Many of the protesters I have met are understandably ruffled that they are unemployed, and they often finish their remonstrations with a non-sequitur, delivered as if it were a knockout blow: “And I went to college!” Well, one might ask, “So what?”
I first noticed this “college = good life” fallacy back in England. A close friend of mine was looking for a job straight out of college, and remained unemployed for six months while he searched for what he described as a “graduate job.” Outside of those careers that rely on specific skills and expertise — doctors, veterinarians, and so forth — I have never been sure quite what this term means. My friend has a degree in modern history. Congratulations! But there is no obvious career path for this . Why should it lend itself more to working in, say, finance than to working in a 7-Eleven? Compare this attitude to that exhibited by another friend of mine — a recently naturalized American citizen. After her parents escaped from the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s and fled to the United States, her engineer father worked as a garbageman for five years until he found a job which tallied more closely with his abilities. At no point did he complain. Was it a waste of talent? Undoubtedly. Did he have a right to a “post-graduate job”? No. That’s just not how free economies work.
Charles Cooke, who wrote this bit for NRO, is right. He's also missing the point, to some extent. The point being: That median incomes have stagnated and dropped in recent decades; that financiers and bankers—who presumably have MBAs that make them exquisitely qualified to do the work they do—have managed to live high on the hog at taxpayer expense while touting the virtues of the market for everybody else; that unemployment persists above 9 percent, and when you count people who are underemployed or who have simply given up looking for work, that number really doubles.
There's not enough jobs, and those jobs aren't paying very well. It's easy to mock the guy with the modern history degree. But there hasn't been an outcry in recent years—except in certain, seasonal agricultural fields that are usually served by immigrant labor—that there are plenty of jobs for taking if only people had the right qualifications. There are something like four or five job-seekers for every available job in the United States. Would the dynamic be different if there weren't so many liberal arts majors out there? I've seen no evidence for that.