Has John Galt Left The Building And Taken The Workers?
Anyone who read Ayn Rand's classic Atlas Shrugged will recognize the name John Galt. Throughout the book (and films if you watched them), the line is "who is John Galt?".
The meaning behind this was a mythical character who was hijacking the nation's leading industrialists. They were the people who ran the companies that manufactured the engines, built the bridges, and operated the railroads (it was written in the 1950s). It was based upon Rand's ideology that collectivism is bad. Here was a way she emphasized how economies run by politicians, think tanks, and "experts" was doomed to fail.
Obviously, we can sense class warfare in Rand's tone. She was against the Marxist mindset, having been born in Russia in the early 20th century (before the Soviet Union).
There is little doubt the United States has witnessed its own form of class warfare. The industrialists that Rand wrote about certainly are targeted. However, that is not the John Galt class. Instead, we might be looking at something Rand hypothesized occurring, yet in a way unimagined to her.
For those who did not read the book, John Galt was able to convince the leading industrialists to walk away from their companies. As they were attacked with accusations of profiteering, pushed to endured endless regulation, and to try to conduct business as spelled out by politicians and bureaucrats (an impossibility), they simply walked away.
Naturally, we can imagine, with that type of "brain drain", society started to fall apart. Infrastructure literally started to collapse as bridges fell, the trains stopped running, and a host of other industries vital to the ongoing survival of society imploded.
Are we see this play out today?
The Blue Collar Worker
In the United States, college is something that is pushed upon everyone. If you do a search of "college scam" you will see how, for the most part, young people are saddled with huge debt loads to spend 4 years receiving worthless degrees. The upper level education system in the US is committing highway robbery, indebting students for life.
For some, it is a path to a brighter future. When people major in fields such as science, engineering, accounting, and information technology, they can usually find jobs on the higher end of the pay scale. To these people, money spent on their education was an investment.
As for the rest, it is an albatross around the neck. It makes you wonder why someone would think that spending all that money on an ancient Irish poetry degree would really amount to much. Does someone really think that history is a major that is going to be in high demand? The same goes for art, theater, and sociology. While there might be a few who break through, most are not going to make it in that area.
But this is what society promotes. The challenge is that, when it comes down to it, society doesn't truly need these things. As for the knowledge, much of it is available if one simply knows how to use Google.
What is interesting, and where the Ayn Rand-John Galt theory comes in, is the fact that people from the crucial jobs are disappearing. In the U.S., we are finding a deficit of welders, plumbers, and electricians. We are seeing blue collar fields such as automotive having a tough time finding people. I was talking to a neighbor who made an appointment for an oil change in his car: 3 weeks. That is how long it took to get it in.
This is an oil change we are talking about. Thirty years ago there was a quick change oil shop on near every corner. Now, it is weeks to get the vehicle in.
The reality is that, as the education system pushes people into college, ensuring they rack up debt in return for a piece of paper that has a 80% chance of being worthless, less people are entering these crucial fields to keep the basics of society running.
Who is John Galt and where have all the average workers gone? Perhaps that is the question.
All Chiefs, No Indians
There is a saying about too many chiefs and not enough Indians. This means that we have a lot of people who want to be running the show yet few willing to engage in professions that actually contribute. The engines of society, those laborers who keep the basics running simply are disappearing. At the same time, these are also fields that are very difficult to automate.
What happens in another decade when we have millions of more people with degrees in human gender relations and fewer plumbers? That will not bode well when the pipes break. But hey, we will have a full slate of political science majors who can tell us all we need to know about why political party X or politician Y is treasonous for the country.
Someone once asked me if I was counseling a high school student, what field would I suggest to enter? Thinking about this is not easy since it has to be something that will not change over the next couple decades. With technology advancing, we can easily see many industries are going to be disrupted. What is ironic, in a world of algorithms, white collars jobs are highly at risk. They might not have figured out how to eliminate the field yet, but it could happen. Give developers with increasingly more powerful neural networks a number of years and do not be surprised if they zap many of the office jobs we see today.
So what would my suggestion be to a 17 or 18 year old? Welding.
A number of years ago, I knew a guy who was a welder for the gas company. He is the type who is willing to work hard but wants to be left alone. There is no management aspirations in this guy whatsoever. He is good at what he does, knows what needs to be done, and is willing to do it. Show him the pipe, turn off the gas, and he will take care of the problem.
For this, he was paid $52 per hour up to 40 plus travel expenses. Anything after that saw the rate increase.
Ayn Rand wrote about a hypothetical situation where the leaders of many industries suddenly left. Perhaps she was wrong in her assessment yet right about the outcome.
Could we be seeing the downfall of the developed world simply because those who are capable of its upkeep and maintenance are suddenly disappearing. As the older tradespeople drift away, who is going to step in their place? What will all those sociologists and middle school history teachers do when the electrical or plumbing fails?
What will any of us do?
Certainly Wall Street has no solution for this. All the money in the world doesn't help if there is nobody there to fix (or install) the A/C.
This could be an interesting thought experiment. What happens if countries find they do not have the workers to enter these crucial fields? Will this cause a setback in the standard of living?
As someone who just met Ira, I can tell you that life without electricity, even for a few days, is a return to a time past. Imagine what would happen if trying to run a factory like that.
What are your thoughts on this subject?
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