Last week the official US unemployment rate reached 9.5%. Of course, this includes only those "actively seeking work." Or another way to think about it is those with remaining unemployment insurance benefits to collect. The actual number of unemployed is thought to be between 16% and 20%, and rising.
Given the common belief in "full employment is a good thing", these numbers are pretty depressing and way too high. But that is not the only possible perspective.
From the point of view that mostly those persons engaged in the basics of life should be employed, then perhaps the number should be around 50%. The basics: Food, Shelter, Transportation, Communication, and Security. Of course, there are other important things, but generally speaking they are luxuries. Some people should clearly be working on luxuries, but it is unreasonable to expect all of our excess labor to be so employed.
The main problem comes about because we have coupled the notion that it is necessary to have a job to have a life. As things stand now, to be unemployed is almost a disgrace. Well, maybe for a few weeks but then folks start to see you a bit as if you had the swine flue. Don't get too close, it might be catching. And nasty things start happening to you, your car and house payments come delinquent and soon you are walking on the street. Or maybe lucky enough to have relatives who can help and you are driving an old wreck and living back at home.
But it does not have to be like that. All of the folks who live here have to be supported in one way or another. Even the tea-baggers mostly agree with that. Why not do it with dignity and relieve the pressure on the planet to keep everyone running at full blast just to keep up a decent lifestyle?
Of course, those folks who go to work every day should get more than those who get to go fishing. Maybe we can even find a way to share the fishing time as well as the work time. But do we really want to put our family, friends, and neighbors on the street just because the economy is winding down a bit to a more rational level?