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Is Following Your Passion Politically Incorrect in the 21st Century?

The Great Seal" by Hammer51012 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 As of late, I have been wondering whatever became of the cultural narrative which used to be a mainstay of American literature and media. I am talking about the storyline where in the protagonist wrestles with the choice between pursuing a career he or she loves or prioritizing  money and job security, with the latter usually advocated by a parent and institutions. As societies across the globe move toward centrally managed economies, the individual loses ground to the collective good, The individual must be corralled by central management to serve the purpose of central management. Passion is a wild card which might lead the individual to create his own path, offering one explanation why the "Follow your Passion" narrative is receding into the dustbin of cultural history as economies, and thus culture, falls under the sway of central management.

My search for the narrative, brought up a slew of articles written to dissuade the reader from following his passion. One, published in Forbes Magazine, in 2018, is titled "Following Your Passion' Is Dead - Here's What To Replace It With" authored by Michal Bohanes, who positions himself as writing about start ups and entrepreneurship in Europe. Mr Bohanes writes that "following your passion presupposes that you have one, but many people don't", adding to the business media's portrait of the masses, as expressed in the Business Insider article, Why Socialist Scandinavia Has Some Of The Highest Inequality In Europe, by Mike Bird. Mr Bird explains the great wealth gap in the Scandinavian countries by stating that the masses don't need to own property (or to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities) because they are so well kept by the state. Mr Bohane's article in Forbes is based on a Stanford University Research Paper, given greater authority by citing laboratory studies. Mr Bohanes identifies "passion" as everything from a fixed mind set, a mystical state, and short-term emotional comfort, in a theory which comes across as advice to public institutions on how to raise children.

In the narratives of the past, entrepreneurial genius was driven by lone individuals with a passion that wouldn't die, but in the twenty-first century, it is coming to be that entrepreneurial opportunity is reserved for large scale investments in "high value" industries" which create "quality jobs", all of which is measured materialistically. A "quality job" is one that pays higher than average wages and benefits. Period. The idea that one's life work could impart meaning to one's life does not compute into the algorithm for world dominance by authoritarian cultures. Is it any wonder that we have reached the point in the USA wherein the private side of the macro-economy is scaling back investments in building non-financial businesses in order to scale up investments in financial assets, which are only wealth accumulation, while China prioritizes production as it passes by the USA on its way to becoming the world's leader in 'high value industry".

Go to Report

I became involved in this quest for the fate of a by gone narrative in response to reading Senator Rubio's report, American Investment in the 21st Century, which identifies a shift in the macroeconomic purpose of American business as reflected by the evolving nature of corporate investments, from investing in building a (non-financial) business to investing in financial assets, following the popular adage "let your money do the work" rather than engaging in the work process at the root of wealth creation. This change describes America's contemporary national character, from a nation where anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and follow one's dream to a country which seeks to concentrate wealth and opportunity at the top and where states compete with each other for high value industries, This leads Rubio to conclude that " The critical policy consideration, then, is not whether states should organize their economies, but how they should be organized", adding that even for a state to chose not to play a central role in organizing the economy is an organizational choice.

Rubio's conclusion is echoed in mid-seventies history when an unelected board, was installed by Maine's Governor Longley to "lead the Legislature", and, openly plotted against Maine's Constitution, when it stated in its report that one of two missions was to "eliminate the requirement for a local referendum on municipal bond issues". This requirement had been constitutionally established only seven years earlier when Maine became a Home Rule State. The Maine Legislature followed through on the board's mission and deemed that "centrally managing the economy is an essential government function". It was then reasoned that central management had to be achieved through public private relationships, a foregone conclusion since Longley's unelected board, composed of the heads of Maine's wealthiest industries, was already in a leadership position driving the Maine Legislature to make its declaration, transforming Maine's Constitutional government and free enterprise system into a centrally managed, government, organized from the top down.

Karl Marx framed the economic system of the American political ideology as capitalism, rather than the more appropriate terms, free enterprise and private capitalism. Since Marx was an atheist, the material world was all there was and so in branding the American economic system as "capitalism", Marx at once branded the whole of the American political philosophy as "capitalism", when in fact private capitalism and free enterprise are emergent from the philosophical basis of the American Constitution premised on the existence of natural rights of the individual. One can follow the emergence of the American economic system from the principle of protecting individualism in Madison's thought process, when Madison states in Federalist Paper #10, that 'The protection of the faculties of man is the first object of government.'

....As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties. James Madison, Federalist Paper #10

Contemporary definitions for capitalism define capitalism as private or free enterprise and define a government controlled and or government owned enterprise as state capitalism, Following the logical framework of sets and subsets, it is more appropriate to define capitalism as the concentration and redistribution of capital and both state and private capitalism as subsets of capitalism, and yet "capitalism" continues to be used as a term identifying the American free enterprise system even as American free enterprise has been progressively evolving toward state capitalism. Centrally managed economies are antithetical to free enterprise, reversing the roles of the state and the people. In a free enterprise economy, the state serves the people, while in a centrally managed economy the people serve the state, the latter leading increasingly down the path toward totalitarianism and the former emergent from the foundational basis of the American political philosophy, based in individual liberty. By equating "capitalism" with "free enterprise" and used popularly as a term of demonization, the sins of all forms of capitalism are attributed to the free enterprise system, even as the free enterprise system is overtaken by what is copacetically referred to as public-private relationships, veiling the establishment of oligarchies and/or centrally managed economies.

