The Success Industry

We can, at this point, take it as well-established that men are too often considered “success objects” by society, yes? I don’t need to once again explain how, just as women are judged by their perceived adherence to a largely arbitrary standard of sexual attractiveness, men are judged by their material and financial “success”? Good.

Now, being “successful” financially has never been easy, and has only gotten harder in recent decades. Thing is, the narrative that anyone can get rich is built very deeply into American culture. You might even call it one of our founding myths. And while it’s theoretically true, it’s functionally irrelevant, because the real problems are caused by an unspoken corollary to that myth, one that’s murderously false. If anyone can get rich, this assumption runs, then everyone can get rich, and therefore any person who’s not rich has, in some way, failed.

Nobody ever quite phrases it that bluntly, but that basic model informs a great deal of the way Americans think about wealth and class.

The effect of this pernicious myth is that the majority of the population, those of us who live paycheck to paycheck and bite our lips when the utility bills arrive, are considered losers. Sometimes we’re called that to our face, sometimes we just feel it inside, but that’s the result of that model. If you’re not rich, it’s your own fault, because you’re a loser. Our society is, therefore, made up of an overwhelming majority of losers, though naturally nobody likes to say that out loud.

Now, this myth doesn’t stand up to even five seconds of examination. It is mathematically impossible, in a hierarchical economy, for everyone to be on top. The unspoken promise that everyone can get rich remains unspoken because if you say it out loud, it sounds as stupid as making everyone in the navy an admiral. (It would function about as well, too. Someone’s got to actually do some work.) Nor do fanciful notions of economic meritocracy survive so much as a cursory look at the real world. No, the fact is that if you’re struggling to get by, it’s because you’re in a system designed to keep you that way, and you didn’t win any of the various lotteries available.

The genius of it, though, is that that struggling 90% of the population feel like it’s their own fault they’re struggling. As though all those millions of people could have somehow gotten rich if they were better human beings. That’s internalized victim-blaming on a breathtaking scale, and as works of sociological bastardry go, it’s genuinely impressive.

Now, tie that fact in with the “success object” notion, the idea that financial success is the only source of worth for a man. If you don’t win this rigged game, you are a failure and a loser and an entirely unworthy human being. That takes this problem from a normal level of horrible to hideously toxic.

This isn’t to say that women don’t get the short end of the economic stick just as much, but… I think it’s a bit different, emotionally. Women can more easily feel valued for their looks (if they happened to win that particular lottery) or their family and emotional connections. “She’s struggling, but she’s so good to her family” is a narrative that applies more easily to a woman than a man. A man’s contribution to his family is expected to be as breadwinner, and when they’ve changed the odds in the bread game so you can’t win as much… well, that puts you in a bad position, doesn’t it? Combine that with the widely-accepted lie that “normal” women only like men with a thick, swollen… wallet, and you’ve got a way to make almost every man in the country feel, on some level, inadequate and worthless.

There’s something even creepier, though. Just as the women-as-sex-objects narrative has created the fucked-up mess that is the beauty industry, so has the men-as-success-objects routine gotten together with the rigged game of the American economy to create the success industry. And hot damn, are they both ineffably awful.

Feminists have done a pretty good job breaking down how the essential message of the beauty industry is “You are ugly, and therefore worthless. We can fix you if you give us more money.” It’s a pretty solid business model, and supports an enormous industry of (among others) makeup, spas, fashion, diets, gyms, “corrective” clothing, and even self-esteem counselling. Ka-ching. Not to say men are immune to this industry; I’ve bought my share of diet books and paid my share of gym fees. I think we can agree, however, that the core market of the beauty industry is women who’ve been made to feel worthless if they’re not pretty enough.

The success industry has essentially the same central business model. “You’re not rich enough, and therefore worthless. We can fix you if you give us more money.” Every investment scam, every fake sales position or multi-level marketing scheme, every motivational seminar, every phony trade school, every financial self-help book, every slick con-job that claims to offer a way out, a secret trick, a way to achieve your financial dreams, they’re all part of the success industry. They’re all based on that same lie, that everyone can get rich, but they use the blame as bait. You’re a loser, they agree, but you can stop being a loser. Just pay the admission, give us your student loans, buy the tapes, subscribe to the newsletter, buy ten more cases for Senior Distributor status, and you can get rich. You can succeed. You can be a worthwhile human being. You can be a Real Man. Indeed, an actual line “motivational” speakers like to quote is from Ayn Rand, that your monetary worth is a direct expression of how much value you contribute to society.

