So many pundits, editorials and reporters have made the obvious observations about this now national (or maybe global) movement that I find it difficult to add any new thoughts. They are righteous… they are wrongheaded… they should be marching on Washington…. Maybe they just want jobs… Or, maybe they just want to get laid. (Well, this last observation is mine. But then I am old enough to remember the anti-war demonstrations of the 60s.)
I’m in the camp that thinks they should be marching on Washington. But where specifically? The White House? The Capitol? The Fed? The Department of Treasury? Too complicated. Let’s just occupy Wall Street.
Another obvious observation: they have worked hard and played by the rules and feel screwed by the system. They need jobs.
But, here’s the problem. The jobs aren’t coming back and it has nothing to do with Wall Street. It has to do with technology and the Internet in particular.
Have you been to an airport lately? If you have, you probably checked in to your flight at a kiosk which spit out a boarding pass and directed you to your gate. Remember how many people it used to take to check you in? Do you think those people are getting their jobs back?
HERE and creating a login). The Internet has disrupted a lot of old methods of doing business. Thousands, if not millions, of jobs have vanished by way of the use of RFID technology, websites that have replaced travel agents, retail stores, schools and data centers. Yes, even Info Tech professionals have been affected. Our data is moving to “the Cloud”. We don’t know where it is and, apparently, we don’t care.
What server holds your Facebook page and all your photos? Don’t know? Neither do I.
Speaking of Jobs, lots of comment about the adoration among the OWS of the recently departed billionaire, Steve Jobs. It’s easy to focus on the contradiction. After all, Apple wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for junk bonds, hedge funds, IPOs, secondary offerings, derivatives and the like.
I find it more interesting to look at Apple as a microcosm of the global economy. Think of it this way. Apple creates the product – the design, the engineering, the operating system, etc. The products, the iPod, iPhone or iPad, are manufactured primarily by Foxconn in China. In the industrial economy that started to vanish from these shores about 20 years ago, the manufacturer would be a very valuable company in stock market terms. Yet, Apple is the most valuable (or second most valuable behind Exxon Mobil) company in the world. Not Hon Hai, parent company of Foxconn, which has over 400,000 employees worldwide.
I don’t think the OWS protesters are focused on Steve Jobs the billionaire or on Apple, the company. They are just turned on – like the rest of us – by all the power that the iPhone places in the palm or our hands.
|Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko|
“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
Here’s a quick overview of Schumpeter’s law cribbed from Wikipedia: “In Schumpeter's vision of capitalism, innovative entry by entrepreneurs was the force that sustained long-term economic growth, even as it destroyed the value of established companies and laborers that enjoyed some degree of monopoly power derived from previous technological, organizational, regulatory, and economic paradigms. Schumpeter also elaborated the concept, making it central to his economic theory.”
It wouldn’t make a very good movie script, would it?
But, whether you prefer Gekko’s version of it or Schumpeter’s, the fact is that email destroyed the Post Office, Netflix destroyed Blockbuster and the guys who invented that airport kiosk destroyed all those airport jobs. And, all of us are willing participants.
Oh, and by the way, if you have an iPhone, you can even skip the airport kiosk. How’s that for power in the palm of your hands?
So, here’s the real problem. To replicate the success of Apple Computer and Steve Jobs, we need to train more engineers and designers. And, we aren’t? According to a Kaufman Foundation study, more than half the students in technical masters programs are foreign. And, now they don’t have to stay here to find jobs in their field. They can go back to China, India, Korea or South Africa to find meaningful work.
So, maybe the protesters should be marching on the Department of Education.
What do you think?