Escaping The Rat-Race

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Chris Martenson of PeakProsperity, authored by Charles Hugh Smith

Escaping the Rat-Race

The changing nature of work doesn’t just matter to new graduates seeking their first career-track job—it’s equally important to experienced workers seeking to escape the corporate rat-race or build a new career after a layoff.

Those who understand these changes will be able to successfully adapt. Those who don’t, won’t.

The Disruptive Forces Transforming the Economy

There are three fundamental forces disrupting the conventional order, and everyone with their eyes open sees them at work every day:

1.  Essential resources are becoming more expensive.

2.  The system of expanding credit/debt to fund more consumption (i.e. “growth”) has reached marginal returns and is failing.

3.  Networked software, automation and robotics are reducing the need for human labor on a global scale.

As a result of these three structural forces, economic instability is not going to go away any time soon.  Technology leapfrogs the obsolete and inefficient; no wonder conventional sectors and the market for traditional 9-to-5 jobs are both stagnating.

The realization that ever-expanding debt and consumption are unsustainable has given rise to a new understanding of the economy called Degrowth (French: décroissance, Spanish: decrecimiento, Italian: decrescita).

From the perspective of sustainable prosperity, growth based on ever-expanding debt-based consumption is the road to ruin.

This shift from debt-based consumption to a more productive sustainability is bringing profound changes to the nature of work itself and social arrangements in the workplace.

Though we can’t foresee all the ramifications of networked software, automation and robotics, we can predict one aspect of this systemic disruption: technology will disrupt the most expensive, least efficient sectors of the economy because that’s where the greatest reductions in cost can be reaped.

In our economy, these are healthcare, education, government and national defense, all traditionally viewed as stable sectors with guaranteed job security.   That is changing, as the soaring costs of these sectors now exceed the economy’s ability to fund them.  If an economy expands by 2% each year and healthcare costs rise by 5% each year, eventually healthcare runs out of oxygen—there isn’t enough income generated by the economy to fund its continued expansion.

Few “experts”—academics, pundits and advisors—have accepted the reality of these forces or thought through the interacting consequences. As a result, we’re on our own in setting a course and navigating the inevitable storms ahead as the old system lurches from crisis to crisis, weakening further as every politically expedient reform fails to address these structural realities.

Outmoded Career Advice Is the Norm

Though the transformative power of these three forces is self-evident, remarkably, conventional career counseling is still stuck in the past, offering three basic bits of advice:

1.  Choose a career that aligns with your core talents and interests.

2.  Get as many credentials as you can -- degrees, certifications, etc. -- because the gatekeepers who do the hiring require them.

3.  Since the goal is secure employment, try to get a job in the government or a big corporation.

In my view, the conventional advice has it all backward. What worked in the past is no longer working because the economy and the nature of work are both being disrupted by forces that cannot be controlled by those threatened by these fundamental changes. 

In the conventional view, a college degree prepares one to enter the workforce. This is no longer true, as higher education has largely failed to keep pace with technology and a fast-changing economy.

As for adding more credentials to keep ahead of the pack—degree inflation dooms this strategy for all but the few who manage to secure multiple degrees from elite universities. And even this is no guarantee of lifetime security for everyone, as the number of open slots in gatekeeper-dominated institutions is much smaller than the rapidly expanding pool of over-credentialed applicants.

What matters more than credentials is the ability to keep learning new skills over one’s entire productive life.

And while it’s certainly solid advice to align one’s work with one’s talents and interests, even this advice misses the key dynamics of the emerging economy—which I define as  the parts of the economy that are thriving on innovation rather than depending on cheap credit and asset bubbles for their survival.

The thriving parts of the economy rely less on gatekeepers and credentials and more on skills, flexibility, professionalism, mastery and networks of collaboration.

In the emerging economy, security arises not from institutional promises but from a diversity of skills and income streams and a flourishing network of other trustworthy, productive people.

As a result, the goal for jobseekers isn’t just to identify one’s talents and interests but to acquire a diverse suite of flexible skills and a network that enables you to put these skills to good use.

In this view, work isn’t what you do between 9 and 5: it’s a lifestyle informed by a flexible, open perspective and guided by entrepreneurial values.

In terms of values, conventional career advice is based on the idea that happiness and fulfillment require institutional security and ever more consumption. But the more we learn about happiness and fulfillment, the more apparent it becomes that family, community, meaningful work and networks of trustworthy collaborators and friends are the sources of happiness and fulfillment, not the accumulation of institutional promises and more stuff, which turns out to have little impact on happiness or fulfillment.

