenty of productive things to do that will push you past your limits. This kind of work is also good for giving your career a boost - this has happened to many on the D team.


Do you guys accept contribution from junior devs (2-4 years out of college that have no compiler experience)?


We don't care who you are or what your resume looks like. If your work is excellent and is what we need, we'll accept it.


Compilers in the real world aren't that complicated - if you delve into dmd you'll spend way more time on the actual codebase than theory.


> Compilers in the real world aren't that complicated

Shhh - need to keep us compiler devs' salaries up!


This sounds interesting. Can you give any more information?


The web site is dlang.org, the source tree is https://github.com/dlang

Just hang out in the forums forum.dlang.org for a while and you'll get sense of what's going.

If you're ambitious, internally motivated, don't need to be micro-managed, and are a crackerjack programmer, you'll be welcome.


Many (most?) Of the time the choice isn't between video games and a fullfilling career. It's between a shitty job and games. It's very easy for me to say I would never do that, but I also have a pretty good job and a decent social life. Games also provide some sense of community that is increasingly harder to find in real life, especially if you're not successful by some metric.


This is strangely framed. The choice is, at the very least, between a job, games, and a library. And a trillion other things. Long walks. Gardening.

I’m not sure where the games narrative comes from. From the image on top of the article?


I also can't understand it, life is fun and video games get boring pretty quickly. But that's probably why I am not staying at home playing video games all day.


Not for everyone. Some people drew the short straw in life, poor genetics (low IQ/ physical attributes), live in terrible environments, etc. There is more variance among men so more end up on the short end of the stick.

When every attempt at success is multiple times less likely because of those factors it's easy to get lost in games which are designed to feed that sense of achievement.


Life usually isn’t fun if you are hideous or stupid.


It probably doesn't help that women find 80% of men as ugly.


Also not discussed is the impact of unlimited access to pornography for sexual gratification on the reduction in male desire to do things that traditionally would attract women.


Is there a reason to claim that access to pornography is effecting employment rates for men?

Women did not exist the job market after internet access became widespread. It is thus hard to see any relation between access to pornography and employment rates outside of any gender stereotyping regarding both men and women.


[flagged]


That would be same as porn? Cheaper than a relationship and no need to make yourself attractive to a mate.


I don't think so. I imagine that because prostitution must involve some 2 way communication that it could satisfy a deeper need in people.

Why do some people go see therapists when they could just read self help books? It's the same thing right?


Yes, absolutely!


"the preponderance of easily accessible government money" is kind of a stretch.


> (but especially men, given the propensity of the male psyche to become dependent on dopamine)

Where is this from, sounds interesting?


> given the propensity of the male psyche to become dependent on dopamine

Interesting. This anecdotally appears to be the case. Is there anything to back this point up?


could also be differences in socializations and cultural expectations. consider how we demonize single-moms receiving aid (god forbid they be women of color) and "boys will be boys" males fooling around and playing video games.


There is another aspect here which I suspect contributes the majority of the demonizing in this situation: being a single parent is assumed to be a sign of a broken relationship, which signals potential personal problems (whether poor judgment in a partner, poor conflict management, whatever). Of course, in reality there could be a plethora of other reasons, but this seems to be the assumed narrative.

On the other hand, consider the woman who's still single with no kids, maybe living at home with her parents, with no job. I suspect there'd be a lot less demonizing. Maybe even less so than towards the men, who are "supposed to be providing for a family".


> This anecdotally appears to be the case.

How so? You were given no anecdotes in the parent comment, so I don't understand why you think this is anecdotally demonstrated.


What government benefits allows a man to stay at home and not work? Just curious. I have tried to get government benefits when I was unemployed and got nothing but a small amount of unemployment benefits. $275 a week. That doesn't cover anything. No Medicaid or housing help would be given as I did not have children.


$275 a week puts you above the federal poverty threshold, and so, according to the government, is enough to cover basic needs. It is a pittance for HN crowd, but there are tens of millions of people in the US who survive on less than that.


According to Google, the US minimum wage is $7.25. $7.25 * 40 = $290/fulltime week. Tens of millions surviving on less must be an exaggeration?


No. 40 million Americans live for less than that, and half of that lives on less than half that.

https://poverty.ucdavis.edu/m#/faq/what-current-poverty-rate...


That is interesting. I will need to look into it more. Household size can skew the numbers with children involved. I could not rent a place and get food and other things like that for that amount. Also unemployment runs out after 6 months.


> given the propensity of the male psyche to become dependent on dopamine

Do you have evidence for this assertion? Curious


It is a well written article for presenting facts. The lack of solutions is welcome to me; and I recall that the word 'crisis' is closer to meaning an unstable situation than an actual problem.

The big open question here is what exactly should these people doing instead? 'Getting a job' is meaningless in itself - it isn't an end goal like 'secure my family's future'. If someone can survive comfortably without working then that is exactly what they should be doing; work isn't especially fun unless someone is a bit lucky with what they enjoy. The obvious 'solution' to me is to find a way to make these men more attractive to women so they can all start a family too; but the big problem there is there might not be enough women and they might not be interested in families so that is another dead-on-arrival idea.

The only concerning part of the picture is the rise in suicides and the likely fact that the experience is lonely and unpleasent. The not-working part could be construed the silver lining in the story.


> If someone can survive comfortably without working then that is exactly what they should be doing; work isn't especially fun unless someone is a bit lucky with what they enjoy.

As someone planning on retiring early, I completely agree, but these men are dependent on government benefits, which, being taken from my paycheck, are lengthening the amount of time I have before I can retire.


> As someone planning on retiring early, I completely agree, but these men are dependent on government benefits, which, being taken from my paycheck, are lengthening the amount of time I have before I can retire.

I mean, you're not technically wrong, but that accounts for a minuscule amount of the excess value you create. Unless you're your own boss/running your own business (I'm assuming you're not since you're talking about your paycheck), most that excess value is taken by the company owners you're working for. But it doesn't show up on your paycheck, so I guess its out of mind, and its certainly easier/safer to blame those with less power than you.


"taken from your paycheck" is a bit of an overstatement. many people on federal or state disability have previously paid into the social security, disability etc pools with paycheck deductions just like you have. the average person on benefits is not a freeloader.

when I got put on disability by my doctor, you weren't paying for me to not work. I was, because I've been paying into the fund for my entire career just like you have


If you’re on disability, it doesn’t take long to receive more back in benefits than you put in.

The system works because most people never draw a dime.


> If someone can survive comfortably without working then that is exactly what they should be doing

Sure, as long as they are able to afford this on their own dime. Why should others have to work so some can stay at home all day?


From a utilitarian perspective, there are follow-on effects to homelessness that we don't want to encourage. That's why.


>Why should others have to work so some can stay at home all day?

they don't have to, they can stay at home too but stay at home can be very depressing.


All this could be plausible, however in other countries many of the same factors are present, including government benefits, yet male labor force participation rates are higher.


Omg. Your message would have been written with "woman" instead of "man" youd would get legitimately drilled..


I'd rather the losers of society stay in their house, high and playing video games, rather than trying to impress women and provide a family legacy by engaging in gangster behavior to get money.

Also, if society is so plentiful that it can handle a certain percentage of people doing nothing but living for pleasure, why not let them? Work is not valuable except for its product, and if its product is not needed, the work is worthless.

If you are using work to bend adult people to a specific ideology (making the worker the product of his/her own work), you're being inefficient - it's not the job of a profession, company, etc. to provide social or moral training.

Your comment seems to indicate a serious hatred of pleasure.

I don't mind working hard, but if we don't have to, there's no point in it.


> Your comment seems to indicate a serious hatred of pleasure.

On the contrary. My comment indicates a serious love affair with pleasure, but not a particular fondness for fleeting pleasure. The things I mention -- family, dependents, and responsibility -- are a pathway to long-term happiness, satisfaction, and ecstasy beyond the reach of so many.

> I'd rather the losers of society stay in their house, high and playing video games, rather than trying to impress women and provide a family legacy by engaging in gangster behavior to get money.

Well, no it's quite the opposite really. First of all, stop with the strawmanning. The men in this article are not 'gangsters'. They are otherwise law-abiding men. Secondly, you are employing a circular reasoning. You call these men losers because they are unmarried and play video games all day and don't work. You then tell me to not cast judgement on their idleness. I am not the one calling them 'losers'.

These men being married and productive would not see them engaging in any kind of 'gangster' behavior. That is not a typical way to marriage and productive family life.

> I don't mind working hard, but if we don't have to, there's no point in it.

Well that's the point. Hard work is a path to happiness, but it's not one the human mind is naturally oriented towards unless there's some point to it.


I used to believe that work was only there for what it produced, but now know that that's wrong. Being useful is very important for mental well-being. It gives happiness and reduces anxiety and depression. When I was unemployed, I did volunteer work to keep my spirits up. It's important for people to work or otherwise have some purpose beyond personal pleasure.


> Being useful is very important for mental well-being.

I really think ultimately this is rooted in trying to impose a transactional or "karma bank" nature on things beyond humanity. "If you are good, the world will be nice", but the world/God/what is beyond humanity doesn't obey human rules, because it isn't human. You'll impress other human beings with this mindset, and that's extremely useful and will definitely reduce anxiety if you are among a group of people that recognize that, but if you are dealing with something beyond humanity, it's invalid.

For example, someone gets cancer/murdered, and they/their loved one think(s) they are being punished, or someone knows someone else who has cancer/got murdered/suffered X great loss purely at random, and they try to live a good life thinking on some subconscious level they can avoid it. It's tempting, because no one likes to be scared or out of control, but it's false and doesn't even work.

