Is there economic hope for men?

Allison Schrager has a new piece on that topic in Playboy, and with a new (old) idea, here is one part:

Harvard economist Lawrence Katz thinks that when the economy shifts, those who lose out experience “retroactive unemployment” in pursuit of jobs that no longer exist; however, he anticipates a bright future for men in the new economy. As an expert in the ways technology affects the middle class, Katz predicts the rise of the “new artisan” as a substantial trend in middle-class employment.

His theory holds that technology will commoditize and cheapen products in all industries but that artisanal workers will offer a superior interpersonal experience coupled with unique goods and services, commanding premium prices in turn. Men, he notes, are especially well suited to such roles. “These kinds of jobs go back to colonial times,” Katz says. “Individuals brought their own ingenuity and creativity to provide small-scale, high-quality products. In the 19th century they were displaced by mass production, but technology is already bringing a resurgence of this type of work.”

…If Katz’s prediction about new artisans comes to pass, the ways men and women fit into the economy will come to complement each other. Their roles will change, in some ways becoming more traditional and in others less: Women may be likelier to spend their careers in nine-to-five corporate positions, enjoying the regular hours, benefits and predictable pay those jobs entail. Forty-nine percent of women already work in firms with more than 500 employees, compared with 43 percent of men, and their share of the corporate pie is growing. That certainty will empower men to take on less predictable but possibly higher-paying work in self-employment.

A world in which men strive to learn new skills and take on riskier, entrepreneurial household roles may even prove more fulfilling than office work—but this requires changing our definition of a “good job.” Expecting men to be better-educated, office-work-oriented breadwinners is an outmoded idea. The artisan of the future will still be skilled and possess just as much potential to provide for his family. The technological revolution is yet another turn in the cycle of economic progress, and workers of both genders must learn to adapt. The end of men is not nigh; the end of our dated notion of work, however, is.

I believe the link would count as “safe for work,” but do note you may get a Playboy pop-up as I did, and there are sidebar ads, no full nudity but still this is Playboy beware if need be.


I'm not sure the etsyfication of the economy is going to result in the gender shifts he expects.

Related to this, what I've seen in Los Angeles is that there seems to be a decline in general craftsmanship, at least related to construction, leaving behind a small bespoke market targeted at high income individuals.

The craft beer industry is 10x the size of the etsy marketplace, and it is dominated by men.

And also by white people!

Don't tell Steve Sailer thought -- he will ruin the one legitimate expression of white pride left.

Pfft forget craft beer Steve was writing about hipster white domination of craft chocolate three years ago.

"By looking at the portraits of the 38 hipster foodies, we can crudely estimate the demographics of the Brooklyn scene. Overall, the borough of Brooklyn is 36% white, 32% black, 10% Asian, and 20% Latin."

"But the artisanal scene is different. I come up with 84% white, 1% black, 11% Asian, and 4% Latino."

The key word is "industry" - brewing is not labor intensive while Etsy is

says the man who's never scrubbed a brew kettle...

Well I am glad that Google knew WTF etsy is. Because I sure didn't.

Clearly you did not get married in the past five years or so.

Etsy is currently clearly seeking a principally female set of buyers and sellers -- it is not a website that is looking to aesthetically appeal to, say, dudes like my father who build wooden things in their garages. There is probably a niche right now for "the manly version of Etsy."

but as any artisan will tell you, selling the shit you make is fundamentally secondary to the spiritual satisfaction you get from making the shit. that's the greatest satisfaction of artisanal food work - someone else eats the shit you make instead of it clogging up your garage or back yard or whatever.

I was married last year, did not know what Etsy was. However, I am apparently one of the few men on this Pinterest thing. They do have a lovely selection of artisanal "ero"-pictures.

Scoutmob is one version I know of Dude-Etsy.

You can already see this gender breakdown in journalism among pundits v. editors. Pundits, such as myself, tend to be men, while the salaried editors who choose the pundits to publish tend to be female. It's been that way the entire quarter of a century I've been bloviating for money.

Harvard economist Lawrence Katz will probably not be giving up tenure at Harvard to try his theory out, however.

