What does it take to "make it" in today's economy?



ORIGINAL POST
Posted by Ed 22 days ago
As described in Withdrawing from the Rat Race Is Going Global, the world has changed in fundamental ways that have made it much more difficult to "make it" into the ranks of the middle class, and even harder to claw one's way into the higher reaches of the economic order, i.e. the top 10%.
 
In summary, developed economies have been stripped of secure, well-paid manual-labor work, the purchasing power of wages has declined, prices of assets such as homes have skyrocketed out of reach and the mass overproduction of elites (those with college diplomas and advanced degrees) has created a winner-take-all competitive pressure cooker with few winners and an abundance of also-rans.
 
In other words, the work-a-day world has become far more complex and far more demanding than it was two generations ago. It's not just making enough to pay the bills that's more demanding; the work is more demanding, as is everyday life, which now demands far more shadow work--work we do to manage life's complexities that we're not paid for. Having children is far more expensive and demanding, too, as the competition for upper-middle class slots now starts in Kindergarten.
 
Many individuals do not have the armor and weaponry needed to enter the arena and survive the competition. It's easy to dismiss them as "lazy," but that's not the issue. It's also easy to dismiss them as snowflakes, young people who have been shielded from life's rougher edges by overprotective parents, leaving them ill-equipped for the slings and arrows of modern life.
 
But this isn't the issue, either. The real issue is the social and economic demands now exceed the carrying capacity of many people. Where it was possible to find a secure low-level job that could support a household and find a place in society's pecking order two generations ago with limited social / work skills, now it's essentially impossible: low-level work is insecure and too poorly paid to support a household, and it is viewed as demeaning and unworthy of respect.
 
How do humans respond when they're viewed as worthless and they feel hopeless? In the Hollywood script, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, gather a discarded shield and sword off the blood-soaked sand of the arena and go out and kick some derriere. ("Take that, nepo scum!")
 
Many people manage to do this and we applaud their grit and determination. But not every individual wins in this battle. Many pick up the shield and the sword and are immediately trampled. They make a realistic assessment that they can't possibly reach the lofty goals demanded of them, and so they are effectively excluded from what is now considered "normal life."
 
This comment on a Reddit thread speaks to the increasing demands of "normal life":
 
I obviously can't speak for everyone, but I can give some insight based on my own social withdrawal: modern life is overwhelming. It feels like there's a lot that's expected of you. In many ways modern life is a giant competition for wealth and status, but instead of competing just within your community, you have to compete with millions of people all around the world. It feels daunting, if not impossible. Why compete in a contest you know you can't win? It's pointless, it's a waste of time and energy. I feel very much like, "well, what's the point?"
 
So they drop out of the competition. Maybe they take a part-time gig job, maybe they move back home to take care of a parent or grandparent, or they become a recluse. 
https://charleshughsmith.substack.com/p/hikikomori-and-lying-flat-when-making 

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COMMENTS
Ed 20 days ago
Lost in the Vast Wasteland of Social Media  Once we've made "digital visibility" the primary source of our identity, status and self-respect, we've doomed ourselves to wandering, compass-less, in a vast artificial wasteland.  https://charleshughsmith.substack.com/p/lost-in-the-vast-wasteland-of-social

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