Many think modern American society and its economy is sick, ill, and broken. I continually hear about the divide between the Haves and the Have Nots. Is our society really sick, and if so, whats to blame? Lets see if we can make a diagnosis of the real problem.
Some people like to talk about the Haves versus the Have Nots. While there is truth to this classification, it is not the whole truth. It is a symptom, not a disease itself. In reality, there is also the Can Dos versus the Can’t Dos, the Able Class versus the Unable Class and the Want to Do versus the Don’t Want to Do classes.
In discussing the Haves, we must ask why there is a class of people who seem to have plenty and the opposite class which seems to have little. Also, why is the Have Not class increasing. This cannot be done honestly without discussing the Cans and Can’ts.
In any society, some people have more value to that society than others. While some think they can legislate a person’s value to society through welfare payments and minimum wage laws; in fact that is erroneous thinking. Only society can determine the worth of the value of functions and vocations and an individuals worth to it. If an attempt to make some job more valuable through legislation occurs, it can only end in failure if society as a whole does not see any value to that job. In the end, those jobs disappear. How many buggy whip makers do you see around you? How many lawn cutters do we need? How many window washers? Only society as a whole working through the economy can make these decisions, and government can not decide. Society makes these judgments every day by its choices in what it buys and what it doesn’t.
Most people seem to think that they get paid for putting in the hours for their labor. At one time this was mostly true. Just 100 years ago, 90% of the population of the USA were farm laborers. It is not true any more. In actuality, people draw a salary for a combination of 4 basic things: Labor, Creativity, Knowledge (skill), and Risk taking. However, the advent of the machine age has replaced much of the need for actual labor, and increased the need for knowledge and creativity. Of course this creates a problem of what to do with all the people in society who are not creative, do not have any specialized knowledge, and are only capable of physical labor, and to a lesser degree, people who cannot contribute any of these commodities at all. While technology has changed the relationships between Labor, Creativity, Knowledge and Risk; it has done little to change the capabilities of the populace in general.
There are those who think the answer is more education, making people more knowledgeable. The Ph.Ds who are flipping burgers at Mickey D’s will tell you that there is a limited demand for knowledge, and simply having a better degree does not guarantee that the recipient will have any more value to society. In fact, the more education you have in a specific area, the fewer are the chances of actually being employed in that area. Look through the help wanted sections of any newspaper or a job site like Monster.com and note how many job openings there are for Psychiatrists, or Philosophers, or Chemists. Compared to the size of the population, not very many.
Suppose everyone was actually able to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree. Would this create additional jobs, or increase the value of those jobs to society? Doubtful at best. It would disappoint a lot of graduates though who believed they were going to get the cream of the jobs only to find out that they were not.
Then of course, there is a pretty large segment of the population who simply are not capable of higher education endeavors even if handed to them. A large portion of the population is below average in intelligence, and this fact must be realized. I do not say this to degrade anyone, its just the way it is.
That leaves creativity. Can creativity be learned? My experience says no, but maybe the right techniques have not been discovered yet. Bill Gates of Microsoft fame got where he is because he is a very creative individual, not just because he worked 18 hours a day.
As a result of a large segment of the population believing they are simply entitled to whatever they want, government has tried to oblige by mandating welfare and minimum wage standards. This has resulted in the Can Do class of people who are capable of and engaged in supplying the wealth of the country to become disheartened and angry. The Doers of society rightly feel that they should not have to support every one else. In fact, they have become slaves themselves to the Can’t Dos and Don’t Want to Dos. What often happens is that the Doers just decide not to DO as much as they could, as there is little point to it. Consequently, the Doers use their creativity to find ways to avoid having to support the Can’t Dos and Don’t Want to Dos. Creative people are quite good at finding ways to beat the system.
In its proper role, the purpose of any economy is to assist the survival of its individuals by allowing them to contribute to others in their own way and in so doing, earn their own survival. Hunters hunt, gatherers gather, farmers farm, welders weld, and each trades a portion of his work for what he cannot do himself. It allows us to contribute to the whole through specialization. But what do we do with people who have nothing valuable to contribute? This is the real Have Not, and Can’t Do problem. Further still, we live in a time where technology has increased the productivity of the Doers to the point that we need less of them to supply us with the essentials of life.
Basically, a large portion of humans are simply obsolete. How do we achieve the goal of retrofitting tens of millions people out of obsolescence?
In order to build a better America, this is the problem which must be solved. It cannot be solved by mandate. It cannot be solved by legislation. It cannot be solved by ignoring this root problem. We must solve it soon, or nature will solve it for us.