08/08/2012 04:23 pm ET Updated Oct 08, 2012

Searching For "D"

In physics, "work" is defined as a unit of force that precipitates a change in distance (W=Fd). Non-work, unemployment, contradicts the formula because force (F) has no tangible resistance so it obviously cannot translate into a change in distance (d). Therefore, while I am not a physicist, it could be argued that non-work (nW) equals force constant (FC).

nW = FC

This open-ended equation defines to some degree the frustration and occasional nihilism experienced in an extended job search. Since there isn't a formula for "non-work," the closest synonymic equation in physics may quite possibly be entropy. This is not good since entropy may only be present, dominant, and constant in physical law if a particular system is in the "highest possible state of disorder."

Even the most fatalistic projections of the present unemployment problem would not define it as "the highest possible state of disorder." We know that things could become worse. Yet, how far away are we from the cataclysmic state of highest possible state of disorder? The vast majority of jobs that have been "consolidated" will not be refilled; b) the "new jobs" enthusiastically touted by politicos as positive economic indicators tend to are low-income, low-growth potential positions that could easily be eliminated; c) the ubiquitously proposed benefit of an investment in small business is essentially relying on highly specialized cottage industries to have an impact on mass unemployment; arguably am outcome derived from a structure it cannot possibly affect; d) the polarization of America is enhanced with the advent of a new socioeconomic schism: the unemployed and the employed.

Yet this particular polarization is tenuous and unlike "red" or blue" allegiances. When members of the former to join the latter, or vice-versa, their perspectives change dramatically; a newly employed worker will immediately strive to forget the malaise and fear felt so intensely while unemployed. I would argue that he or she will re-enter the workforce with a ruthlessness previously unfelt: he or she will strive to retain the position at all costs; he or she will be motivated by self-preservation and will gladly work progressively harder for increasingly less of the pie and never, ever think of complaining.

Perhaps we are closer to the cataclysmic state that yields entropy than we are led to believe.
What are the common perceived attributes of the unemployed? Lazy? Unmotivated? Somehow deserving or acquiescent about their status? The unemployed population may eventually believe this about themselves even if they know these characteristics in no conceivable way accurately depict them.

Recently, Eric Auld, an underemployed professor teaching in the SUNY network, posted an imaginary job on Craigslist for an office assistant position paying $12-13 an hour and within 24 hours, he had received 653 applications.

Mr. Auld was startled by a review of the applicants:

What surprised me the most about the above results was the number of people who had true experience as Administrative Assistants -- and not just baby years, either. I additionally counted how many of these 626 applicants had five or more years of true experience: 147 (23%). And, as you can see above, 62 applicants had 10 or more years of true experience. That's 10 percent of all applicants -- much higher than I originally anticipated. A few even had 20 or more years under their belts. Overall, 76% of applicants had previous true experience and 24% did not.

The truth is that unemployed people are the antithesis of lazy and unmotivated. They will work well below their experience and education levels for the sake of working. They wake up in the night in a state of gnawing worry. They work longer hours searching for work than do the people reviewing their resumes. They see their children and worry if their predicament will affect their children in the long run. The need to find a job and the consequences of not having a job soon envelopes and steamrolls every other thought. Yet every day, they return to job boards, they contact people they know on a casual level. They fight the feelings of worthlessness and strive at all costs to not become disheartened and god forbid, miss even one day of looking for work due to self-pity. In time, they hide away and become as invisible as possible; after awhile, even the thought of doing something enjoyable becomes sacrilege.

Yet when finding a position, the newly employed will strive assiduously to put these memories behind them as quickly as possible. They will be docile, diligent workers. They will never entertain the thought of making waves. The polarization of America in this arena is reinforced with every new hire/new fire.

We may be quite closer to the cataclysmic state that yields entropy than we are led to believe.
The obvious need in regard to physical formulas is to close the equation with the establishment of a more reliable -- and measurable change in distance (d). Only the presence of (d) balances and closes the established formulaic definition of W=Fd. With unemployment, all the elements of this equation are present with the exception of (d). So, theoretically, the growing societal problem of unemployment, a problem that spreads insidiously into all aspects of society, may be addressed by reinforcing the counter-balance of distance which closes the equation.

What reconstitutes (d)? Any politician who espoused a Rooseveltian "New Deal" would have a short tenure in office. We are no longer that country and our elected officials are no longer those people. It seems comically unimaginable that any potential solutions could even be indentified in our gridlocked, blindly partisan governmental state; implementation of hypothetical governmental solutions could never come close to fruition. It's been reported that the national unemployment rate ranges presently between 8% and 9%. Even if this is a true representation, this number feels woefully understated; I believe our inherent common sense knows that something about these percentages is not quite right.

I am searching for (d). Indubitably the vast majority of people reading this are more intelligent than I am. I seek your assistance in defining (d). If a (d) exists, it will not be identified through government studies, funded think-tanks, and most certainly, not the business sector. This present system -- on the cusp of cataclysm or not, is very favorable for a considerable sector of our society. If Mr. Auld received 653 applications for a modest office job within 24 hours, just imagine how many competing resumes are received for each one we send out for jobs that are just perfect for us.

As a fan of "Occam's Razor," not so much for the validity of its premise, but rather, just how cool it sounds, I created a simple formula that I believe represents unemployment in its most basic form: non-work (nW) equals force constant (FC); or "nW = FC." I do agree with Father William of Ockham that the most effective solutions are quite often the most simple in putting into practice and the best answers are the least complicated suppositions which benefit the highest number of individuals.

My hypothesis may be painfully naïve to physicists, economists, and logicians; my apologies if I have offended any intellectual sensitivities. Still, If we are to examine the hairy, multifaceted problem of unemployment, perhaps it is best to regard it from the most succinct definition: one that even replaces words with letters. If W=Fd has not been proven false, then we must consider at least that its inverse is true: nW=FC. With no (d) to eventually counter (F), force is infinite. Therefore, with an insufficient number of jobs to eventually confront the force of a job search, the problem of unemployment will, in no possible way, be addressed anytime soon.

I understand there are numerous (d) potentials. Your (d) may not be my (d). I ask you to try to see beyond our personal (d) propensities.

I am searching for (d); yet my search capabilities are limited to the area that I personally may cover. I humbly ask you to join me in my search. Together we may cover much more ground.

There is most (d)efinitely a (d) to be (d)iscovered. Let's make Father William proud.