Jobs in America: Puritan values must replace MBA values
Jobs in America will return if hands-on managerial culture – the kind the Puritans exemplified and which created US prosperity – replaces the 'professional' MBA approach to business.
Hackettstown, N.J.; and London
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Almost all, however, look to current or recent developments, not long-term historical trends. Yet the real story of the massive meltdown of 2008 starts not in the late 20th century but in the early 17th.
It was in the 1630s that the Puritan migration to America set the cornerstone for US economic prosperity – and it was our falling away from Puritan values in the 1970s that sowed the seeds of destruction.
This migration endowed the Bay Colony of Massachusetts with four core beliefs: (1) a conviction that the purpose of life, however vaguely conceived, was to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth; (2) an aptitude for the exercise of mechanical skills; (3) a moral outlook that subordinated the interests of the individual to the group; and (4) an ability to assemble and use financial, material, and human resources to a single purpose, on a massive or a lesser scale.
These four beliefs created a powerhouse. The genius of America's inherited "hands-on," "can-do," "up-the-ladder" managerial culture cannot be overstated. In the course of three centuries, it turned a handful of small colonies into the greatest economic and political power on earth.
The perversion of this culture – spurred by the rise of the "professional manager," often with an MBA degree – has hollowed out the US economy and undermined American thrift and self-reliance. Forty years ago, the net national savings rate was 10 percent. Last year, it reached minus 2.5 percent.
The Puritans loved to get their hands dirty
The Puritan journey to America was a masterpiece of organization. Two substantial earlier attempts had failed. Of the 144 people who had sailed for Virginia in 1606, only 38 remained alive by the end of 1607. Of the roughly 100 Pilgrims who had sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, barely half survived until March 1621.
By way of contrast, 200 ships brought 14,000 migrants to the Bay Colony of Massachusetts between 1630 and 1640 – and nearly all survived. Only one ship was lost at sea. This third attempt succeeded because its organizers had mastered the logistics of travel. In 10 short years, they also laid the social, legal, political, religious, and commercial foundations of the future United States.
The Puritans equated godliness with craftsmanship. From the outset, a willingness to become involved in menial tasks, to "get one's hands dirty," distinguished American society from older and more stratified European societies. Managers rose to senior positions only after demonstrating ability at lower levels. Puritanism is, essentially, an attitude of mind and an associated series of practices which, in the right circumstances, can be, and have been, transferred between races, tribes, nations, and even religions.