The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Whither the American Dream?

Somewhere around the 1950's, it became a part of the culture to push our children into college, to "white collar" careers, to eschew the idea of factory work. So the best and the brightest headed off to business school and engineering school, and law school. And the factories no longer got them. Instead of promoting those best and brightest to improve the factory and its processes, they hired them as consultants from outside (and lacking the insider knowledge of the environment). And they believed in the clean and wonderful future touted by the intellectual class who spoke of robotics freeing us all of the mindless, repetitive labor of factory work. And that put the fathers of those kids (and their less smart brothers and sisters) out of work over time. the factories went along because they saw that they were no longer getting bright stars among the detrius but just the "leftovers", the ones who couldn't get into colleges, who could barely (and maybe not at all) get out of high school. Oh sure, a smattering of the bright showed up at the employment office but they became more and more rare. After all, they weren't stupid and they could see the handwriting on the wall. The culture said in the 1850's, "Go west, young man", and he did. In the 1950's, the culture said, "go white collar, young man", and he did.

Pogo said it best: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

The above is a comment I wrote in response to the majority of comments in response to the following piece:

The knowledge class vs. the factory class

The article/opinion and the comments brought a song to mind...

Well we're living here in Allentown
And they're closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they're killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line.

"Allentown"  by Billy Joel

There was another comment I made in response to a specific comment blaming the management class. Even though I think he had more than just management in mind, I think he was talking about the very "higher ups", the "suits", the owners and the board of directors and such.

The comment:

What an unbelievable crock. the management class has systematically destroyed the viability of blue collar jobs for the last 50 years. If there were unions, and the jobs paid $30/hour with benefits, there would be no shortage of workers. 

And repeat, it is not the knowledge class. There are many people with educations who see this. It is the rich class and the MBA class that have undermined and destroyed the blue collar middle class. Not the teachers, not the government employees, not the lawyers, not the doctors. The MBAs and the wealthy.

And my reply:

"If there were unions, and the jobs paid $30/hour with benefits, there would be no shortage of workers. "

True... but there would be no jobs for them to have.

It is a reality that one can price one's self out of the market. The glut of lawyers is becoming yet another example. A glut of engineers another. A glut of business school graduates (together with those engineers) gave us the automated factory which didn't free the workers from anything but employment. The incentive for those automated factories? The high cost of human employees. Especially as those employees became unwilling to work harder for more pay but expected the higher pay because the factories were more productive because of the increase in automation. And your unions, with the best of intentions, encouraged them. After all, if the workers made more, the unions would prosper.

And here we are today, wondering what happened to the American Dream...

And pointing fingers.

And ignoring our own guilt in the process.



Torggil said...

Progress.  The buzz word of 1850.  None must stand in the way, because it will cut you down. 

It is a reality of global trade that if something can be made for less somewhere else, it will be.  And labour, that is human labour, is still a major cost in any business plan.

We built a profit oriented world.  No one invests in something because it is "a good thing."  They invest to profit.  The GFC is a prime example of short term money, read greed, over common sense.  Experts from organizations including the US treasury and the IMF knew the sub-prime loan culture was unsustainable, but no one cared because the short term cash kept rolling in.

We have dug our own hole, and while we pay the price, can we dig our way out of it?

Sightings said...

People speak of "change" as a good thing. "We are hungry for change," said Barack Obama, "we can change the status quo." People forget that change can be good, or it can be bad. Some people benefit, others pay a price. But this is nothing new. Billy Joel's "Allentown" came out 30 years ago. Today, Allentown is where Dunder Mifflin of "The Office" is located. Now that's change! 

Douglas4517 said...

 We are slowly, it seems, learning just how much change (and of what) Obama was speaking of during the `08 campaign.

Douglas4517 said...

 One hopes, Torggil, one hopes.