Third of Four Letters to a Young Man

I’ve been thinking about where you think your life might lead you. I’ve
had a few thoughts I want to share, in case you haven’t considered them. It
isn’t intended as advice. It isn’t even intended as a suggestion, except
that you might find it worth considering. Once I post this email, whether
you even read it becomes a moot issue for me. I tend to clarify my own
thoughts by writing things down, and in a sense, that’s what I’m doing
here:

You mentioned art as a career possibility. Art has been a tough gig for a
long time. I think it might still be possible, but like writing, there’s
an increasing amount of competition. Looking over the DeviantArt page I’m
impressed with the plethora of talent of all ages, compared to the
likelihood of a market for what’s being done. I suspect for any of those
people to make a living at it they’re going to have to have a lot of luck,
in addition to their talent. My suspicion is that a lot of Michaelangelos
and Picassos are going to go hungry during the 21st century. There’s a
shocking amount of talent out there, and probably not much of an increase
in the size of the market for it all.

As for solitude possibilities: If there comes a time when you want to try
solitude on someone elses nickle you might look at being a fire tower
watcher for the US Department of Agriculture, forestry service. Gives you
a seasonal job, time to think, and you get paid something for it. Those
jobs aren’t impossible to come by, and it gives you three or four months a year
in the nearest thing to solitude you can get while still getting paid for
it.

Law enforcement: If you want law enforcement, minus a lot of the
difficulties people find there (including the antithesis of solitude), you
might look at something in US Forestry Service or the Bureau of Land
Management Enforcement. I don’t know much about those, except that there
are a growing number of them. I think the money is probably pretty good,
and although a decade ago all of them I saw around looked as though they
were retired Texas Rangers, I think that might be changing.

Also, most of the western states have livestock investigators who chase
down stock rustlers and movements of diseased animals. Those are outside the
mainstream of policeman work, have a lot of autonomy, and probably enjoy
their jobs more than the average police officer. They’re mostly cowboy
types, and I imagine they probably mostly come from ranching backgrounds,
but they get paid the same (at least in NM) as State Police officers, but
aren’t spending time trying to catch people going five miles an hour over
the speed limit.

Game wardens are also outside the mainstream, although I think I their job
has a downside. Getting to be too many baddies in the woods these days,
and everyone they come into contact with is armed. They have to treat them
all as though they’re honest hunters until they prove themselves otherwise.
That might be too late for some. As the war on drugs continues to erode
the criminal justice system in this country, this aspect of things might get
worse. My impression is those guys (Fish and Game officers) don’t get
paid as well as other State Police officers, also.

For the average policeman on the streets, I think life is a pretty tough
gig, and not likely to get much better.

Engineers? EEs are still able to make a good living, I’m thinking, though
the competition is growing as the third world cranks out more and more of
them. Petroleum engineers are all working as civil engineers when they
can find jobs, or as shoe salesmen.. Even incompetent civil engineers can
still find jobs doing something, last I heard, which was a decade ago. That
might
have changed, because the government grants for building new sewer and
water plants, which kept most of them busy, have been drying up slowly.
Mechanicals are in a shrinking marketplace as the US produces fewer and
fewer products. Industrial engineers are mostly doing something else,
too. 20 years ago I’d occasionally hire an industrial or petroleum engineer to
an entry level position as environmental health workers. A big step down
compared to what they’d have gotten when times were better. Hydrologicial
engineers are probably in about the same position as industrial and
petroleum people, though a bit earlier in the timeline. I don’t know
about chemical engineers. Maybe that’s a possibility. I’d imagine
pharmaceutical engineering, if there is such a thing, is another. All the baby boomers
are getting old now and have all the aches, pains and diseases nature can
throw at them. Health care providers are likely to be doing a land office
business a decade from now.

I imagine whatever you choose is going to be a tough gig. This country is
probably going to be a difficult place for young people trying to eek out
a living where nothing much is being manufactured except drugs, hamburgers,
and computers. Private sector jobs will probably be in areas involving
leisure (for the flood of retiring oldsters) activities, health care,
sales, advertising, and gambling. Public sector will most likely involve law
enforcement, prison work of one sort or another, judicial system
activities, and a million government busywork things in other areas.

(Reading back over this before I send it, I find that here I begin roaming
away from my purposes in writing you. I doubt any of it will be helpful
to you at all in anything. If it gets tedious or offensive to you, feel free
to just blow it off.)

Possibilities for a decreased demand for law enforcement personnel:

I suspect there’s a (only slightly) greater than zero possibility that the
country will eventually get a bellyfull of the war on drugs. If that
happens, there are going to be a lot of cops, lawyers, prosecutors,
judges, prison workers, forbidden drug dealers, forbidden drug manufacturers, and
general ne’er do wells, wondering where the next paycheck is going to come
from. In the unlikely event that happens, a person mightn’t want to be
anywhere near any of that, depending on it to make a living.

(Here begins my circuitous logic on the whole War on Drugs/criminal
justice system snarl. I really don’t recommend it as a good read)

The only reason I think there’s a remote possibility of it ending is that
so many lives are being ruined by the War on Drugs. It’s costing a lot
without having any impact at all on the availability of drugs, nor the demand for
them. Even inside the prisons. It is, however, creating a river of
money, corrupting the whole infrastructure of the criminal justice system. The
end product is the habitual drug user on the lower end of the financial
spectrum. He’s the cash cow that keeps the whole system running, and
without him the whole sand castle would collapse.

The problem, (the reason I think there’s a possibility that eventually,
like prohibition, the War on Drugs will end) lies in the nature of bureaucracy
and government. It always wants growth. Prosecutors want more
prosecutors to work for them. Judges want more courts and more judges. Prison
officials want more prisons, more prison workers. Cops want more cop
shops. Everyone wants the public to perceive more need for what they do so they
can increase their budgets.

The only ways they can do that are 1) to shorten sentences so they can
recycle the product faster, 2) make more things illegal to include a wider
sector of society, or 3) reduce their selectivity in their enforcement so
as to include more working class and upper middle class people and get them
into the system.

Reducing sentencing would imply that what they are doing isn’t important.
I don’t think they’ll pick that option. They might try number 2, but I
doubt it will increase the product much. They’d be drawing from the same pool
of applicants they are drawing from now.

The only practical option for them is to tighten enforcement to include
more middle class and upper middle class drug users. I doubt they’ve thought
it through that far, but I suspect it’s the only chance the War on Drugs will
eventually end. If the prisons begin filling up with the offspring of
middle class and upper middle class parents, someone is going to begin
looking closely at the whole thing. It won’t stand close scrutiny.
There’s an obvious, simple answer people aren’t interested in looking at so long
as it’s mainly people from the ‘hood’ behind bars. I imagine they’d open
their minds to other solutions to the drug problem if it was their own kids in
those hellholes getting gangbanged.

With a bit of a stretch, you might say that’s how prohibition eventually
ended in the United States. Even though things have changed a lot since
then, it might actually happen again.

Again, I see I’ve rambled far outside my original purpose.

Best to you,
Jack

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