For companies to swoop in and be allowed or even encouraged to advantage of that--let's soak a third of your precious free time on this planet so you can pay a guilt/fear debt imposed by others out of fear and uncertainity--is terrible.


Fwiw, usefulness, even as a hikkiNEET, isn't only to be found in formal employment - but I totally agree with you about its importance.

I've known a lot of the sort of people described in the article over the years and one of the big factors that seems to dictate whether you love or hate the infinite free time lifestyle is what you do with that time. Doing nothing but consuming leaves you in a sad spot, while the full-time wiki editors, fansubbers, forum mods and guide-writers do a lot better in terms of self-respect and general mental state.

I think the phenomenon of the NEET is here to stay in rich societies, so I'm hoping that those affected are increasingly able to channel their energies into productive and rewarding outlets rather than drowning forever in vapid consumption.


I agree with your comment up to a point. At several points in my life I've dedicated it to recreation and felt great about it. :)

I'm not sure that work is only valuable for its product, though, unless you expand the definition of "product" to include changes in the worker. There are certain forms of work we realize this about: we call them exercises or practice. But it applies to a lot of work whose point might be primarily understood as production.

That isn't the only issue at hand, though. The number of unsolved problems or things that could just use dutiful attention in the world isn't so small that we can just write off hundreds of thousands of people from engagement with them.

We seem to have a culture and institutions that increasingly leave a gap between some people and these attentions/duties, though. And that sounds like a problem worth reflecting on.


I'd agree with you if we reached peak development and unemployment was high.

But there are people dying of hunger in the world, disseases that require funds to find a cure, infrastructure to be payed for and so on.

So if you pay your taxes, even if you consider your work "meaningless", your tax money, if spent well, is not meaningless.

Sure it's better than them joining crime, but its a sad state of affairs and not exactly optimal.

Some societies have been plentiful enough for a couple hundreds years to afford people not working/not net contributing, but those people would still be a burden, at least to missed development.


It seems you speak as if you understand the underlying causes, and that really bothers me, because I see no explanation why you would, nothing to back up your assumptions, and nothing to demonstrate your causations. You don't even have anything to demonstrate correlation. So it's a very weak argument you are making.

And, I'm okay playing hypothetical, but theorizing should be clear. You're theorizing and your theory is most likely wrong, and only minimally likely to be true. Due to the fact that for any issue, there are more theories that are wrong than right, those are the starting odds of theorization.

And now more directly addressing your partocular theory, why do you believe people would rather choose video games over a vocational activity given exposure, access, and training to both?


In general, when someone states something that is not settled fact, they are stating their own opinion. Yes, I have stated my opinion on the topic as a reaction to what I read, which is I believe the purpose of hacker news.

> You're theorizing and your theory is most likely wrong, and only minimally likely to be true. Due to the fact that for any issue, there are more theories that are wrong than right, those are the starting odds of theorization.

Certainly, if one picked theories at absolute random. Random theories would be things like 'men aren't working because elephants are gray' or 'men aren't working because a new sunspot occurred' or 'men aren't working because harry potter is really a chimpanzee'. On the other hand, if theories are picked in accord with the data presented in an article on the topic, and with an understanding of human nature, as well an understanding of the limits of causation (like, realizing the color of elephants does not typically cause changes in employment), then there is a much greater likelihood of theories being correct.

I would really recommend phrasing your comments better. Aside from being absolutely ridiculous (theories that humans formulate are very rarely picked at random, and you cannot pretend to understand the probability distribution of their truth value), your very comment is predicated itself on an arbitrary theory (that humans do indeed pick theories at random from the very large, perhaps infinite set of theories). Applying your own logic, your own theory is very likely to be wrong as well.

> And now more directly addressing your partocular theory, why do you believe people would rather choose video games over a vocational activity given exposure, access, and training to both?

Because video games are fun and I would rather sit at home and play video games if the government were paying me money and my parents hadn't made me afraid of going to hell if I defraud the government. Behind every man's opinion is his own assessment of his own character. I am not a saint, and I doubt most men are.


> Yes, I have stated my opinion on the topic as a reaction to what I read

Thank you. I just wanted you to state that your comment was pure conjecture. It isn't always needed to be explicit about this, but on this particular topic, there is quite a lot of bias and opinions flying around, lots of judgement calls, lots of existing stereotypes, and lots of inherited beliefs. So I think it is exactly the kind of topic where there is a need of such transparency. Similarly, it is in such a topic that I will be much more critical.

Alright, back on topic to your specific opinion:

> Because video games are fun and I would rather sit at home and play video games if the government were paying me money and my parents hadn't made me afraid of going to hell if I defraud the government. Behind every man's opinion is his own assessment of his own character. I am not a saint, and I doubt most men are.

So is your opinion coming from a place where you feel like you can relate to these men? And that you'd choose that path as well, if it wasn't from social pressure and your ingrained moral values?

I personally can't, as I wouldn't choose to sit at home and smoke weed and play video-games. Given the choice, there are many more things I would rather do, and it isn't because of social pressure or morals that I would make those other choices. I know many men who, when they have a free weekend, do not choose to spend it smoking weed and playing video games, including myself, for example. I know some men who do though, most of them employed, except for one who isn't, it also happen he comes from the least privileged background.

So as you said and I agree, since we're at the phase where, in order to make a better than random assessment of the situation, we use the most accessible data point we have: our own life experience. I'm afraid that my data point contradicts yours. It isn't social pressures and imbued moral values that prevent me from choosing to smoke weed and play video-game while cashing in on a disability check, it is just that those aren't the activities that I'm most interested in.

So, maybe I'm the outlier, and the majority of men would all favor video games and weed, but I somehow doubt that is the case. In any way, it is clear to me at this point that we need much more than our personal life experience to understand this particular phenomenon.


There's a very weird "let them eat cake" attitude in this thread which I find distressing. The study reports on the millions of working age men in the US who are essentially too depressed and face too many obstacles to search for work. Instead, they're spending their days staying inside, getting high, and playing video games. They essentially have little to no chance to pursue romantic relationships. Many of them eventually take their own lives.

Perhaps some are enjoying their "hedonistic" lifestyles, but likely most have totally given up on life, much like the Japanese hikikomori. It's not healthy mentally or physically. But it seems like as long as people treat these men as "losers" who deserve their fate, the more this problem will grow.


As far as I can tell, men have always been treated this way, in all societies: accomplish or disappear. The difference now is that automation is rendering the hill insurmountable.


>The difference now is that automation is rendering the hill insurmountable.

I would say "the difference now is that the failing educational system is rendering the hill insurmountable." Automation is just tools. Reasonably able people can learn to use tools. But they need the means to do so affordably and effectively. Our system of education, however, is largely stuck two generations back and not up to the task of preparing people for the fast-moving world we're now in.

And this isn't even the fact that textbooks are out-of-date before they see print, or that greedy publishers keep educational materials locked behind arbitrarily high paywalls. The problem is deeper: people are not taught how to learn, and are in fact taught to fear learning because learning means judgement. They are not taught the joy of self-motivated learning which gives them the drive to keep actively learning on their own, which I believe is becoming an increasingly crucial trait to succeed at work.


the difference now is that the failing educational system is rendering the hill insurmountable.

As an aspiring educator, it's becoming increasingly obvious to me that society expects teachers to be miracle-workers, to motivate children so they study really hard and get into a good college. Yet we don't expect the same from parents. Parents are spending less and less time with their kids, while the demands for education are growing more and more intensive.

My grandfather got his first job after finishing the eighth grade. He worked for over five decades and raised six kids together with my grandmother, who was a homemaker her entire life. Both he and grandma grew up on farms with two-digit numbers of children in the family. Everyone worked from a young age and learned to provide for the household, boys and girls alike.

Nowadays, we expect kids to spend a quarter of their lives or more in school. We expect them to work extremely hard and compete for a spot in a top rated school. We give them no real responsibilities apart from academics. No, cleaning your bedroom or mowing the lawn are not real responsibilities the way milking the cows or making preserves from the garden produce were for my grandparents. If you don't clean your room, nobody will go hungry.

Life was much harder, physically speaking, for most people from my grandparents' generation and earlier, stretching back into antiquity. It was not harder to find purpose in life, however. Nature and the struggle to survive together with your family and community was enough for most people to feel fulfilled.

Today it's the complete opposite on both accounts. Extremely easy to survive with all of the benefits, cheap food and clean water, electricity and heating available. Finding meaning amid so much plenty, on the other hand, is a monumental task.


> Parents are spending less and less time with their kids

This is not true, in fact, parents are spending 2x more time with their kids.

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2017/11/27/parents-...


The vast majority of that increase looks to be caring for young children (under 6) and for physical needs [1]. Look at how little time is spent reading to kids or helping them with school. A lot of parents don't even know how to help their teens with math and science homework, unless they're highly educated in those subjects themselves.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/charts/american-time-use/activity-by-par...


A bit more reasonable expectation of teachers is that they should be able to motivate both boys and girls equally.

A lot of things were different when your grandfather were in school. Most teachers were male, and boys had better grades than girls. The teaching profession was high status profession, highly respected in communities, and well paid. The post world war 1 and 2 era put a lot of focus on practical skills with practical applications in both home and work. In addition the life path of men had very little free choice, in large part to male only military drafts.

From my own reading of education research and reports, making the teacher profession more gender equal and higher status would likely improve the situation for boys without putting higher expectations on the teachers themselves. Beyond that, the lack of male only military drafts means that both boys and girls have now equal freedom to choose what they want to do, and just as some women do not want to enter the work market so do now some men.


