I realized long ago that the real conflict isn't between management and workers, as so many Twentieth Century radicals—particularly in Britain, with its class system—would have had us believe. And a fortiori it is not some elaborate "class warfare" between the "bourgeois" and the workers, as the Marxist fantasized. No, the real conflict lies between consumers and producers, between workers and buyers. This is because workers naturally want to do as little work as possible and get paid the most; whereas buyers want the opposite. Don't misunderstand me: top management, particularly in modern-day America, gets paid what can only be considered obscene amounts, but in the bigger scheme of things there aren't really enough Michael Eisners to matter, egregiously visible though they are.
The sad fact of life in a market economy is that you have to do what somebody else wants in order to get paid. You don't generally get paid for what is fun for you or for what you want to do; you get paid for what somebody else wants you to do, and usually that's something they themselves don't want to do for some reason. Maybe the work is tedious, maybe it requires high levels of responsibility, maybe it is dirty or dangerous. One thing you can be guaranteed is that it's something somebody else doesn't want to do themselves.
Now this is contrary to what most of us learn in school and in our cultural role models. We learn that we should be "free". We learn that we should be self-actualizing. We learn that we should break the rules and make things better and in the end everyone will reward us for "doing the right thing". Don't bet on it.
Universities are divided into sections, departments such as Chemistry, Physics, Women's Studies, Philosophy, English, etc., and people study these things for four years and they come out thinking they are getting a job for the rest of their lives doing Chemistry or Philosophy or whatever it was. In fact, for almost all of them, they are going to get a job in business and they are going to spend their lives in business. Their livelihoods will depend to a great degree on their sales skills, not on their skill in writing History papers. Naturally there is some friction there. Naturally the students are disappointed that what was only one, scoffed-upon department among many is in fact the only place to eat. How could society be this way? We need social change!
The truth is that most of us make our livings in some sort of business because that's the only place where we are really doing what other people want, and that's the only place they will pay us. The frustrated young recent graduates frequently believe that "the government should fix this". We should have a society where one is rewarded for doing whatever one feels like, for painting pictures, singing songs, proving math theorems. So there is always pressure to "subsidize" the arts and sciences, i.e., to take money away from Grandma at the point of a gun and give it to somebody else whom Grandma would never have rewarded voluntarily. In one of the Babar stories, Babar stumbles across exactly such a world. He orders ice cream and only has to pay the man by singing a song.
And maybe we should take away Grandma's money by force. I don't know. I've pretty much given up on knowing exactly what we should and shouldn't do, exactly how society should and shouldn't be organized. I've discovered that I don't know and am unlikely to ever know. But my observation is that in the whole history of mankind, the market-based system we have developed is the only one capable of delivering all the wealth we depend on and take for granted. And if we choose to go away from it, millions of people will end up without food. The present population of the planet is not sustainable without it.
So my advice to all of us is: face the market. It's often hard, it's often unpleasant, it's almost never what we want, but it's the right thing to do.
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