Why 15% Unemployment is Worrisome and Honey Doesn’t Spoil

One day a week, I write a letter that’s a grab bag of topics.  This is the day.  Here’s what is in today’s letter:

  • Why 15% unemployment should make you worry
  • Why there isn’t any organic honey
  • Why honey doesn’t spoil

Why 15% Unemployment is Worrisome (and not for the reason you think it is)

Here’s a chart most people haven’t seen.  It’s the real unemployment rate in the US.

It’s called U-6 Unemployment and it is measured the same way unemployment was measured during the first depression.


One thing you will notice is that the unemployment rate is at a very high 15%.  In contrast, the “official” unemployment rate is something called U-3 and it has us at about half this number.  Why the difference?  U-3 massages the data.  It takes out people who have given up or people who have worked an hour a week.  U-6 doesn’t do that.   In short, the official number is a misrepresentation of what is really going on.

The same is true with the way we measure our progress economically.  The GDP (gross domestic product) is supposedly a measure of the economic health of the US.  It’s not.  The US isn’t an abstract economic system, it’s made up of citizens.  Real, living, breathing, people.

A real measure of the economic health of the US would be the median income (or median household wealth).  The question we should be asking is:  Is the median income of America (the collective we) going up or down?  Well that number has been going down, and down.  It dropped 1.5% last year at the very moment economists and politicians were celebrating an economic recovery due to 1.7% growth in the GDP….

The reason I’m pointing this out isn’t because it’s a scary chart (it is).  I’m pointing it out because it’s impossible to take effective action if you aren’t getting information that correctly describes what is going on.  If you don’t get good info, it’s garbage in/garbage out.  You make the wrong decisions.

In this case, the rosy picture of economic recovery that is being painted would suggest that it’s possible to relax.  To put off becoming resilient and becoming really productive.

It’s not.  The real data is providing us with a signal.  A signal that says it’s time to get our minds, bodies, families, and neighbors in gear.

It’s time to get resilient!


Why there isn’t any truly “organic” Honey

Entomologist Alex Wild points out that bees can travel from 5-10 miles (circular) from their hives to gather nectar.  This means that it’s impossible to prevent exposure/collection of pesticides.  Here’s some more interesting facts about the productivity of Bees:

  • A colony of bees produces 250 pounds of nectar.
  • A colony produces 50 to 100 jars of honey a year.
  • Each jar of honey = 1 million flower visits.


Why doesn’t Honey spoil?

Here’s the summary of an excellent answer by the culinary expert Jonas Luster (via Quora):

  • Honey is a supersaturated solution of sugar.  Since sugar is a hygroscopic (a substance, like cotton and salt, that attracts water) it desiccates bacteria, yeast spores, and other micro-organisms that it touches.
  • The pH of honey is 3.26 to 4.48, which weakens the cell walls of bacteria (which makes it easier to desiccate them).
  • Finally, bees use an enzyme called glucose oxidase, also known as Penicillin A or Notatin.


Resiliently Yours,



PS:  I’m not political.  That means I don’t believe that the political process will solve the current crisis.  Why?  I believe it’s an existential crisis we are facing, and that’s way beyond national politics.  On top of that, every political party in power over the last thirty years has made this crisis worse.   In contrast, the only way forward is to focus on what is important at the human scale:  building resilient communities that can provide you prosperity, security, and happiness.

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  • vera

    And here is another look at the real numbers on unemployment from shadowstats.


  • http://pennypincherpersonalfinance.blogspot.com Penny Pincher

    Two observations: Much supermarket honey has turned out to be really made of flavored, colored corn syrup and this was exposed in the news last year. To be more likely to be getting the real thing, buy it directly from a farmer or beekeeper. (or learn how to keep bees).

    Both real honey and also straight table sugar are old fashioned wound treatments. You can pour table sugar on a wound if you don’t have antibiotic ointments to squirt on it. There are still nurses alive now who remember doing this as standard procedure just a few decades ago. It works to keep things sterile by making there be no space for germs between the molecules. I guess it kind of smothers the germs? Therefore don’t water it down if you want to use it for this.

    • John Robb

      Penny, Thank. You are right: The combination of the antibiotic and honey’s ability to desiccate microbes is pretty potent. JR

  • http://zambeezi.com Andre

    While your points about honey are correct- there IS truly organic honey out there. It only comes from places where only organically managed land stretches out for miles in every direction. There are some unique places in the world where entire communities have made that kind of a commitment to organic production and one of those places is where I work – Northwestern Zambia. Please don’t bash organic honey – these people have gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure that their honey truly is pure and organic!

    • John Robb


      That’s fantastic and very rare. Do you have any pointers to that honey?


  • Clint

    Your comments about unemployment and GDP are frightening facts that far too many people don’t realize. Consider that a new diagnosis of critical illness actually increases GDP, because the patient is billed for the associated treatment services. By traditional models we all just need to get a good case of cancer and the nation’s economic outlook would skyrocket.

    Our true prosperity can only be measured in lives, and the quality of those lives. Even the median household income can be inaccurate if the income rate is rising while the quality of life is falling. Unfortunately the current system just isn’t designed to improve quality of life for the general populace. Our technology and politics may have changed a lot in the last century, but economically we’re still living in a feudal system.

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