Is the loss of mobility really a bad thing?

Feb 14, 2014

Baltimore, Maryland

Yesterday, we sat in front of the fire. Electricity was out in the hotel. All we could do was to keep the fire going and stay close to it. Alas, the firewood was a little green. It absorbed most of the heat rather than projecting it into the room.

In the hotel, we got to know the other refugees. It turned out that many were from Baltimore...and some were friends of our friends. So, the atmosphere was convivial, if not actually warm. It's hard to write...because everyone was so jolly.

The Dow rose yesterday...60-some points. Gold rose over $1,300.

What is amazing about the world improvers is that they never bother to figure out how the world actually works. It is as if they weren't interested. Instead, they just want to control force it in one direction or another...and to mold it, as if it were wet mud.

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Take David Brooks in the New York Times. He notes that the US isn't the country it used to be:

    ....Americans have become steadily less mobile. In 1950, 20 percent of Americans moved in a given year. Now, it's around 12 percent. In the 1950s and 1960s, people lived in the same house for an average of five years; now people live in the same house for an average of 8.6 years. When it comes to geographic mobility, we are now at historic lows, no more mobile than people in Denmark or Finland.
Is that a bad thing? Is stability something that needs to be corrected?

Brooks thinks so.'s young people are much less mobile than young people from earlier generations. Between the 1980s and the 2000s alone, mobility among young adults dropped by 41 percent.

    ... a big factor here is a loss in self-confidence. It takes faith to move. You are putting yourself through temporary expense and hardship because you have faith that over the long run you will slingshot forward. Many highly educated people, who are still moving in high numbers, have that long-term faith. Less-educated people often do not.

    This loss of faith is evident in other areas of life. Fertility rates, a good marker of confidence, are down. Even accounting for cyclical changes, people are less likely to voluntarily vacate a job in search of a better one. Only 46 percent of white Americans believe they have a good chance of improving their standard of living, the lowest levels in the history of the General Social Survey.

    Peter Beinart wrote a fascinating piece for National Journal, arguing that Americans used to have much more faith in capitalism, a classless society, America's role in the world and organized religion than people from Europe. But now American attitudes resemble European attitudes, and when you just look at young people, American exceptionalism is basically gone.

Now, fewer young Americans believe in capitalism than young Europeans. Who would have thought?

What is really going on? Are mobility and appreciation for free enterprise parts of the same thing? Or are they different things? Is the loss of mobility really a bad thing?

Brooks doesn't even ask. Instead, he just comes up with a crackpot solution: give people vouchers to help them move! We won't grace that suggestion with a discussion. It is self-evidently absurd and ridiculous.

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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1 Responses to "Is the loss of mobility really a bad thing?"


Feb 14, 2014

This is quite amusing.
Brooks observes a trend. The lowering of mobility. Probably correctly understands the underlying reason. Lower level of confidence.
Then, rather than addressing the reason, he tries to force the outcome.
Wouldn't it be better to find out why young Americans are losing confidence and address that issue? Would I be so willing to chuck my job if the job market is poor? Would I invest in a new house if I perceive a bubble about to burst?

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