Man’s power comes from his ability to change the environment and himself to suit his needs. Very little of this power is due to muscle. It’s due to the trillions of connections in the brain.
I think it’s sad when people get paid to use their muscles and not their brains. There is so much more leverage in the brain than in the muscles it’s not even funny. We are much more than the sum of our parts, we can multiply them to infinity. When we just chop wood or put doors on cars it’s an animalistic affair, not humanistic.
I find it hard to blame the employers, though. If workers really find it worthwhile to do a literal mind-numbing activity, the employers are not taking advantage of anything in their direct control.
In this Information Age, perhaps which started with the Gutenberg printing press and the easy dissemination of text, I think the sky’s the limit to our potential, depending on how much work we want to put in.
I had a conversation in Sacramento with a young fellow, we discussed government’s role in providing a safety net. I questioned his faith that people will not be disincentivized to better themselves. I do think every person wants to be better. No person wants it the same amount, though.
Some people have, in economics terms, long time-preferences. They want a better future, even at the cost of a lame present, and are willing to work hard at it. Others have shorter time-preferences and will cut some corners if it makes life easier. Some people give up entirely, like in concentration camps. They don’t expect life can get better, and use up all their savings and die.
The general Robert E. Lee has a nice attitude:
“It is history that teaches us to hope.”
The more we learn, the more we see how well off we really are. That propels us toward an even better future, built on the shoulders of giants.
I hope you are hopeful.