Dr. V.E.”Bill” Haloulakos is an AIAA National Distinguished Lecturer and a contributor to The Business Thinker –
A new phenomenon has surfaced in our country. Political leaders, government bureaucrats and even some academics are floating the idea that perhaps it is OK for people, especially the young ones, not to work. Perhaps they see that as a way to solve the unemployment problem and the economic stagnation that plagues the country. In addition, since these people will receive a government subsidy they will be indebted to the politicians so they will continue to vote them in again and again. Have we arrived at “the de Tocqueville” situation? This article attacks this concept as un-natural for it is in the very nature of people to WORK, otherwise life will have no meaning. Besides the USA was founded on the basis of hard work.
In the world of Physics Energy is defined as “the ability to do work” and work is given a mathematical definition as “the moving of a mass (material object) by a force through a distance. The precise amount of work being simply the product of the force times the distance”.
In the world of ordinary human life, however, Energy is that “oomph” that individual humans feel to do things while work is the activity via which humans do things such as making new products, provide services or enrich the life of other humans and benefit the general society. Humans engaged in some form of work has been around forever and without it nothing would have been done and no products would have been made and/or services would have been provided. Besides, working persons have been known to be healthier, happier and more satisfied with their daily life. They usually marry and raise happy families, whereas idle persons are more likely to resort to criminal activities at the expense, of course, of those who are working.
Working persons, especially those who have undergone extensive preparatory training, such as medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, skilled technicians, etc. are very proud and content of their work. A doctor is elated when he heals sick people; a lawyer is likewise elated when he wins in court. Many people go near airports to watch planes land and hear the jet noise. But a Boeing aerodynamics specialist aeronautical engineer feels a tremendous feeling of success to watch a Boeing 747 glide ever so graciously to a landing and knows exactly the work that went into building this flying giant and all the forces that balance it and make it fly safely, carrying people and cargo. He knows precisely how the air molecules flow over the wings and around the fuselage and cause a perfect balance between the forces of lift, weight, thrust and drag that make this awesome sight a reality. Likewise the engineers that worked and built the rockets and spaceships are so very proud of their work and it is not so easy to communicate that sensation to another person.
Specifically, America was founded on the work ethic and it has been the hard work of our people that has made our country prosper and a world leader in industry, technology, innovation, farming and the distribution of all these products to the furthest corners of the world. In a Fortune magazine, survey, several years ago, a list of the top 100 companies was made for the USA and various other leading countries such as Britain, Germany and Japan. In the American list most of the companies were of new vintage whereas in the other countries they were nearly all the same as they were 50 or even 100 years prior. This is the result of economic freedom and the ability of our people to work, create and innovate. One of my neighbors who works in the film industry and spends considerable time in Asian countries was telling me that while talking with Asian coworkers they mentioned the names of various new companies, such as Googol, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, etc, that had made their work possible and they noted that they were AMERICAN. And they all agreed that it indeed was the American work ethic and economic freedom that had made all this possible.
The lead characteristic of American activity has traditionally been with business and industry being the movers, shakers and doers, Specifically, university and their professors were followers and the roles of politicians were very minimal and more likely nonexistent in the business and economic activity of the country. Henry Ford did not need a bureaucrat or a politician to tell him what car to build, likewise, Donald Douglas did not depend on anyone to “guide” him as to what airplane to design and built. He and his team of co-workers built the DC-3 that not only revolutionized the world but it was there very handy to hit the war machine production with the famed C-54, as the military called it, that helped as win World War II (WWII). More recently, Steve Jobs with his Apple computers, i-phones, etc. was quoted as saying that “he did not need surveys to tell him what to build, but HE, instead, would tell the people what they NEEDED to have…”. Well, we do know now how right he was.
The engineering and mathematical genius, Theodore Von Karman, while having an unprecedented success in building jet-assisted take off (JATO) units for the US Army Air Corps (now called the US Air Force), and founding new organizations, such as the famous rocket builder Aerojet and the world renown Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), but when he decided to create the now famous aeronautical engineering department at the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH), which was to teach students how to design and build airplanes, he sought the advice and aid of the aviation pioneer Donald Douglas and his team from nearby Santa Monica, California to design the curriculum.
In the early 1960s, when we did much of the original pioneering work that led to the Apollo Program, the Skylab and their likes, the NASA Washington, DC office that sponsored and funded the work was composed of ONE MAN! Compare that to the hordes of bureaucrats and “consultants” that we have now. It’s worthy of note that most of these “consultants” are university professors with plenty of “book” knowledge but no industrial design and development experience that will enable them to be of any real help. Then add the number of bureaucrats on the top and one can see why very little gets done, to say nothing about the added costs and schedule delays for the things that finally do get done.
The situation today is the exact reverse of what was traditionally. We have a myriad of government bureaucrats and regulators, most of them totally unaccomplished, establishing the rules and issuing regulations how to do things that they really do not know how to do. Additionally we also have a very large number of “philosopher” professors, likewise totally unaccomplished in the workings of real everyday life, acting as consultants. This, by the way is not only in the technical/scientific areas but also in just about everything under the Sun.
We have a situation where a former speaker of the US House of Representatives is telling us that “it’s OK not to work, especially if you are young, but instead be free to pursue your life’s dreams…” And how would one earn a living? The Government, of course, would pay them for not working! And when a person has never worked or done anything useful, how would he/she have any real “life dreams”? We have not heard the answer to that yet. The question, of course is, why would the former House speaker say that? Perhaps we have arrived at the situation predicted by Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s when after visiting America he wrote his famous book “Democracy in America”, where he said that the people would vote for politicians who promised to give them things… So, the former speaker and numerous other politicians want to create a permanent class of people who depend on the Government for their livelihood instead of working.
LET US HOPE THAT THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE WILL NOT FALL FOR SUCH A FOLLY AND WILL ELECT DIFFERENT PERSONS. PERSONS WHO BELIEVE IN THE GREATNESS OF AMERICA AND ITS TRADITIONS THAT MADE IT POSSIBLE.
The sad thing to observe, however, is some parts of the business community, especially large corporations, is succumbing to this political pressure and elevate or appoint persons to high positions who know how to talk to the Government bureaucrats and the politicians instead of taking care of their business and their customer public. Most prominent example of this is the Automobile Industry. I still cannot forget the statement from a General Motors vice president, in charge of the Cadillac Seville Division who, in the spring of 1976 while attending a technical aerospace conference in Culver City, California, told me: “automobile safety and performance can not be designed by engineers. It can only be done by legislation”. No wonder they have so many hundreds of thousands of recalls because of various design faults…. Perhaps it may just be that lawyers and politicians do not know how to design and produce automobiles, after all!
Another deviation from the old American norm is the relationship between universities and the business community. It was the norm for the business and industrial communities to give input and guidance, if I may say, to the universities about their needs and what types of curricula would best serve those needs. Now we have a plethora of marginal and mostly unaccomplished academics, both faculty and administration, who create courses and curricula of their own without any consideration if such “learning” is useful or marketable. As a result they graduate many thousands of young people who are unemployable because they do not possess the requisite skills required by the business and industrial communities. So, a remedy is badly needed to find a way to lessen these deleterious effects of such “philosophical eggheads” on our young people. Just let them philosophize among themselves and let the business world do what it only knows how to do, and very well, i.e. create new products, new wealth, new jobs and a vibrant economy!