In Commentary, Nicholas Eberstadt recounts how low employment, deteriorating health, and declining social mobility in the United States foreshadow a “Miserable 21st Century.”
Between 2000 and 2016, the work rate for Americans aged 20 or older fell by almost 5 percentage points, to 60 percent.
In the “prime working age” group, it fell by almost 4 percentage points.
While work rates for men had been falling for much longer, a similar decline for prime age women set in in 2000.
Death rates for white men and women aged 45–54 rose slightly since 2000; they increased sharply for the subset with high school or lower education.
In 2016, life expectancy at birth in the US fell for the first time in decades.
By 2013, more Americans died from drug overdoses than from either traffic fatalities or guns.
Alan Krueger’s research suggests that about 50% of prime working-age male labor-force dropouts take pain medication on a daily basis.
This group spends its time watching TV, movies, or playing video games, and many take drugs.
The “welfare state” (Medicaid) helps the unemployed pay for their drugs.
In 2013, roughly 20% of civilian men aged 25–55, and roughly 50% of non-working prime-age people were Medicaid beneficiaries.
Roughly 60% of the non-working prime-age male non-Hispanic population collected disability benefits.
While the U.S. has a higher incarceration rate than almost any other country, only few of the Americans ever convicted are incarcerated. “Maybe 90 percent of all sentenced felons today are out of confinement,” due to release, probation, or parole, adding to a stock of roughly 20 million people.
Geographical mobility and job churning are in decline.
Chances of surpassing one’s parents’ real income are lower than ever before in postwar America.
What’s happening? An “autonomic nervous system arousal, the evolutionarily ancient preparation for fight or flight.” Plus a positive emotional component, related to brain activity and dopamine release.
To whom? Not to everybody. According to some estimates, only to every second non-musician.
Why? Emotional experiences can be related to specific musical structures like “enharmonic changes” or “appoggiaturas” (examples given in the article), connected with unexpected, dramatic shifts that force the listener to pay attention. Add to this memories and “feelings of transcendence.” Maybe music helps to form bonds with other human beings or it played a role in the development of language. “Music simply taps into [linguistic ability] in the same way that drugs tap into a system that wasn’t designed for drugs”.
Example: “The last few minutes of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, the last page or so of the Dona Nobis Pacem.”