The colonial, "artisanal" work was in the context of a high wage economy. - high wage because of the abundant supply of free or cheap land. That of course no longer obtains so it's hard to see how there will be a significant supply of middle class entrepreneur artisans. There may be a class of freelance, itinerant artisans, but they would be proletarian artisans, which is not the same thing as middle class entrepreneur artisans. Furthermore, without this supply, it's hard to see where the demand will come from. The demand for these sorts of artisanal goods comes from other such artisans. The wealthy purchase high priced luxury artisanal goods, and the poor and the proletariat purchase mass produced goods as they can't afford artisanal goods.

The point about free cheap land was that there was some condition that made great wealth available as long as someone could be found to bring it into being. Nowadays we have these complicate, protean technologies which we are still finding uses for. Most of the tools for working these technolgies can be had for free, after you have spent a thousand bucks on a computer.

The cheap land meant that artisans could support themselves and their families. The thousand dollar laptop and free programming languages and frameworks are nice, but they by themselves don't pay the rent, let alone support a middle class family.

After you spend about a thousand bucks for a computer plus a thousand bucks per month to rent a tent in Mountain View:

There's plenty of cheap land, and even some free land. You just have to be willing to live in small town Nebraska, Iowa, or Kansas.

There's few women there, however, and few women, who are largely urbanized today, would want to move out there.

That sounds like a non sequitur to me.

How do you mean? Most men work in order to acquire mates and have families.

Oh. You are one of those ...

Shouldn't you be out practicing your game or something?

No, I'm not one of those "game" advocates or whatever you're insinuating.

Do you really find it that implausible that many men aren't going to invest heavily in becoming and living as artisans if it doesn't lead to them having mates and families? Why wouldn't they do something else or nothing at all?

Well, Silicon Valley does skew heavily male.

The logic isn't all too strong in this argument. "Commoditize and cheapen"...yet "unique goods and services commanding premium prices" are the ones to benefit from this?

Those two are the opposite of each other.

The rest of the arguments are even more flawed. % of women working in companies of over 500 people vs % of men means nothing. It doesn't imply men don't work in "firms" or already engage in "self-employment". Men are more likely to work in activities which are less than 500 people large. Police forces for example (vast majority of police departments are much smaller than 500 people). Construction companies (also vast majority are smaller than 500) etc.

Certainly the link between this and "higher pay" is missing.Premium price for products doesn't mean higher pay for producer. Volume matters, and small-scale artisanal by its very meaning, implies very small customer base.

Either way, I don't think this is what the "new economy" means.

“... Individuals brought their own ingenuity and creativity to provide small-scale, high-quality products. "

I see these guys at flea markets and swap meets all the time. Usually they drive an old van and live under a bridge.

But progress is coming. Soon they'll drive a Prius and live under an artisanal bridge.

The only way to make money out of artisanal bridges is in training independently wealthy hipsters to build them.

I seem to have several male friends who crave this type of work, not that they have yet been successful at it.

Correction, on first thought I do know a couple who are doing well.

But wait, isn't this sexist?

Good point, shouldn't there be a trigger warning on this post? After all, the post suggests that there are differences between men and women--and it doesn't say that the women are clearly superior, which would make it okay--so it constitutes a microaggression. If I were a female GMU student, I could file a Title IX complaint.

I looked at the pictures in Playboy and learned that there were indeed differences between men and women. But that was many years ago. Things may have changed.

To the extent that spending money on artisanal this-and-that is participating in a zero-sum status game for the current yuppie types and future 20% (remember the artisanal pencil-sharpener?), this seems like a wasteful foundation for future middle-class employment. We'd be better off just letting the robots mass-produce stuff and giving money away as a basic income.

I'm not saying I support a basic income, especially at this still-early juncture, but this is just disguised make-work.

In truth, this really seems like a return to the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. It was a hair-brained scheme by some socialists to value individual craftsman over depersonalized capitalist efficiency. Real post-war prosperity came with tract housing and split-level homes.

Only one of the major arts and crafts guys, William Morris, was a socialist and he actually produced a ton of good jobs for quite a long period of time.

Yes but on the other hand William Morris was independently wealthy, a sort of Victorian hipster or trust fund socialist, and it was this that money that allowed him to start and at several points maintain the business. Ironically the money originally came from a series of mining investments made by his father, said mines had appalling conditions for workers even by the standards of the time. When asked how he reconciled his personal wealth with his socialist views Morris said it would be pointless to give up his money now but that after the revolution he would be happy to see it redistributed.

It's really a return to the arts and crafts movement of the late 1960s, when everyone was looking for more authentic ways of earning a living than the 9-to-5 grind. My wife was one of them, and she has ground out an income from her craft since 1972 -- and succeeded as well as she has, in my opinion, primarily because she enjoys the selling part as much as the making part. But whatever she makes is pin money compared to my 9-to-5 contribution to the household account. Making things is no way to make a living.

Much of the current economy could easily be considered disguised make-work. Deciding where economic growth could or should come from based on personal preferences is a slippery slope. Sure the artisanal pencil sharpener is total BS, but then what are we to make of any economic activity at the margins? The marginal consumer product, video, food item, or whatever, is probably horrible and should never have been made in the first place. But we don't get to pick and choose what goes into the economy. There are probably much less wasteful versions of the economy out there, but they require that people don't demand stupid things, which they often do.

Well between you and me, I do kind of think that already, or at least I'm open to the idea. I think we'd be better off working Germany hours instead of America hours, since so much of what we spend is positional.

I think this idea is meant to be complementary to a system of robotic mass-production. Once established, it could become a perpetually self-replenishing status signalling game based on coolhunting. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a hipster triumphantly holding up a vinyl rarity - forever.

I think a version of this is likely, but I think the amount of people who will actually be able to meet the costs of living by doing satisfying artisanal work will be relatively small. Competing with mass produced goods at the low end and fashionable marketing at the high end will probably drive down margins. If people had a basic income which income from artisanship was merely augmenting than an artisanal culture could be important in meeting workers psychic needs, but I think it's unlikely that we'd have an economy where it was able to meet many people's (regardless of gender) material needs.

That's precisely the point. "Premium price" immediately implies that very few will be able to operate in that space. Hence, it's of little significance if we're speaking of a population in total.

Second, the driving mechanism of the "new economy" is precisely in making things which were once only available for premium prices, into cheap mass-produced goods. The gains are almost entirely to the high-volume producer. All the evidence points in this direction, yet somehow..."artisanal" is what is going to "win" here?

Third, this describes what has happened in the economy over the past 200 years. There's nothing "new" here. What's "new" in the "new economy" is the ability for entrepreneurial start ups to grow faster and compete better with the big firms due to better access to capital and technology. But this isn't "artisanal".

where are our public matter compilers?

Congratulations, you are being empowered to take on less predictable but possibly higher-paying work in self-employment. Please put your belongings in this box and follow the security guard to the front door.

Elite security guards specializing in company right-sizing events will arrange the ex-employee's belongings artisanally in a hand-lacquered rosewood box as a value added service.

Payment for this service, as a matter of professional courtesy, will be seamlessly and automatically deducted from the employee's severance check.

"Women may be likelier to spend their careers in nine-to-five corporate positions, enjoying the regular hours, benefits and predictable pay those jobs entail."

Yep. As certain fields have feminized (medicine and especially pharmacy and veterinarian medicine), there has been a pronounced shift from independent male practitioners to 9-5 female corporate employees. I had a relative who was a vet who had a very difficult time selling his practice because nearly all the new grads were women and they weren't interested in the risk, hassle, and hours involved in owning a clinic. It also matches the pattern in my own marriage where my wife has the steady job with the security, predictability (and benefits) while I have the higher-but-riskier income of an independent consultant. It's a pretty effective combination.

Lastly, gotta post this link (which I think has made an MR appearance before):

These professions have in part been feminized as a policy. Everyone knows that women will work fewer hours, take maternity leave and are less likely to become specialists, let alone innovators, but school administrators keep demanding an even split in their admissions.

Your comments about your cousin selling his veterninary practice reminded me of a great New York Times article I read a few years ago.

