Is Going to Work Really So Bad? Jobbers vs. Self-Actualizers

From an article and discussion from Return of Kings about work being dehumanizing:

The capitalist system pushes us to work as hard as possible to increase our wealth and therefore our social status. In a world with less emphasis on tribes, community, and extended family, wealth has become the primary indicator of social status. Communists/socialists and libertarians/capitalists are equally obsessed with wealth, money, and their distribution, speaking of them as if they were the beginning and end of all human value, providing us not with just essentials for living but also the substance of social status and the arbiter of self-worth.

Interestingly , this sentiment is shared by both liberals and conservatives – work sucks, it’s boring, it’s exploitative, and so on. But let’s take a step back and remove heated emotions from the argument and consider the facts, there are two types of people: jobbers (those who go to work for a steady paycheck to pay the bills) and self-actualizers (those who work to create indirect value, often in the hope of a large payoff either monetarily or in social status).

The self-actualizers are typically individuals with an above-average IQ and who are ambitious enough to pave their own way. This includes coders out of high school or college who are making six-figures either on the side or in a snazzy start-up, with the potential to earn millions or even billions if the company becomes a huge success and goes public or is acquired. Unlike Jobbers, they have a lot of autonomy and control over their career, and a huge theoretical potential payoff. Self-actualizers include the high-IQ people who make tons of money trading options, despite the left’s insistence that the market is rigged or a bubble. By exploiting small market inefficiencies and patterns, these traders can make tens of thousands of dollars a week or month with relatively little effort, and do it over and over. A third group of self-actualizers are academic nerds such as writers, historians, physicists, mathematicians and economists, as well as those involved in the financial sector, such as hedge funds managers and investment bankers. The big payoff for academics is global recognition and adulation for making discoveries, versus the jobber who works not for recognition but subsistence. Unless the jobber becomes promoted to a c-level position, he will work in obscurity and then retire a nobody.

That sounds great for the self-actualizers, and it is, which is why I recommend parents teach their kids the skills and values of self-actualization.

But because of intellectual limitations imposed by the Bell Curve, not everyone can become a self-actualizer. And not everyone who is smart enough to become a self-actualizer chooses to become one.

So it must be hellish to be a jobber, and the monotony and not being appreciated for your talents is frustrating, but all is not lost. The first myth is that jobbers are being exploited because they are working for less than their ‘true’ value, a Marxist exploitation theme that is popular among some libertarian types such as James Altucher. There are many reasons why this premise is flawed:

1. Only unlocking some of your theoretical ‘true’ potential is better than earning nothing and being homeless. A company may only mentally stimulate you 10%, but if you go your own route you may find yourself fully stimulated but not earning any money. A company has an infrastructure (clients, customers, office space, software, supply chain) that an entrepreneur would have to acquire on his own. An employee ‘leases’ this infrastructure by ‘paying’ his 90% wasted potential in exchange for a steady paycheck at no monetary cost to the employee. 50-95% of small business fail with five year and unless you’re in the coding/web 2.0 space, costs tend to be high – further making matters worse.

2. Getting a raise means more work for disproportionately less pay, therefore you are being exploited. But this liberal argument fails to take into account the preferences of the worker. A worker may ‘lose’ two happiness ‘points’ by having to work harder, but the extra cash from a raise gives him four ‘points’ of happiness, a net gain of two.

3. When a company goes bust, it’s labor that gets paid first before shareholders and bondholders. Yes, this is a major advantage labor has over capital, and the left overlooks this fact. You would think that with labor being exploited so much, companies would become more profitable by hiring more employees? I guess not, considering all the companies that go bankrupt and have to layoff all their employees. Maybe they aren’t doing a good enough job exploiting them.

4. Litigation galore. Another advantage employees have is they can sue for the smallest of perceived infractions – and employers, rather than fight it off in a costly and prolonged legal battle, with the potential for a PR disaster, choose to settle. Then there is the endless regulation – from Obamacare, to disability, OSHA, insurance, compensation, etc. Not only does an employer have to worry about the competition, he has to worry about not being put out of business an overzealous judge.

5. Labor has no accountability for the future of the firm; all labor has to do is show up, put their butt in a chair, and get paid. Unlike investors, labor is guaranteed 100% of the income for every hour that their butt is in that chair.

The left, in playing the maternal role, thinks they know what’s best for people, trying to ‘save’ workers from being exploited by the big greedy corporations. Again, these are liberal fears are grounded in emotive class warfare, not logic.