What Jennifer Aniston's Love Life Tells Us About Unemployment

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"...any country can have heavy unemployment if it is willing and able to pay for it." - Benjamin M. Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare, p. 171

Each week celebrity magazines such as Star, Us and People chronicle the romantic doings of celebrities. The tabloids announce in breathy fashion the hook-ups, full-blown romances, marriages, and sadly for those so squarely in the public eye, their divorces too.

Interviewed in Playboy recently, happily married actor Vince Vaughn acknowledged that wedded union is not all bliss; that there's a lot of work involved when it comes to making it successful. As he put it, "Marriage is terrific, but it's the hardest thing I think you'll ever do." So with "work" in mind when thinking about marriage, it's perhaps worthwhile to explain unemployment through one of Vaughn's former girlfriends, actress Jennifer Aniston. Her love life since the 1990s has arguably generated more publicity than that of any other actor or actress.

Aniston and fellow actor Brad Pitt were divorced in 2005, and while she announced an engagement to Justin Theroux in 2012, Aniston is presently single, or for the purposes of this piece, "unmarried." That she's unmarried helps explain how misleading is the word "unemployment" when uttered by economists, politicians and pundits.

In Aniston's case she's not unmarried because she can't find someone willing to tie the knot with her. In truth, 99.9% of available single men on the earth's land mass would gladly marry her yesterday if she were to simply look their way. Surely many others would eagerly exit their existing marriages just to be with her. Aniston is funny, exceedingly talented as her active film career and wealth make plain, and after all that, she's by most any standard beautiful. If Aniston wanted to be married she could make that happen between breakfast and lunch. With time to spare.

Yet Aniston once again isn't married. Some will say she's unlucky in love, others will say she chooses the wrong men who are incapable of commitment, and then it's entirely possible that of the hundreds of millions of men who would eagerly jump at the chance to give her their name, she hasn't yet found the one who meets her standards. Time will tell with Theroux, but in Aniston's case she's got many, many choices.

Strange as it sounds, Aniston's presumed romantic situation helps explain a rate of U.S. unemployment that is still abnormally high. Without minimizing the difficult economy of modern times for even a second, let alone the agony of unemployment, it's not a reach to say that the unemployed have a little bit of Jennifer Aniston in them. As Us reminds readers each week, stars are "Just like US!" Though nothing like the options that Aniston has in abundance, the unemployed in what is the world's richest country to varying degrees have voluminous work choices.

About those choices, it once again needs stressing that the employment possibilities today aren't the same as they were in the mid ‘80s, late ‘90s, or as recently as 2003. Work opportunities have surely shrunk since then, and were particularly dire back in 2008-2009. There's no flippancy here despite a more unconventional attempt to explain unemployment. The main reason the latter remains high is due to government barriers to growth that have reduced the number of quality of jobs on offer.

Still, when the work outlook for those "between jobs" is considered, it's no reach to say that those who are unemployed aren't jobless because they can't find any work; rather they're unemployed because much like Aniston vis-à-vis marriage, they haven't found employment that meets their standards. As my upcoming book Popular Economics points out, labor is a price like any other. And it's not a stretch to suggest that the vast majority of unemployed aren't that way because there aren't any jobs, but because they haven't reduced the price of their toil to a level that would attract buyers.

Aniston could once again have millions of suitors were marriage her objective, and then on a smaller scale, many unmarried women and men who desire wedlock could have just that were they similarly willing to accept less in the way of a life mate than what they presently seek. Work is no different. Leaving aside the numerous flawed ways in which unemployment is calculated in the first place, that the jobless number presently stands at 5.7% doesn't signal that there are no jobs for 5.7% of those actively seeking work; rather there are no jobs that meet the standards of roughly 5.7% of the work-interested. There's a big difference.

In his essential book Economics and the Public Welfare, Benjamin Anderson pithily observed that high unemployment is the preserve of rich nations that are willing to pay for it. More modernly, and love or hate Obamacare, what is very much a rich-country handout foisted on business has raised the price of hiring for businesses, and has thus reduced the number of jobs on offer. Considering 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, incentives matter. If you know you're going to receive a check whether you're working or not, you can be choosier like celebrities often are about whom or what you hitch your wagon to.

Back to Aniston, Us recently reported that a big payday looms for the actress thanks to a now operative agreement between the producers of Friends and Netflix to stream the smash TV show. Supposedly leery of exposing what promises to be major windfall to the vagaries of marriage in a state (California) that divides assets 50-50 in the case of a divorce, Aniston is apparently delaying marriage until this minor matter involving millions can be resolved. Maybe stars aren't like us.

Whatever the answer, let's be clear that Aniston's "single" status is a choice as opposed to an insurmountable burden. So is long-term unemployment in the U.S. despite what you read.


John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Director of the Center for Economic Freedom at FreedomWorks, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading (www.trtadvisors.com). He's the author of Who Needs the Fed? (Encounter Books, 2016), along with Popular Economics (Regnery, 2015).  His next book, set for release in May of 2018, is titled The End of Work (Regnery).  It chronicles the exciting explosion of remunerative jobs that don't feel at all like work.  

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