September 26, 2022

ANDY KESSLER: A Nation of Quitters: A new class, the Cyber Bohemians, avoid work while living off their affluent parents.

The unemployment rate was 3.5% in July, the same as in February 2020, but the U.S. has three million fewer workers. Where did everyone go? This in an economy with 11.2 million job openings. It’s mostly men 25 to 54 who haven’t come back to work. Now a McKinsey study suggests that 40% of workers are thinking of quitting their jobs. Does anyone want to work anymore?

Everyone has an explanation for the Great Resignation: extended unemployment benefits, eviction moratoriums, baby boomers retiring, work-from-home complacency, anxiety, long Covid. Sure, all reasonable excuses. Here’s my theory: Too many got a taste of not working and liked it. A lot. Until recently, many people could make more money by not working and became glued to screens, Insta-Tok-ing and living the easy life by sponging off the rest of us. What’s not to like? Parisians called those with unconventional lifestyles “bohemians.” Now we have unemployed, perpetually plugged-in, dopamine-addled Cyber Bohemians—let’s call them Cy-Bos.

Before you send me hate mail, I’m only talking about the underachievers, including those who traded crypto and NFTs and lost all their stimulus and unemployment money after the crypto crash. Now Cy-Bos, with nothing better to do, are streaming away, including the first five of an eventual 50 hours of Amazon’s new “Lord of the Rings” show—“and in the darkness bind them.” I’ve also discovered that a huge idle couch-bound class spends its days playing the battle-royale videogame “Fall Guys,” the latest craze, with 50 million players. It’s nonviolent, almost cuddly, and—be warned—ridiculously addictive fun.

Zoned-out Cy-Bos, at least in 19 states, can buy weed at dispensaries (Twinkies optional), including Oakland, Calif.’s descriptively named Smoakland, which delivers! Yes, while you’re working, many 20- and 30-somethings are giggling and wasting away playing mindless games and humming along to those classic Styx lyrics, “Is it any wonder I’ve got too much time on my hands?”

It is cultural malaise, motivational submission. Society now promotes mediocrity and calls it equity—witness the scarcity of SAT test-score requirements for college. Sadly, once you get a taste of the easy life, it is difficult to pull up your socks and try hard again—self-induced avolition.

Why so many quitters? And who’s paying for DoorDashed dinners and the exorbitant rent for all these un- and underemployed? Government handouts are dwindling, so, you guessed it, now it’s mom and dad—enabling parents.

Shocking. Plus: “This may go on for a while, until the money is cut off or runs out or work opportunities become more enticing during a future bull run.”

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