Friday, October 14, 2011

News Flash: Life Ain't Fair

Recently I have been reading “The Secret Knowledge” by the esteemed playwright, David Mamet. Mamet is a self described “reformed liberal” who over the last few years has turned to conservatism. By explanation an excerpt from the book jacket:

"My interest in politics began when I noticed that I acted differently than I spoke, that I had seen 'the government' commit sixty years of fairly unrelieved and catastrophic error nationally and internationally, that I not only hated every wasted hard-earned cent I spent in taxes, but the trauma and misery they produced..."

The problems facing us, faced by all mankind engaged in Democracy, may seem complex, or indeed insolvable, and we, in despair, may revert to a state of wish fulfillment-a state of "belief" in the power of the various experts presenting themselves as a cure for our indecision. But this is a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Here, the captives, unable to bear the anxiety occasioned by their powerlessness, suppress it by identifying with their captors.

This is the essence of Leftist thought. It is a devolution from reason to "belief," in an effort to stave off a feeling of powerlessness. And if government is Good, it is a logical elaboration that more government power is Better. But the opposite is apparent both to anyone who has ever had to deal with Government and, I think, to any dispassionate observer.

It is in sympathy with the first and in the hope of enlarging the second group that I have written this book.
One of the strongest themes in Mamet’s tome is that of the failure of liberal and liberal arts education. The chapters on these topics, penned in 2010 bear prescient insight into the sources of frustration fueling the “Occupy Wall Street” protests and their progeny spreading to larger cities across the nation. Among the largest of the recurring complaints of the protesters is wage “inequality” in their chosen profession compared to others at similar levels of education. In listening to their complaints and reading their “I am the 99%” mini-manifestos you see that frequently the complainers are in fact very highly educated but often in highly esoteric fields.

What we are seeing before us is the logical (shudder) result of 20+ years of every kid getting a trophy, no wrong answers as long as there is “effort” the assertion that every kid and their every thought is a precious and unique snowflake and that whatever the result, whatever the practical impact that kids should “follow their dreams” in life. At 42 years old I’ve tried it.

After getting out of the Coast Guard in 2000 I worked for a Silicon Valley tech firm and quickly became disillusioned with the cyclic nature of the semiconductor industry. I spent the last of the 2.5yrs there wondering if today would be the day I got laid off. Eventually that day came. But it came long after the bubble burst and jobs were scarce. I decided to pursue my "passion" and went to work for a major Bicycle Manufacturer in their MarComm org. I quickly found that when one makes ones avocation into their vocation their hobbies become simply work. I wound up losing my passion for cycling because instead of it being something that I looked forward to, that was a reward at the end of a hard day/week it became consuming and no longer as fun. Now back in the tech field I recognize that work is work (which is why we don't call it a hot tub filled with champagne and strippers) and life is life. Finding balance is far more important and ultimately rewarding, both personal and professional, than some pie in the sky notion of "following your dreams".

What many young people, including these “Occupy” protesters fail to understand, because they've never been taught otherwise, is that dreams are different from reality and the "product" of your passion may or may not have value to others. You may have a passion for 17th century pottery and you may be the world’s foremost authority, but there is very little value to that knowledge particularly if you cannot apply it to the production of a good or service that people want. It may be "your dream" to make a living at that which is your passion but sometimes dreams are bad ideas, and making life decisions based on dreams absent of pragmatism is the mark of the immature or ill-habituated.

Noted economist, Thomas Sowell, has written in parallel to Mamet that the idea of universal university study doesn't really make sense. As demonstrated by countless “Occupy” protesters many degree fields are exorbitantly expensive but fail to qualify the holder to do anything useful no matter how prestigious the school.

Another common theme amongst the protesters is that of the disparity in wealth between the wealthiest 1% of Americans and “everyone else”. They fail to make a logical claim as to how this gap might be closed, yet they almost uniformly blame the “ultra wealthy” for the problems that they face. The absurdity of the assertion is beyond laughable. The fact that Larry Ellison is incomprehensibly wealthy has nothing at all to do with the fact that I'm not. He created the corporation that is Oracle, just like Steve Jobs created Apple and Bill Gates created Microsoft. I didn’t. …..ironic that each of them is a college drop out but I digress….. the only barrier to me doing something similar is my own talent. I’m not that talented and I’m ok with that.

The incessant compulsion on the part of these young people to blame the rich or corporations for the problems of the “realistically quite well off yet still bitchy and dissatisfied” smacks of nothing more than petty jealousy. We are seeing the result of a youth spent sheltered from reality, swaddled in entitlement now faced with the stark reality of the challenge and competition of real life. As has been shown countless times, increasing taxation results in lower federal revenues, less investment, less job growth and by extension, fewer high paying jobs. Heck, if the Government were somehow persuaded to seize ALL the assets of the “evil” rich it would be enough money to operate the Government for roughly 4 days and obviously wouldn’t solve a single of these protesters "problems".

Corporations or “the rich” are not the source of our problems, in fact, the contrary is the case. They are the source of the solution. For without them, there is no creation of jobs, and by extension no creation of individual wealth. As I wrote in my piece below on Steve Jobs;  ….profit insulated Apple's stock value against the occasional shaky product launch or less than wonderful quarter. It funded the development of subsequent iPhone/iPod versions, funded the development of iPad and funds the salaries of countless neighbors & friends and may God bless Steve Jobs for it. Jobs created jobs and wealth and opportunity in a way no Government program, "Stimulus" or shady Solyndra Loan ever could. 

To the protesters in New York and elsewhere I’d ask the following question; “Steve Jobs was born out of wedlock, put up for adoption at birth, dropped out of college, then changed the world. What's your excuse?”  While you are thinking about that, how about you shut up, pick up your trash and get to work. I hear Home Depot is hiring and it's always easier to find a job when you've already got one even if said job doesn't "fulfill your dreams."

1 comment:

  1. True=

    Another spot-on piece. Thanks for summing it up so well!