Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Makers and takers

One of the idiotic things that the modern followers of Ayn Rand whine about is "makers" and "takers", people who create things vs. redistributionists who would take their wealth. Problem is, these people doing the whining are almost universally takers, not makers.

Look. I'm an engineer. I design things, whether it's a bracket for adding cruise control to a KLR-650 motorcycle, or a new software system for cluster management of clustered replicated NAS systems. And my total assets after subtracting my debts are maybe $20K. That's it. And my relatives who work in the GM plant are even worse off. They make cars, for crying out loud, one of the most expensive single items (other than houses) that anybody will ever buy. And they have problems putting tables on their food. I mean, they were required to take a month off WITHOUT PAY, when they are barely surviving paycheck to paycheck. That rich bastard Wagner never had to take a month off without pay. Of course, now he gets the rest of his life off, but still with pay, over $25M worth of retirement pay for running GM into the ground. Who's the redistributionist? Who's the taker? It sure the fuck isn't the poor bastard putting the cars together, that's for sure!

Meanwhile, the takers -- the CEO's making millions of dollars, the Wall Street mavens pulling in seven-figure bonuses, the investment bankers living in mansions on Long Island -- make *nothing*. Nada. They are creative as rocks and wouldn't know how to make anything. Unless you count bullshit and an unwarranted sense of entitlement to be something. Yet they're taking the wealth created by people like me, people like my relatives who work in the GM plant, as if it's just their due for being "makers". What do they make? Nothing. Less than nothing. They're takers. Yet they, not us working stiffs, are the ones whining about how "redistributionists" will punish the "makers"? When they themselves are the redistributionists? What kinds fucking BULLSHIT is this, anyhow?

-- Badtux the Maker Penguin


  1. Great post. In my life I've watched time and time again as the people responsible for creating and building a company's product have gotten the shaft while those in charge of bullshit have prospered and landed on their feet over and over again. In a way, a lot of the stuff that's going on now has been played out on much smaller stages over and over for years and now we've gotten to the point where no one even pretends to respect actual work that produces things anymore.

  2. Yes, it is funny how the producers are always defined as the wealthy without any consideration of how that wealth was acquired. Heavens forbid if you would point that out or *gasp* want to be paid a fair wage because that's just wealth envy and makes you a looter.

  3. You know what's also amazing? That so many little people defend the big people, out of some AynRandian sense of loyalty.

    "Oh, we must not charge high tax rates on the mythical 'entrepreneurs' or else they will not keep inventing wonderful things for us and providing jobs." Hog-snot! I can't think of a single "entrepreneur" I've ever worked for, except maybe the manic guy who ran the first newspaper I ever worked for outside of college, and he did that out of his love of journalism. Plus he didn't have a decent business plan with it and lost so much money on the new paper that it almost sunk his existing one, which he had bought with money from his dad, a rich Iowa optometrist, so so much for "entrepreneurs."

    When I see a myth that resonates with people even though it has no factual basis, it makes me wonder what it is about human psychology that this Rand thought virus echo in the brain. We must be hard-wired somehow to WANT to respect people who we think are smarter or richer or somehow better than us. Perhaps that's a survival trait, to follow the leader of the tribe.

    Somehow, this Rand crap is like a key that fills a hole in the mindset of 15-year-old's view of the world. That's about how old I was when I read "Atlas" and the Randians I have interacted with deal with the world at about that age-level of analysis.

  4. In response to a comment of yours over at Balloon Juice.

  5. As always, the rich get richer off the toil of the working class as if it is their divine right.

    And then when we want our fair share from our toil we are called socialists, or worse yet communists.

    The makers deserve their fair share of the riches. This is a democracy not a feudal society.

  6. John, I was thinking of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Neither is themselves a technical guy. What they're good at is being a ruthless bastard good at stealing other people's property and convincing others to buy in the case of Gates, or being a smooth bastard good at convincing people to buy whatever snake oil he's peddling (Steve Jobs). They're marketers, plain and simple. Which is *not* the same as being in marketing.

