Horatio Alger's Efficiency Problem

As I go through my campaign I want to share certain nuggets of thought I have struggled with through the years in order to establish some base critical thought.  This is not just so you understand how I think, but also just to help everyone reflect on issues that are hard to resolve in our broader systems.  Just to put this in the context of one of my overall goals, this also helps to establish a fidelity contract.


The first area I want to address, is a conflict that I feel most of us live with every day but maybe don’t reflect on.  Once we reflect on it, we may begin to see it is a problem that is very difficult to resolve.  Let me start by saying we can classify this as a conflict of two competing American themes that many of us hold.  The first theme is the American work ethic.  Americans love our work ethic. We talk about the productivity of the American worker.  For those of you who want to be more academic about it, we can reflect on the images of Horatio Alger, and the foundation of the Protestant work ethic.  The bottom line is both parties love work ethic.  On the Democratic side, we hear our speeches about equal opportunity to work to get ahead, and policies for “working” class families.  On the Republican side, you’ll hear arguments about government getting in the way of the American worker, or welfare programs serving as a disincentive to work.  We love work.


However, in America we also love our U.S. brands and companies, from Ford and Coca-Cola, to newer companies like Facebook and Tesla.  But I want to focus on one brand in particular, Oldsmobile.  Oldsmobile’s founder, Ransom Eli Olds, was the first person to utilize the assembly line to mass produce automobiles in 1901, as he set up shop in Detroit.  The processes he put in place from fixed stations to repetitive operations to material flows, established the core of what we know today as operations management.  In today’s business environment, not only is this field a data driven science, it is a data driven science supported by never before seen computing and programming power.  The overall theme here is simple: do more with less.  American companies love efficiency.


Thus, the conflict: we love work, and we love companies that want to do more with less work.


*Horatio Alger wrote novels about boys rising out of poverty through hard work in the 1800s.