Posts Tagged ‘“Big Three”’

“Those nations once have had originality; they did not start out of the ground populous, lettered, and versed in many of the arts of life; they made themselves all this, and were then the greatest and most powerful nations of the world.”

–John Stuart Mill

Having grown up in the Metro Detroit area all my life, the downfall of the “Big Three”—Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors—approximately one year ago was a huge blow. Not only did I have family involved in those companies, but I had numerous friends and neighbors affected by their downfall as well. This country, but especially this area, was taught a lesson—an incredibly painful and heartbreaking one— you get what you deserve.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) was created in 1935 in an effort to defend auto workers’ rights (“UAW History”). Its definition of “workers’ rights” has expanded into overcompensation for tedious jobs virtually any person could undertake. According to Mark J. Perry, in 2006, the average “Big Three” auto worker was making somewhere between $141,020 and $151,720 per year! The average auto worker, also, had merely a high school degree. These workers—doing repetitive jobs, like working a forklift or working on an assembly line—were making more than professors, business owners, even some doctors. With the economic downturn, people began to realize it was not the 1950’s anymore. It would not suffice to simply attend high school and get a diploma when, as Mill said, “There is only too great a tendency in the best beliefs and practices to degenerate into the mechanical.” These people would become production workers for 40 years, and continue to reap massive benefits 30 years after retirement. It allowed for laziness in the workplace and required very little education when “…mental and moral [power]… are improved only by being used” (Mill).

Mill once said: “A people, it appears, may be progressive for a certain length of time, and then stop: when does it stop? When it ceases to possess individuality.” He would have been appalled at the way society acted. The genius of the car companies was not in the past 30 or even 60 years. It was with the invention of the automobile and the birth of the car companies in the early 20th century. That was when real innovation took place. That was where genius was able “…to unfold itself freely both in thought and in practice” (Mill). Most present-day auto workers are, frankly, undereducated and overpaid. It is a job with no outlet for expression or room for creativity.

Mill was a firm believer in individuality and the belief that “Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom”. He would have encouraged higher education. The more education a person has, the more opportunities he has for advancement. Needless to say, the recession has taught the United States a lesson. If it wants to compete internationally, it will need better educated workers. The time has come for people to attend college, at least, and perhaps go on to attend graduate school. The United States can no longer be an industrial nation, focused solely on cars. Its shift must focus—to one of scientific advancement. To compete globally and maintain its global standing, it must have the most educated and skilled workers in the world.

Works Cited

Mill, John S. “On Liberty: Chapter III: Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being.” Modern Political Thought Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd ed. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Company, Inc., 2008. 621-28. Print.

Perry, Mark J. “Transformational UAW Deal? Accept Professors’ Pay.” Web blog post. Carpe Diem. 11 July 2007. Web. 2 Dec. 2009. <http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2007/07/uaw-pricing-themselves-out-of-market.html&gt;.

“UAW History – Seventy Years of Solidarity.” Welcome to the UAW. Web. 04 Dec. 2009. <http://www.uaw.org/history/uaw70years.html&gt;.

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