Once again, America battles an old enemy, inflation. The last time we faced this lethal threat, I asked myself how can I, me, an individual, fight inflation? I cannot raise interest rates, decrease the money supply, or lower government spending. Then I recalled that inflation is inversely correlated with unemployment.
When unemployment is low, more people have jobs and businesses typically offer higher wages to fill jobs. More jobs and higher wages stoke inflation. However, higher unemployment suppresses job creation, wages, and consumer spending, thus restraining inflation. So, way back in 2000, I decided to start giving back to the country that had treated me well. “It is time for me to give back to society,” I told my wife. “I am going to fight inflation.”
“How?” she asked.
“By joining the unemployed. This allows me to fight inflation 24 hours a day. I can fight inflation even while I sleep.” Twenty-three years later, I am still battling inflation by resolutely remaining unemployed. In 2010, my wife asked if I was ever going to look for a job. “I have a job,” I answered. “A very demanding job. I fight inflation.”
“Let me rephrase my question,'” she said. “Are you ever going to look for a paying job?”
“Steady pay is just one of the sacrifices demanded of inflation fighters,” I replied. “We also relinquish daily commutation and the attendant traffic jams. We forfeit attending endless meetings that accomplish nothing. We even give up annual performance reviews.”
“But last year inflation was negative, minus 0.36%,” my wife observed.
“See, it’s working. Inflation is under control because of the sacrifices made by me and my fellow citizens. To fight inflation, we are willing to remain unemployed, even if we have to forgo free Corporate DEI training.”
“Inflation fighters don’t get free DEI training? Your life sounds barren and empty,” she said.
“It’s not empty because I’m part of something larger than myself. I give hope to a nation battered by inflation,” I responded.
My job isn’t easy. Sometimes I say to myself, let someone else fight inflation. Let others quit their jobs. Let them try to sleep to 9:30 am and then spend two hours with breakfast and the newspaper. Let someone else spend afternoons golfing, reading, going to museums, bicycling, writing, playing bridge, on Zoom calls with grandchildren, shop for food and then cooking a superb meal, napping, laughing and whatever tickles their desires. Let them try frittering away their evenings by dining with friends and enjoying fine wines, and attending plays, lectures, operas, concerts, ballets, and discussion groups.
Most people aren’t tough enough to bear this routine for a single day. They could not survive without the pleasures of the corporate world — the joys of sucking up to supervisors and demeaning subordinates, the comfort of blaming others for failure and claiming credit for other’s success. They would miss being copied on irrelevant corporate emails, and the delightful taste of stale office coffee and the moldy mystery food left in office fridge after the good food has been stolen.
Most of all they would miss the people — the guy who gets drunk at office parties, his friend who smells like cheese, the woman who chews on pencils until they look like the remains of a warthog attack, the back-stabbing careerists, the jerk who constantly talks about horoscopes, the Whistler who whistles all day and his sidekick, The Tapper, who loudly taps his foot all day.
Once unemployed most would grieve for the loss of the corporate gossip, bitter feuds, and petty jealousies that once gave meaning to their lives. They lack the gumption to remain unemployed. They would return to a cushy corporate job in two weeks. I cannot count on others to fight inflation becoming unemployed. That is why I say to myself, “If not me who? If not now, when?”
And I recommit to unemployment. However, constantly resisting the temptation of employment is arduous. Last week, I read about a new management fad labeled holacracy that replaced the traditional pyramidal corporate structure with a series of nested circles featuring “lead links,” “tacticals,” and other jargon.
I then recalled the thrills of implementing management’s latest great idea, the passion of the consultants exploring new business paradigms, the exhilarating training sessions that we all cherished, the stimulation of interdepartmental meetings as executives envisaged the brave new corporate world. Successively, we were introduced to Six Sigma, MBO (management by objective), Matrix management, TQM (total quality management), 360-Degree Feedback, Business Process Reengineering, etc. All were concisely and cogently revealed by multicolored, animated power point presentations. I began wondering if I should look for a job as an holacracy consultant.
Then I remembered that these management panaceas never worked. They only wasted oodles of time and money. The employees hated and ridiculed them. After much deliberation I decided to continue my laser-like focus on impeding inflation by staying unemployed.