Toronto Star Nudges the Bitter Truth of Our Times without Daring to Translate It into the Obvious Solution


The Toronto Star (2/10, "Jobs key to stability in Mideast" by David Olive) reports: "The driving force of revolutionary sentiment in the Middle East and North Africa is chronic youth unemployment.

"This is social upheaval we're witnessing, fueled by joblessness and a resulting lack of self-esteem. It is not the rise of a religious theocracy, as with the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Nor is it the assertion of nationalist pride in the former Warsaw Pact nations in the 1990s.

"Those are two misleading comparisons that get far too much attention.

"A more apt comparison would be to the English welfare reforms and US Progressive movement of the early 20th century, and the 1935 march on Ottawa by unemployed men from across Canada.

"Yes, police brutality in the 30-year regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been very real. Operatives of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups do wander freely in the failed state of Yemen. And suppression of basic freedoms and a chasm between rich and poor are indeed oppressive facts of everyday life in the Arab world.

"But the oft-cited rampant corruption of despotic leaders and their crony-ridden bureaucracies in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Syria and Sudan is actually less pronounced than in comparatively stable nations like Russia.

"Transparency International assigns the same ranking of low integrity in government – coming in at an abysmal 98th of 178 states measured – to Egypt as to Mexico. Canada came in 6th, Italy (67th), China (78th), and India (87th) don't win any prizes for superlative honesty in public administration, either. But their booming economies, with high rates of business formation and expansion, more readily absorb new entrants to the workforce.

"A clear-eyed Economist sees the unfolding events in Cairo, Tunis and Amman for what they are.

"Policy-makers would be well-advised going to promote job-intensive growth, even as they try to calculate the gigantic geopolitical consequences of the Egyptian earthquake.

"But this crisis is seldom framed that way, because resolving it on economic rather than geopolitical terms will be a longer project that makes a huge claim on the resources of affluent nations.

"Replacing a dictator or repressive junta will not cure unemployment rates for people under 30 that range from 25.4 percent in Egypt to 30.3 percent in Tunisia.

"'The protesters believe that the freedom of expression they are fighting for now will improve their chances in the job market,' Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of economics at Virginia Tech, told Der Spiegel recently. 'I am deeply worried that young Arabs will turn away from democracy as soon as they realize that you cannot eat free elections.'

"At 14%, Canada's youth unemployment rate is intolerably high. But 15- to 29-year-olds account for about one-third of the total population of Canada and other former G7 nations.

"In most Middle Eastern and North African nations, that figure averages 60 percent. In Jordan, about two-thirds of the population is under 30. Jordan's Queen Rania recently warned of a 'ticking time bomb' in the projected increase in unemployed youth in the Middle East. The region's number of jobless young people is expected to soar from a current 15 million to 100 million in just a decade's time.

"That's a number worth printing in bright red at the top of every foreign minister's daily to-do list. No one likes to think about the implications for regional stability of 100 million idle youth.

"Thanks to heavy investment in higher education than in most Arab and North African nations in past decades, the region's 20-somethings have high expectations of job fulfilment. And they've just shown their organizing ability in forcing the early retirement of despots in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.

"The factors behind this crisis include higher fertility rates than any region outside Africa (2.7 percent compared with Canada's 0.67 percent). That fecundity creates far more new workers than employers can absorb. And the region's universities have emphasized quantity over employability, graduating students ill-equipped to compete with skilled, low-paid workers in the global economy.

"State-planned economies remain the rule in an Arab world in which about 70 percent of the workforce is employed by government. Even before the current global recession, the region's fiscally fragile governments stopped taking on more than a fraction of the workforce entrants. And an underdeveloped private sector, hobbled by bureaucratic sclerosis and corruption, is of scant help in easing youth unemployment.

"'Educated youth have been in the vanguard of rebellions against authority certainly since the French Revolution and in some cases even earlier,' said Jack A. Goldstone, a sociologist at George Mason University School of Public Policy, in a recent Bloomberg Business Week interview.

"Parisians, Chicagoans and Torontonians recognize how toxic is the combination of youth and long-term unemployment. If nothing short of a revamped Marshall Plan is required to create viable economies in one of the world's most volatile regions, the price will be worth paying."


-- from COMER, April 2011


My comment: This highlights the absurdity if the aim of 'full employment' instead of fair distribution of entitlement to goods and services, in an increasingly automated productive system, coupled with a money system which systematically extracts wealth from the producers into the hands of a tiny number of obscenely rich oligarchs, while demanding everlasting 'economic growth' to stave-off its collapse – and using wasteful 'planned obsolescence' to keep up demand to promote this.

End 'fractional reserve' money-creation! We need 'full leisure' in place of 'full employment' for all, not wage-slavery for the overworked 'lucky' ones, and poverty and social exclusion for the 'unemployed'. As was being demanded during my childhood in the 1930s: Distribute 'the wages of the machine' as 'National Dividends' (or 'Basic Incomes'). Free people to choose their own way of self-fulfillment!

It is well established that the more equally wealth is shared within a society, the happier, more cooperative, less stressed, and less crime-ridden it is – and the usury banks and the gambling 'financial industry' use to extract wealth from its producers is a major source of inequality.

Ted Trainer's article, below, may seem extreme to many, but its challenge demands serious consideration. I suggest that the fastest way to further the transformation in attitudes and expectations urgently needed, would be by reform of the money system on the lines proposed by the American Monetary Institute and, in the UK, by Positive Money, combined with the issue of adequate Basic Incomes and curbs on the money gambling of the 'financial industry' – as well as a campaign of public education on the challenges!

– Ed.