Unskilled labor

Genghis Khan divides people. Many love him because he was tolerant of different faiths and believed in a classless society. Others point out rightfully that he destroyed more than he created, and all of the good things he did were a means to his own power.

However, one thing that Genghis Khan was which we should all emulate: a diehard realist.

When his armies conquered a city, he kept his troops from raiding and pillaging and sent in his administrators instead. They performed a simple task: divide the population between skilled labor and unskilled.

The realist principle behind this is simple. Adults who have found something to be good at are both competent and driven; adults who have created nothing, learned nothing and can only be told what to do are not only useless, but also are the groundwork of revolutions.

Because they have nothing to do, no direction of their own, and mismanage everything they have, unmotivated, unintelligent and unskilled people are always told what to do.

This in turn empowers their favorite activity, which is blaming other people for their own incompetence. It’s a subset of the “it’s not my fault, so I should just do what I wanted to do anything, even if it’s selfish” mentality that got them in the unskilled, impoverished and ignored category in the first place.

That’s why when things go badly, they ramp up the blame game until finally revolution is their only course. They cannot see how the unskilled, who by sheer incompetence breed more than others, create the conditions of overpopulation and lack of wealth production (only skills create wealth; unskilled people do some of the labor, but would not create the wealth on their own) that require systemic change. So they create revolutions, aided by the neurotic who because they don’t fit into society, want to destroy it and control the ruins.


When I talk about an ideal society, I’m talking about the upper half of the American- and European-style middle classes setting up a society within a society. It would be a more expensive society when you purchased any one thing; however, it would be inexpensive in terms of your exposure to socialized costs. Less incompetence. Less crime. Less parasitism. It would not be a Utopia, because Utopias don’t exist, but it would be more efficient and more pleasant.

It would have a lower IQ spread, meaning that the population would be roughly of the same intelligence, so that if you hired some guy to fix your back door, he’d be a master carpenter with a college education. The door fix would cost a lot more; however, the work would be of higher quality, and you’d pay less in taxes to support idiots and the damage they do.

In such a society, critics say, we’d be screwed because: who would clean the toilets? who would mow the lawns? who would take care of the kids?

To this I say: there’s a difference between manual labor, or working with your hands, and unskilled labor, or working with your hands on simple repetitive tasks because you have no other choice.

Even the most elite intellectual should do manual labor every day. We should mow our own lawns, fix the minor stuff around own our houses, take care of our own kids, make our own food and clean our own toilets.

Interestingly, the successful people I know — and by that I mean the ones who are headed upward not just in wealth, but personal organization, skills and mental clarity — have no problem with this. They already go to few restaurants. One parent stops working to take care of the kids. They enjoy family-centric tasks like mowing lawns and fixing stuff around the house. The upper half of the middle class in America and Europe seem this way to me, for the most part.

It’s the people who are in the middle between unskilled and skilled, like all the mediocre web designers of the world who have mastered basic Photoshop and PHP and now want to be richly rewarded, who are ambivalent. It’s the lower-level programmers, who understand the basics but will never write an elegant, genius application. It’s the paper-pushers, administrative assistants, and workers who have certifications and some kind of “skill” that is specific to a technology or a process; it’s not the people who have skills that can be applied outside of a specific context, which means they are specialized to a skill area but not a skillset; they have transferable skills. The ambivalent have no transferable skills and so while technically “skilled” know they’re very replaceable.

The non-ambivalent, who are comfortable with their skills, have a can-do mentality. They don’t depend on having servants to feel good about themselves, nor do they engage in the kind of dramatic activity that requires lots of menial laborers to make them feel important. The non-ambivalent have direction and know that ultimately, they’re competing against themselves. To be better programmers. Better teachers, better lawyers, better stonemasons, better builders, better artists, better warriors. Their goal is to exceed themselves, so that each successive instant brings more excitement, efficacy and success.

When Genghis Khan hit a new land, and divided the skilled from the unskilled, he kept the skilled and drove the others ahead of his armies into the weapons of the defenders of the next city. He used them as ultimate cannon fodder. Had Ghenghis Khan had a more holistic view, he would have left greatness behind him; instead, all that he did existed to serve his power, and so what he created not only did not last but fell in disorganized ruins without leaving permanent cultural contributions of its own. However, he did make areas of conquest more prosperous by ridding them of people who clustered around without contributing. And the people in these places learned to clean their own toilets.

From this, several principles can be derived. First is that having people working for you doesn’t make you great; only you can make yourself great. The second is that life does have an immanent order which rewards those who can learn a skill, get personally organized, and apply discipline to themselves. Finally, it’s OK to be rich if you do good for the community as a whole, not performing token competitively altruistic actions to “help” the unskilled, which end up failing like Khan’s did because they serve the external power of the individual, not the power of the whole.

All of these things are stealth taboos in our society. People gain too much of a feeling of importance from flattering the unskilled, and having the unskilled cluster around them to make them feel like A Very Big Deal. However, the people who act this way are by definition not the skilled, but the partially skilled; not the intelligent, but the clever or partial intelligences or “thin intelligences” as Michael Crichton calls them. They would feel lost without their armies of parasites. The future belongs to those who set their own pace and go their own way, without needing the affirmation of the unskilled.

Tags: ,

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on LinkedIn

Recommended Reading