MichaelOChurch (Reddit)

On the corporate career game

As a philosophical question, one could argue about that for days.

From a practical perspective, it’s when you own your life instead of renting it from a boss. You might still have an operational superior, but you only take orders from people who are providing mentorship, protection, and rapid advancement… and there are consequences for people who don’t support your career goals, even if they’re higher in the system.

The truth about the corporate “career” game is that it’s pretty much not worth playing unless you have familial air superiority. (Growing up “wealthy” itself doesn’t matter that much; you’ll go farther with well-connected parents of average means– say, Harvard professors– than if your parents have high net worth but don’t know the right people. Of course, it’s still better to have rich, not-connected parents than be a 99%-er, because at least you can peace out.) If you can’t call in an air strike on a manager who doesn’t support your career, you’re fucked from Day 1… because eventually you will draw a bad boss.

So, for the 99%, it’s really not worth playing the corporate game. It’s a scam, a malevolent joke, something the rich people who stole all the money set up because they love watching the rats race (and, to continue the metaphor, devour each other when they get to the end and the food’s all gone)

If the rising generation invested in overthrow– I’d prefer a peaceful one with UBI and Scandinavian-style market socialism; but I’ll take the other kind over none at all– rather than a sycophant’s false hope… then no one would have to be a serf (unless we fucked it up again, something humans are remarkably good at finding new ways to do). Unfortunately, I think it is impossible both to predict and to influence the timeliness of such occurrences.

Here’s why people have to show up at their corporate jobs 50 hours per week.

  1. The corporate system is far, far to the right on the performance–control spectrum. Bosses know their serfs are fucking around most of the time, but it’s not about hours in today’s corporate culture. It’s about indivisible personal loyalty. Most people have about 75 useful working hours (not 75 highly productive hours, but 75 above-zero hours). Companies want to grab at least 50.1% of that time. The reason corporates would hate a 20–30 hour work week is that they’d have to compete for their workers’ loyalty and favor, because people could have 2 or 3 serious/career jobs.

  2. In today’s world, bosses would see people working 30-hour weeks and wonder if they couldn’t cut 25% of their people and push to 40 hours… or more. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work. 90 percent of what’s done in corporate America doesn’t work, in the sense of having productive value, but it does give executives what they want– that is, it keeps them in charge.

The entire system exists to keep the high high and the low low. Productivity has little to do with it, unfortunately. Productivity matters only in the long term, insofar as unproductive, inefficient companies (or nations) will be surpassed by less defective ones, but the timescale on which that occurs is long enough that executives aren’t personally worried about it.

It’s not only paychecks that have soured. It’s also job quality. Employers don’t need to invest in their people anymore, not only because of 2008 but also because of outsourcing and automation. Genuine programming jobs are pretty much gone in favor of ticket-shop “Agile Scrum” jobs.

The only way to have a career in the corporate world is to have rich and connected parents your bosses are scared of… to have contacts who can get kids kicked out of schools and wives kicked off charity boards unless the execs take your career advancement as seriously as they take their own. The truth about the corporate system is that if you don’t have that kind of air support, it’s going to be a total waste of time, because the good projects and opportunities will be given to the rich kids whose parents the managers are afraid of.

On having kids

They also stop breeding at replacement rate. The combination of the two effects (selection for intelligence plus lowering reproductive rates) means that cities can accurately be described as ‘IQ shredders’.

I don’t think it can be blamed on cities. Society has negative demand for children: massive financial burdens on the parents, minimal to nonexistent support, diminishing career options.

There’s also so much that can go wrong. Even if you have two well-adjusted smart parents, the kid can be a dud, or a serial killer, etc.

The smarter you are, the less appeal there is to you in creating people, at your own expense, that society will abuse because they weren’t born into the right connections. Smart people realize the con.

This is a problem in most industries. By 32, you’re expected to be on a management track. By 40, people will ask how many people you manage– not what you do. By 50, you had better have a national reputation. The whole corporate system is set up this way: if you’re so smart, why ain’chu a boss?

Silicon Valley just accelerates it, because it builds dopey companies that don’t have long-term career tracks. (That’s the future of corporate capitalism, but that’s another rant. Silicon Valley’s only true innovation is the disposable company.) You can’t really protect a specialty in the startup game: you might land the dream AI job, only to find out that your firm is pivoting to “portable back office for insurance companies” and you’re going to spend the remaining 43 months of your vesting interval dealing with browser issues.

Corporate capitalism wouldn’t work if the young knew how bad the odds actually were. People would not put up with it; there’d be blood in the streets. They accept startup job offers because they feel immortal (being 22–25) and because they’re misled about how the regular corporate world will valuate their work experience. (This is the Paul Graham lie that if your startup fails, you can still get a VP-level job at Facebook because of what you learned.) They work long hours because they think they’re building useful “career capital” when, in truth, they’re only learning how to be slightly more efficient grunts (until they’re replaced with shell scripts).