You're right that abdication of responsibility by parents is the root cause of all of this. There's no criminal punishment for destroying your child's life as long as you don't use outright violence.

But if parents took responsibility, the first thing that'd go is 80%+ of college enrollments and all one-size-fits-all schooling beyond elementary school.


Education is not a panacea. It never has been, and it's a myth from the 20th century that has, unfortunately, bled over into the 21st. The idea that as automation happens - and barring government intervention and regulation it will - that all we have to do is build a more robust and responsive education system these people would find fulfilling employment as technical managers or researchers themselves ... is just not true. I wish it was, but it isn't.


This may be an unpopular opinion but the real issue (biologically) is that we don't need all the men. We only need a tiny percentage of men.

So how societies sometimes dealt with this excess of men was to send a good number of them off to war. Also occupations used to be much more hazardous so many more die working.

The days of bundling laggers up in a red coat and sending them off with a musket to make the queens empire a bit larger appear to be coming to a close. But in my opinion, we still haven't addressed the underlying problem evolution has left us with. I don't have a good answer either.


While I would agree that this is an unpopular opinion, it's one I've come to terms with myself as I've grown older. There's a book I read that's popular in men's rights advocate circles called "The Myth of Male Power" that explores the idea of males being the "disposable" sex. Unfortunately, we live in a time where you're branded a misogynist for even mentioning the possibility that men face some serious disadvantages in modern American society.


Anyone with an ounce of empathy can see how men and women face unique challenges in society. The discussion to be avoided is "who has it worse". The more effective discussion is to see the problems for what they are, and come up with solutions.


>we live in a time where you're branded a misogynist for even mentioning the possibility that men face some serious disadvantages in modern American society.

no we don't


Feel free to restate it as "you're branded a misogynist for not conceding from the get go that women experience an order of magnitude more suffering than men and need more rectification of gender injustice than men do."


> we don't need all the men. We only need a tiny percentage of men.

Relevant: A single male galapagos turtle sired 800 offspring, single-handedly (well, I guess it wasn't his hand) saving his species from extinction.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/12/world/americas/diego-tort...

> Also occupations used to be much more hazardous so many more die working.

Right. Females are precious (in the eyes of genetics) because they are wombs for the next generation. Because maturation takes time, total reproduction throughput is mostly limited by number of females.

This raises the natural question then, why don't most species simply produce way more females than males? Some do, but most don't and the reason is fascinating [0]. There's almost an iterated prisoner's dilemma thing going on where producing fewer of one sex opens up potential genetic exploitation by producing more of the rare sex and over time, that leads to a stable roughly 1:1 equilibrium.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher%27s_principle

So, species tend to produce lots of males but don't really need them. What to do? It seems like the evolutionary answer is to treat them as expendable wildcards. Make them bigger, stronger, more aggressive, and more willing to take risks. Some of them will stumble on to new discoveries that benefit the herd, or die protecting the tribe. Many will simply die from misfortune, but no matter, they weren't needed anyway. There's plenty of sperm to go around.

Through most of human history, this kinda sorta worked out OK because there were enough competing warlike tribes, deadly predators, unexplored territories, and risky occupations to soak up all of these genetically extraneous dudes. But we keep making the world safer and safer and now we are finding out that our culture no longer effectively knows what to do.

It seems like, for many men, the answer is to escape into a simulated world that gives them the challenge, risk, and potential (virtual) reward that they crave. Notice how almost all of the widely played videogames by young men are violent and war-like, or at least sports, itself a ritualized simulation of combat.

And, from that light, the incredible backlash of Gamergate where some men attacked women for daring to criticize or even participate in their videogame world makes a little more sense. They felt they had no place left on Earth where they could be a man and not feel like a failure.

> The days of bundling laggers up in a red coat and sending them off with a musket to make the queens empire a bit larger appear to be coming to a close.

Actually, it was just last year that the US ended the longest continuous war it has been in for its entire history. I've noticed that almost every US President seems to become more hawkish once elected. When I feel like putting on my tin-foil hat, I sometimes imagine the newly elected candidate getting a briefing from security officials. "We've run the simulations over and over, and if we don't have some kind of military conflict to act as a pressure release valve for this surplus of angry, disillusioned men, the end result will be revolution in the US."

I don't really believe that, of course, but sometimes...


>But we keep making the world safer and safer and now we are finding out that our culture no longer effectively knows what to do.

I can't say I agree with everything in your post, but this assertion is reasonable. I'd say civilization has already discovered a partial solution to this problem: monogamy where men satisfy their evolutionary urges for usefulness through breadwinning. It isn't perfect for everyone but it's probably the most optimal overall solution, especially when you consider that once basic needs are met, the average person is content to live the life prescribed to them by society. What I'm saying is that maybe we don't need to indoctrinate our youth with the notion that historic gender roles are totally evil and oppressive - we're seeing a lot of the fallout from that practice in contemporary Western society.

No, not every woman wants to be constrained to a life of housework and childrearing, and not every man has the ambition to make a name for himself; but on average humans have innate desires/drives which have specialized, over tens of thousands of generations such that average life satisfaction is strongly predicated upon traditional gender roles.


> I'd say civilization has already discovered a partial solution to this problem: monogamy where men satisfy their evolutionary urges for usefulness through breadwinning.

Yes, I agree. Strangely enough, I think outlawing polygamy is probably one of the most profoundly powerful cultural technologies humans have ever invented.

So putting this back together with the article, the author is showing how unskilled men are dropping out of the social contract. Because, for them, the opportunities for breadwinning are harder to find.


My own anecdotal experience says that not all the dropouts are, by typical definitions, unskilled. It’s a lot more complicated than that, and I believe it is closely connected to psychological factors such as susceptibility to anxiety and depression.


This is the take the feels closest to the mark to me.


>We only need a tiny percentage of men.

The question isn't how many we need, because need is relative. The question is how many we can employ profitably, and how profitably. (Hedonic adaptation will make us "need" them soon enough).

How many we can use profitably, and how profitably, is not fixed.


> This may be an unpopular opinion but the real issue (biologically) is that we don't need all the men. We only need a tiny percentage of men.

Biologically a baby may be male or female at similar probability. I think your argument is flawed, as it implies that the only goal of males is to impregnate as many females as possible and nothing else.


That is the "goal" of dna as far as a non thinking entity can have a goal. It's deeper even then males and females. Dna that reproduces more frequently and consistently ends up dominating it's environment. How the dna accomplishes that is what changes, whether it's by reproducing in higher quantities, or making adaptations to have the organic payload carrying the dna get more opportunities to reproduce, or some other solution


I don't think people will care until the issue has become large enough that it will start impacting others in society indirectly. Eg not enough tax revenue being generated or not enough men willing to fight in a war.


In a few decades we'll have robots to fight our wars.


I find this very unlikely. Maybe most of the shock and awe part will be done by robots, but I doubt that there won't be boots on the ground. Nor do I think that we will do away with sailors on destroyers.


I would wager that a lot of the people wasting time playing video games all day are precisely the ones who would benefit most from serving in the armed forces. Traditionally that is probably where a lot of them would have ended up.


15 years ago I failed out of computer science at UIUC because I skipped class, got high and played video games all day. Once my parents cut me off, the depression of working dead-end jobs after having such high prospects before led me to enlist in the Navy to try and start over.

Today I’m married with a child, I support my family as the primary breadwinner, I have a BS and MBA and am pursuing a PhD in computer science. All of that education was paid for by the GI Bill.

Sample size of one, but I can confirm your hypothesis.


You're right, they would be the ones that would benefit the most. Unfortunately, since many of them are already on disability and have prescriptions for certain drugs they'd likely be disqualified from service. Barring an actual WWIII scenario and a draft that would waive these restrictions, "join the Army" isn't an option.


As cannon fodder to protect the privileged.


That's actually one argument people make for reinstating the draft.

With the draft, people from all walks of life were enlisted. (Yes, there were ways to weasel out of it, but beside the point)

Without the draft, the army is largely built from the lower-class, conservative, patriotic populous.

The argument is that the privileged would be less likely to send people off to war if it meant their loved ones lives were on the line.


To give my perspective: I'm a cake-eater. I have a dayjob, but I don't really care about it beyond basic professionalism, and I spend a fair amount of my spare time with cannabis and video games rather than with people.

Who cares if my male peers think I'm a loser? Most of them are incompetent mooching pieces of shit, and I don't have to believe in their crab mentality. They can say "loser" all they like.

Who cares if my female peers think I'm a loser? I've gotten laid enough in life, and it's not like job sites are dating sites. I already dodged the bullet of having to raise somebody else's kid or having to be stuck in a loveless marriage, which makes me not-a-loser in my book.


Youre right you have dodged a bullet in not having to raise another mans child or being in a loveless marriage. However, societally speaking, there is an alternative.. Good enough marriages where men raise their own children.


Word.


Bro...


The problem, I think, is that the article seems to believe that the solution is "return to the 1950s". The world has changed. The relationships between men and women have changed. The relationship of the economy to individuals has changed.

The article seems predicated on the notion that this number (male participation in the labor force) is the metric that matters, rather than anything about their mental health -- harder to measure, and therefore outside the purview of an economist (especially a right-wing economist). It doesn't even really try to look at what's in their minds, much less how we could go about creating a more healthy world for them to live in -- with everybody else.

I felt as if what the article kept trying hard not to say was, "Well, if only women would return home, there would be more lucrative jobs for men, and more need for the women to be taken care of by a man". That ship has sailed.

Many men have adjusted to a new kind of masculinity for that world. Many haven't, and we'll need to discover some new things. And I don't think that's well-served by the article's tacit notion that what's really needed are more of the old things.


