Don’t Compare

My last post all the way back in 2014 was about salaries remaining stagnant despite massive increases in productivity, focusing on the USA. Recently I’m seeing more and more discussion about the difficulty that new college grads have getting work, and the headlines tend to be along the lines of “Millennials Increasingly Unable To Afford To Live!”

One thing that people keep trying to do which they shouldn’t is compare with the past. We’re not living in the past, it’s a different world! You can say that in the 1960s and 1970s that our parents were able to afford a 4-bedroom house with a car and annual vacations on only one salary, but the fact is there were HALF the number of people on this earth back then! 3.6 billion in 1970 compared to 7.2 billion now! That’s a crazy amount of growth.¬†Technology and industrial processes have rapidly improved meaning that productivity has increased massively.

This means that land/property is becoming more valuable, and labour is becoming cheaper.

This is not the fault of the Boomer generation, nor is it the fault of the government. It’s progress, and this is exactly what should be expected (note I’m not commenting on whether this kind of progress is good or bad, it’s just progress.) It will take a change in civilisation at this point to halt the trend of consumerism that is driving this. And at the end of the day, most people don’t want that.

The same people that complain that they can’t find jobs are often¬†the same people wishing for free college tuition for all. It’s not free, until teachers and colleges are willing to provide the services for free. Someone must pay. And if everyone has a college degree, how do businesses differentiate between candidates when so many people apply for the same jobs, and so many people study for worthless degrees?

The same college grads complaining about low entry level salaries are often the same people that consider smartphones to be essential, when in fact they are just adult toys. Very few people can honestly claim they need a smartphone to lead a full life without impacting their social or professional lives. If you have a low salary, don’t buy a smartphone!

Yeah, it sucks that houses in places like the USA and UK cost 10-15 times the average salary, when our parents paid 3-4 times their salary. But what are YOU going to do about it? Here’s a tip: don’t compare, don’t complain. What you’re really asking for is to slow down population growth and stop promoting consumerism. So, get rid of that iPhone and HD satellite package, adopt a child, have a small wedding, stop buying useless crap, eat out less, and do something useful.

3 Replies to “Don’t Compare”

  1. So I totally agree with the top part of the post. Comparing today to generations past, while entertaining and fun to think about, is really comparing apples to oranges. The economy values goods and services at a different utility in today’s society. And absolutely the boomers should not be blamed for not being able to buy houses since they had no control over the factors, which lead to scarcity and price inflation.

    However I think that the boomers are creating some of the issues that face new grads today. The first way is because they are staying in the workforce longer than their predecessors (http://www.gallup.com/poll/162560/average-retirement-age.aspx and http://blogs.marketwatch.com/encore/2013/11/20/is-70-the-right-retirement-age/). This causes the potential supply of open jobs to be lower. Another side effect is that this also causes a chain reaction that ultimately raises the qualifications needed for an entry level position. An entry level worker can’t differentiate vs a worker with a few years, a worker with a few years cannot differentiate versus a seasoned worker.. all the way on up. Similar to Credential inflation or degree inflation.

    Also the technologies the boomers have created are making some jobs extinct. Think about how many people used to work at travel agencies or used to work in warehouses. These jobs are being replaced. Although i guess this is something that happens over and over again throughout time… so there is probably some cyclical effect to some of this type of unemployment. The economy will eventually figure out new “menial labor” tasks that will eventually be overtaken by technology and we might just be in the midst of one of those redefining cycles. (which could be an interesting theory for a post in itself)

    My final point is just that it seems like you too are a little guilty of comparing today vs yesterday. While it may be true that yesterday it wasn’t essential to have a smart phone or to eat out… in today’s society I would argue that smart phone is an essential. An example how many of your friends don’t have a smart phone? likely very few. Ask a teen now… the answer is probably near if not zero. Even for senior citizens increasingly smart phones are being weaved into their lives. In parts of the country the economics of cooking versus eating out have changed as well. Some people find it more viable to use their limited time by not cooking. Just like you could bake your own bread, but most people find it makes sense to just buy the pre-packaged bread most of the time unless they want to bake as a hobby or as an occasional novel use of their time.

  2. @Don don LOL

    @STB with the smart phone think I wasn’t try to compare (heh, that would be self defeating), it was more an observation that if there’s a major paradigm shift, like house phones to cell phones, it doesn’t mean that the new is essential, the paradigm shift can come with a change of purpose too. Sure, if you’re the only one in your group of friends who stops using a smartphone to keep up socially then you’ll probably be ostracised and miss out, but you’ll find stuff to do with other people and probably some of your closer friends. If many people in the same group do the same, it’s less of a problem. Case in point, in 2011 I stopped using Facebook and I completely lost touch with some people. I reconnected when I got back on in 2015. I met a few new people and even got huge resistance to my lack of Facebook, and ended up re-joining using a secret account sometime in 2012… so I definitely see the difficulty. But I was able to resist for a while. Interesting experiment.

    As for boomers staying in jobs longer, that seems to be another side effect of progress. People are able to live longer, healthier lives, and since they already have a ton of work experience and a greater need for more money to top up their pension, they work longer. Not their fault, just a reaction to the way things are now.

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