They’re all fundamentally scams, of course. If any of these things resulted in more money flowing to the people paying for them than to the people charging for them, that would constitute a broken business model. It would mean that the industry was panning for gold at the wrong point in the stream, if you see what I mean.

That doesn’t matter, though, because what they’re selling isn’t actually success. They’re selling a reinforcement of the fundamental lie, that it’s your own fault you’re not rich. Here you just paid $40 (book) or $400 (seminar) or $40,000 (tuition) for “the tools to succeed” and all it got you was two to five digits poorer. Well, that must be your own fault; they gave sold you the tools, didn’t they?

I think the purest example of these is the motivational speeches and seminars. Check your local listings; there are probably a bunch of these scheduled just today in your city. Speaking as someone who’s paid for both, they remind me a lot of lottery tickets. People joke about lottery tickets as a tax on people who are bad at math, but I don’t think that’s true. Lottery tickets are a carrying charge for hope. Between the time you buy the ticket and the time the drawing reconfirms that you’re a loser, there’s a window where you have this bare edge of hope, this idea that maybe, just maybe, in a few days you won’t have to be afraid or ashamed any more. Sure, rationally you know that one chance in a hundred million isn’t very good, but the sweet taste of that maybe is worth a dollar.

Likewise, motivational speakers provide a dizzying high, the illusion of economic agency. You walk out of a good speech or seminar feeling energized, feeling like you can do anything, feeling like this time, this time, it’s all going to turn around and you’re going to really make it. I’m told that cocaine has much the same effect, but has legal complications and causes nosebleeds. Either way, you’re not paying for the beneficial effect it has on your life, you’re paying for the high. The high always comes with the crash, though, when everything doesn’t turn around, and you compare yourself with that confident world-conquering person who walked out of that hotel conference room and feel like scum. The only cure is another hit of the same stuff, and congratulations, loser, you have a job after all. Your job title is “revenue stream”.

There’s no denying that women are also prey to the success industry, but I feel like men are, again, the core market. Just as the beauty myth damages both sexes but hits women harder, the success myth does the same to men. One of the worst things you can call a man, one of the words that men tend to write in their suicide notes, is “failure”. That word defines, cripples, and destroys untold numbers of men, and if you ask anyone for its antonym, you get the name of the industry that sells it.

Some folks will say that I’m against the free market here, but that’s not so. If anything, the existence of the success industry is a testament to the genius of the free market. Victim-blaming is about as old as victims, sure, but finding a way to charge the victims for the blaming? That’s pretty goddamned impressive.

About noahbrand

Noah Brand is a mysterious figure with a very nice hat.
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45 Responses to The Success Industry

  1. Ferris says:

    I think it’s also important to examine this particular moment in the American experiment. We currently have, as the dominant cultural group, the generation born and raised after WWII. That time and place happens to be the most prosperous in the history of the planet; a time when an emerging economic power looked around and found the rest of the industrialized world literally bombed to ashes and facing recoveries that would be measured in decades. The United States, virtually unscathed by the war, was the equivalent of a sprinter racing against competition running on broken legs. Detroit was building cars while Volkswagen was pulling bodies out of the rubble of their factories. And this is the economic environment that defines what is “normal success” for the Baby Boomer generation in America. They don’t see is as quite literally the most fortunate time and place a national economy has ever found itself.

    So not only does the issue of the success object exist, but the evaluation of men as success objects is defined in every facet by the standards of an era that will never be replicated for an American generation again.

  2. Clarence says:

    While your points are well-made and I largely agree, I don’t think you do well for yourself by trying to predict the future. Automation and other technologies as well as improved access to space may very well eventually raise the standard of living for everyone or at least for those of nations that make use of such things to unbelievable levels. Or it may not. We don’t know. What I know is that I almost never say “never again” to anything based on both human history and the sub history of the history of technology.