>The relationships between men and women have changed. The relationship of the economy to individuals has changed.

>Well, if only women would return home, there would be more lucrative jobs for men, and more need for the women to be taken care of by a man". That ship has sailed

Worth noting that the current changes are explicitly counter to traditional roles which have existed for thousands of years. Yes, appeal solely to tradition is a fallacy, but it's also unreasonable to conclude that all past civilizations were bumbling barbarians with totally dysfunctional societies.

>Many men have adjusted to a new kind of masculinity for that world. Many haven't, and we'll need to discover some new things

The trouble is that most of these modern changes to the definition and role of masculinity (and femininity) are engineered by a particularly loud subset of the population. They run counter to what could be considered human nature (as evidenced by virtually all past and most contemporary societies) and although the ideals are ostensibly about freedom and equality, they fail to be self critical and account for the potential that gender roles have specialized over millions of years of evolution and there are associated costs to such an apparently egalitarian society.

Consider, first and foremost, that by shaming two or so Western generations into believing that the life of a housewife is menial and subservient, we have virtually doubled the workforce, without necessarily increasing the number of jobs required for a functioning society. Results include the modern necessity for a dual household income and negative wage pressure. And there are studies that life satisfaction of women relative to men has been steadily decreasing for 2-5 decades (can't remember exactly).

Maybe that ship shouldn't have sailed. Maybe it's folly to decide to turn thousands of years of wisdom on its head. Men have intrinsic, biological drives to compete, which are far stronger and more critical for life satisfaction than those of women, and the current Western push for "equality" may be leading to worse outcomes for society, especially for men who feel they've been outcompeted not because of lack of skill but because of forced social norms. The unfortunate truth is that the majority of people live their lives according to the norms of their societies - even when such norms have negative overall outcomes.


Which social changes would you roll back to counteract the technological changes that have resulted in menial jobs without a career ladder or higher-than-subsidence pay?

How would we be better off with a bunch of men chasing these same still-meaningless jobs but with more dependents tied to them? How should we value the frustrations of the people least suited to compete in this new system against the frustrations of people not even allowed to compete in the old system? The more-options-for-more-people scenario has strong "better off" appeal right there.

You could just as easily conclude that the solution is to push forward and make it acceptable for single-income women-led houses, with "househusbands" who play video games all day while babysitting the appliances and kids. We've automated the shit out of the non-emotional-labor parts of that "housewive" job too, after all!

You preach a return to historical tradition but those traditions were forged in a vastly different technological landscape with far more physical labor required for survival, resulting in some splits generally around physical strength. Today is far different, so it's unreasonable to conclude that those old traditions are the best fit.


I don't think you understand my argument. This isn't about defining what is and is not menial or what kind of lifestyle is socially acceptable. The point is that the job market is a market like any other - if you double supply without changing demand, price for labor (wages) goes down.

>You preach a return to historical tradition but those traditions were forged in a vastly different technological landscape with far more physical labor required for survival, resulting in some splits generally around physical strength. Today is far different, so it's unreasonable to conclude that those old traditions are the best fit.

I don't deny that the landscape has changed. However, human nature largely has not - and tens of thousands of generations of specialization have almost certainly optimized women (in terms of physiology, behavior, and desire) for more social and less competitive tasks. Evidence is all around us - typical male interests and behaviors tend to be far more competitive and aggressive, and we have physiological and genetic mechanisms to explain this difference (testosterone in particular).

>You could just as easily conclude that the solution is to push forward and make it acceptable for single-income women-led houses, with "househusbands"

Well, not exactly. While it could theoretically balance the labor market, what I'm suggesting is that such a campaign would run counter to human nature and lead to worse outcomes in life satisfaction and possibly even economic measures, because of innate differences between male and female psychology and evolutionary suitability (on average) for certain tasks.

I'm not suggesting that we revert to arranged marriages and dowries - and I acknowledge that most of the social progress of the past 100 years or so has been overwhelmingly positive. What I am saying is that perhaps the pendulum with respect to gender roles has swung too far and it's time for it to swing back a little close toward a healthy middle which is more consistent with human nature.


But then what does that "healthy middle" actually look like without reverting the doubling of supply of labor?

I think you are overgeneralizing about "human nature" and under-valuing people's choices, based on what you're reading/hearing/seeing about one particular group of people.

It seems like you're suggesting "pushing" this group back into the rat race because of genetic disposition to respond to competitive pressure, but I'm highly doubtful that people who are already voluntarily dropping out of the competition/rat race, who aren't chasing the cars/glory/money/women/whatever, are going to be well-served by that.


So... what do you want? A government program to promote the joys of being a housewife? Do you really think that will move the needle on a systemic socioeconomic issue?

Or would you rather see an authoritarian solution? I'm sure that will go over well.

Keep in mind regardless of what you want as a woman, there's very real economic risk to being dependent on a man. Wanting to live a happy life as a housewife doesn't put food on the table when he loses his job and doesn't pay rent when he divorces you. It doesn't make life any easier when you find he has a mistress but you don't have the means to leave him.

Meanwhile, for those who are in the money with well-paying careers and considering quitting work to settle down, the opportunity cost of leaving behind your career is enormous: you are leaving tons of cash on the table even if you plan to rejoin the workforce later (as your career is not progressing for N years), you are giving up your dreams of vacationing abroad for maybe 18 years, and so on.

And this is all assuming the man even makes enough on his own to pay for the family. Many households simply require two paychecks in today's economy, and what you want as an individual will be trumped by the cost of rent every time.

I happen to agree that there's nothing wrong and nothing subservient with being a housewife. But to sum up such a complicated and vast socioeconomic development as merely "shaming two or so Western generations into believing that the life of a housewife is menial and subservient" is patently ridiculous.


> Wanting to live a happy life as a housewife doesn't put food on the table when he loses his job and doesn't pay rent when he divorces you. It doesn't make life any easier when you find he has a mistress but you don't have the means to leave him.

By and large, these two issues did have solutions.

> Wanting to live a happy life as a housewife doesn't put food on the table when he loses his job and doesn't pay rent when he divorces you

With regard to job loss as well as death and disability, fraternal organizations (such as the Knights of Columbus) were basically founded for this purpose. Still today, they offer a highly rated insurance program and provide scholarships for the children of any members who die before their kids attend college or vocational school.

Divorce was handled by simply not allowing divorce without reason, and requiring the husband to pay upkeep. In more civilized legal systems, wives have automatic access to their husband's finances (community property).

> It doesn't make life any easier when you find he has a mistress but you don't have the means to leave him.

In all 50 states, adultery is still a civil crime. A cheated on wife can sue her husband for adultery if he spends money on his mistress and neglects her and forcefully garnish the wages if she has too.

The merits or lack thereof of these solutions is up for debate, but I don't think we should pretend they didn't exist and stay at home wives were left for dead by society. By and large there were support systems.


Keep in mind regardless of what you want as a woman, there's very real economic risk to being dependent on a man.

Before we automated away most of the jobs for men (leading to the current crisis) we did it first for women, with household appliances like refrigerators, laundry machines, and dishwashers. Go back to the 18th century (or earlier) and you'll find that husband and wife are equally dependent on one another. Families lived on farms where it was "all hands on deck" just to keep everyone fed, clothed, and warm during the winter. This meant even the parents were dependent on their own children to help out, as there was always more work to do.

It really wasn't until the 20th century when men started working away from the home and women found their chores automated, leading to long periods of boredom and loneliness. The genie is out of the bottle on all of this, though, so going back to live on the farm like Agricola [1] is not going to be an option for most people.

There are still some people who live the old way, though. They're called the Amish and they have much tighter family bonds than the rest of us. Even they have a real challenge maintaining their way of life, given that their children are allowed the opportunity of living among "the English" (that's us) for a while before they decide to commit to the community or strike out on their own. It's hard because modern technology is so very addictive.

[1] https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/31260/agricola


Eh, the "family bond" of the Amish also involves ruthlessly shunning their children and the children of their neighbors for doing things that most people would consider completely normal, so grain of salt re: tight bonds.

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/amish-shun...


It goes both ways. The Amish have very deep and committed beliefs about their way of life and its connections to the family unit, which is primary in their community.

What we consider “completely normal” (cell phones, dating apps, sharing economy conveniences and luxuries) hasn’t done anything to keep us from atomizing to the point where people are killing themselves directly or through alcohol/drugs. The Amish want to keep those things out of their society because they see plainly what the rest of us have become.

It’s extreme and difficult to understand, but I wouldn’t call it ruthless. Those who are shunned have made the informed decision to reject their rules and leave.


>So... what do you want? A government program to promote the joys of being a housewife? Do you really think that will move the needle on a systemic socioeconomic issue?

Not at all. I would like to see policy makers back away from the nonsensical notion that lack of gender parity across industry is indicative of a broken society, and stop pushing young women aggressively into STEM and leadership roles and encouraging industry to effectively set quotas.

>Keep in mind regardless of what you want as a woman, there's very real economic risk to being dependent on a man. Wanting to live a happy life as a housewife doesn't put food on the table when he loses his job and doesn't pay rent when he divorces you. It doesn't make life any easier when you find he has a mistress but you don't have the means to leave him

Sure, those are legitimate risks, but as other commenters have pointed out there are ways around them. But what people fail to consider is that there is stress associated with the rat race, particularly if someone is pushed into a role unsuited for them, either by cultural or economic pressure.

>And this is all assuming the man even makes enough on his own to pay for the family. Many households simply require two paychecks in today's economy, and what you want as an individual will be trumped by the cost of rent every time.

As I've mentioned, besides globalization, I think the largest contributor to the dual breadwinner requirement is the cultural push by liberal policy makers to get women working. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say.