The Dynamics of Economic Transformation

Capitalism and technology are both disruptive by their very nature.  That mature industries shrink or disappear is not the fault of one policy or another; that process of creative destruction (a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter) is the heart of capitalism and technology.

Many have attempted to keep technology safely locked up so it can’t creatively destroy their regime or industry. But technology is a genie that cannot be kept in the bottle. To quote Bob Dylan:  those not busy being born are busy dying.  Every nation or industry that tries to protect itself from technological transformation either stagnates or fails.

One aspect of capitalism that disturbs many people is the mobile nature of capital—that capital will flow to the highest return, regardless of national borders or religious, national and ideological loyalties.

Though many attribute this mobility to base greed, capital that doesn’t seek to expand will fall victim to creative destruction: the only way innovation and productive investment can occur is if less productive investments and quasi-monopolies are dismantled.

This is true not just of financial capital (cash), but of human and social capital—what author Peter Drucker called the new means of production in the knowledge-based economy.

This will have implications for every worker seeking to escape the corporate rat-race or build a career.

One feature of capitalism that is rarely noted is the premium placed on cooperation. The Darwinian aspects of competition are widely accepted (and rued) as capitalism’s dominant force, but cooperation is just as intrinsic to capitalism as competition. Subcontractors must cooperate to assemble a product, suppliers must cooperate to deliver the various components, distributors must cooperate to get the products to retail outlets, employees and managers must cooperate to reach the goals of the organization, and local governments and communities must cooperate with enterprises to sustain the local economy.

Darwin’s understanding of natural selection is often misapplied. In its basic form, natural selection simply means that the world is constantly changing, and organisms must adapt or they will expire. This dynamic is scale-invariant, meaning that it’s true for individuals, enterprises, governments, cultures and economies. Darwin wrote: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, or the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change."

These new ideas, techniques and processes trigger changes in society and the economy that are difficult to predict. The key survival trait is not so much the ability to guess the future correctly but to remain flexible and adaptive.

Ideas, techniques and processes which are better and more productive than previous versions will spread quickly; those who refuse to adapt them will be overtaken by those who do.

This creates a dilemma: we want more prosperity and wider opportunities for self-cultivation (personal fulfillment), yet we don’t want our security to be disrupted. But we cannot have it both ways. Those who attempt to preserve the current order while reaping the gains of free markets find their security dissolving before their eyes as unintended consequences of technological and social innovations disrupt their sources of wealth and mechanisms of control.

The great irony of free-market capitalism is that the only way to establish an enduring security is to embrace innovation and adaptation, the very processes that generate short-term insecurity. Attempting to guarantee security leads to risk being distributed within the system. When the accumulated risk manifests, the system collapses.

Why This Matters

Why do these characteristics of free-market capitalism matter to jobseekers?  Opportunity is not randomly distributed; it results from what I call the infrastructure of opportunity. If there is no mobility of labor and capital, no transparent markets for labor and capital, no creative destruction of corrupt, obsolete, inefficient systems, weak rule of law, weak property rights, no self-organizing (i.e. transparent, decentralized) access to credit, limited means of cooperation, little room for innovation and no understanding of the essential role of risk in adaptation, opportunities for successful adaptation (what we might call prosperity) are intrinsically scarce. Virtually all bets made in this environment will be lost because there is no fertile ground—it’s a desert for opportunity.

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lawton's picture

And the decent jobs out there, which are being eliminated pretty quickly, are being given to foreigners on those work visas (the ones where the big businesses try to say enough Americans are not qualified) while having the American train their immigrant replacement who will get half his pay or less.

Hugh G Rection's picture

Find what you are passionate about and hopefully there is a way to make a living from it.

After going through a paradigm shift when researching for what was to be my first book in 08 (your prototypical right wing hit piece on Obummer), I came to a pretty startling realization.  It's all a Zionist/Bankster shit show.

I taught myself video editing, monetized a few youtube accounts, and more recently started a blog.  It's not great money, but if your focus is on kitty and prank videos you can pull down serious money on YT. 

disabledvet's picture

Go phuck yourself asshole. You wanna sing happy songs on your way to the death camps you go right ahead bitch.

Hugh G Rection's picture

You sound reasonable!

No death camp for me thanks.