  3. Clarence says:

    By the way:
    Great post, Noah. I hope you don’t mind if I use the term “success industry” from now on? I’ve seen “success object” at many places, but not “success industry” so I’m willing to attribute it to you.

  4. noahbrand says:

    @Ferris: That’s a good point, that we may have a skewed notion of “normal” at this point in our societal history.

    @Clarence: By all means, use it wherever. A link back here would be welcome, of course, but hardly required. 🙂

    And I’d prefer it if we didn’t get derailed onto economic or technological futurism. It’s an interesting topic, but not entirely germane.

  5. Jay Generally says:

    Sure, rationally you know that one chance in a hundred million isn’t very good, but the sweet taste of that maybe is worth a dollar.

    I think that’s the point where my eyes started to mist up. I got a nice, if slightly choked, bitter laugh from that last paragraph too. The discussed ideologies are that much harder to filter out or deal with when you’re the primary, sole, or a vitally necessary income provider for a household. You can easily find yourself reflecting on every decision you make, or have made, and wondering if you’re the wind beneath someone’s wings or an albatross around their neck.

    I reiterate: brilliant.

  6. noahbrand says:

    @Jay: Thanks for saying that. The sense of being a failure is something I struggle with every day, and one of the main antidotes I have to it is this blog, where people frequently tell me that my writing means something to them, and makes a difference. Comments like yours are what keep me going.

  7. Doug S. says:

    I don’t have a job, am not looking for one, and am being supported economically by my parents. (I’m 29.) Should I be ashamed of this?

  8. typhonblue says:

    @ Doug

    It’s been a godsend for me to realize that some things are nobody’s business. How you choose to conduct your life (absent abusing others) is one of them.

    If your parents are choosing to support you, then that’s their choice. Feel grateful to them and ignore the opinions of people who aren’t directly affected by your situation.

  9. BlackHumor says:

    @Doug:(Say it with me everyone)


  10. superglucose says:

    Here’s the question I’ve struggled, and it’s about economics rather than anything else:

    What the fuck are we going to do in this post-scarcity world? Food isn’t hard to come by. It’s actually easy as shit to come by… the problem is distribution. When one person can grow enough food for a hundred, how do the 99 other people pay for the food?

    I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen.

  11. Jessica says:

    @ Doug: Hell no!! Another fundamental, unexamined part of the monetary success = worth narrative is that making lots of money is a good thing, and having a job is a privilege (and even if it were a right, of course we should all have one). The thing is, for 99.99% of human history – and even today in many cultures around the world – the very concept of a “job” didn’t exist. Hell, MONEY didn’t exist. To think that needing money and a job to survive is just THE WAY THINGS ARE is buying into a massive cultural assumption that, in reality, makes no sense from the perspective of living as a human animal on the earth.

    Also, for the vast majority of people, having to work at a job for almost half of our waking hours, for most of our adult life, sucks. There’s a reason why it’s called “wage slavery”. If you are one of the fortunate few that doesn’t have to work to survive, you are damn lucky! I am also one such, and I am grateful for it every day (and wish the same for everyone else).

    And for anyone who thinks of us a couple of lazy layabouts – yes, I do get the chance to enjoy life FAR more than most people, and I am far more free (since my whole life is mine to do with as I wish, not just half of it). But that freedom and time has given me the opportunity to achieve so much more worthwhile things than most people (those who don’t get a great sense of achievement from their jobs anyway – which again is most people). I am not lazy, nor am I more “successful” because I don’t have to work, I am just privileged, and extremely fortunate.

  12. Jessica says:

    Sorry, I shouldn’t have said “worthwhile things” in my 2nd to last paragraph, just “things”. (That’s what I meant, anyway).

  13. Pingback: Quote: A Carrying Charge For Hope | Alas, a Blog

  14. typhonblue says:

    Think about this. The majority of human progress has come from people with lots of leisure time.

  15. doubletrack says:

    Great post.

  16. ballgame says:

    Nice post, noahbrand.

