Self-Actualization and Indirect Value

You know you’re in the slow news zone when the biggest story is about deflated footballs. 2015, like 2014, promisses to be another soporific year, with lots of of contrived outrage over things that aren’t that big of a deal. I long for a return of the IQ wars, like we saw in 2013. I want a great debate about the role of IQ vs. nurture in success, HBD, and all that stuff. The economist threw us a bone, with that article about the America’s new aristocracy, but I want more. Every year it’s the same type of stories – Islam, finance, immigration, politics, wealth inequality and the rich, etc- and we go in circles in this unending debate.

The left, having long abandoned Clinton-era pragmatism for anti-establishment radicalism and class warfare, have joined the paleocons in their distrust of the creative class, longing for a simpler era when people ‘produced stuff’ instead of dabbling in hypotheticals.

From The Neoconservative Resurgence:

Decades ago, liberals were the self-actualizers, now self-actualization has become appropriated by conservatives, in particular by neo conservatives. Like the agrarians of the Old Right, welfare liberals and civil libertarians (as opposed to neo liberals) want to cling to the old ways of life in the face of unrelenting prosperity and innovation. When you have some cool technology like Tesla or Facebook, without fail, it’s the left that has the most vocal criticism over the potential displacement of overpaid jobs, alleged crony capitalism, pollution, loss of privacy, etc. For everyone who creates, there’s a lib wanting to tear it down. The tradeoff between improved living standards and more productivity versus disruptions of the old ways of doing things is worthwhile one.

Related to the left’s war on ‘nerd culture’, the welfare left begrudges the overwhelming post-2008 success of the creative class. Teddy Roosevelt was the original ‘trust buster’; now the left wants to break up Silicon Valley by imposing diversity quotas and raising taxes.

Pumpkin Person, a commenter, writes:

It’s amazing America is as successful as it is when so many of its most educated citizens just sit on their ass self-actualizing all day. It’s even more amazing that such parasitic behaviour brings status instead of shame & the people who are actually useful are looked down on as philistines

The trades are fine if you want to lead a modest lower-middle class life, but the cognitive elite – who fill the ranks of the Ivy League, MIT, and Caltech; the founders, VCs and early employees of the most valuable web 2.0 companies; the daytraders, quants, and fund managers; prestigious physicists, scientists, economists, and mathematicians; well-paid coders and engineers; and the wealthy owners of stocks and expensive real estate – are all self-actualizers and constitute our new ruling class, or at least fill the upper echelons of society.

And yes, I’ve heard stories of plumbers and electricians who make good money, but this tends to be the exception than the norm. You need certification, which can be expensive and time consuming to acquire. Often times you need connections such as family members. And then there is a lot of competition in this line of work. Look in the phone book and there are dozens of plumbers, for example. Before you can start a plumbing business you typically must first work under the tutelage of an experienced plumber, and I can’t imagine the pay is nearly as good as being an engineer at Google, nor are the working conditions as nice. Then there’s the fact that blue collar jobs, such as construction, mining and energy, tend to be very sensitive to macro factors. Between 2006-2010 we saw the upheaval of the home building sector and just recently the energy and commodities sectors, costing millions of blue collar workers their jobs and putting many thousands of companies out of business. With the exception of a brief blip in 2000, STEM has been impervious to pretty much everything, especially now with the post-2008 biotech and web 2.0 boom.

In contract to manual labor, self actualization – which typically requires a high-IQ – is what leads to innovation and, subsequently, rising standards of living. Without self-actualization there would be none of the modern inventions we have today. Economic value is created either indirectly or directly; self-actualizers, in contrast to laborers, create value indirectly. Mark Zuckerberg created billions of value indirectly through Facebook. Tesla, through his invention of AC power, created trillions of dollars of economic value indirectly.

To parents, have your kid skip the crappy summer job and instead encourage him to code, learn finance, learn writing, daytrade, do website design, or any skill that involves the creation of indirect value.