“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”
? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

markmotive's picture

Debt may be the symptom, but energy scarcity is the disease. Rising energy prices tend to throw those who are most financially fragile into the abyss...e.g. suburban homeowners in 2008.

Gail Tverberg: Debt - Eight Reasons This Time is Different

css1971's picture

Opening Kinder Surprise eggs. Big money in that on YouTube.

Parisnights's picture

It is a bankster's shit storm but saying Zionist is the cop out word anti-semites use.

rogerramjet's picture

I hire foreigners!  You jackass, what is a foreigner?  My mommie and daddie were totally fluent in polish, I'm not, only the swear words when mom was mad at me.  Your a stupid fuck!  Should I put on the application, "only hire second generation foreigners".  Your a uneducated idiot!  Your brains are made up of dog shit! 

exi1ed0ne's picture

HB1 visa foreigners and similar programs.  Read up on the program and you will understand that this "visa" is just a tool to undermine the last remaining high paying middle class jobs that can't be easily off-shored.  This is especially prevalent in the tech industry, where companies continuously lobby to expand the visa program despite qualified applicants.  The definition for "qualified" in this case is anyone willing to do work that requires years of education and training for poorhouse wages.

If you are one of those shops then you can go fuck yourself. 

With a pineapple.

Thirtyseven's picture


Missused it twice.

You're making the rest of us Poles look stupid.

tickhound's picture

Lots of holes in this articles' thought experiment but holy shit Tylers for posting this sort of thing around here... Scares this shit out of the 2 party monetarists.

Posted this in the past.

Taste it again...

People have trouble grasping how we can use technology, not only to destroy a human wage model, but to produce abundance from a now outdated scarcity based economic model.

In any "for profit" system, scarcity is the game. And the more scarce, the better. And if its not scarce, it will be manufactured as so. That's why abundant energy can never exist, there's no money in a cure, and waste is a constant. Because its profitable. Big pharma will tell you why we still fight plaque.

Scarcity is a constant in a profit system, its an ALWAYS... No matter the abundance of the product or resource.

Whether Farm subsidies / mandatory crop reduction/destruction, Planned obsolescence of products. Privatization of water. Rare mineral destruction (diamonds). "Peak oil".. a phrase we'd hear regardless of its abundance. Patents alone produce and affect scarcity. The list goes on and on...

Much of the "scarcity" (to include perceived scarcity) we're in competition for within our economic model is manufactured... for profit.

There will be no AFFORD. It will be can we or can't we. It will be "do we have the resources", not do we have the money. Profit systems use technology to GMO seeds to NOT reproduce... Rather than produce hundreds if not thousands of seeds. It's not that we can't do this, it's that it isn't profitable.

Profit systems are inherently INEFFICIENT, not efficient. Even waste is profitable.

In short tech needs to be directed to achieve abundance, not further entrench profit and scarcity.

We don't use technology to achieve sustainability or balance or abundance. And why would we????

Product sustainability runs INVERSE to economic growth.

Say that again class.

Matt's picture

I would like some evidence to support your claim that scarcity is artificial.

I think the real reason for Planned Obsolescence and disposable products is the same reason people form cartels and try to protect their industry from innovation. At some point, people just want to keep doing the same job.

Once a person has a family and a mortgage and bills to pay, they really don't want to have to go learn a new skill set and start over at the bottom every five or ten years and work their way up to being good at something only to have to start all over again. It also makes long term commitments like a mortgage very difficult, if your wages keep resetting to the bottom.

tickhound's picture

Umm... Evidence. The fact that your iphone is already obsolete and the parts will be tossed even though the next 7 generations have already been pre-planned to separate you from your money 6 months from now.

The fact that my tomato is a one time sterilized wonder requiring me to go back to Home Depot for my next "batch" ... Rather than reproducing what nature intended, let alone what technology could further enhance.

The fact that as soon as you're granted a patent, your life altering genius just got less abundant.

The fact that free ideas on the internet are increasingly regulated.

The fact that I need to "pay to go" to brick and mortar institutions to achieve "something" that is readily abundant with minor internet savvy.

I could go on... But you can play this game yourself. That fact you haven't already is testimony to how religious most are into solving problems WITHIN the only economic model they've known. But this outdated model was based on one major premise.... That YOU, and not technology, was needed to produce labor. Value was assigned. Now, I don't need but a few scientists and technicians and some smart machines to feed thousands, millions. This trend will continue.

The fact that "product sustainability runs INVERSE to economic growth" wasn't enough for you highlights the scarcity that has become of your common sense.

kaiserhoff's picture

Well done, Tick.

