These days, to be an economist is to be the life of the party. Although I don’t go to many parties, there has been a steady stream of workmen in our home this summer. When they find out that I’m an economist, they feel an urge to share their opinions on the future of the economy and how to fix it. More often than not, they seem to have no interest in my views.
Not that I’m offended by their lack of interest in my views. I find it fascinating to listen to theirs, and I learn a lot by doing so. The other day a heating technician was in our home. He is a man in his late 20s, and we have dealt with him many times. He is a fine problem solver, excellent at what he does, and hard working. Let’s call him Jack.
When the topic came to the economy, Jack began to tell me that the problem was that too many jobs are being shipped overseas. He told me about his father who was a well-paid machinist until age 57 when he lost his job. In Jack’s words “it was shipped overseas.” Jack explained that his dad had no other skills and could do nothing else; when he lost his job, his health began to slip. His father’s diabetes began to flare up, and now his father is on a disability pension.
Somehow the topic turned to computers. Jack explained with a broad smile that he had no use for computers, that he wasn’t any good at them, and that he could never learn them. I was puzzled. Our heating units are very high-tech and Jack was a wiz at fixing them. Where did he get the idea that he could never be good at computers?
As I listened to Jack, I could imagine hearing Jack’s father saying those very words over and over at home while Jack was growing up. Jack’s father’s job didn’t come to a sudden end. Instead, machinists’ jobs were in steady decline over decades. Many times, the topic may have come up about what would Jack’s father do when he finally lost his job. And like a mantra, the hypnotic refrain may have been repeated—I’m only a machinist, that is all I can do, and I can never learn computers.
We are all Jack and we are all Jack’s father. We all are blinded and crippled by at least some limiting beliefs and stories that we tell ourselves about what we can and cannot do. Our beliefs are frequently contradictory and absurd, but they make sense to us. Like Jack, we may shop at Wal-Mart but complain about jobs being lost to China. We may secretly relish being a victim and argue strongly for the story of our victimhood. And we may be waiting for the right politician to save us.
Like many of us, Jack has chosen to adopt at least some of his father’s beliefs about what he can and cannot do. And in that, we find the genesis of the strange passion that many generate over who will be the next president of the United States. Not that there is a real choice, but many are hoping that someone external to themselves can save them.
Obama can’t. Nor can McCain. Only we can challenge our beliefs—beliefs that block us from using the invisible supply of energy that is ready to flow through us.
Invisible supply? Joel Goldsmith writes, “Ideas, inspiration, intelligence, wisdom, service, or love bring about the forms of supply, but they themselves are invisible. Only the results are visible.”
These are qualities that need not be added to us; instead these are qualities that we express. Since we need but allow ourselves to express these qualities, the zero-sum mentality that politicians encourage is corrosive to both the well-being of our nation as well as to each of us. After all, how can someone who is encouraged to see himself as a helpless victim change?
Could Jack or Jack’s father learn computers or another field? Of course. Might it be difficult and time-consuming? Yes, of course. But the invisible supply will work through them, and it will use their talents—if they allow themselves to express their talents. And for that to happen, they first need to drop their stories.
Rose Wilder Lane in her riveting book The Discovery of Freedom writes:
For six thousand years at least, a majority has generally believed in pagan gods. A pagan god, whatever it is called, is an Authority which (men believe) controls the energy, the acts and therefore the fate of all individuals.
The pagan view of the universe is that it is static, motionless, limited and controlled by an Authority. The pagan view of man is that individuals are, and by their nature should and must be, controlled by some Authority outside themselves.
Of course, as Lane demonstrates, this view that others can and should control your energy is false. It results in poverty and misery. Nobody can save us from our own false beliefs.