Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why Intellectuals Look Down On Commerce

Maggie's Farm put up a video of Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine interviewing John Mackey of Whole Foods about the response of intellectuals to those in commerce. Good stuff, good historical summary in a few sentences.  I have described it as resentment that the Wrong People prosper and get status.

His defense of capitalism as being more than merely maximising shareholder value is also good, but not as strong. He touches on the broader values of treating others well and helping them to prosper or be happy, yet I think he leaves out something enormous about the free market.

Money is not the only reason for taking a job, hiring a person, or doing business with someone. Americans are accused of sacrificing everything for the almighty dollar, but it just isn't so.  People will take a job because it is in a region they like, or nearer their current house.  They will choose work that is more interesting or meaningful to them, or offers hope for advancement.  They want to be indoors, or want to be outdoors, want to work on a team or want to work alone.  Americans forego the best-paying job for the one with more security, better hours, opportunity to learn a skill, or because they like the environment all the time. Employers don't always take the lowest bidder who will work more cheaply.  They consider who might be stable or loyal, who brings a needed skill, who seems easy to work with.  And customers shop at a place because it is nearby, or familiar, or has better selection or service or quality of goods, not just because it has the best prices.

It is usually only the poor who have to take the job that gives them another dollar an hour or most overtime, and they are ever on the lookout for something that is at least close to that number but has more stability or opportunity or less risk of injury. Americans are wealthy enough that they can afford to consider things other than money, which is tougher to do in Indonesia or Ecuador.


james said...

I've known people to change jobs to be closer to family, which is also contrary to the received wisdom.

Sam L. said...

People are complex beings, and have wants and desires that are ranked in their personal priority. This is why Thomas Frank's book, "What's The Matter With Kansas" is mostly all wrong, if not completely wrong. Frank wanted them in the box he built for them, and they wouldn't move in.