  17. f. says:

    An interesting and related article about how second-tier colleges hike up tuition in order to provide the appearance of prestige:

    Noah, if you want to see ground zero of the success industry, try researching the Prosperity Gospel. I know so many people who’ve gotten wrapped up in the idea that success literally equals godliness.

  18. Bren says:

    First time de-lurker here; I feel compelled to comment because this post spoke to me so much. I used to live in the UK, but my dad didn’t like his boss there and I couldn’t afford to go to uni there, so I had to quit my job when we moved back to the US in late 2008 (I as born in Colorado, but I hadn’t lived in the US since I was 7). When we first got back, we had nowhere to live, so we stayed in a hotel for 3 months, until we finally found a house. I was 19 at the time, and trying to get into the groove of going to college in America, which was a completely bewildering experience for me. So I felt like I could never find the time to look for a new job. Then my parents finalised their divorce. My dad was paying so much in child support that he couldn’t afford the mortgage payments on the house as well. So my uncle, who I have barely seen over the past 12 years of my life, comes over to our house one day, and berates me in front of my (now ex) girlfriend who was visiting from the UK over the summer, saying that it was all my fault that we were losing the house, that I had to come up with a plan and find a job damn soon, otherwise we would be out on the streets living in a cardboard box, and again, it was all my fault. Oh, and that not even the military would take me because I’m too fat. We ended up having to move to a less well-off city (where the job prospects are even worse) and I still haven’t been able to find a job, nor even finish community college and transfer to a university. My dad resents me for him having to pay out of his retirement fund for my college tuition, and the only thing he cares about is me getting a job soon so that he can retire one day. He has “jokingly” called me “a worthless fuck”. He constantly (but always will the veneer of just being a humorous arsehole) berates me for not having a job. I have to have him pay for anything that I need, and I always feel so humiliated and disgusted with myself; especially when he makes a big deal out of it when we’re at the till, and the cashier says “That’ll be $xx.yy”, by looking at me, turning his hands in a half-shrug and saying, “Well, pay the woman/man.” He’s trying to be “funny”, but of course he fucking knows I can’t pay, and that’s his fucking point.

    And it’s a self-feeding cycle; I feel worthless for not having a job, so when I look for a job, they ask whether or not I’m confident in my abilities, which I’m obviously not, so I have to lie and say that I am just to stand a chance, which makes me even more depressed, ’cause they’ll obviously see right through it the moment they interview me, and god, why can’t I just be normal and confident like all the other guys who are applying for this job? So it just makes it all even more depressing, and so I stop looking, because I can’t stand it. And of course, this causes my uncle and father to get even more annoyed with me, because the only reason I don’t have a job in the first place is because I’m just clearly not trying hard enough, so to just give up completely? I must just be an incredibly lazy motherfucker. If I’m not pounding the pavement, day in, day out, 25/7, then I’m obviously not trying hard enough. Surely I can’t be so lazy that I can’t even bother going around to all the businesses in the area and asking them when they throw out all their old applications and start a new pile, so I can get to the top of the list and be the person at the top of the stack that they hire. (Yes, this is seriously how they think all business hire people, they just hire the first person on their stack of applications every few months, then throw out the rest and start again). Or if I am that lazy, surely I can’t be so lazy as to not at least bother to ring these places. Yet they don’t know, and I can’t bring myself to tell them, or even very few people who know me, but I absolutely DESPISE talking to strangers on the phone. Hate it beyond words, it brings so much fear into my heart that I cannot describe it. But I can’t bear to think of telling them for fear of them laughing at me and telling me to just stop being such a “pussy”, man up and do it anyway, because I need a job dammit. And it’s not just them; just the other day, some other guy in one of my classes that I’ve been making friends with called me lazy because I don’t have a job. Of course, he did it in the same joking tone of voice that my dad does when he calls me lazy too. Ever since it’s become stuck in my brain, I keep repeating it to myself and reliving the moment over and over again, I guess out of some sort of sense of self-flagellation for being so worthless and lazy. I’ve internalised all of this that I even tell myself that I’m not allowed to have a social life until I have a job, because all that time I would spend with friends would be time wasted that I should instead be using to look for a job. I’m only 21.