>Meanwhile, for those who are in the money with well-paying careers and considering quitting work to settle down, the opportunity cost of leaving behind your career is enormous

A problem neatly solved by specialization of home roles, though there's no reason a man can't stay home to take care of the kids. The main issue here is that a vocal minority has taken hold of policy with flawed assumptions which consider neither human nature nor unintended effects, and we're dealing with the fallout.

>I happen to agree that there's nothing wrong and nothing subservient with being a housewife. But to sum up such a complicated and vast socioeconomic development as merely "shaming two or so Western generations into believing that the life of a housewife is menial and subservient" is patently ridiculous.

Do you disagree that two generations of feminist ideology have structured educational and industrial policy such that women are strongly discouraged from child rearing? If not, where do you expect the demand and funds for all of that extra labor to come from when the fundamental needs of society are more or less unchanged? Sure, there are other geopolitical influences on wages and life outcomes, but this is a major and understudied driver.


> though there's no reason a man can't stay home to take care of the kids

Yes there is. Babies spend nine months in their mothers. When they are born they prefer their mothers more. Not out of hatred of their fathers but because that is who they are used to, due to simple facts of biology. More importantly, only mothers can breastfeed. While true that fathers can stay home with older children, there is an obvious advantage to mom staying home with babies, both for mom and baby. Keep in mind the WHO still recommends breastfeeding until age 2. Two years out of the workforce is a lot.


I'm not going to argue the side points because I doubt either of us have evidence

My post is just meant in support of GPs "that ship has sailed". STEM and leadership initiatives affect a tiny portion of the workforce by definition of how few women are in these roles, so it's clearly not bringing us back to the 1950s family unit. If you have another policy suggestion that could revert decades of socioeconomic change let me know


Maybe arguing for a solution where women were property of their husbands is cruel. I reckon the people making these arguments don’t expect to be on the barrel-end of that social dynamic.

Maybe we as men can figure out a different way to interact in society that doesn’t require stripping the other half of their rights.

Maybe the people making this argument just can’t compete in the modern world.


There have been plenty of societies with strong marital bonds where women were not property. Even in England women were not property. That is a tired line that undersells reality. One could equally say men were property since under the law of coverture in england a wife could enter into debts on behalf of their husbands poteentially forcing them into servitude to pay that debt while men could not do the same to their wives.


You say women have been shamed into pursuing careers, but I don't see the evidence for that as the root cause of their increasing participation in the career-age workforce, nor do I think it's obvious that this expanded workforce is the cause of the general modern necessity for a dual household income. Why not the opposite? That the increasing costs of housing, goods, and services, due to XX factors, are making single-income multi-person households infeasible?

Seriously, what percentage of people in households that are dual-income by necessity are happy with their situation?


I agree with you, but given the current culture the most likely outcome here is continued grinding hopelessness of men in Western society. Women may fare better briefly for one or two generations by moving into and evicting men from the remaining roles, but within another few generations automation will put both men and women back into the home. However, not as a family unit, but as wards of the state.


>The unfortunate truth is that the majority of people live their lives according to the norms of their societies - even when such norms have negative overall outcomes.

- People (men and women) are more stressed than ever

- People are reporting less satisfaction with life than ever

- People are increasingly anxious, isolated and suffering from depression

- What once took one person going to work to provide now takes two, and even then many struggle, and childcare is fobbed off on strangers who charge a fortune in a large part due to the premiums they have to pay for other strangers failing to take adequate care of the children fobbed off on them

- Pessimism for the future of the developed world is the highest it has ever been

- Despite living in the greatest economic times, ever, with less inequality than ever, we have classes of people who swear they're more oppressed than ever and are comparing those who disagree with fascists of the past. What optimism people retain is slowly being diminished watching this charade play out

- Men are dropping out of society, are graduating less, working less, are killing themselves, or trying to kill themselves, or are fracturing mentally, becoming homeless and/or turning to drug addicts at a rate we've never seen before

- More women are also experiencing some of the above, despite graduating more than ever, earning more than ever and being more empowered than ever

- Life expectancy in the developed world is starting to drop as people view society as fractured and without purpose, which is manifesting itself in transient, only briefly gratifying greed-fueled hedonism or self-harm and suicide

- The traditional nuclear family has been denigrated, people are now growing up in broken homes - which has terrible outcomes for children who become adults - and on the sidelines of broken homes acting as a warning sign on marriage, coupling, etc.

- Birth rates are, as a consequence, dropping through the floor

- Governments, hell bent on continuous growth at all costs because a drop in growth will bring the economic pyramid scheme they've concocted crashing down, are replacing their now-demoralized, not-breeding-at-replacement-rate populations with immigrants from completely different cultures who, while economically beneficial, have severe consequences on the idea of identity and sense of community in the areas and countries they (understandably) leave their broken home countries for

- The drop in sense of community, shared identity and sense of security is having severe ramifications on the next generation as they're kept indoors, glued to entertainment, while their parents become increasingly politically polarized against their own people

It feels like we're either in the midst of a grand but badly thought out social experiment, intentionally made, whose consequences our ancestors would mock us for, and our descendants loathe us for, or we've been manipulated into a race-to-the-bottom while being told it's good for us by someone or something to gain from it.

Maybe we're living out the Mouse Utopia Experiment for real, and with these NEETs we're now seeing the emergence of the "beautiful ones" while the rest of us chase one another around biting one another without real reason, straddling what little space is available to us, while the mice we've decided to call leaders fret over making us more productive so yet more food and cheap entertainment can be dropped into our laps.

The above may seem pessimistic but none of it is nonfactual. We techies are pretty out-of-touch with the average joe at this point, and while we enjoy the financial success on two incomes to provide the kind of life available to the average family on one income in our grandparent's generation, most cannot.

But we're told this is working. That it's progress. That we should continue on as we have. I ask is it working? Is this actual progress? Should we actually continue in this vein? Because from where I'm standing we've taken values, lessons, structure and understanding developed and passed down over hundreds of thousands of years as we progressed from animals, through pre-humans and to our modern form and have flipped them on their head, denigrated and discarded them at the behest of entities with loud mouths and personal agendas, backed not by science or nature but simply by assertion, and whose "rules" and "norms" seem to change on a whim as every day, week and month passes by.

I'm not saying I have the answers so I'd appreciate people didn't strawman the above, put words in my mouth and find outrage in them, etc.


Most of these claims I've never heard before, and I know at least one of them (the claim that inequality is lower than in the recent past) is definitely false, so I feel justified to ask: do you have any sources?


In the "Supply-Side Solutions" section, the author recommends improving k-12 education, more vocational training opportunities, and better counseling. I'm not sure if any of those recommendations entail "returning to the 1950s".

The author also notes that this trend is unique to the US, as this trend doesn't exist in other never-communist democracies. These other countries have increased female workplace participation, but don't have the mass male drop-out of the workforce.

Overall, I think it was a good, balanced analysis of the issue and I did not pick up on desire to return to the "good ole days".


The "return to the 50s" rhetoric is buried in statements like "Unfortunately, American family structure has been transformed over the past generation". Maybe it's unfortunate for exactly the people he's talking about in the article, but it was fortunate for a whole lot of other people.

He seems to understand that he can't go back, but he continues to wish that there were a solution to "repair the family or the other institutions that formed the foundation". And that's what's holding him back from recognizing new institutions that already work for a lot of men. Formulating a new relationship with women is a big start, rather than wishing that women would still go back to the kitchen so he could have a reason to exist.

Maybe these men should be stay-at-home dads. Or maybe they should start looking into previously female-coded activities, like being a full-time artist or Etsy crafter or volunteer. Not to insist on any of those, but to break out of the mindset that pervades the article that it used to be better and that that's the way it really ought to be but you can't say so because it's not PC. So he doesn't say it -- but it's there between the lines, and I think that that implicit assumption does even more harm than bringing it out in the open. It's the reason that these men keep failing in the same way.


Yeah, also this seems to contradict author’s own point that other countries don’t have the same declines in male participation rate, even though they have even lower marriage rates.


I couldn't help but notice, you contributed no constructive suggestions for how to improve the situation.

Also, I am fascinated by your mind-reading ability to know what an article writer did not actually say, but was secretly thinking.


Benefits are much more generous and much easier to get in countries with much higher worker participation. And they have the same video games in other countries too.

And marriage does not cause entry in the workforce, participation in the workforce is what makes marriage partners more interested.

Reduction in benefits has not and is no increasing work participation. There was not spike in worker participation in the 90s when massive "reform" was undertaken. There is no increased work force participation from the cut backs being done now or in recent years. Yet loosening of work safety regulations would certainly be expected to increase disabilities for manual laborers. So the best conclusion is that the supposed cheaters aren't.

Also, if those not participating in the work force are merely enjoying life on theses supposed benefits, one would not expect the already high and ever increasing suicide rate in this sector.

The author's ideology entails denying calls for higher wages by diverting what is clearly a demand/wage problem[1] into a culture war issue.

[1] I'm guessing the author is a fan of Adam Smith where lack of participation is _always_ caused by under pricing. Apparently the author is willing to accept pretty thin evidence to drop Smith when that theory might benefit labor.


Welfare reform was always bullshit. It was a compromise where the Democrats got some added benefits and changes, and the Republicans got the ability to cut off traditional welfare and transition people to Social Security Disability

This pushed the costs off the states’ books and the federal budget, and made the costs a problem for social security. It backfired as it created a permanent underclass and drove up Medicaid utilization and costs.


