The Misdirected Swagger of the Go Getter
John Derbyshire posted a viral email from Wall Street circles that amounts to an egotist’s cri de coeur:
Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours. We get up at 5am & work till 10pm or later. We’re used to not getting up to pee when we have a position. We don’t take an hour or more for a lunch break. We don’t demand a union. We don’t retire at 50 with a pension. We eat what we kill, and when the only thing left to eat is on your dinner plates, we’ll eat that.
For years teachers and other unionized labor have had us fooled. We were too busy working to notice. Do you really think that we are incapable of teaching 3rd graders and doing landscaping? We’re going to take your cushy jobs with tenure and 4 months off a year and whine just like you that we are so-o-o-o underpaid for building the youth of America. Say goodbye to your overtime and double time and a half. I’ll be hitting grounders to the high school baseball team for $5k extra a summer, thank you very much.
So now that we’re going to be making $85k a year without upside, Joe Mainstreet is going to have his revenge, right? Wrong! Guess what: we’re going to stop buying the new 80k car, we aren’t going to leave the 35 percent tip at our business dinners anymore. No more free rides on our backs. We’re going to landscape our own back yards, wash our cars with a garden hose in our driveways. Our money was your money. You spent it. When our money dries up, so does yours.
One encounters this sort of swagger from people who have been successful in their careers, especially (it seems) when those careers have something to do with manipulating money. Because the content begins and ends in bellicosity, internal inconsistencies are to be expected. Note that the writer declares the inevitability of finance types’ overtaking other professionals because they don’t mind working hard, but then insists that they’ll work as little as he claims the incumbents do.
The more essential problem with the rant is that it makes the dubious assumption not only that finance is the toughest industry in the universe, but also that it is a sort of ubercareer of which all others are pale imitations. I’d suggest, as an example, that the same drive that the writer professes mightn’t serve him so well in the attempt to draw eight year olds along a path toward learning. Careers are substantively different in ways that a certain kind of smarts and ambition can’t always surpass, and different people are suited to them.
As for the insinuation that finance professionals are the core consumers of the American retail and service market, I can only testify that, of all the middle-to-high-end construction projects on which I’ve worked, I’m not sure a single one was has been for the Wall Street set. That’s a roll of the dice, to be sure, but the point is that other professionals make money, too, for actually doing, you know, stuff. Stuff that creates things and accomplishes objectives other than rolling money around.