    I’m sorry for such a gigantic, self-pitying and self-aggrandizing comment. This really means a lot to me; I been bottling all this up for years now, and to read such a thorough post on this subject is relieving. And it’s freeing to have the opportunity to say something about all that I’ve been feeling, and how this affects me, in an environment where there’s a high likelihood of support. Or, at the very least, I and my problems will remain anonymous, and I won’t have to deal with the possibility of people I know telling me to stop whining. So thank you @noahbrand. Thank you.

  19. @Bren

    My brother. I was like you once. I hated myself. Granted that was because I got a lot of psychological abuse from a bunch of assholes in school, which I may actually talk about to someone one day, but still.

    I don’t pretend to know the answer. If you have a single penny, you can do something. And being hired by someone else is for suckers. Being afraid to fail is something you have to push through. And it isn’t laziness to not do anything.

    If you really WANT a job, find something the people need, and sell it to them. Find a gap in the local market, and fill it. If you don’t know how, try and find a cheap or free way to get the info.

    Mostly though, I sympathise with your depression, because it isn’t easy when there’s nothing to do. Don’t beat yourself up too bad. You are a billion years of evolution standing tall in the face of cosmic indifference.

    You. Are. Awesome. Never forget that, and start acting like it. 😉

  20. Fingenieur says:

    “I don’t have a job, am not looking for one, and am being supported economically by my parents. (I’m 29.) Should I be ashamed of this?”

    As for a non-politically-correct answer: No, you should not be ashamed, but be aware that you are and will be considered as “excessive load on society” should things go worse from status quo. What you gain in short-term freedom is away from your long term stability and safety. Anyone with experience with mathematics know that exponential functions usually do not last forever. Population growth and resource consumption are among those non-lasting narratives and will likely cause even greater human suffering as our planet approaches its limits.

    Socialists have it all wrong. In the revolution, it won’t be the weak, oppressed, poor and misunderstood overthrowing the successful, greedy and the capable. Usually It’s the other way around. Those with the capability, means, knowledge and WILL to exploit the weaker are more likely to end up doing so than the ones without.

    The world works like this: When you really need to prioritize, you first abandon the least valuable cargo. In humans, it is the unemployed, sick, weak, poor, artists, sociologists…

    Don’t be ashamed, but be wise. We might not always afford equality.

  21. ozymandias42 says:

    The unemployed, sick, weak, poor, artists, sociologists, executives, hedge fund managers, CEOs, celebrities, politicians…

    Lack of contribution is not entirely limited to the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum.

  22. Fingenieur says:


    But they have the gold and the means to trick the necessary amount of the oppressed to do their dirty work.

    That’s a main reason why I rather support universal conscription than say, what you guys have in the US right now.

  23. Kenshiroit says:

    Fingenieur: doesent the unemployed usually ends up as soldiers in the battlefield as cannon fodder?

  24. Brokensystem says:

    “That’s a main reason why I rather support universal conscription than say, what you guys have in the US right now.”

    Conscription for both men and women or men only?

  25. Fingenieur says:

    That has been historically a very popular method for getting rid of excess males, yes. Imprisonment and hazardous enslavement are pretty popular too.


    Universal conscription as in universal suffrage. You can’t really argue for equal rights without equal responsibilities?

  26. Schala says:

    You mean mandatory military service probably.

    And while the pay can be nice, and it’s “something”, it would prevent people from continuing their studies often (because it’s usually at a certain age only).

    And the other thing that would seriously put me off is how the military likes to kill individuality, and has sex-dependant dress codes, and even if that means trans people can be recognized and placed in the right sex, it’s unfair stereotyping, for no other reason than “but, but, but society says so!”. For example, women serving can keep long hair if tied properly in certain allowed ways. Men need very short hair. And certain other things about make-up and nails, and jewelry being discriminatory, for no good reason (it’s either forbidden for security reasons, or allowed for all – no saying some people are exempted because of their bits).

  27. Brokensystem says:

    “Universal conscription as in universal suffrage. You can’t really argue for equal rights without equal responsibilities?”

    Don’t know about that. In my country we have both “universal conscription” and “universal suffrage” yet the law forces only those labelled men to serve in the military while allowing everyone the right to vote. Most people seem to think that it should remain that way too.