> Welfare reform was always bullshit. ... This pushed the costs off the states’ books and the federal budget, and made the costs a problem for social security. It backfired as it created a permanent underclass and drove up Medicaid utilization and costs.

I'm not entirely sure this is a bad result. Driving down welfare costs may indeed drive up medicaid costs, but this seems like a decent trade. Rather than giving people a check, give them health insurance and support for them to get their own job.

Give people the minimum necessary to keep their dignity (basic housing, public education, foodstamps, basic healthcare), and if they want more give them opportunities to grab it.


I was unclear. A local administrative law judge makes a determination that you are "disabled", you are placed on SSDI and cannot work without losing it.


> A local administrative law judge makes a determination that you are "disabled", you are placed on SSDI and cannot work without losing it.

It's not easy to get SSDI, it requires many requests, hearings before judges, and lots of forms. However, I agree that once you get it, you're basically trapped within it. There's definitely room for improvement (e.g., if you have SSDI and a job, some progressively increasing percentage of your income is subtracted from your SSDI benefits).


> And marriage does not cause entry into the workforce

You going to cite some evidence of this, or is it just a hot take? My hot take is that after getting married and having a child, the thought of losing my income was terrifying. Obviously we can theorize about causation in both directions, but I would put forth the argument that being married and/or having a family is the single most powerful inducement to maintain gainful employment for anyone, male or female. It might not cause entry into the workforce, but it sure as hell reduces exit from the workforce, which would have the same effect on statistics.


>And marriage does not cause entry in the workforce, participation in the workforce is what makes marriage partners more interested.

The key phrase being "more interested". You aren't guaranteed a wife just because you have a career. Participation in the workforce does not cause marriage to happen.


>And marriage does not cause entry in the workforce, participation in the workforce is what makes marriage partners more interested.

Those two influence each other. Work improves chances of marriage? People will work more or better jobs.


I don't see why this is such a surprise, most people hate working.

I thought it was almost a truism that people work for retirement, i.e. the point in their life when they have enough saved to stop working and just relax and travel or fish or whatever.

If there's a way to skip 30 years of working at a job you hate and just start now, most people would take that option.

This is the basic problem with basic income, although I still think it's important and necessary, we're going to have to undertake a huge cultural shift and accept a large XX% of the populace just sitting around, vaping and playing video games all day. Not everyone is built to seek out the constant struggle of self-improvement.


The problem is balancing two parts of human nature. People like to be rewarded for their effort, some people get horribly depressed without this. The other is that people get their happiness from their wealth relative to those around them. It doesn't seem to matter how much wealth people have if inequality is high.

How do you build a system that rewards the hard working but limits inequality while allowing some not to work?

And how do you do this in such a way that self regulates. Those who choose to work will gain power and influence. If those start to resent those that don't work conditions will likely worsen for the non working.


Seize the means of production and ensure a ruling government whose core is utilitarianism, comrade xupybd.


I think the seize the means of production can be done. The ensure a ruling government whose core is utilitarianism is the tricky part.


we're going to have to undertake a huge cultural shift and accept a large XX% of the populace just sitting around, vaping and playing video games all day

I don't think most people care too much about that. Unlike communist states which forced people to work, even if the job was bullshit, this is a free country, and if someone wants to sit around doing nothing useful all day, they are perfectly welcome to do so.

What the people do care about though is when the government takes their money that they earned through their work and gives it to people who sit all day vaping and playing video games, so that they can keep enjoying their leisurely lifestyle. This is blatant unfairness, being punished for working and rewarded for not working.


> I don't think most people care too much about that

I feel like a LOT of people care strongly about this. Almost all of our national dialogue about immigrants, taxpayer-funded healthcare, etc, is centered around how unfair it is for Other People to get Free Stuff.

The idea that we could _build housing and give it to homeless people_, or just pay for everyone's basic healthcare needs (even if you could still get better by paying more), raises the ire of a significant portion of the population here. Our country is in love with the idea that if you fail, it was because you made mistakes, and _deserve to be punished_ for them. (Never mind that often times, people go bankrupt because of unplanned medical issues, etc.)


> The idea that we could _build housing and give it to homeless people_, or just pay for everyone's basic healthcare needs (even if you could still get better by paying more), raises the ire of a significant portion of the population here.

Does that surprise you that people who earned their own houses and their own healthcare through their own work resent the idea of skimming some of the fruits of their labor and giving them to people who didn't do so?

Look, this thread started with suggestion that "we're going to have to undertake a huge cultural shift and accept a large XX% of the populace just sitting around, vaping and playing video games all day". I don't like this bait and switch, where first I'm forced to support people who just want to live life of leisure, and when I complain about that, I get slandered by suggestions that I want to _punish_ unlucky chaps with medical bankruptcies.


It surprises me that people actually believe the lie that you're more likely to get rich by "hard work" than by skimming the fruits of other people's labour.

If you want a comfortable life of leisure then skimming is the way to do it. And it's socially approved, in the US at least.

Speculate on and/or rent out property, own stocks, profit from tiny pointless loopholes in money markets, become a monopolist, or work for one of the huge bureaucratic IT monopolies, even scam gullible VCs and investors - all good well-paid "hard work" you can do with a clear conscience.


As I understand it, it is a matter of looking at the total picture instead of just the free house. I don't have specific numbers, but I recall an article I read several years ago which was talking about costs that are incurred by a homeless person, covering such services such as police, hospitals, etc, and concluded that the costs were way higher than giving the homeless person a house. Therefore, the reason to give a homeless person a house is not motivated by just altruism, but actually also from saving taxpayer money. It's a similar concept to making sure the poor have good healthcare, so that the spread of diseases are contained.


> I don't have specific numbers, but I recall an article I read several years ago which was talking about costs that are incurred by a homeless person, covering such services such as police, hospitals, etc, and concluded that the costs were way higher than giving the homeless person a house. Therefore, the reason to give a homeless person a house is not motivated by just altruism, but actually also from saving taxpayer money.

This assumes that the world is steady state, and that government policies don't create any incentives to change behavior. Sure, it might be cheaper, all else being equal, but such program would not make all else equal. You'd get more people who otherwise wouldn't be homeless, but the free house for homeless program made them decide that it's worth it to become one. As a result, you'd have many more homeless people than before, and so your free house for the homeless program quickly becomes very expensive. Indeed, you need to look at the total picture, instead of just the free house.


> This is blatant unfairness, being punished for working and rewarded for not working.

It's not (not always) blatantly unfair.

I can earn lots of money by working because I live in a society, governed by a body of laws, which has provided tremendous value to me in the form of educational opportunities and an extremely specialized labor force. Our shared civilization also constrains my behavior in myriad ways (I can't just go out and kill animals for food or harvest natural resources wherever I want, for example, and I have to share the limited space on our planet with a lot more people) but, for me, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

But if someone finds themselves in a position where the constraints imposed by civilization outweigh the benefits to them, then it's unfair for society not to help them out.

Ideally, we should all be reimbursed by our shared civilization for the loss of our natural inheritance (our right to live off the land, etc), with society providing the same reimbursement to each member. If people are unable (or just unwilling) to work for additional income beyond that, I won't feel exploited. It'll just be me paying my fair share for the benefit I get at their expense.


I care a lot more about the social effects than the "taking my money" part. Having lived in areas with very high unemployment rates, there's not much good to say about them.


> Having lived in areas with very high unemployment rates, there's not much good to say about them.

Indeed, and for this precise reason incentivizing unemployment by supporting the vaping and video game habits of the unemployed is exceedingly bad social policy.

Suppose government didn't do redistributive welfare. If you're a typical HN user, you'd probably then end up with tens of thousands of extra dollars a year saved on taxes. Would you then use these tens of thousands of dollars to help your own neighbors enjoy life of vaping and playing video games?


I'm not a typical HN user. I probably earn less than 70% of you, and most of my salary goes straight to alimony. Taxes take half of the rest.

It's not that those taxes don't sting for me--they surely do--but rather that I think the social effects of worklessness will be huge. It wouldn't take that much for the US to drop into the second world.


People want to relax and go fishing when they're working, not when they've got nothing to do all day. Retirement only looks good while you're working unless you have enough self drive to actively pursue your hobbies when retired, which hardly anyone does. Retirement also shortens your life, at least for men.


This story really needs another graph showing "NOT-IN-LABOR FORCE RATES FOR WOMEN AGES 25-54; 1965 TO 2019".

See https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2016/images/hipple-fig6.png

It appears that the non-participation rate for women is about twice as high as for men.


But that’s not really anything new or unusual, is it? Women have always stayed home to look after children more often than men.


not just looking after children, also as caregivers for elderly parents


The trend is completely different for women though as is the way people view women that are not participating in the labour force.


Since the participation rate for women peaked around 2000, the participation rate for men and women both declined a few percent. The curves are essentially parallel.

The graph is from "Labor force participation: what has happened since the peak?" by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2016/article/labor-force-partic...


I stand corrected. I saw the graph earlier but it was difficult to tell either the reduction in both groups was similar or not. Looking at the numbers though does paint a similar picture. The rate for men from 2000 to 2016 fell from 92.1% to 88.5% (3.6% drop) and for women from 77% to 74% (3% drop).


So the current prevailing theory is that the guys are getting high and playing video games? What's the current prevailing theory for the girls? Doing unformalized work that doesn't show up in the stats? Also playing games and doing drugs?


Look at the chart. There are now a lot more women in the labor force than there were in the 1940s. Back then, they were staying home with the kids. Now, women are having children later and often working (at least part time) once they have them.


Sure, I'm talking about the 25% of women and what the theory is for them that's analogous to the 10% of men that aren't working.


