But some things money can’t buy, and the idea of job security increasingly is a thing of the past. Many highly skilled and high-earning workers are perfectly happy with that: They get to move on to something new and challenging more frequently, and they generally earn more in each new position than in the last one. Life is good at the top. It usually is.
But not everybody is an entrepreneur, a dealmaker, or a mercenary tech geek happy to fly from one gig to the next. Many people would prefer a greater degree of predictability in their lives. For them, the thought of having to look for a new job is a nail-chewing, can’t-sleep-at-night proposition, not an occasion for daydreaming and excitement. They are not thinking to themselves, “I wonder what kind of apartment I’ll have in Abu Dhabi.” They are thinking, “How am I going to pay the mortgage?”
The Tucker Carlson school of anti-capitalism gets this much right: An economy that rewards geographic mobility, professional flexibility, and financial risk-taking brings unintended social consequences with it, from undermining local relationships and civil society to encouraging norms of delayed marriage and parenthood. There is some reason to believe that these fall most heavily on economically middling males: They have neither the income and social status associated with high-flying careers nor the comforts of deep community ties nor those of being a husband and father. Even church congregations have a different character in communities in which people relocate constantly. Even those who claw their way up through the elite educational institutions into a partnership at a big law firm do not get the deal they might have been hoping for. (But that $800,000 a year isn’t too bad.) Those without that option may feel stuck, hopeless, and — perhaps worst of all — useless. Many of the traditional distinguishing male virtues such as physical strength and courage are passé from the point of view of the 21st century economy.