    Also I’m a bit baffled that there has been no post on conscription on this blog. After all it is the biggest equality problem that men have to face in many countries of the world, imo.

  28. Fingenieur says:


    With civil duties, there usually is no pay or the pay is minimal. And I would not necessarily require mandatory _military_ service, but I would prefer the armed forces to represent the entire people without segregation to a ruling class and to expendable servants and money-abiding mercenaries (what most “voluntary” systems end up being). For example, we could go with mandatory citizen-service and give tax-deductions for members of the active reserve to keep attendance and quality acceptable.

    It is true, that people come out from the service as different persons. And not always for better. That applies to pretty much any instution. Elementary education included. But given the alternatives, I have come to the conclusion that a common, non-discriminating mandatory service would be the least bad option to use as a basis for national security

    Most of the reasons you list seem like petty excuses for me. Hair and nails? Unisex military uniform? Sometimes you need to prioritize. In the bigger scale, it is about putting the common good (national security) ahead of your personal comfort (your style and individuality). I would argue, that is a trait that genuinely does separate good people from assholes. And I assure you, pretty much everything in the Manual stands actually for a reason (even the breaking of individuality part).

    And of course, a lot of people do make progress as individuals as well. I would really not mind a lot more people getting first hand experience with the temporary removal of rights and privileges they take for granted. Made me respect my individual freedom, clean water, easy shelter, daily soap-operas etc, when I knew I could manage without.

  29. Fingenieur says:

    “Don’t know about that. In my country we have both “universal conscription” and “universal suffrage” yet the law forces only those labelled men to serve in the military while allowing everyone the right to vote. Most people seem to think that it should remain that way too.”

    Well, it does a pretty bad job being universal then. Yeah, I went through the same system. Maybe we even lived in the same place. Everyone knows it is unequal as hell, but in the real world, gender-equality is not the most important ideal to follow. The way I see it, (male) conscription provides more security and social-equality at the expense of gender equality. (And it is more difficult to do militaristic adventuring within a working democracy if army=people.)

    Universal conscription (with females as well) would be more gender-equal, but it would be helluva lot expensive, as training and keeping people out from tax-paying work-force costs shitloads of money.

    So I think there could be a middle path, where the duty is extended to the entire population, but you limit the numbers with alternative ways to perform their service.

  30. noahbrand says:

    The sticky issue of universal conscription, with or without associated Mad Max/zombie apocalypse fantasies, is veering way off-topic.

    @f., I am familiar with the Prosperity Gospel, particularly the popular and poisonous line that “Whatever you give to God will be returned tenfold!” This is presented as an actual financial strategy. My favorite critique of it, I forget where from, is “That powerful, silent entity that takes two dollars from you in return for giving you twenty is not God. That’s an ATM.”

  31. noahbrand says:

    Further comments arguing about conscription are being cheerfully moved to the trash.

  32. “Some folks will say that I’m against the free market here, but that’s not so. ”
    Geezus, man, what else would it take to convince you? I was nodding my head along with you until you hit that speed bump. What keeps you keeping the faith? A healthy does of socialism would keep a good number of people from the desperation that makes them victims of these scams you bemoan here.

  33. Doug S. says:

    The “free market” is good at some things and terrible at others…

  34. noahbrand says:

    @Amanda: You might note that that paragraph is actually a pretty harsh criticism of the so-called free market on moral grounds.

  35. The “free market” works when times are good. Times like these, it only serves to slam wide the gap between the mighty rich and the destitute.
    A system that only works until it’s tested is a poor model indeed. It’s very good at hope, as Noah points out. It’s piss-poor at balance and looking out for everyone.

  36. Jim says:

    “The “free market” works when times are good.’

    And it’s half as Darwinian as its boosters claim, and that’s one of the things they claim is so wondeful about it – that it’s nature taking its course, it’s productive and flexible and innovative, etc…. if it weren’t for socialized supports it would fall in on itself.

    “A system that only works until it’s tested is a poor model indeed. It’s very good at hope, as Noah points out. It’s piss-poor at balance and looking out for everyone.”