It seems that the vet school grads come out making not a whole lot of money but typically have a lot of debt. Some of them work for very little, considering the hours involved, yet people keep going into the field. Sometimes they realize the possible financial consequences, sometimes not. Like a lot of things connected with small business, I think setting up a professional practice today is often much more of a challenge and a risk than it once was.

I know a lot of men my age going this route. "Self-employed" has many negative connotations, though.

"Self-employed" only has negative connotations if that's how you describe your occupation. How many barbers, plumbers or brick layers, answer the question of what do you do, by responding "I'm self-employed"? First they'll tell you what they do, then they might add that they are self-employed.

Artisan is the new rock star.

These skilled artisans come from the subset of men who are already doing fine today.

The men in crisis are unlikely to become skilled artisans. The men in crisis were farmers in 1900, factory workers in 1950 and truck drivers today.

If the truck driving jobs go away thanks to automation, these men aren't suddenly going to start making organic yogurt. They're going to end up on disability insurance.

Look at Mississippi and West Virginia. The LFPR for men has collapsed in those states because there's just nothing for these blue collar men to do.

Thank god we are taking down those Confederate flags though. That way we know they won't turn to violence.

If those idiot shitlibs would just leave the thing up there maybe the jobs would stay!

Classic projection. Your side is the one ascribing totemic properties to a flag.

I'll add that I never use profane insults so that's another example of you projecting left-wing coarseness.

You brought up the flag, must mean something to you, Mr. Haysom, sir. I think those who want that flag to stay up have a pretty totemic view of it too, obviously.

Also, you don't know what 'side' I'm on here.

"If the truck driving jobs go away thanks to automation, these men aren’t suddenly going to start making organic yogurt. They’re going to end up on disability insurance."

Precisely. Trucks are full of hard working men that endure hardship to make a good living for their family. But the average trucker doesn't have the capabilities or the desire to become a talented artisan.

Many of the slightly smarter brothers of truck drivers are plumbers, electricians, car mechanics or HVAC technicians. Those are basically uncool "artisanal" jobs by any other name.

Yup. And those jobs aren't going away. Not in our lifetime.

Mississippi and West Virginia have always been poor.

Some may end up on disability because they were pushing themselves to keep their job.

But the idea that everybody over 50 who loses a job and can't fnid another one qualified for and gets disability just isn't correct. If it were, there'd be millions more people 50+ getting disability. We have a lot of unemloyed and underemployed people who don't qualify for any cash assistance.

Since average male earnings are still higher than average female earnings, isn't the thread title alarmist?

Welcome to the internet.

Not when you compare apples to apples. Men are losing jobs at a rapid pace, women are not. Women are getting more education. And women get affirmative action.

I suppose it is, to the female-only community.

Look at trends rather than levels. Real median female earnings have been growing (although not in the last 10 years) as has labor force participation. Men have faced declining labor force participation and real median earnings for men have been stagnant since the early 1970s.

So you read it for the articles?

I didn't see a hat tip...

"nine-to-five corporate positions": I'm surprised to hear that these still exist in the US. The young things I know in the UK work far longer hours than that (unless they are govt employees).

Yes, there is hope for american men as soon as we can stop the tide of cheap foreign labor by driving the invaders from our soil and arresting and convicting for treason their collaborators in the media, academia and washington

So, gardeners and fruit pickers is the future you envision for "American men"?

Correction. ARTISANAL gardeners and fruit pickers is the future s/he envisions for American men.

I.e., landscape architects. Bonus points if mata hairy's comment was delivered deadpan.

Do you mean merely "delivered deadpan" or "earnestly meant"? Because the website linked to by it's hairiness has to make you wonder.

This is not too far from the truth. There's this microtrend of yuppie farmers - very odd ducks demographically. Children of white collar workers, with college degrees, in their late 20s, early 30s, deciding to give a go at farming. They sell food at farmers' markets at truly eye-wateringly high prices, but some people pay it.

The interesting question, to me, is *why* people pay it. I suspect it's not really related to the food, it's related to the farmer. People will pay a premium, and in some cases a big premium, to know that the guy they're buying from is fundamentally like them - not just some dip-spitting coonass or non-English speaker. I find that interesting.