How about the lack of any meaningful conversion to nat gas, even though it is dirt cheap and in essentially infinite supply.

The destruction of coal/trash fired power.  The cable company demanding that I buy 700 channels, when I want, at most 5.

He who regulates, fucks up my life.

Matt's picture

You provided examples of planned obsolescence and wasteful consumption, which I agree with. Prove scarcity does not exist.

If the world wanted 500 million barrels per day of oil per day, could it have it?

If everyone in the world wanted to live in a 5000 square foot mansion, could they?

If everyone wanted a thousand tons of gold to themselves, could they have it?

If there were 50 Billion people, could we still feed them, if there was none of this artifical scarcity you claim?

We live in a finite world that has finite raw resources.

tickhound's picture

It should be obvious the scarcity of resources exists on this finite planet. And it's 2 minutes to midnight and the bottle is a quarter full.

What I am showcasing is that artificial scarcity exists, and will continue to exist as long as it remains profitable. It is so in our face that humanity can no longer see it. It has become an accepted course of action. It has become an actual measure in efficiency. Lack of awareness only limits potential solutions.

malek's picture

 Profit systems are inherently INEFFICIENT

Claiming abuses to be an inseparateable part of a profit-based system (and implying we need to abandon such, even though it is clear everything else will be worse.)

It's a litttle bit like bemoaning (true) democracy makes the dumbest 50% decide, but completely ignoring the fact that any other system will -at least after a few generations of "leaders"- inevitably end up having the dumbest 1% (but most ruthless) making the decisions...

tickhound's picture

Lol ya ya like all Pavlovian mainstream lab rats to you profit is a measure of efficiency. Efficiency to you isn't building things that last, it's begging storms to wipe out small towns cuz Towns & Noble can show a profit from the economic boost. Efficiency isn't curing anything... Efficiency to you is keeping you sick so Kaiser can have you for life. Cuz kaiser is model of efficiency in a world designed to measure it through profit.

You're going to have to actually say something. "Everything would be worse" was old halfway through my first rodeo, rookie.

malek's picture

I love argumentations right besides the point like yours!
I didn't even bring up efficiency or laid out how I exactly I understand that term, but you put words in my mouth so you have something to mob.

In case you missed it, the decision what value a certain product has is still to be made by the customer.
And one of the abuses would be to curtail competition until no decision is available anymore.

Now explain to us how much would be built or improved without profit incentive in your glorious model, you know beyond the few things from 100% altruists.

You will need a bigger whip, boy

tickhound's picture

It's not my glorious model, or any other alternative to the mess you worship, that needs explanation. These, and other ideas outside your 6 o'clock news channel of choice, are out there.

It's YOUR religious devotion to our current obsolescence that needs justification.

And why such a hard on for wage slavery? So you like make-work programs? We can hit a flys' ass from 2 miles with a drone flown from Denver but YOU INSIST on being the drunk $200k pilot flying my plane? And this is "efficient" to your dumbass?

malek's picture

Still falling short, dumbfuck.

So I somehow support/demand
1. efficiency above everything
2. [designed?] obsolescence

Keep pulling some more accusations out of your ass, I'm having a field day here

tickhound's picture

Field day? From where??? Your Maginot Line? I'm in Paris with the rest of us experiencing the reality of the 21st century... you Luddite proponent of wage slave efficiency.

malek's picture

Enjoy your socialist utopia - and pray it never runs out of OPM within your lifetime.

tickhound's picture

AAaaaaand there it is. I was waiting for the ad hom. Cuz that's all you got.

malek's picture

Ohh, the clwn plays hurt.

After you already fired two shots at me with nothing connecting to anything I wrote...

Yen Cross's picture

 Shouldn't you be chasing your tail or licking your balls tickhound

  Round (2) ? I'm up for it... Ding...Ding

  How's that "charts are useless" meme working out for you?

tickhound's picture

The idiot above you is a bigger challenge and he didn't even say anything.

I'll fuck with you in my down time when I'm multitasking. You're entry level sorry to say.

Yen Cross's picture

Ohh... Ok. I'll give you a breather between rounds. ;-)


Professorlocknload's picture

What of the efficiencies that made this very forum possible?

tickhound's picture

Oh it was nearly a free and abundant resource at one time, no doubt. More efficient in "those" terms, less efficient from a profit perspective.