1940 was wwii. That is when men went to war (on all sides - many to commit genocide) and women went to work either to feed themselves or cause economy needed it (yes some to support that genocide on home front).


The traditional role for women has been to stay at home and take care of children, and while it's not the majority anymore, a significant amount still choose this path. Also, there's no stigmatisation of women who choose not to work.


> Also, there's no stigmatisation of women who choose not to work.

Eh... ideally not. It's not uniform, but many treat female homemakers as less sophisticated.


What does this have to do with men?


One should always ask "compared to what?". Is this a male-specific phenomenon, or is it actually happening to all? (perhaps with females lagging by a few years)

The answer matters if you're trying to solve the problem.


>One should always ask "compared to what?". Is this a male-specific phenomenon, or is it actually happening to all? (perhaps with females lagging by a few years)

The linked article does ask this - it's less helpful to use women as a counter though, as for a very long time they have had drastically different labor participation rates. The article uses men in different circumstances to illustrate their points


It provides some missing context.


>Even after controlling for age, ethnicity, and education, married men are decidedly more likely to be in the workforce than men who have never married. This "marriage effect" is so powerful that married prime-age male high-school dropouts generate labor-force participation rates in the same league as their never-married, college-graduate peers. Analogous but somewhat less powerful effects are seen when we drill deeper into family life: Irrespective of marital status, education, and ethnicity, a prime-age man is more likely to be in the workforce if he lives in the same home as children under the age of 18, regardless of his race or education.

This is pretty damn interesting but not all that surprising. For those whom the institution of marriage is still relevant (and those lucky enough to find a partner), getting up and going to work everyday is not a huge problem.


Yeah, most men work because people depend on them. I don't like my job but I show up at work because what the hell else would I do? I have two kids who need food and a roof over their head.


Isn't this why most people (incl. women) work? We work because we want to pay for food/water/shelter. Then past that we work for things that we want.


I mean clearly some people work for other reasons. Tom Brady still wants to play football at age 43 after achieving enough for two separate Hall of Fame careers. Meg Whitman is CEO of a new company even though her net worth is over $5 billion. They are doing it for other reasons.


Yes, that is why I said "past that, we do it for things we want."

In those cases, they are doing it for things they want to do. My point is it's not just a male phenomenon.


> but they nevertheless suggest that changes in family structure had a powerful and adverse impact on male work rates and labor-force participation rates...

This article seems to assume that changes in family structures are a cause of men not working. I see no mention that it could actually be an effect of that. Who's gonna want to marry (let alone have kids with) a man who is unemployed and isn't even looking for work?


Who's gonna want to marry (let alone have kids with) a man who is unemployed and isn't even looking for work?

This betrays your unfamiliarity with the segment of population under question. As it turns out, lots of women will readily have kids with those men. Along with the growth of single-man household, we observe growth of single never married women with children.

See for example "Promises I Can Keep" (https://www.amazon.com/Promises-Can-Keep-Motherhood-Marriage...) and "Doing the Best I Can" (https://www.amazon.com/Doing-Best-Can-Fatherhood-Inner/dp/05...) for some sociological view of realities about the lives of people this discussion revolves around.


No one marries middle aged men. Well... that's hyperbole. Historically, most men would marry in their 20s. This article says that middle aged men have given up working. Those some men could have been ambitious (or ambitious enough) 20 somethings who -- due to cultural changes -- never quite married and settled down.

That is to say, it is not entirely clear that an apathy problem among old men is the cause of declining marriage rates, given that most people marry well before the age of the men in the article.


>Needless to say, the relationship between family structure and prime-age male labor-force participation is complex, with causation arrows pointing both ways. Yet on balance, the net effect of such changes appears to have been a withdrawal of male labor from the workforce — a "supply-side effect," and a major one.


It's an endogenous effect.


My impression is that young people are just catching up with Bucky:

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

― Buckminster Fuller


Something to highlight in this article is the prevalence of pain medication use among the out-of-work population:

"Apart from the small fraction (around 13% in 2015) of prime-age male non-workers who are adult students, the remainder report spending many of their waking hours watching and playing on screens — over 2,000 hours per year on average. Almost half of these non-working men report taking pain medication on any given day (which should raise a red flag for those worried about the opioid crisis)"

The watching and playing on screens isn't ideal (2000h/y == 40h/wk on average -- which doesn't seem to leave a ton of room for a base level of healthy exercise and socialization) - but at least it is relatively harmless.

But that half of these folks would take pain medication on a daily basis seems staggering.

The author seems to correlate this abuse with the availability of opioids via Medical and Medicare. That does seem like a problem. However, reading further into the blog of the quoted author[0], that writer (who visited many affected areas during their research) attributes it to the private sector pushing opioids heavily.

Personally it seems fairer to attribute most of the cause to the private industry which made the painkillers popular and mainstream, as opposed to Medicare and Medicaid, which functioning as desired should be making all healthcare more accessible (with the unfortunate inclusion of opioids as a dangerous subset of that).

[0] - http://samquinones.com/reporters-blog/2016/11/21/donald-trum...


> According to the latest monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "work rates" for American men in October 2019 stood very close to their 1939 levels, as reported in the 1940 U.S. Census. Despite some improvement since the end of the Great Recession, Great Depression-style work rates are still characteristic today for the American male, both for those of "prime working age" (defined as ages 25 to 54) and for the broader 20 to 64 group.

The premise of this article is based on this statistic. Oddly enough, no definition of "work rate" is given. After some quick searching, I didn't find anything accessible, either.

This may be significant. Is a full-time "investor" included in the count? What about a programmer working on a startup? What about some other kind of self-employed contractor?

There are many ways a person might not show up in a tally called "work rate." Many (all?) of them have become a lot easier to pull off over the last 20 years.


Labor force participation rate. It says in the article.


Sure, but how is that measured and what does it exclude?


participation rate = (employed + actively seeking work population) / (non-prison population of age 16-64)


> Investor, entrepreneur, contractor

Those would be all self employed wouldn't they? I am more interested to know how much engage in shadow economy to sustain themselves


I think male socialization has left many men poorly-equipped to deal with the modern workplace. Prior to the information age, the primary challenges in the workplace were physical or motivational. So an attitude of "be tough and work through the hard times" was effective and allowed you to earn a living. Boorish behavior was tolerated or even celebrated as "male bonding". But as women entered more professions, that behavior became divisive.

In the modern workplace, the primary challenges are emotional, and I don't think a lot of men have the tools to deal with them. Many men never had to learn how to deal with anxiety, fear, uncertainty or anger. Bad behavior from men was tolerated or even celebrated until recently. What worked to get them where they are is no longer appropriate going forward. So it's no wonder more men are opting out of work altogether because they feel they are in a no-win situation. You see a lot of this in "incel" communities where many self-deprecatingly refer to themselves as "neets" (no employment, education or training).

To be clear here, I'm not blaming men as this is a societal problem. It does not affect all or even most men. This is part of the "toxic" aspect of "toxic masculinity" -- it harms men just as much as it harms women, only in different ways. It is possible to undo, but it takes years of therapy and a commitment to "be better" in the face of misleading signals that say you don't have to change / compromise.


What male socialization?

Who are our teachers in the United States? Over three-quarters are women, less than a quarter men. And given that recent studies indicate that women teachers tend to rate boys (unfairly) lower than girls for the same performance, that's women's socialization teaching boys how to behave in schools.

Societally? Go on, search to see what doodles Google made for Father's Day.

Which parent seems to have the final say in the courts? Again, we seem to default to Mother Knows Best.

What about relationships? US society seems to have ceded the ground entirely to Venus. So very, very many "men are stupid" posts on Twitter and it does not seem to have an end in sight.

Men's clubs? Legislated away wherever possible, on the grounds that it granted men an unfair business advantage. Meanwhile, an organization set up for women in business and creating a co-working space for them had members complain that men are showing up, with a startling lack of self-awareness.

Perhaps this is female socialization not working for boys and men.


Not sure you really understand my point; "male socialization" is simply "the way we raise boys" -- which includes the ways we as a society neglect their needs.

This isn't a "men versus women" thing, but rather a "we need to pay better attention to boys' emotional needs" thing. When you don't, you teach them that their emotions don't matter and aren't a thing they need to manage to have a healthy, happy life.


I'm not sure you understand my point: the way we raise boys has largely been ceded to women for a while now and heaping "toxic masculinity" (really, when was the last time you saw the second word without the first tugging it along?) shaming on men is just more of the same.

We need less of it.


>It is possible to undo, but it takes years of therapy and a commitment to "be better" in the face of misleading signals that say you don't have to change / compromise.

You and I know both know this is uttered with no foundation and amounts to nonsense. There isn't studies to show the effectiveness of "years of therapy" for a "condition" made up in the last decade with little beyond the historical treatment of women in the workplace by men to point to.

You're also fully aware that there's absolutely nothing of substance to point to showing that traditional concepts of masculinity was damaging to other men in the workplace until it was pointed to as discomforting or exclusionary to for women new to the same workplace, and is now being retrofit to try and make the term more inclusive to get more people on board with a concept that has little foundation or backing in... well... anything.

You bring some social science studies proving the existence of "toxic masculinity" and its effects on both women and men that have survived the replication problem, plus therapy studies showing how to effectively "undo" the problems from those studies that themselves have survived the replication problem, and I'll happily commend you for changing my mind on it.


So true. As I entered the workforce I was amazed at how different the challenges I faced were from what I had expected before working in an office/lab setting. I feel like I’m constantly feeling out & soothing the emotions of the people (mostly women and men with whom I would probably get along with in an all-male setting). I’m not good at public relations and frankly I don’t want to be - I wanted to be a scientist. But instead I feel like I am a kid at a daycare.


