Thursday, December 29, 2016
Kudos, or cause for concern?
Today I was reminded of a situation, several actually, where foreign immigrants here in my area have done exceedingly well since coming to America. They all happened to involve Asians or Indians (but it could have been any nationality) who made their fortunes in retail businesses such as convenience stores, grocery stores, liquor stores, home furnishings, women's fashions, etc. They all worked extremely hard, long hours, and saved virtually every cent they made. Being hard working and frugal seems like great virtues, right? But is it really?
What they all seemed to have in common was that they were from countries where poverty was the norm and you either had to work yourself to near exhaustion or you starved. That's the only way they knew how to live. Entire extended families moved here together, pooled their meager cash, and started a business. Mom and dad, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, and spouses worked in shifts keeping their business open sometimes 24-7.
The entire family might have only a couple of vintage cars and live in the same house. They never went out for dinner or enjoyed any recreational activities. It was just work, eat, sleep when you could, then start the process over the next day. The kids would go to school, do their homework, then work their shift at the family business. They were allowed no extracurricular activities. It was a brutal schedule, but it paid off monetarily. Over time they became quite well-to-do.
I've seen this personally when selling homes to them, sitting on college scholarship committees, etc. Understand, this is not to say ALL immigrants live like this. Many quickly adapt the "American lifestyle" (which in retrospect might not have been the wisest thing).
But think of the big picture: How can established businesses here now compete with their extreme work ethic and pay "brother-in-law" wages that almost demand a communal lifestyle? Aren't these the conditions that spawned labor unions a century ago? If everyone is working extreme hours and pinching every penny, would our economy collapse? Will this become more common with our next incoming wave of immigrants? For capitalism to work, enough people have to spend to keep the cycle going.
Where is the fine line between working hard, living modestly, and saving vs enjoying the fruits of your labor, ie: living one family per residence, each adult having a car, enjoying eating out occasionally, taking a vacation, etc? Will we someday find an economic equilibrium (statistics say we may be doing that right now), and if so, how much social upheaval, either locally, regionally, or nationally, will this transition cause our society?
I don't have an answer. It obviously isn't a black or white issue. Your thoughts?