The entire corporate system would be overthrown, violently, if young people had an accurate sense of their real futures. This is not an exaggeration: palaces have been stormed and heads removed from bodies by generations less hopeless than this one. It does not take much. In our campaign against corporate capitalism, the truth is solidly on our side.

We all spend our adolescence in an educational system that, while flawed, is reasonably close to a meritocracy… seeing as it’s a system designed by humans. People assume their corporate jobs will be similar. If people knew, at 22, how much corruption, nepotism, and anti-meritocracy exist in the corporate world, they’d take up arms and we’d see executives hanging from lampposts. Obviously, the people in charge do not want that to happen. They need the young losers who do the grunt work to think they have an honest chance. (They don’t. Everything good has already been allocated to the generationally well-connected, and even an Elizabeth Holmes–level fuckup won’t put them in the doghouse for more than a few years.)

It’s not that the 99+ percent who get to age 40 and have nothing to show for it are losers or failures. (I’m basically one of them, though only 35.) I mean, technically we are losers– we played a game, and we lost– but… I assume you know what I mean. The system demands that we be presented as such: bitter failures, rather than the average-case scenario that we are. It wants us to slink away in shame, so it can pretend we don’t exist; we were all taken to a farm upstate where we can run free.

The people at the top know that if their young “resources” come in contact with people who are in middle age, as smart as they are, and still have to work for a living… the whole ruse will collapse. The younger workers will start asking questions, like “Was it work it, to work 80 hour weeks?” (Answer: no.) Or, “What’s the secret to career success?” (Answer: well-connected parents who can provide air support.) Or, “Does it actually matter to the world if I deliver Sprint 137 on time?” (Answer: no.)

There’s a legend about the Buddha: in order to raise a fearless warrior-prince, he was sheltered from all signs of aging, sickness, and death until age 29. His father expelled old people from the court so his son wouldn’t know aging existed. As for whether and how this was actually done… who knows? It is an apt depiction of the workplace, though. The sick and unlucky must be culled; those who are old enough to see through the long con must be discarded. This is necessary to keep the young fearless… and by “fearless”, I mean ignorant.

On class

They are certainly stress testing how little they can give the plebs before they storm the bastille. Shit. I mean really really pushing the limits. The strongest bull market in history coming to an end and companies are still telling folks they can’t afford to give em’ a fuckin 8% raise because of the recession that happened a decade ago. The balls on these guys.

Right. They want the system to run so that the plebs don’t revolt but nothing improves. The problem (for them and us) is that they have no conception of externalized costs or systemic fragility, because they only think in terms of short-term profit. Ergo, we have a socioeconomic system that is designed to putter along in perpetual semi-misery, but that will actually have catastrophic effects on everyone when it fails.

If it should be a possibility, I would prefer a nonviolent, legal solution to our upper-class problem. I don’t hate them; they are merely a problem that must be solved, like bedbugs. That said, I think it’s highly likely that they will defend what they have with their lives, in which case no one but them is responsible for whatever happens. I’d rather have 50,000 corporate fucks die now than 3 billion die because of climate change and global famine.

The rich (if you must generalize) have no interest in killing off the poor. They just want them working, preferably as many hours as possible for as little pay as possible. This isn’t about class genocide, it’s about restoring feudalism.

This is true, but they’ll resort to genocide if their way of life is threatened. It’s better to hit them first.

But places like SF (and bay), NY, are hot spots, have to be. Which market forces would push the same in-livability in other parts of the country?

The problem is that our society lets the upper class get away with anything. They’ve stolen all the jobs to give them to their useless, effete progeny, and the result is that there’s no high-end work outside of a few expensive cities (and even there, the odds of getting a real job are extremely low).

This is an artifact of buying a home in an area where real estate becomes very valuable because everyone wants to live there.

s/valuable/overpriced/

Also, the problem with San Francisco isn’t “everyone wants to live there”. It’s been a pretty shitty place for about 10–15 years; the old city’s gone. Rather, it’s a mix of two factors: (1) the job market became roadkill outside of a few cities, and (2) NIMBY policies (combined with price inelasticity) created a supply shortage.

We ended up with a system where people who weren’t born into NYC/SF real estate and connections are treated as low-class, transient migrant labor (within their own country!)… unable to afford housing where economic circumstances have forced them to live, and forced to work 12+ hour days at shit jobs because a bunch of useless rich kids pulled daddy connection to get the few real jobs that still exist.

We need to fix this. It’ll be ugly, but it has to be done.