In Defense Of The Common Man

3 minute read

After reading Harry Binswanger’s article celebrating the 1%, I felt it was only fitting to write my own piece defending the 99% and expressing my reaction to the idea that the 99% should give thanks to and idolize the 1% for making life so amazing.

What is the difference between Peyton Manning, Roy Halladay, Lebron James, and a middle manager for any company in America? Sure there are many such as salary, fame, etc., but I would like to focus on how they are similar.

In professional football, basketball, and baseball, coaches draw up the game plan, prepare practices, and prepare the team for gameday. In a business, the Steve Jobs and Henry Fords of the world think of brilliant ideas for both products and how to effectively run a business. In this sense, the coach and the CEO are both in charge of brainstorming and creating innovative approaches. However, Mike McCarthy isn’t on the field, running the plays, scoring and defending single handedly. That’s left up to Aaron Rodgers, Clay Mathews, and the rest of the players. Once gameday hits, it’s more or less out of the coach’s reach and left up to the players to execute.

Would Vince Lombardi and Phil Jackson be hailed as two of the greatest coaches the world has seen without Bart Starr and Michael Jordan?

In a much similar way, Steve Jobs isn’t putting each individual iPhone together. He’s not on the floor, helping workers figure out how to do their job more efficiently. There are multiple levels of managers below him, and at the most basic level the workers who are putting together his products. It would be easy for them to botch their jobs and no one would be praising Steve Jobs for such a wonderful company, he would be another washed up CEO whose idea never panned out.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s most important to have the ideas that spur entrepreneurship and business growth. However, without capable people working under the CEO, there is no product. In the same way that Peyton Manning can be MVP of the NFL, an effective middle manager who efficiently allocates tasks, makes sure his employees are content, and is capable of quickly solving crises that may spring up from day to day is a crucial cog of the business and should be celebrated as such.

Peyton Manning, Lebron James, and Roy Halladay will all thank their coach after a great performance. However, they will never place the coach on a pedestal so high that they say they owe their success entirely to the coach creating the gameplan and preparing them for the game. No, each of these players has also endured a lifetime of training and conditioning to get to where they are.

Even the third-string practice squad has worked hard to get a spot on the team. Without them, there would be no one to practice against, and no one to help the coach modify his gameplan, to help the stars prepare for new opponents. Likewise, even janitors have worked hard to get a job. The unemployment rate in the US is 7.6%. These janitors could be part of that statistic, but instead they are working hard to ensure that they keep their jobs. Do they owe it all to the CEO who thought of the concept that underlies the company for which they work? Sure, in part. But in whole? Absolutely not.

Steve Jobs would be another washed up CEO whose idea never panned out

In summary, to the idea that Henry Ford and Steve Jobs were exploited by those who worked under them, those who “would starve in his hopeless ineptitude,” I ask: would Ford and Apple, these beacons of American capitalism, be the companies that they are today without the contributions of these “underlings?” Would Vince Lombardi and Phil Jackson be hailed as two of the greatest coaches the world has seen without Bart Starr and Michael Jordan? I think not. Therefore, the idea that the success of those at the top of the corporate ladder is completely self-derived is simply not true.

Follow me on Twitter: @c_h_wood

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