Men without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis, by Nicholas Eberstadt (Templeton, 216 pp., $12.95)
Nicholas Eberstadt has become one of our highest-impact socioeconomic and demographic analysts, rivaling his American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray. In Men without Work, he alerts us to a new “invisible national crisis.” This is the flight of some 10 million American men in their prime ages (between 25 and 54) from the work force, and indeed from all the commitments and responsibilities of civilized society. He documents an “immense army” of rootless “idlers,” tending toward obesity, popping pills (mainly prescription painkillers, but also, in alarming numbers, harder drugs), immersed in TV for an average of 21.7 hours a week and video games for 6.7 hours, and stickily keyboarding on an oily surf of terabytes of porn, all while their baby-boom elders retire, often on disability, and, as of this August, 337,000 manufacturing jobs go unfilled.
Like most of our social-policy establishment, Eberstadt finds this phenomenon baffling in the face of a rise in measured national wealth from nearly $40 trillion in 2000 to close to $90 trillion in 2016, and the multiplication of total jobs from 120 million in 1990 to 150 million now. Exacerbating the enigma is the absence of any comparable male flight in such countries as France, Sweden, Australia, and other lands also afflicted with “deindustrialization” and globalization. He concludes: “No other developed nation simultaneously floats such a large proportion of its prime-age men entirely outside the labor force — neither working, nor looking for work, nor doing much of anything else.” According to Eberstadt, this is a “silent catastrophe” that “our news media, our pundits, and our major political parties have somehow managed to overlook.”