Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop Out

An unknown but likely staggeringly large percentage of small business owners in the U.S. are an inch away from calling it quits and closing shop.

Timothy Leary famously coined the definitive 60s counterculture phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out” in 1966. (According to Wikipedia, In a 1988 interview with Neil Strauss, Leary said the slogan was “given to him” by Marshall McLuhan during a lunch in New York City.)

An updated version of the slogan might be: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop Out: turn off mobile phones, screens, etc.; tune out Corporate Media, social media, propaganda, official and unofficial, and drop out of the status quo economy and society.

Dropping out of a broken, dysfunctional status quo in terminal decline has a long history. The chapter titles of Michael Grant’s excellent account of The Fall of the Roman Empire identify the core dynamics of decline: The Fall of the Roman ... Michael Grant Best Price: $14.99 Buy New $76.68 (as of 12:45 EST - Details)

The Gulfs Between the Classes

The Credibility Gap

The Partnerships That Failed

The Groups That Opted Out

The Undermining of Effort

Our focus today is on The Groups That Opted Out. In the decline phase of the Western Roman Empire, people dropped out by abandoning tax-serfdom for life in a Christian monastery (or as a worker on monastery lands) or by removing themselves to the countryside. Money and Work Unchained Charles Hugh Smith Best Price: $14.48 Buy New $14.35 (as of 05:10 EST - Details)

Today, people drop out in various ways: early retirement, disability or other social welfare, homesteading or making and saving enough money in the phantom-wealth economy that they can quit official work in middle age.

We can see this in the labor participation rates for the populace at large, women and men. The labor participation rate reflects the percentage of the population that’s in the workforce, either working or actively looking for work.

That the number of people in the workforce has declined significantly is well-known. The US Census pegs the number of people ‘not in the labor force’ at 95 million. This includes people who are disabled, in school, etc., so the number should be taken with a grain of salt. But the decline in the relative size of the labor force is remarkable:

Interestingly, the labor participation rate for women has held steady compared to the entire populace.

Now compare it to the labor participation rate for men, which has absolutely cratered:

The difference between genders is striking. Gender roles in society and the economy are clearly causal factors. Many have speculated that the decline in traditional strongholds of male employment such as manufacturing explain the decline of males in the workforce. As for the high participation of women, we might speculate that being caregivers for children and elderly parents requires earning an income, and as these responsibilities continue to fall more heavily on females, it may be that fewer women have the option of dropping out.

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