Digging deep to find worthwhile articles, eh Tyler? :)
This piece by Schrager is just too muddled and silly to bother commenting on.

Surplus male populations lead to wars? What's happened to that old idea I wonder. Lots of speculation about China's sex ratio consequences about a decade ago. What is the long run marginal cost to a society of using otherwise unemployed persons in wars? (Probably much greater now due to the extent governments are more on the hook for the lifelong disabilities that often result.) Great Depression --> WWII etcetera. Suspect prosperous middle classes and the wealthy now mostly see wars as detrimental to their interests and mostly politically prevail. Yet is the US military involvement in the Middle East over the last couple of decades acting as a means of employing otherwise 'surplus' US males? What is the current sex ratio in the US armed services? How much has automation of warfare reduced male military service? How is military service (killing people) like or different from being an artisan? How long until Terminator robots mostly replace military service?

Suspect prosperous middle classes and the wealthy now mostly see wars as detrimental to their interests and mostly politically prevail.

Mutually Assured Destruction will cause those preferences to change.

I have seen men who worked in very boring manufacturing jabs like in auto plants who make beautiful furniture in their basements.

also, who's raising children in this brave new world? the women working demanding careers or the men risking it all to put 100 hour weeks into their artisanal Trinidadian buss-up-shut stands?

That's easy. Artisanal male nannies.

immigrants are raising new livestock, oops, I mean children.

Why do you think corpgovmedia is so supportive of The Sacred Immigrants?

Ha! Playboy doesn't have a comments section, but it's directing readers to Marginal Revolution for this article. Break out your pipe and pajamas, Tyler!

Waaaaaaaaay too much crystal balls. Economic fantasies to complement the other material in the magazine.

I do not think anyone can hope to predict the structure of future employment, much less how people of different genders will respond, and how we're getting all the way to predicting sociocultural changes from this....

"His theory holds that technology will commoditize and cheapen products in all industries but that artisanal workers will offer a superior interpersonal experience coupled with unique goods and services, commanding premium prices in turn. "

This is so off base that I don't know where to begin. But as the 48th person posting, it has been covered.

Katz, like Cowen, is around 55.

Economists over 55 who talk about technology and "low hanging fruit " or some artisan crap:

Be like Nancy and "Just Say No."

"but do note you may get a Playboy pop-up as I did..."

Now there's a guy who enjoys a good article.

I would probably be the poster boy for this article, except I made the shift to artisan work 29 years ago. A couple of points not mentioned: the people wired to be good artisans are usually terrible at marketing and product design, and so they have difficulty competing in the modern marketplace. Also, every buyer who considers an artisan product also has the option of purchasing the mass-produced, commodity product. Surprisingly, it can be hard to tell one from the other, particularly on a website. And many of the highest-value products in the marketplace today aren't suitable for artisan production. Artisan businesses are extremely difficult to keep going. Somebody has to be willing to walk away from the workbench and do all of the messy tasks required to make a business function. On the whole, I don't see artisan work replacing all of the workers who are losing out in the new economy. Cooper (above) has it right.

I have noticed several examples of 'artisan'-types that, despite being obviously talented, struggle. It's almost always a failure of what seems to me to be fairly simple business-stuff: accounting, finance, marketing.

One guy in particular installs home theatre, sound-systems. He works the high end of the market. Formally uneducated, but a natural tinker and engineer (he fixed my ancient pinball machine in passing). He's great at what he does, but probably makes half of what he could with some basic business understanding.

You even see this sort of thing among (highly-educated) medical practices sometimes. It seems to me that some way of providing cheap and useful business 101 services to these artisans could be a big help.

The practice of a physician in a town near me was nearly bankrupted because the office manager had been stealing money, drugs and supplies for months or years. The doctor had no knowledge of his own business.