On a meta-level, I have to say I am a bit mystified as to why use of the phrase "toxic masculinity" is tolerated on HN. It is not a generally recognized medical phenomenon nor recognized by the general public as an issue outside of a small group. Moreover, were a poster to attach "toxic" to any other gender, race, or creed, they would be justly pilloried by HN readers and the moderators would quickly take action.

@dang/@sctb, "toxic masculinity" is also one of those politically and socially charged phrases that tend to "generate more heat than light", as I believe one of you once said. I will echo a recent post by tptacek that dang responded to; it wastes the time of commenters and I ask you to reconsider permitting its use on HN.


> is also one of those politically and socially charged phrases that tend to "generate more heat than light"

And that seems to be quite popular on HN recently


There is a large double standard applied here that a man who don't work is checking out of society, but a woman who does the same is a productive citizen since she can produce babies.

We wanted and most of us still want equality in the work force with both women and men equality responsible to earn their place in society. The bread winner model is cultural obsolete, even through we still behave, and given many comments here on HN, still think in those terms. A mans role culturally remain to support his children and their mother. If he doesn't do this then we declare them as checking out from society, become hikikomori, an drug addict and hedonistically waster of time. Increased rates of depression and suicides only reinforce our belief that men must fulfill their role or they will only harm themselves and others.

So let me make a suggestion. Maybe it is time to change the culture.


It's interesting to see the contrast in discussion with other posts that talk about how we need to get rid of useless jobs. Those posts normally talk about how we need to make it so it's possible to just live off government benefits instead of spending our lives working, meanwhile this submission calls it a national crisis when men are leaving the workforce and choosing to live off of government benefits. I don't think people choosing to leave the workforce is necessarily a bad thing, but there should be a way for them to find a sense of purpose or community, if that's what they desire.


I'm not going to go into detail because it will inevitably lead to a pointless flame war, but HN seems to flip flop politically between threads that deal with primary economic issues and threads that have more of a social focus


Talking from the perspective of an EU country, the salary deductions on employment contract for a single person are brutal and exceeding 40% of the gross salary, while public institutions treat young single native male as their worst enemy. Enormous successes simply don't happen over here, no point engaging in a startup and risking the mental health. The dating market is... well enough was said already by now. Once achieving housing and certain financial comfort, why should one bother with employment?


As unpopular it may be to say such a politically incorrect thing (admitting this is a generalization, and all the caveats that come with it) --

Men generally have the biological need to go do and wander and discover things. I don't know whether it's hormones or what. Debate all you like elsewhere (I'm not trying to debate that point here).

My point is that when they don't get an outlet to do this, they cause trouble. Idle hands are the tools of the devil. They get in trouble, they cause trouble. They create things, but also get into trouble.

And a society that doesn't provide outlets for working-aged males to go out and do things is inviting trouble.

What I observe about the US is that we are making the cost of employing people so high that we have no incremental way to put people at the low end of the skills ladder (or at the high end of aging out) to even minimal use -- and the only way to get even a low level purpose in life is to be employed by a company that goes through very constrained legal and regulatory calculus to employ someone.

In other countries, people who are unemployed can:

-- Be community volunteers next to government workers to augment local capabilities

-- Be ticket takers on buses, trains

-- Be part time informal labor / delivery people

-- Be "shop minders" who aren't fully employees but help when needed

All these things for even a paltry wage, but purpose in life. In other countries, you notice immediately the presence of such people.

But we in the US have foreclosed the ability for people to fill these roles. I guess the last time we did this was with the WPA. The very rules we have in place to protect people (and claimed benefit of workplace standards, etc) prevent many at the bottom from being useful.

It's to our societal peril, as we can see lately.


It's not obvious to me that your assessment is even close to accurate, so it would help to know more about which countries you've observed and also where can we find data on this topic.

My observation would be more like: there are less regulated and less bountiful countries, and there are more regulated and more bountiful countries, but I don't know of less regulated more bountiful countries.


"Men generally have the biological need to go do and wander and discover things."

I see no evidence that this is a male thing, versus a female thing, or even that all men feel this. I see plenty of men who just coast through life with no curiosity or drive. They don't explore or discover, they just consume and do what they're told so they can consume some more.


> I see no evidence that this is a male thing, versus a female thing

I’ve yet to see a valid generalization for men that did not hold for women. Though sometimes the perspective changes.


Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it isn't there. Most of my male friends that fit under what the article is talking about have wants/desires. They're just covered up by crippling anxiety/depression.

Not to validate that men only have these traits. But ultimately most of the conversation on here comes from the stereotypes we as a society place on gender based off of a misunderstanding of evolution.



Obligatory "IN MICE", but interesting study nonetheless.


As a counterpoint to the many people replying against your general point that men have a stronge urge to adventure, I will go ahead and say that I agree with you. Just looking at the outcomes of history, the number of male explorers, warriors, and adventurers strongly supports the case.

There are some psychological differences between men and women that are intuitively obvious, and well researched in psychology, but get people riled up. As a standard disclaimer- this is all on average, and individuals vary greatly. I would figure that men's greater aggressiveness corroborates an adventuresome nature.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_psychology#...


I think it's unfair of you to introduce a premise, make a series of conclusions based off of it, and then say "don't challenge the premise", especially when the premise itself isn't an obvious or easily verifiable fact.


> Men generally have the biological need to go do and wander and discover things. I don't know whether it's hormones or what. Debate all you like elsewhere (I'm not trying to debate that point here).

I'd drop biological here. Because it might just as well be a cultural or social cause. The important observation is that men have the need to have adventures and women don't. The rest of your argument stands without needing to assert this is about biology.


That the trend exists across cultures suggests that culture might only be part of it. Not 100% due to biology, to be sure, but intuitively it makes sense that it's a significant drive simply based on how humans evolved and what gender roles existed because of our biology (men hunting and gathering, women raising children).


That's a debate we could have, though I don't particularly care for it.

My point is that the entire argument stands without making this assertion, so why not leave it out.


What you're saying doesn't make sense. We have right to work states that can hire you and fire you all in the same hour.

What is this 'constrained legal and regulatory calculus'?

I've worked as 1099 and my company literally just gave me a check. Zero overhead. And that's an option everywhere in America.

For W2 employees you can outsource your H.R. to ADP for 200 bucks a month for 10-15 employees.

This appears outright wrong and reeks of having an agenda especially because no sources were cited


> Men generally have the biological need to go do and wander and discover things. I don't know whether it's hormones or what. Debate all you like elsewhere (I'm not trying to debate that point here).

What an obnoxious thing to do. You know you're stating a controversial opinion, or you wouldn't have said that. You don't get to set the rules of conversation like that.


They do, actually. They're clearly trying to frame the conversation ("I'm not trying to debate that point here") and I can understand because that debate is tired and most people have dug into their positions to the point where little more interesting conversation is likely to happen.

That doesn't mean we have to accept that framing. I don't really think OP was trying to be obnoxious, nor do I think calling them out as such help the conversation.

We have other options that lead to productive conversation. Hera are a couple:

* call out the assumption before engaging on the topic. OP already did but we could say something like "not sure I agree with your premise but assuming it was true..."

* decline to accept that framing and maybe point it out to others: "all of your points depend on the debate you don't want to avoid. I disagree with your initial statement and don't think any of the rest stands on its own."nts as given


I think the first option is a very constructive path. The second just leads to a dull and combative forum (albeit not quite as combative as starting a reply with "what an obnoxious thing to do...").

I'd prefer just downvoting and moving on before doing that.


Especially without any attempt at citation.

"I'm going to say a deliberately inflammatory thing and also it's not up for discussion. But it's also the foundation upon which my argument is built. No critiquing that though, because then my argument might not be sound."


> No critiquing that though, because then my argument might not be sound."

I also make statements and pose arguments about all manner of topics without citation of my foundations. I know and believe what I believe (which are different things), but it is not required that I simultaneously try to educate or argue with base topics that are not relevant to my topic.

I can argue forever with people who dont or cant come to the same place, which is not constructive for me. Apologies, but I have already moved on. You disagree with the precepts and thats fine. Begging for the well tread evidence is noise when it will make no difference to either of us except require you to make up another reason to whine about how wrong the idea is. It is a loss every time I see this same kind of backhanded exchange (ie "You haven't convinced me and I don't agree with the precept") as a form of participation in a discussion.


Interesting take, I suppose. It's pretty dismissive of people who don't agree with your beliefs as 'whiners' rather than trying to engage in some sort of discussion with you.

I agree that sometimes it's useful to pose arguments and skip the citations, but that usually relies on both parties agreeing that the axioms are at least plausible. I'm willing to entertain discussion on things I don't necessary agree with or don't have data for if I think there's a chance they are true.

I suppose if you are trying to be more evangelical about your ideas rather than inviting discourse on them, then by all means, continue. I just see so many people these days who are closed off to new perspectives who also insist they are having 'rational' discourse about a topic.


Not the GP you're replying to, but thought it'd be interesting to chime in to point out that evidence shows that it seems we would have to be absolutely overwhelmed with contradictory evidence, and people we respect bringing it to us, to actually change our opinions or beliefs on anything.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont...

As such, despite being the type to spend countless hours on back-and-forth, pulling up sources, etc. in conversations, I can fully understand GP's point of view that it's fruitless because neither of us (engaged in the back-and-forth) will come out any the better for it, if not worse off due to the entrenching effect the engagement an have on us.


You can mentally translate the argument from "X is true", to "P implies X", where P is the statement that OP didn't want to debate, which I think leads to some valuable discussion, without having to assume anything about how true P is.


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