    It doesn’t work at providing balance, but that isn’t everybody’s definition of “works”. It works very well at extracting the very last bit of labor out of us masses and then also at concentrating that wealth that labor generates. some people consider that a wonderfully effective system, because they are at the receiving end of all that concentration of wealth. And they try to rook the rest of us into believing we should be grateful to them for all they do for us.

  37. Great post.

    This is the worst I have seen it in my 54 years, as they now come after the pensions of those close to me. You can work 30 years for peanuts and have even *that tiny benefit* taken from you… as conservative Republican state senators make sure to vote in their OWN pricey pensions, while denying them to others. (check out my blog today)

    What can you even say about such people?

  38. Jim says:

    “What can you even say about such people?”

    That they need to be re-educated on a diet of 400 calories a day unitl they reform?

    The public is crippled by insisting on seeing and treating these people as fellow citizens. But these are not members of our society, they are globalists, and globalists have no country. That’s fine if they want that, but they need to kow that they have opted out of any claim to our concern for their rights as citizens. Then we can begin to see them for what they are, parasites on rather than participants in this society.

    “This is the worst I have seen it in my 54 years,…”

    This is as bad as stories around the dinner table not only about the Depression but also about all the decades that lead up to it. It was not all milk and honey for working people in the 10s and 20s, and in those days you were either working people or idle rich or a small layer of middle class, or else you were the idle rich. Do you remember those same stories, DDH?

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  40. AdamaKnowsBest says:

    I hate to disagree with the people here, but do so that’s that. In my estimation Capitalism is the most viable and egalitarian economic system that has ever been devised to date by the human race as it is a system which allows anyone to prosper regardless of their creed or ethnicity. Moreover one could argue that the period of unprecedented cultural, scientific and technological advancement currently experienced in the west has at least some of its origins in Capitalism. Now I’m not trying to say that Capitalism is a perfect system of exchange, but neither is it a totally corrupt and sadistic system that is the progenitor of all oppression. Anyway feel free to disagree after all this is just my opinion based on the facts.
    Also good post by Oz even though I disagree with most of what she said.

    Mod Note: This post was written by Noah Brand, and the most appropriate pronoun for Ozy is “zie” because zie identifies as genderqueer. Thank you! 🙂

  41. AdamaKnowsBest says:

    My apologies to Noah Brand for attributing the authorship of his post incorrectly it was a mistake I should of looked at the byline. Also I wish to extend my apologies Ozymandias42 for using the incorrect pronoun in reference to them I meant no offence I just wasn’t aware they identified as genderqueer. Furthermore I’d just like to say thank you to the moderator for pointing out my pervious errors.

  42. Pingback: Success – Michael Alan Miller

  43. Dominique Millette says:

    Well expressed. This post reminds me so much of writings by Barbara Ehrenreich. I would highly, greatly recommend several of her books on this very subject, especially Bait and Switch (where she takes on the role of a white-collar worker trying out career coaching and the whole shebang; it’s very sobering). Others are This Land is Their Land and Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America (gallows humour at its best).

  44. noahbrand says:

    @Dominique: I’m enormously flattered by the comparison, as I love Ms. Ehrenreich’s work; we went to the same college, though not at the same time.

    @AdamaKnowsBest: I appreciate your courtesy. I think you’re falling into an unexamined false dichotomy, though. The world isn’t divided into capitalism and not-capitalism. In practice, successful governments have a mixture of market forces and democratically-based government oversight. Thing is, in practice we see that the best societal outcomes tend to be in nations that have more oversight, and stronger social safety nets, than America presently enjoys. Obviously a completely unregulated market doesn’t produce good outcomes, and of course such a market wouldn’t even be “free” in any useful sense.

  45. faul_sname says:

    Capitalism is far and away the best system for maximizing the total wealth of a group of perfectly rational and selfish agents. It is a horrible way of ensuring an egalitarian outcome, and doesn’t function as well when the agents involved are not rational and selfish (though humans are a close enough approximation that it still works).

    The Rand comment that the amount of money you have measures the amount of value you contribute to society is strictly speaking correct. However, that is because the statement is tautological: value is measured in money. When you say it as “The amount of money you have is a measure of the amount of money you have”, the statement is less impressive.

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