I wouldn't fault the doctor too much. Doctors are busy people and the whole point of hiring an office manager is to have a division of labor where the office manager focuses on paying the utility bills, keeping permits and tax payments up to date, etc. so the doctor can focus on actually practicing medicine. Sometimes you do get employees who try to steal from or defraud the business and the sad reality is that there are lots of ways of doing this without being detected for a while unless the owner wants to spend his or her evenings and weekends personally reconciling bank statements and double-checking inventory.

So maybe even in the artisanal economy there will be jobs for the folks that don't know how to make stuff. These people will do the finance, accounting, and marketing for the artisans. So now we're back to something not that different from the division of labor we have today, just on a smaller scale. UBI supplemented.

msgkings, I think the difference is that medical services are expensive enough in the U.S. and doctors continue to earn well enough that they can afford to hire administrative and finance staff. Only the big-league artisans selling high-margin goods would be able to afford this sort of division of labor (if you are selling on ebay or craigslist, you aren't there yet). But thank goodness for the division of labor in medical practices. I don't know what the lives of dentists or general practitioners are like but when it comes to specialists, I absolutely hope they are spending the time they aren't seeing patients keeping up with the literature in their area rather than reconciling bank statements.

This is why lots of other cultures tend toward family businesses. Americans don't tend to have lots of relatives who they would trust with their money so people like this doctor are stuck hiring people they don't know and just hoping they turn out to be trustworthy.

Ricardo, I was replying more to Brian D, but your point is well taken. Doesn't the 'Uberization' of the economy mean finance/admin/marketing people can be hired piecemeal and more cheaply for those future artisans? It's the 'Hollywood model' of short term contractors of various talents coalescing around projects then moving on to the next gig.

Speaking of Uber, in my Uber Pool shared ride today I met a gal who's a chef/designer for an app that lets you order organic, good meals for $9-12 each delivered to your house in 15 minutes like a pizza. Uber for dinner at home.

The app-based economy is still growing, artisans might be able to make it work....


That's one way to put it. And this blog is elitist enough to sniff at mere accountants and marketers, and wretch violently at financial professionals, but at State U, a business degree is harder and more prestigious than an Econ degree, despite all the sniffing.

Maybe these are just "folks that don't know how to make stuff", who, at the same time "don't study real academic subjects", so they get it from both sides. I think it's funny that these people are a lot more useful than most people who do study "real academic subjects", and I also think it's funny that people who do know how to make stuff are so hapless at what to me seems child's play, and their businesses founder as a result.

I guess that's room for optimism, then. The people that know how to make stuff can hire the people that know how to run businesses in an Uber-like way. The future of work?

I had this discussion with a local artist who does commission work, part of the problem is a lot of people have a hard time valuing the labor involved in a time intensive product. Before he came up with a pricing scheme that worked for him when he was first feeling out the market people offered prices of $100-$200 for the equivalent of 40 hours worth of work. I told him the same thing I tell people getting into consulting, charge people the price you're willing to do the work for otherwise you'll end up with more work than you can handle making less money than you need doing projects no one wants.

Tyler, thanks for the link warning.

Its 2015. Still scared of a bare tit?

If you visit Sydney, don't go to Bondi Beach-topless bathing!

The Yanks' conception of 'obscenity' never ceases to amaze.

NSWFW: New South Wales for Work.

Charles Murray was making this argument about a decade ago.

My impression, however, is that Murray wasn't as enthusiastic about his practicality by the time he published Coming Apart a few years ago.

Artisinal beer brewers are mostly men.

I'd also guess that artisinal coffee shop owners are as well.

Not to mention chefs and restaurateurs.

Apparently it has now closed but there used to be a law office/coffee shop in Dallas. That's life in the new American economy: first you get a profession, then you sell coffee to pay the bills, then you are profiled in Fast Company, then you go out of business.

"That certainty will empower men to take on less predictable but possibly higher-paying work in self-employment."

I think this is pretty common combination in L.A. right now: the wife has a routine job with health care benefits, while the husband tries to put together some entertainment industry project that may pay off big or may never get off the ground.

This is good, I've been wanting to switch from supporting conventional energy to artisinal energy for a while now. I've dreamed of an artisinal crude and natural gas to compete with artisinal nuclear.

I live in Singapore where playboy is banned.

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