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Future Jobs

The following letter of mine is published in today’s edition of the New York Times:

To the Editor:

Bob Herbert quotes the observation by Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, that Americans today “cannot see where the jobs of the future are that will allow their kids to have a better life than they had.” Mr. Stern adds, “And they’re not wrong.”

But when could Americans of any generation foresee future jobs? Did the blacksmith in 1890 foresee jobs in the auto industry? Did the corner grocer in 1940 foresee his son prospering as a regional manager for Wal-Mart?

Did the telegram-deliverer in 1950 foresee his child designing software for cellphones? Did the local pharmacist in 1960 foresee his daughter’s job as a biomedical engineer?

Our inability today to see the details of the future is no more worrisome than was the same inability of our grandparents.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Fairfax, Va., Dec. 22, 2007
The writer is chairman of the economics department, George Mason University.


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