Saturday, May 05, 2012

Masters of the Universe Unite!

A big mistake you can make is to only see things from your own perspective, and not try to look at any other sides of the equation.  Like low level workers who don't understand the need to pay their dues and are upset at having to work crap jobs without realizing that they might be moving up to better jobs if they stopped treating their crap job like a crap job and understood that if you want a better job you have to show that you deserve it.

I mean, if you're just slogging through your job making coffee or copies and putting in the bare minimum, it shouldn't be a surprise that you're not rewarded with better work.  And from what I've often seen, the "bare minimum" these people aspire to is well below any acceptable minimum at all.  Just showing up ain't enough, particular not when you show up late and people are counting on you to be there on time.  A job is only as crappy as you make it, and if you don't see how a crap job is a stepping stone to a good job, you'll be stuck in a dead-end of crap jobs.

And so we've got people who blame the system for all their problems and use antiquated rhetoric from the 19th century to explain how the Man is keeping them down; entirely unaware that the system has changed and you really can work your way to the top if you have the desire to do so.  Apparently, it's a lot easier to blame others for our problems than to see what we can do differently to solve them.

To the Wealthy Go the Spoils

And then we see the same from the other end of the spectrum: Masters of the Universe who are free to keep as much money as they can and rationalize it by giving themselves a vastly oversized proportion of the credit for their success.

And they've fully fallen for the Ayn Rand idea that society owes everything to the few individuals capable of hoarding money, and the rest of us schlubs are interchangeable cogs whose individualism is purely a detriment to the system.  As if an individual can build a factory and support a vast economy on their own, if only the dirty masses would step out of the way and allow it.  Not that there's any rational basis for believing such a thing, but it sure helps rationalize the behavior they wanted to do anyway.

Case in point: Mitt Romney's buddy and Bain Capital villain, Edward Conrad.  According to Conrad's reality, it's GOOD for guys like him to keep as much money as possible, because they use that money for good things that help people.

Like Romney's greatest success story: Staples.  I mean, were it not for the courageous work of Bain Capital investing in Staples, Americans might have to drive a little further to get to one of the other office supply stores that sell the same stuff...assuming Staples is closer to them than Office Depot or Officemax, or a Walmart, which has even lower prices than any of these specialty stores.  I'm surprised no one's offered them a humanitarian award for this great service.

No Man is an Island

And the thing is, Conrad is right.  The wealthy really DO help make the world a better place when they invest in things.  I mean, it wasn't a poor Kenyan who gave us Google, or Apple, or electricity, or all the other things we take for granted.  It's rich people we have to thank for this, and I don't mean that in any snarky sense.  Money is a form of energy and it takes quite a lot of that energy to make things happen.

But...these guys didn't do it alone.  Without workers, none of these things would happen either.  Because Ayn Rand was wrong, in that the dirty masses aren't a blight of parasites sucking off the innovators.  We're the ones who make it happen.  Yes, a rich man paid for the factory, but the rest of us designed and built it.  Without us, they're nothing; and they need us more than we need them.  Were it not for workers, these people would be no better off than the rest of us.

And so if the rich deserve compensation in order to make the world go round, so do the rest of us.  And that's just not something these people are willing to admit.  They think that because they control the spigot that they get to keep all the water, simply because they can.  And while that continues to work for them, that's shortsighted and explains nothing as to why Conrad's theory is correct.

If money as a motivator is important, that goes for the rest of us, too.  His entire meme is based upon the idea that there are only two groups: Investors like him and lazy people looking for a free ride.  He laments how much work he puts in when he'd rather spend time with his family, entirely oblivious to the fact that there are many many more poor people who also don't have enough time with their families.

Incredibly, he honestly seems to believe that we could have an entire world of investors, if only we were smart enough to be like him.  But, it takes all kinds to make things happen, and that includes accountants, managers, marketers, clerks, and janitors.  And just as investors need rewards to motivate them to do better, so do the rest of us.  But if you're only willing to pay the same crap wages no matter how hard we work, then there's no reason to work hard and everyone will be worse because of it.

His theory about money as a motivator for improving society is correct.  He just needs to expand it to everyone.

Workers Are Consumers, Dummy

And that leads us to Conrad's bigger mistake: It's not businesses that make the world go round.  It's consumers.  We're the ones who pump the economy, as a business can't sell anything unless they have consumers to sell to.  And, duh, workers are consumers.  And if all the money accumulates into a few hands, then the economy will stagnate, just as a pond will stagnate if the water doesn't move.

And that's the reason why countries with a strong middle-class do better than countries with a strong upper-class and a vast lower-class.  Sure, we shouldn't be rewarding lazy workers or those who refuse to work at all.  But you've got to pay the people who do the work, if only so they can afford to buy your own products.  And all the same, simply handing money to the poor helps stimulate the economy far more than letting the rich hold on to it.  Again, what's the point of all those investments if no one can buy what the investors are helping produce?

Unfortunately, these guys still control the spigot and they continue to believe that they're the only essential people who deserve the rewards, and can't see how this attitude hurts them in the long run.  But it's better to be a big fish in a big pond than a shark in a small pond, and the more wealth these guys keep for themselves, the smaller the pond will be.

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