My wife works in restaurants. I mention this because she knows chefs whose kids used to be embarrassed that their fathers were chefs. Now they’re not. This is the fruits of prosperity.
In a specialized economy, individual genius increasingly reveals itself. The chef as an artist is one of the most visual manifestations of this truth. Whereas chefs used to be cooks working dead-end jobs as cooks, now they’re performers showcasing their unique intelligence. Remember this the next time some self-satisfied nitwit decries “globalization” and “globalists.” Far from an enemy of the working man, the addition of the world’s hands and machines to production is the path to many more men and women exiting work that embarrasses them, or that kills them.
The division of labor that lifts us all came to mind while reading an obituary of BBC talk show host Michael Parkinson by Paul Davison of the Washington Post. Parkinson lived a remarkable professional life as a TV interviewer. His interviewees included John Lennon, Orson Welles, Muhammad Ali, and Madonna.
In a very real sense, Parkinson’s professional life was unlikely. He was from Yorkshire in northern England, and his accent reflected his origins. This is notable because BBC hosts traditionally had what the great Toby Young has referred to as BBC accents: well-bred accents that generally can’t be found in Yorkshire. Yet Parkinson made his way to the top of British television. That he was a television interviewer on its own signaled the genius of globalization. Only in a country defined by immense productivity is their room for the kind of work Parkinson did. When food and shelter become common, people want to be entertained. Parkinson made his living interviewing those who had gotten rich entertaining those with the disposable income to afford entertainment.
All of which brings us to Parkinson’s father. Davison writes that he was a coal miner. One day Michael Parkinson and his classmates were taken to the mines as part of a school field trip. He later told his father “how ‘very clean and bright’ the environment seemed.” His father was apparently incensed. Soon after he took his son “to where the men worked. Down the real mine, into the shafts and tunnels. Not the animated version of what they wanted us to see. I was very frightened.” Davison reports that Parkinson’s father subsequently told his only son that he would “beat him if he ever again came near the mines.” Stop and think about that.
Parkinson’s father was making plain that he was doing thoroughly hideous work so that his son wouldn’t have to. Please keep this in mind the next time Oren Cass, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, or some other well-heeled political/economic personage laments the “loss of jobs” due to “globalization.” They’re embarrassing themselves. That the work of yesterday is increasingly in the rearview mirror is a beautiful sign of global labor division between man and man and man and machine that is rapidly freeing us from the work of the past. Michael Parkinson’s father is evidence of this modern truth.
He risked his life in terrifying mines not because he wanted to, but because a lack of globalization-induced progress limited the ways men could earn a living. His son wouldn’t have to follow his 2nd generation miner father into the mines because globalization thankfully destroys the working past in favor of a much better future. Michael Parkinson would get to work “indoors.” Get it? Hopefully politicians get that life is most miserable in locales where work doesn’t change, as in the very locales least touched by globalization.
Reprinted from RealClear Markets