Nowaday it is entirely LESS efficient. It is corporate now. More profitable, less efficient. More blackouts. Less credibility... Articles funneled through a chain of command, a particular message necessary. 3 day old articles sometimes. Less Tyler originality. More WASTE of space with bullshit ads clouding my phone. More WASTE of time spent hitting my back button after accidently, yet very profitably, fat thumbing an ad.

If this can't satisfy you then I don't understand your question and would prefer to not have you explain it to me.

Yen Cross's picture

Free and Abundant! I'm starting to like you Tick Dog!  I upvoted you!

Yen Cross's picture

 ?  De her da her da WHAT? What are these 'nomenclatures' you speak of?

hooligan2009's picture

most excellent article..

it states a reality that 1) politicians hope to direct towards their interests and away from a natural process of evolution via a process of positive (but temporary and transitory) discrimination doomed to fail, 2) bankers and investors hope to delay or more accurately, predict the term of that evolution for lending or investment terms, 3) that religion MIGHT address by estabishing some sort of moral code (god knows politics is immoral) and 4) there is no paradigm or conditioning/education process in existence that "trains" people in this aspect of "common sense".

it suggests to me that corporations, polticially/exclusively based religions and governments, are outdated devices that, as they always have done, place barriers and restrictions around the free flow of ideas, products, interactions between people. We don't yet have a model going forward. The closest we have so far are social networks and transmission devices like Bitcoin. (Note, I still consider Bitcoin a pyramid scheme that adjusts price to reflect the pyramid scheme of everyone always finding ten more people who pay them).

People can simply meet and talk about ideas without (or despite of) government involvement or the perission of their employers, and it is generally only laws, rules and regulations that choke off ideas or make them prohibitively expensive to carry out or are deemed against the national interest for security reasons.

Anyway, I think this is a great perspective on common sense.


disabledvet's picture

There is only one essential element and that is of course "bankruptcy" or what the US Constituion understood from Day One as "the proper discharge of debts."

The "Revolution" had been paid for by Worthless Continentals...just as this one his you phucking assholes from Texas!...and "The Framers" we're very explicit about not only a: "what constitutes real money" (gold) but what would constitute real money "in our imaginary legal world" (a NATIONAL BANK.).

That could still be created by the way...and indeed in fact does in North Dakota. Nay...veerily "we shall default on everything an blow Jewish confetti out our ass."

To say Americans are feeling liberated from Obama Care is an understatement! The only health care available to ALL AMERICANS (North and South) will be "in a few islands I the Caribbean"...and that will be it!

That's what one TRILLION "printed into existence AND SPENT" gets ya folks!

Now how about those psychiatric wards/prisons!

Wait until the lid blows off on those things!

Son of Loki's picture

With hundreds of thousands immigrants flooding across our borders and through our airports, we can sure use that there "One Child Policy" .....

tickhound's picture

It's a beautiful thing what we do here in our system to benefit credit expansion and bankers...

Contrary to the rest of the animal kingdom...
We actually incentivize the weakest of our species to reproduce and have many many kids. It takes not one of them to run a household, and we achieve credit expansion through loans, grants, outright gifts, benefits and subsidy. We actually subsidize their consumption. We call this "growth."

We dis-incentivize our best and brightest from giving birth. We tell them to postpone marriage, postpone pregnancy cuz we have artificial shit for that. You can get a LOAN for it. At 40 yrs old, she may have one kid. It takes TWO of them to run a household anyway... Cuz we need a CAREER. From this yet to be automated "career" ... We grant loans, benefits, subsidies, and tax breaks. Why have a kid when you need to "buy more shit" .. is the theme here.

China had a "one child left behind limit growth policy." We have a "no child left behind import them from freaking everywhere policy" cuz each human is a potential VISA card credit expander.

We call this phenomenon "economic growth." And it's gooood they say.

angel_of_joy's picture

In a one word summary: Idiocracy... the movie that is.

Gavrikon's picture

How is replacing white children with hundreds of thousands of low-IQ, disease carriers  from south of the border going going to improve anything?

Yen Cross's picture

The tickhound was being facetious, as to incite a reaction. The fact is that he probably hedges all his bets with some broke dik commodites dealer on the Chy-town Merc.

tickhound's picture

He wasn't replying to me you square peg round holer. I'm convinced every time you open your parrot beak you lower the collective cache of this place.

Yen Cross's picture

 Apparently we have (an) common "vested interest" based on our votes?

  Cloward and Pivonesk?