Rubio's new report, Made in China, 2025, and the Future of American Business. is addressing the ambitions of China, and how that will affect the United State's economy, noting that " National priorities exist prior to international law", in regards to China's engagement in international trade. Scaling the relationship of global to national down to the most local center, the individual, it is always true that individual priorities exist prior to those of central management. America's free enterprise system is emergent from the premise that the object of government is to protect the liberty of the individual. The founders of the United States of America acknowledged an inherent wisdom in the wholeness of everything which transcends that of man. The Preamble of the Maine Constitution takes it even further with the words, "acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God's aid and direction in its accomplishment".

Objects of government.  We the people of Maine, in order to establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for our mutual defense, promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God's aid and direction in its accomplishment, do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State, by the style and title of the State of Maine and do ordain and establish the following Constitution for the government of the same.
Rubio has often said that America was founded on spiritual principles. Such principles reside in the work process itself, aptly expressed by ancient zen wisdom, "Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water, After enlightenment, chop wood carry water". Needless to say, chopping wood and carrying water is nowhere to be found in the high valued end of  the modern job chain, and therein lies one of our great contemporary mistakes. The high valued job chain is ordered by the state by the measure of profitability. Is it any wonder that the so-called advanced civilizations are dropping the work oriented part of organizational goals and moving into the rarefied realm of pure wealth accumulation, as reported by Senator Rubio in American Investment in the 21st Century

In the mid-twentieth century, America had an abundant, thriving middle class, whose cultural foundation rested on a belief that a meaningful life is realized through love and work. In the twenty first century, the middle class has been spiraling downward since the 1970's, The measure of value, once held by engagement in the work process, has been replaced with money and materiality, witnessed in the increasing acceptance of socialism in America.  It is no longer the first object of government to protect the faculties of man, it is now to provide the masses with all of their material needs. Work is not socially valued as a meaningful activity, enriching one's mental and spiritual experience of life, but merely for the material well being it imparts. Contrarily, "production" has become a dirty word in America, said to be motivated by profit and nothing more, since most have not yet caught up to what Rubio reports in American Investment in the 21st Century, that corporate America is no longer as interested in investing in production and research as it once was and now favors letting accumulated wealth accumulate more accumulated wealth. Corporate America is even dropping investments in research from its portfolio for being too uncertain and too much of a long term goal to satisfy the demands of its governing policy, identified as shareholder primacy in Senator Rubio's report.

Meanwhile, China triumphs production and research as necessary for its growth and success. Rubio's report on China extensively covers industries targeted by China including the information technology, While American companies are withdrawing investments from research in favor of financial assets, China is heavily investing in research in undeveloped areas of technology:
The goals of MIC2025 also extend into technologies which are not yet commercially viable. China’s heavy investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing make the point clearly. China’s AI industry has grown 67 percent over the past year and produced more patents and research papers than its U.S. counterparts. By one estimate, China currently has more than 30 times more capital invested in quantum research than the U.S. Like in robotics, China has sunk considerable physical capital into this project, building a $10 billion National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences, set open in 2020. The sum of these efforts contrasts with a total U.S. investment of about $200 million a year into quantum research. 
Senator Rubio reports that China’s technology companies are increasingly being required to establish Chinese Communist Party groups and that "China’s authorities have contemplated taking ownership stakes in private technology firms, with board seats and direct Communist Party input into firm management.The distinction between China’s state-owned enterprises and its ostensibly private sector technology champion firms is increasingly blurry. In these ways and more, China’s government utilizes the technology sector as an arm of the state’s national apparatus."
“We're entering an era in which we'll be fused together. It might be that there will be a request to establish a Party committee within your company, or that you should let state investors take a stake, you know, as a form of mixed ownership. If you think clearly about this, you really can resonate together with the state. You can receive massive support. But if it's your nature to want to go your own way, to think that your interests differ from what the state is advocating, then you'll probably find that things are painful, more painful than in the past.” reported to have been expressed by Wang Xiaochuan, the CEO of a Chinese search engine company.Made in China, 2025, and the Future of American Business. pg 39
In American the pressure to go along with the program is done with a softer nudge. Is it a coincidence or planned that googling "follow your passion" produces nine first page results, of which six are declaring that following your passion is bad advice? The meaning of the phrase "follow your passion" is nebulous but fundamentally following your passion engages self-determination- deciding for one's self, based on individualized measures of value. When America had a strong middle class this meant balancing work and family and money. One did not need to measure oneself by others. One was wealthy if one could satisfy all the meaningful needs of one's own values. Material values were balanced with other kinds of values. The was no one right way, just many different ways all composing an interactive whole, imploring God's aid and direction in its accomplishment".


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