Source: WSJ blog, via this guy. Picture: Oregon State Penitentiary, at Salem.
While we usually think of ourselves as being involved in making goods or delivering services, a lot of employees are devoted to enforcing ownership of stuff. This so called “guard labor” makes up an astonishing 26% of the work force, estimate Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute and Arjun Jayadev at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. That is more than four times as much as in 1890, they say. Measured differently, guard labor represents 22% of the work force, second highest of 18 developed countries, behind only Greece.
What’s behind this? The authors argue in The Economists’ Voice, an online journal published by Berkeley Electornic Press, that guard labor is highly correlated with “conflicts between classes, ethnic or racial groups, and political factions,” and with “economic polarization.”
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
We pulled into a roadside restaurant outside Salem, Oregon, one day a few months back, and remarked on how everybody in the place seemed to (a) weigh at least 250 pounds and (b) be enjoying a three-egg omelette with hash browns and choice of meat. Then it struck us: prison guards. But I wouldn't have guessed this: