Monday, March 9, 2009

Who do you think you are?

One of the things I see being spouted in reaction to the "going Galt" phenomenon runs along the lines of "So what if you quit and disappear? Who cares? Somebody else will just come along and replace you. Isn't that how capitalism works?"

IS that how Capitalism works? Well, yes and no, but that side-steps the real issue: the fact that an individual is an end in himself.

If you quit and disappear, who will come along and replace you? Will that person have the same value to your employer as you do? Will he or she be able to do your job as well as you can? And even if he can do the same job, who's to say that person won't decide to quit? Then who'll replace him? Is there really such an inexhaustible supply of people qualified to do your job? How many people in the world had the motivation to go through the training you did and acquire the years of experience you did? How many people even chose to enter the same field you did?

And suppose someone is smart enough to do a decent job without your experience, how many of those people in the world are there?

This is egalitarianism, and the person who gives this kind of response is really saying that it doesn't make any difference if you quit or not because you're no better than anyone else anyway so you might as well stay and keep plodding along right where you are no matter how frustrating it gets.

Because it's your duty.

Is it any wonder some people "go postal"?

Ultimately, it is not your value to anyone else, but your value to yourself that is the real issue here. The impact your departure may or may not have on the culture or the economy or civilization is secondary. The real issue is whether or not the government and society are letting you live the life you really want to live and to be who you really want to be - in other words, whether your life really belongs to you and you have the liberty to live it and to pursue your own happiness. Whether you are free to take your own risks to pursue your own vision, or practice your skill at something you love doing unfettered by road blocks and hamstrings that drain your passion. The issue is whether something you may have once loved doing is now so hampered by restriction and regulation and frustration that it no longer makes you feel alive.

As to the way Capitalism works: Capitalism recognizes that not everyone has the same motivation or experience or training or skill. In other words, Capitalism recognizes that people are individuals: which means - among other things - that there will not be an inexhaustible supply of potential employees for every job.

So what happens when those employees quit, one after the other, until there is no one left who is capable of even pretending to be able to do the job?

Atlas shrugs.