Volume 33: Staying Put in an Economy of Hustle and Bustle

RoyThe USA is the land of opportunity. We’ve all heard it a thousand times before. This is a land where a man (or woman) can come from nothing and accumulate wealth and power beyond his (or her) dreams. Our economic system, capitalism, relies on men and women with this American Dream.

Acknowledging that I am not an economist, my understanding of capitalism is that the goal of individuals and companies is to acquire wealth through a market where goods and services receive whatever value they demand based on supply and other factors.

In this system, men and women are driven to add value to themselves in the form of training, education, and experience to climb the ladder and acquire more and more wealth and power for themselves and their families. And while there is an element of risk involved in all this, the higher you climb/leap up the ladder, the further the fall possible) economic mobility is as great today as it has ever been in my eyes.

So, what does this marketplace do with a man like the one I’ve now referenced in my last two articles? What does this kind of marketplace do with a Leadman that has no drive to be anything besides that? A twenty-year Leadman that has repeatedly turned down opportunities for advancement, and the additional pay and prestige that come with it, is an aberration.

This much should be clear from the fact that we’ve now been talking about him for over six weeks.

But that deviation from the norm is not a good or bad thing, it just is what it is. This Leadman has chosen other priorities. Rather than grind his life away in a plant, he has chosen to stay as a Leadman and see his kids play their soccer games, act in their school plays, and be there to tuck them in almost every night.

Are there some things he wishes he could buy for his kids that he would be able to if he allowed himself to be promoted to Supervisor? Absolutely. Are things going to get tight when it’s time for college? Probably. But to him, his constant presence during their most impressionable years is more important than the potential for added security later.

To the other two men that I’ll talk about in this series, this guy makes no sense. They’ve taken the approach of either climbing up the ladder, or refining a set of turnaround skills that take them away from their homes more often than not. Their wives and kids won’t see them as often, but they’ll reap other benefits from their chosen paths.  Their standard of living might be higher. Their children’s options of colleges might be better. They might be able to afford that new iPhone when it comes out in a few weeks. None of these men are right or wrong, each has just chosen a different path.

And I think the answer to my previous question is that capitalism requires all of these people. The car is pushed forward by the guy in the driver’s seat trying to climb the ladder, foot always on the gas. It’s maintained by the auto mechanic that fixes or replaces the broken parts, and isn’t happy unless he’s covered in grease. But it requires men like our Leadman, as the oil that keeps the engine moving cleanly, with no ambition besides doing his job to the best of his ability and heading home.

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