Most dangerous class

21st century America may be dominated by oligarchic elites, but probably the greatest threat to our economic and political system may be lower in the food chain. This most dangerous class comes from a growing number of underemployed and over-educated people. They are what have been described in Britain as lumpenintelligensia: alienation, anger, and potential agents of our social and political deconstruction.

This is much more than the angry crowd screaming at the touch of a key, but the proto-proletariat of a feudalizing post-industrial society. One recent study notes that, in total, we have created twice as many bachelor’s degrees as jobs in the last 20 years to employ them. Instead of finding wealth in the “new economy”, many end up in lower-paid, unskilled jobs. They then compete with working-class children, often the products of similarly dysfunctional high schools; it is estimated that one-third of American men of working age are now out of the labor force, suffering from high levels of imprisonment, as well as drugs, alcohol and other health problems.

Although not subject to the same working class pressure, the fate of those studying at university and even graduating is far from clear. This is the most troubled generation in recent history, and for good reason. According to a recent report by the Federal Reserve in New York, more than 40 percent today work in jobs that do not require education. Another study notes that most of them never get the jobs that graduates have had in the past.

This is a global phenomenon. More than a quarter of Chinese graduates are unemployed and growing.

According to a report by the Ministry of Labor published last November, one in three graduates in India is unemployed, almost three times the country’s overall unemployment rate. A recent UN analysis also suggested that this huge increase in underemployed people could undermine the country’s stability in the coming years.

As Greta Thunberg and her legions remind us, young, dissatisfied people tend to push to extremes. In Latin America, underemployed graduates have long been a source of turmoil. Today, about half of all Latin American college students do not complete their studies, and many of them never pay for their time in college.

A similar pattern of disruption was caused by the Arab Spring. There, as in the Balkans, unemployed and underemployed university graduates were the main disruptive force. In Africa, where youth unemployment is also high and numbers are rising fastest, university graduates, who make up barely 7 percent of the total workforce, are also working on less demanding jobs.

Read the rest of this article in the National Review.

The author is Joel Kotkin The Advent of Neofeudalism: A Warning for the Global Middle Class. He is president of Roger Hobbs in the field of urban future at Chapman University and executive director of the Institute for Urban Reform. Find out more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

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