My central complaint about the so-called “division of labor” society is: any such society is inherently “brittle”, in that it involves leveraging the “pyramid of ability’ in a very dangerous fashion.
To re-cap: quoting Ayn Rand:
In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong.
Now, here’s the dangerous thing about that:
Such a structure inevitably results in what is effectively the “mollycoddling” of abject stupidity — in that ignorance and blatant irrationality no longer have ‘(blatantly obvious, short-term) “consequences”.
What I mean by this is: You can “get away with” pathologies in “society” which would be ALMOST IMMEDIATELY FATAL (and thus, self-correcting), on a “desert island”.
As Ayn Rand puts it, the “pyramid of ability” involves leveraging those who “would starve” in their “helpless ineptitude”, by prescribing them a (comparatively) limited sequence of ACTIONS which — when performed correctly — “mesh” with the sequences of actions performed by OTHER such individuals.
The important thing about this is: in most cases, NONE of those “drones” have any clear idea of how their specific “function” meshes with either the organization as a whole, or with the civilization of which they are (effectively) an infinitesimal part.
In many cases, this leads to a situation where only a (comparatively) small subset of those involved in an undertaking actually understand even the broad outlines of what they undertaking entails.
As Ayn Rand describes this situation:
If there is any one proof of a man’s incompetence, it is the stagnant mentality of a worker (or of a professor) who, doing some small, routine job in a vast undertaking, does not care to look beyond the lever of a machine (or the lectern of a classroom), does not choose to know how the machine (or the classroom) got there or what makes his job possible, and proclaims that the management of the undertaking is parasitical and unnecessary.
Typically, the ratio of such “long-range” thinkers to the “short-range” type is fairly significantly slanted in favor of the latter, with the result that (merely by virtue of their being more of them before the SHTF, that ratio will (at least early on), remain largely unchanged — despite an overall decrease in the population, itself.
The problem is: what happens to such ignorant drones if they are confronted with a situation where they can no longer “get by” merely by doing whichever “small, routine job” they formerly considered to be their “occupation” or “career?”
They’ve basically gotten by up to that point, by spending most of their time at what Jeff Cooper designated as “condition white“. Moreover, their tacit – or explicit – assumption — was that in the event that something unforeseen came up, “somebody else” would handle it:
Having computer trouble? “Call tech-support”.
Feeling weird? “Go to a doctor”.
Car doing something out of the ordinary? “take it to a mechanic”.
The common denominator of all of the above: “I don’t have to think about this stuff! I can just mindlessly obey the appropriate “authorities” — without even bothering to understand why getting a “second opinion” might be a useful idea.
The whole system of “division of labor” itself tacitly operates by “leveraging” the otherwise pathologically nonviable practice of “buck-passing”.
Now, I realize that Ayn Rand herself was something of an apologist for the “division of labor” and “specialization” and suchlike, but that’s exactly the problem:
“Specialization” itself tacitly — or explicitly — assumes that nothing particularly “out of the ordinary” is likely to happen. For example, Ayn Rand “didn’t have to” keep bottles of water around, because she tacitly assumed that it would continue (“magically!”) flowing from the kitchen faucet, and/or that if it stopped doing so, she could PAY A PLUMBER to diagnose (and correct) the problem.
It is not unreasonable to think that a significant proportion of the population would do the “deer in the headlights” thing, in the event of a SHTF scenario:
The other factor which leads to this is the “Peter Principle”:
Essentially, this is the observation that those filling any given position tend to be just barely capable of doing so. They tend to “rise to the level of their incompetence” — they keep being “promoted”, until they hit a wall of failure.
In most cases, their primary form of “incompetence” is the inability to “learn how to learn. They stagnate at the level where they happen to be just barely performing whatever their specific “function” happens to be.
This also explains the (otherwise incomprehensible) phenomenon of someone being “overqualified” to fill a given position: those who are “too capable” also tend to either be “too ambitious”, or “too” self-motivated. Either way, they (correctly) see their specific “job” at any given point as a MERE MEANS, in relation to some further “end” (which may itself turn out to be a “mere means” toward some subsequent goal.)
So, yeah: the vast majority of “organizations” are initially created by “entrepreneurs” who actually understand WTF they’re doing. Eventually, all organizations (INCLUDING the “organization” known as ‘society” itself) risk degenerating into mere cargo cults:
As Richard Feynman describes the phenomenon:
In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.
So, there you have it:
- The vast majority of the populace are just barely capable of performing whatever (rote-memorized) tasks happen to be involved in their specific ‘career” (if they’re even privileged enough to have been able to choose a career — as opposed to merely taking whatever “job” happened to be available/was foisted on them during their “upbringing”, etc.
- The Peter Principle ensures this level of “just barely competent” functionality across the board, by ensuring that the vast majority only rise to “the level of their incompetence”. They are just barely capable of performing whatever their current “job” happens to be.
- Outside of their “work”-hours, they are actively encouraged (both by those “in authority” over them and by the nature of the “division of labor”) to function as close to “condition white” obliviousness as possible. They are also tacitly or explicitly encouraged to “pass the buck”, whenever “specialized” knowledge might be needed.