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Capitalism: The Almighty Job

Panhandler vs Business man (via Ectofranz on Flickr)

Panhandler vs Business man (via Ectofranz on Flickr)

Hey, if you don’t like it, vote with your money.

When people stop paying for the things a company offers they’ll stop offering it.

The Almighty Dollar

These are just a few cliches we hear when times are good. We tell our friends that the collective “we” have the power to decide whether a company should be producing certain things or not. But that’s not the complete truth is it?

In the midst of governments bailing out industries and financial institutions we, the people, have lost our power. We no longer get to decide with our dollars. The government gets to decide with our dollars.

Now, before you run off and tell your mommy that Nate’s getting political and throwing around an anarchist agenda, let me explain. We still have the power, but most people don’t understand where to flex their muscles.

If the government is going to bail out companies that fail (and I mean “fail” by our self-defined, capitalist standards), and many citizens are going to support these financial policies, then we have to understand why. What are the biggest reasons for this support?

One word: jobs.

The auto industry says they employ one out of ten Americans. And some economic teachers and thinkers believe that if those employers go away then our economy tanks. While that may be true, look at where the power lies. Let’s follow the trail.

The power trail

  • Trend: The world is getting more and more conscious about saving energy, like gas.
  • Fact: Currently, the large majority of manufactured cars for the U.S. depend on gas to be a functional product.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  1. An American gets a job at an auto plant.
  2. People buy the cars that auto plant produces.
  3. The worker gets paid.
  4. Hopefully, when the worker retires, the company has saved some money to pay their pensions.

Here’s how it actually works:

  1. An American gets a job at an auto plant.
  2. The auto company produces cars.
  3. Other Americans don’t buy said cars.
  4. Auto maker complains to government, citing employees paychecks (and trickling down, the economy) as the country’s problem.
  5. The government agrees with the economic problem and pushes said American’s tax money into the auto company’s hands to pay for the employees.
  6. Employees keep producing cars that said Americans don’t want.
  7. Of course you might have already thought that through and agree that a bailout is pretty ridiculous. You might agree with me that it’s crazy to be in business if you can’t make a profit, which includes the costs of paying your employees and selling a product the market wants. Failing is ok. Succeeding is more fun, sure. But, all of that is capitalism.

    But, even if you don’t agree with me on the end result, look at where the power lies in both areas. Jobs. And I don’t mean jobs that the companies offer. I mean jobs that people apply for and work at. Now, here it comes – the kicker.

    Wait for it….

    By working for failing companies these employees have chosen the path of the welfare check. Maybe not the literal one, but definitely the figurative one. They’re being supported by tax payers (FTF).

    Detour

    Let’s even break it down to the tiny towns across middle America that work for these companies with no other industry to support them. What do you do then? Answer: move away from them.

    If a small town in middle America was supported by one company, a start-up tech company for example. And that start-up produced typewriters. Would you work for them? Do you really feel that you have no other choices presented to you? Is your only option failure (either having a job from a company that will fail, or not having a job at all)? Absolutely not.

    If that’s what we’ve come to, a nation of people who can’t see beyond their front yard and can’t be creative problem solvers, then we have a bigger issue than our current financial crisis. We have a major problem with our citizen mentality which needs to be bailed out.

    Back on track

    So, what’s my point? My point is that each person has an incredible amount of power by deciding who they work for.

    If you work for someone else, you might not have realized this yet, but you have just as much power as your employer. You and your employer enter into a contract together. She will give you some money in exchange for your labor. She doesn’t give it to you because you’re nice. She gives it to you because she wants something that you can provide. Stop. Let me say it again. She’s paying you for something that you can provide.

    You, the employee, have just as much power as the employer.

    “But wait,” you exclaim. “They could just fire me if I do something they don’t like.”

    Yes, that’s true. But guess what? You have the same power. If your employer does something you don’t like, you can quit. And employee training costs money. It hurts. It also sends them a message (if done properly) just as much as an employer firing an employee sends a message.

    Wrapping up

    This is just a small portion of my full argument, but the end result is that when we, the people, understand that where we spend our time (in exchange for money) is where the biggest power lies, we’ll be able to say we’re capitalists again.

    Until then, we’ll just be paying to support failing industries, governments that pay themselves too much for the work they do, and for useless wooden arrows to be produced.