Scene In Passing: Four laws on what goes ‘round these days

There are at least three laws by which people must live, none of them passed by a legislature, a congress or a parliament.

Two of them are familiar, emanating as they do from physics and economics. The first: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The second is the inexorable law of supply and demand. The third, though put forth by a propagandist, is just as true. Because it came from the man whose clarion but misguided call for communism offended capitalists, it’s more obscure. Even a stopped watch, however, is right twice daily.

“Nothing can have value without being an object of utility,” wrote Karl Marx.

For what follows, you must understand nothing — no thing — can also be viewed as no body. A body is a thing as much as anything, even more so if it includes an intellect capable of occasional critical thinking.

Faithful readers, my thanks for hanging in there. Here’s the point, belatedly but for real.

A momentous shift is underway, a glacial yet certain flipping over a fulcrum of the seesaw called our economy, and over the next decade it’s going to offer skilled workers and intelligent employees bargaining chips in negotiations with owners and managers.

Karl Marx was no fool, but he seduced himself intellectually because his cause was more important to him than some facts in life. Perhaps he didn’t think of no/thing as no/body, though he was spot on about utility. But I digress.

Life, society, economics, business, industry, markets and tourism are cyclical. Everything is cyclical. As an old news colleague with the Associated Press, now deceased, used to say while in his cups, “What goes around comes around.”

What’s going around today is a massive shift in the national workforce. In a nutshell, Boomers are retiring. The average worker retires at 62, even though some don’t. The youngest Boomers are in their 50s. The next decade will see a mass exodus from traditional work places. Some retirees will go play golf; many won’t.

Those who didn’t prepare sufficiently for retirement are going to work part time, enter the underground economy, start small firms, even putter at what they did for supplemental income.

But just because future business and industry will require a tad smaller workforce (no service in retailing or service companies; more robots and machines in factories), doesn’t change the fact full-time workers will be needed. The smart and skilled will be amazed at their bargaining leverage by 2025. The labor market is slowly tightening, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Given that every action brings an equal and opposite reaction (too many workers when Boomers clogged the pipeline turns to too few as they exit), the change is going to have an impact. Count also on the law of supply and demand (too many then, too few quite soon). And count on the Marxist observation that nothing/nobody can have value without being an object of utility. This is apparent to Millennials, as it’s going to be clear for generations to follow.

Why? Another law means everyone seeks food, shelter and human contact. It’s likely the laws cited here mean people will work for their daily bread, a roof over their heads and — who knows? — one day create another Baby Boom.

As my old friend, Ed, never tired of saying while in his most liquid state: “What goes ‘round comes ‘round, and folks either get it...or they get it good and hard.”

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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