November 24, 2011
Giving Thanks Today but Worrying about the Future
Traditionally on LLB, a Thanksgiving Day post links to legal and historical resources about the Thanksgiving tradition. Not this year. We certainly should give thanks today but perhaps because I am an aging and decrepit Boomer-gen law librarian human being I am in more of a blues funk than usual.
I wonder about what younger people will be giving thanks for years from now. I'm not refering to law librarianship, per se. I'm thinking in terms of opporunties for all regardless of the career paths younger-gens hope to pursue and even X and Yers who already are on their career paths and are hoping to continue pursuing their chosen careers. I just don't see a bright future ahead. Even if we assume that someday equal opportunity will be realized in this country regardless of gender, race, national orgin, etc., I just don't see as big a sky on the horizon for current younger generations and future ones, particularly when in comes to white collar professions.
White collar professions are facing the same structural dynamics the blue collar workforce experienced starting in the late 1970s economic upheaval in US manufacturing industries. Are we approaching a "rest belt" in some sectors of the white collar industry? Looks to me like we are in law and related careers in the US. See The Vanishing American Lawyer, (OUP, 2010) by Thomas Morgan, Oppenheim Professor of Antitrust and Trade Regulation Law at The George Washington University Law School, former dean at at the Emory University School of Law, and former AALS President. From the product blurb:
Over 4,000 lawyers lost their positions at major American law firms in 2008 and 2009. In The Vanishing American Lawyer, Professor Thomas Morgan discusses the legal profession and the need for both law students and lawyers to adapt to the needs and expectations of clients in the future. The world needs people who understand institutions that create laws and how to access those institutions' works, but lawyers are no longer part of a profession that is uniquely qualified to advise on a broad range of distinctly legal questions.
... Law schools must also recognize the world their students will face and prepare them to operate successfully within it. Professor Morgan warns that lawyers must adapt to new client needs and expectations. The term "professional" should be applied to individuals who deserve praise for skilled and selfless efforts, but this term may lead to occupational suicide if it becomes a justification for not seeing and adapting to the world ahead.
Unlike US manufacturing which became "rust belted" because corporations refused to make capital investments in a timely manner which unions contributing to the "rust belting" by refusing to accept management calls for productivity enhancements by way of job classification reforms, pay structures more in line with individual employers than industry-wide pattern CBA, the first steps toward "rust belting" white collar professions is the failure to reform the current cartel structure of the legal services industy and professional legal education. With respect to the former, the reform of legal services in the UK is an expression of adapting to the New Normal, one that is certainly a disruptive change but one that is needed to avoid occupational suicide.
More generally, much more generally, every new debt crisis in Europe makes me shutter a little bit more and makes me wonder when we in the US will be facing our own debt crisis the minute countries like China decide to stop propping up US currency because it has become a "bad investment," because the US economy is no longer the most stable national economy in a globalized economy, because there are other ways to keep the value of their own national currency deflated by hedging their bets on other national economies.
Every time the Beltway substitutes partisian politics for addressing structure reforms that might achieve some sort of long-sighted consensus on national issues, issues that ultimately are international, I see another opportunity lost. With each lost opportunity, the problems just increase by another order of magnitude. But political leadership is absent.
Were do we go from here? Hell if I know but in the future I will be thankful if during my "retirement years" I can get a job as a Walmart greeter. [JH]
Quoting from "walmart greeter", definition 2, in the Urban Dictionary:
As I entered the store, I was approached by the walmart greeter. Our eyes met for only a moment, but it was enough to see the deep, painful hopelessness in his gaze. Whoever the person he used to be had died long ago, leaving a spent shell, an automaton. An emotionless drone pretending to be a human being. "Good morning." he said to me. In subtext he might as well have said "Please kind stranger, kill me and end my existence, for I have not the strength to do it myself." Pity stayed my hand, and I made a mental note to avoid Walmart at all cost.
China will continue buying our bonds until they are able to develop another market for their goods. The true investment they are making when they purchase our bonds is in maintaining acquiescence to the one party state. They need us to consume their goods, lest they risk a spike in their unemployment rate that will create domestic civil unrest. We can't consume their goods unless they prop up our currency by purchasing our bonds. I wouldn't worry about them pulling back until they develop another market, foreign or domestic, for their goods.
And you're not getting a job as a Walmart greeter. I have it all locked up.
Posted by: JD | Nov 30, 2011 7:22:03 AM