Thursday, July 26, 2012

What can brown do for you?

"Brown jobs," jobs in the fossil fuel and energy industries, are exploding throughout the Midwest and Mountain West in America at the beginning of our new fossil fuel boom. Shale oil and gas deposits under formally forlorn areas of the country -- Ohio, western Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota -- are creating economic opportunity the likes of which we haven't seen since the heady days of the dot com boom. The main difference, of course, is that the energy boom will be real and lasting.

One of the many probable effects of this new boom is the rise in income with areas that have a lot of brown jobs -- oil rig worker, engineers, mechanics, etc. Three characteristics of these jobs is will be that they are high paying, require significant manual and technical skills, and will not require post-secondary education.  In other words, the factory jobs that were shipped overseas 30 years ago are basically returning. 

Mickey Kaus speculates that those jobs will likely create a more egalitarian social scene much more effectively than any number of Liberal policies have. Unlike the yawning social gap between the (high growth) service sector and the (low growth) finance and information sectors so common on the coasts, where many concerned citizens claim to care about growing social inequalities, brown jobs "produce social equality through the workplace itself, by allowing the uneducated to make a decent living without being anyone’s personal servant."
If true, this might provide an "objective"–in the Marxian sense–explanation for how Republicans convinced the white working class that Democrats were a bunch of elitists, the riddle Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas” tried to solve. Frank blames a form of false consciousness produced by skillful Republican manipulation of cultural issues (like abortion and gay marriage).But is it "false consciousness" if liberals actually, in practice, favor an economy that, however prosperous, is filled with jobs where the booklearned get to boss around the unbooklearned? If what you care about is social equality, not money equality, it doesn’t seem false at all.   [emphasis in original]

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