Friday, November 6, 2015

BAM A letter to the Washington Post

A Don Boudreaux letter to the Washington Post:
In his latest column, Harold Meyerson draws an unwarranted conclusion from his mash-up of headline-grabbing findings, cherry-picked facts, and poor economics (“America’s white working class is a dying breed,” Nov. 5).  Specifically, he asserts that the rising death rate of white Americans aged 45-54 since 1999 is caused by the working-classes’ purported “loss of power” that, in turn, is caused by a combination of globalization (especially by its ‘destruction’ of American manufacturing jobs), de-unionization, and corporations embarking in the 1980s on the quest of “maximizing shareholder value.”  But about this conclusion it is fair to ask Mr. Meyerson:
– Given that trade as a share of U.S. GDP has been rising since at least the early 1970s, why did the death rate of white Americans aged 45-54 not start rising 20 or 25 years earlier than it did?
– Given that manufacturing jobs as a share of all jobs in the U.S. have fallen steadily and steeply since the mid-1940s, why did the death rate of this demographic group continue to fall for more than half a century, until 1999?
– Given that the share of the workforce that is unionized has been steadily declining since the mid-1950s, what explains the more than 40-year delay in this allegedly lethal trend’s grim reaping?
– Because all of these trends affect blacks and Hispanics no less than whites – and, indeed, because workers from these minority groups are more likely than are whites to be blue-collar – why do death rates for blacks and Hispanics aged 45-54 continue to fall even after the death rate of middle-aged whites began to rise in 1999?  If your economic thesis is correct, shouldn’t death rates not only have risen also for minorities in this age group, but risen even faster than for whites?
– Because the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose from the early 1940s through the early 1960s at pretty much the same rate as it has risen from the early 1980s until today, what’s the basis for your claim that corporations began “maximizing shareholder value” only in the 1980s?
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.


  1. The answers are obvious but you are too deluded to see

  2. @ peak oil poet- can you help a simpleton like me understand the "obvious" answers?