McArdle: real 21st century problem is providing meaningful jobs for all

Megan McArdle considers the recent rioting in Sweden and suggests developed nations have a long-term problem of finding meaningful jobs for all:

In too many places, for too many people, the modern industrialized democracies are not working. People can live, but they are cut off from the broader society. And the number of these people seems to be increasing. It’s too hard for many people to find a decent job. And taking from the rich to buy them health care and day care and subsidized housing does not repair the hole this leaves in their lives.

It looks to me as if the great task of the next few decades will be to find ways to employ all the people on the margins productively, and with dignity. But this is not, mostly, the question that most public policy debates are engaged in addressing. That question is hard, and no one has a good answer, so instead we debate technical questions about stimulus multipliers and minimum wages, and have the occasional knock down, drag out fight about who has a moral right to how much cash. There’s nothing wrong with those debates, and I myself have been a spirited participant. But the harder questions have much more important answers.

Interesting analysis. Simply providing a safety net may not be enough moving forward. Expectations have changed, both for those receiving government or private aid and those providing the aid. People expect to have an opportunity to make decent money as well as pursue something that interests them.

It boils down to this: what happens if you have developed societies with relatively high unemployment, particularly for disadvantages groups, for decades with little change?

h/t Instapundit

Graphic comparing US to other developed nations on nine measures

This particular graphic provides a look at how the United States stacks up against other developed nations on nine key measures, such as a Gini index, Gallup’s global wellbeing index, and life expectancy at birth.

As a graphic, this is both interesting and confusing. It is interesting in that one can take a quick glance at all of these measures at once and the color shading helps mark the higher and lower values. This is the goal of graphics or charts: condense a lot of information into an engaging format. However, there are a few problems: there is a lot of information to look at, it is unclear why the countries are listed in the order they are, and it takes some work to compare the countries marked with the different colors because they may be at the top or bottom of the list.

(By the way, the United States doesn’t compare well to some of the other countries on this list. Are there other overall measures in which the United States would compare more favorably?)