Do billionaires work a billion times harder than ordinary people?

No they don’t. If that were true then we may as well ask if Singaporeans work ten times harder than Filipinos seeing that their per capita income is ten times that of the Philippines.

As a matter of fact, billionaires and Singaporeans work less than the average Filipino. For that matter, rich people work less hard compared to poor people. The essence of this principle was captured by national artist Nick Joaquin in his seminal piece “A Heritage of Smallness” where he observed…

The Filipino who travels abroad gets to thinking that his is the hardest working country in the world. By six or seven in the morning we are already up on our way to work, shops and markets are open; the wheels of industry are already agrind. Abroad, especially in the West, if you go out at seven in the morning you’re in a dead-town. Everybody’s still in bed; everything’s still closed up. Activity doesn’t begin till nine or ten– and ceases promptly at five p.m. By six, the business sections are dead towns again. The entire cities go to sleep on weekends. They have a shorter working day, a shorter working week. Yet they pile up more mileage than we who work all day and all week.

To that seeming riddle, Joaquin proposes a simple answer…

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We work more but make less. Why? Because we act on such a pygmy scale. Abroad they would think you mad if you went in a store and tried to buy just one stick of cigarette. They don’t operate on the scale. The difference is greater than between having and not having; the difference is in the way of thinking. They are accustomed to thinking dynamically. We have the habit, whatever our individual resources, of thinking poor, of thinking petty.

He elaborates further…

What most astonishes foreigners in the Philippines is that this is a country, perhaps the only one in the world, where people buy and sell one stick of cigarette, half a head of garlic, a dab of pomade, part of the contents of a can or bottle, one single egg, one single banana. To foreigners used to buying things by the carton or the dozen or pound and in the large economy sizes, the exquisite transactions of Philippine tingis cannot but seem Lilliputian. So much effort by so many for so little. Like all those children risking neck and limb in the traffic to sell one stick of cigarette at a time. Or those grown-up men hunting the sidewalks all day to sell a puppy or a lantern or a pair of socks. The amount of effort they spend seems out of all proportion to the returns. Such folk are, obviously, not enough. Laboriousness just can never be the equal of labor as skill, labor as audacity, labor as enterprise.

The trouble with commie “activists” is that they subscribe to the idea that laborious work is good in and of itself and, by itself, entitles one to “just” wages. How do they define a “just” wage? Why, on the basis of what one needs to lead a “decent” life. In short, for the commies, need is what determines value. This is perhaps why they see no other option but to destroy capitalist societies and their free markets through violent “revolution” and the installation of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” to enforce the idea that need equals value. A free capitalist economy will not value labour on the basis of need. Workers will be valued according to added value to the enterprise. Whether that enterprise be a business or a country, the output of labour is what determines the value of said labour. Reiterating Joaquin’s assertion:

Laboriousness just can never be the equal of labor as skill, labor as audacity, labor as enterprise.

Commies don’t see it that way, which is why they believe in holding a gun to people’s heads as a means to ensure their idea of laboriousness and need being the sole determinants of amount of wages paid is held sacred. The way things are going for the Philippines, unfortunately, may mean labour will need to engage in highway robbery to get their “just” wages. Another “thought leader” today again cites what seems to be an increasingly untenable situation surrounding the Philippines’ labour pool. In his Inquirer piece today, Jose Ma Montelibano writes…

The World bank’s learning poverty results of 10-year-old Filipinos determined that 91% of them are struggling to read simple text. The struggle to read simple text guarantees our future workers 10 to 15 years from now will still be struggling to read and comprehend, not just simple words, but operational instructions required in the workplace.

In other words, our young students below 10 years old and above 15 years old today are not only failing but falling far behind their counterparts in most of the world, including in Asia. They have been failing before they were 10 years old, and the World Bank studied just caught them at that age. They are also failing and falling behind as 15-year-olds as caught by the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), situated at the near bottom of all countries assessed.

…echoing his peers’ thoughts issued in recent weeks.

It’s simple, really.

Filipinos need to work smarter, not harder. This means investing in expanding the capital base of their economy. Contrary to what the commies would have us believe, capital works for us. A highly-capitalised economy means there is enough infrastructure, machinery, tools, and knowledge to help workers do more for less physical effort. A farmer equipped with a tractor can till land a hundred times faster than one equipped with a kalabaw. A driver of a bus can move six to seven times the number of people a walohan jeepney can. Military powers can kill thousands of enemy soldiers with a single missile strike compared to armies equipped with paltiks. Do the formers work harder than the latters in all these examples? Certainly not — at least one would think if one is not a communist.

2 Replies to “Do billionaires work a billion times harder than ordinary people?”

  1. How does a filipino farmer invest in a tractor instead of using a “kalabaw” when the farmer earns little to nothing compared to how much a tractor cost, how much in operating cost and maintenance?
    It’s easy to argue that people just have to work smarter without explaining how exactly…
    It’s like saying to a pupil that he needs to get better grades in school without helping him and/or explaining how exactly he can get better grades.

  2. I think self-sufficiency should be the goal in working smarter. But if working smarter means other people need to depend on my business to sustain my wealth, then that’s another mindset that disempowers everyone concerned in the long run.

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