“Human Directionals”—The Cheap Wage/Expensive Land Economy Personified

America`s proud history as a middle class country rests
fundamentally on two advantages of settling a

mostly empty continent
: a small supply of labor and
a

large supply of land.

This meant relatively high wages and low land prices, so
Americans could afford to buy their own farms and homes.

In turn, this virtuous cycle encouraged Americans to
invent

labor-saving devices
like the reaper, the

washing machine
, the

assembly line
, and the

semiconductor
.

Which made Americans even richer and more independent.


Sadly, immigration has created a

wasteful abundance
of

cheap labor
and contributed to a

shortfall of cheap land.

In that harbinger of the American future, Southern
California, once the Promised Land of the middle class,
unskilled labor has become so plentiful that now

a common weekend sight
is people who are paid to
stand on corners and try to catch your eye by randomly
wiggling brightly colored

directional arrows
, typically pointing to real
estate open houses.

It`s the 21st Century equivalent of the Depression-era
advertising practice of hiring

unemployed men
to walk around wearing

sandwich board signs
saying "Eat at Joe`s."

And it`s just as depressing.

Susan Abram of the Los Angeles Daily News
reported on Friday:


"In the
multibillion-dollar advertising and marketing world, all
signs point to the human directional business as a trend
for development companies, small businesses and real
estate agents to get their products noticed. `This is a
way of advertising that is very common in the new-home
industry,` said Erika Kaufmann, sales manager for the
Olson Co.`s Burbank Village Walk, a mixed-use housing
development with 140 condominium units on Olive Avenue."
("Spin
City: Twirling advertisements a sign of the times"
,


December 16, 2005)

With American teenagers increasingly driven out of
traditional jobs, such as fast food, by employers`
preference for a staff that speaks a common language
(i.e.

Spanish
), many California teens are turning
themselves into living signs. A young man in exurban
Lancaster, CA

offered
an insider`s perspective:


"`My official title
was `Human Directional.` Confused? I`ll explain: I was a
sign. Yep, a human sign. Every weekend for 4-6 hours,
I`d stand on a corner (hey, be nice) with an enormous
arrow-shaped sign and wave it at cars passing by in an
attempt to get them to go look at models of homes in

new housing tracts
in the area. Really, this was my
job. I can`t begin to describe how utterly mind-numbing
it was. I did this for an entire year! See, in my city
there is an over-abundance of teenagers, and a severe
lack of jobs. People literally have to fight to get jobs
at

Burger King
… Being that there`s nothing to do, a
favorite pastime of a few people here was to torment me
while I worked.` "

Then again, perhaps they had their reasons. Abram
writes:

"But some who study
marketing are less than impressed with the tactic. `I
find it irritating,` said Harold Kassarjian, professor
of marketing at California State University, Northridge.
`It`s an in-your-face ad. To me, it`s just junky clutter
that we`re forced to look at.`"

You may not be surprised to learn that this "vibrant"
addition to our culture apparently originated in that
Ground Zero of inefficiency, inequality, and
underemployment: Mexico.

Abram writes:


"Human directionals
possibly came to Southern California from Mexico, where
the practice flourishes, Kassarjian said. In the past
few years, San Diego has been inundated."

The economics of the "living
sign
"
says something disturbing about Southern
California`s present and America`s future.

Blaine Harden wrote in
the

Washington Post
(8/11/05):

 

"The urbanized area
in and around Los Angeles has become the most

densely populated place
in the continental United
States, according to the Census Bureau. Its density is
25 percent higher than that of New York, twice that of
Washington and four times that of Atlanta, as measured
by residents per square mile of urban land. And Los
Angeles grows more crowded every year …"

The median price of a home in Los Angeles` suburban San
Fernando Valley is now

$600,000
.

Your $600,000 buys typically a

40-year-old
stucco three-bedroom ranch house (no
basement) of merely about 1700 square feet on a
one-fifth acre lot in a fair-to-middling neighborhood
with

mediocre-to-miserable schools.

The

real estate
salesperson`s

commission
, at six percent, on a $600,000 house is
$36,000.

That pays for a lot of sign twirlers.

But it also raises more questions than it answers about
the long-term prospects for our economy and for our once
solidly middle-class society—in a 21st Century where the
well-off increasingly make their living selling houses
to each other; and the less lucky make their living,
such as it is, jiggling signs.


[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]