At The American Conservative, Michael Warren Davis encourages Americans to “learn a trade,” noting that a plumber can easily make $100,000 a year. He notes the labor deficit in the trades, but also the negative stigma attached to manual labor. He writes (abridged):
Corporations need to stop mandating that applicants have useless degrees in subjects they don’t care about. That, I think, is only a matter of time.
But why work for a corporation at all? That’s another bubble we need to pop. Only about 10 percent of Americans are employed in manufacturing and agriculture—that is, they actually make stuff. About four out of five Americans just push money around. We’re reaching peak overcapitalization. Hopefully, President Trump’s protectionism and producerism will become mainstays of the American conservative agenda. And the HR guy at the local shoe factory isn’t going to grill you to see how well you know your Foucault.
In the meantime, learn a trade! A plumber can easily make $100,000 a year. And if you’re not keen on working with human waste, electricians make almost as much. You can train on the job, as opposed to dying of exhaustion for an unpaid internship. Best of all, you can get started immediately and stay in your hometown. There’s a huge labor deficit in the trades. I’ve heard so many old-timers say, “I’d gladly hire any young guy who can spell his own name and isn’t a drug addict.”
The problem is, our culture pooh-poohs manual labor. A white-collar job that pays $40,000 is automatically more prestigious than a blue-collar job that pays $75,000. Success is measured by how clean you keep your fingernails. Americans also see themselves, to quote Steinbeck, as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Most of us will go for the billion-to-one odds of being the next Steve Jobs against the guarantee of an ordinary, comfortable, quiet life. Both are, at bottom, just pretentiousness.
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