    Another example of a marketer who became rich is Lee Iacocca, who literally was a one-pony trick (no, not a one-trick pony, a one-pony trick -- he got the credit for the creation of the Ford Mustang because he chaired the committee that oversaw its creation and production). He then went on to oversee the creation of such great cars as the Ford Pinto and the Mustang II once he became CEO of Ford Motor Company. Once fired from incompetence there, he moved over to Chrysler, whose management was even more incompetent, and took the Simca clone of the Volkswagen Rabbit that they'd kept when forced to sell off Simca to Peugeot and force-fed it as the platform for all of Chrysler's new cars, creating the splendidly craptacular Chrysler K-cars, beloved of rental counters everywhere and not much else. But he was great at marketing, and got lots of people to buy these craptacular cars, which were primitive, slow, loud, rusted faster than they drove down the road, cheap pieces of shit. Meanwhile, the guys who designed the Simca Horizon upon which these cars were created, the makers rather than the takers, were happily(?) employed as Peugeot engineers on a French salary. And once again, a marketer, not a maker, got rich, and 40,000 makers, Chrysler workers directly involved in actually, like, making cars, got laid off.

    That's just how it works. The takers take and turn themselves into captains of industry, the makers make and pull in a salary for all of their lives and die unknown in a nursing home in Albuquerque. That's how it's always been, which is why it amuses me so much when people who've never made anything in their lives other than bullshit start whining about how it's so unfair that they aren't going to be allowed to keep as much as what they take from the makers... really? Wow. Then it must really be unfair that a guy with the ability to bullshit financiers into investing in a company ends up getting rich while the engineers down in the lab who create the product that the company sells rarely get even a low six-figure salary... and don't even start on the poor slob who actually assembles the gizmo on the factory floor, who is lucky to get enough to pay the rent and put a little food on the floor (can't afford a table) at the end of the month.

    - Badtux the Dickensian Penguin

  7. BadTux-

    Thanks ever so much for the clarification. As I mentioned earlier, I agree with the central premise of your argument 100%.

    For what it's worth, my father and brother are both engineers and have several patents for improvements to products between them. My father's patents (in acoustical engineering) made Motorola a lot of money, and my brother's patents (in mechanical engineering) made Boston Scientific a lot of money.

    They got far less in return for making something than the people that took it and profited from it did. And the same has been true for myself and most marketing professionals I know.

  8. Right,

    Where did that saying that "if you tell a whopper of a lie often enough the people will start to believe it" come from?

    Was that Machiavelli?

  9. Oh my God, Bukko, you read that thing?

    Did you catch this blogpost that skippy linked to one day, called Atlas sucked ?

    It cracked me up.

  10. Not only did I read it, nunz, but for a while I believed it. I think I was closer to 19 when I plowed through it, in my college days when I was trying (not even for a class assignment, either!) to read as many "important, weighty" pieces of literature as I could, to expand my mind.

    The selfish, "fuck you, I want to be independent" tone fit with where I was at that stage of life development. I was eager to break free of my parents and to be a big-wage-earning, hard-working hustler. (And I don't mean "hustler" in a bad sense.) I was full of energy and thought I was smarter than most everybody else. It seemed like the world could be my oyster. That John Galt spirit inspired me. I was also sick of what seemed like the overweening government regulations of the Carter regime.

    As I got older, especially after I had a family, I could see that independent selfishness was for asshole teenagers. I saw that private enterprise was money-grubbing and corrupt. I bought into the revisionist view of Rand.

    Now when I read Rand cultists (I refuse to label them "objectivists") online, all I can think is "Your mommy never taught you to share your cupcakes, did she?"

  11. welllll.... i'd say the wall streeters were pretty creative ackshully, figuring out all sorts of ways to redistribute our $$ to themselves.

  12. First, the classic:


    Now, something a bit more recent:

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs. --- John Rogers


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