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The give-me-economy versus the make-it-economy

Posted by Bert Maes on April 1, 2011

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I have been lucky to visit Honduras in Central America. Honduras is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.

The Belgian backpacker Geert Van Vaeck who started his own ViaVia Travellers Café nine years ago in Honduras told me that he doesn’t expect decent economic or social change in the future. “Politicians and civilians here are used to just receiving money in the form of tips, without using it to build the community. We live here in a give-me-economy,” Geert said.

But not only Honduras is a nation of takers. Your country is nation of takers too. “We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers,” Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal claims. “Don’t expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government”, with a career offering lifetime security, no risks. “It is a system that breeds mediocrity, which is what we’ve gotten. Government jobs are being considered a life time job with rich benefits; all of which get paid by the taxpayers!

In a recent study of Apple and Goldman-Sachs financials by John Cassidy of The New Yorker, it is estimated that the average Apple employee makes $46,000 per year. That same study concluded that at Goldman-Sachs the average salary is $430,700 per year. One of those companies “makes” a product that is sold and the other… manages money.

An economy grows by making things, not by taking things. The economy is built and financed through manufacturing. Losing manufacturing is like stopping the motor of the world.

More people should be ‘nation builders’, more people should go in manufacturing again.

(…and nation building does not mean bombing other countries…)

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4 Responses to “The give-me-economy versus the make-it-economy”

  1. Fabiola said

    This is great Bert!
    Thanks for keeping your eye and heart in Latin America.
    As a Mexican I would add to your thinking that as well as manufacturing, we need to give value to agriculture in our Latin American countries. If governments appreciated the land work more, a lot of people would not have to move out into their cities where they only become poorer (if not have the needed education to compete in the modern world) lose values, their communities, and get into a lot of sociological problems.

    I am impressed at how in Europe people can live in the rural areas and have all they need. Is not the case out there. But I am hopeful, because we are in the age of the people movement and your writing on this is part of the solution!

    Big thanks!
    Ps. Read my blog on ¨Eusebio and Walmart¨

    • Bert Maes said

      Nice reply, Fabiola. I have not been in Mexico yet, but I hope to do it soon – still I understand your argument: beside the image of manufacturing, we need to improve the image of agriculture too. It is an equally essential sector in the economy – and maybe even more important. Because in my view the very first thing to do on this planet is to get people healthy. That starts with cleaning up our agriculture and restoring the health of our soil. And that in turn is done a.o. by planting trees to bring new life to a demineralised soil. I know that is dear to your heart and mine.
      If we don’t make such investments in agriculture (and health, and education, and infrastructure) in Mexico 1) as you say: families will be destablized , and 2) there is no way manufacturing can grow (needed to give people a sufficient standard of living
      So what you are doing with 3-FORCE is part of the solution too! Keep going!

  2. Franc said

    Very good observation. Only, what is the average salary of a Goldman Sachs employee if you do not count in the top earners. I think a good machinist makes then more money then the financial employee. The only thing is, people do not see this and only see the very high salaries and bonusses.

    • Bert Maes said

      You got a point there, Franc. Manufacturing is paying high salaries. But outsiders don’t see it. Manufacturing is an invisible sector that is building, making and creating all the things you are using every day. But outsiders don’t know it.

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