Will The Real Seth Godin Please Grow Up?

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Now this is one smart - and hansome - devil. Well, most of the time ...

I like you, Seth. You're smart as a tack, creative, you call a spade a !@$^$ shovel, and you sport a fine 'do, yo. You've failed in businesses and didn't quit. You persevered. You've identified - accurately - arguably the single most important shift the early Internet age has caused: "permission marketing." What's not to like?

Only your latest post, The Forever Recession.

Well, not ALL of it. Just part of it. In it, you show an all-too-common lack of appreciation for how manufacturing builds and contributes to a society's wealth. And I really wish you hadn't fed that fire. There's too much of it around now as it is.

Your initial premise in the post is spot-on:

"There are two recessions going on.

One is gradually ending. This is the cyclical recession, we have them all the time, they come and they go. Not fun, but not permanent.

The other one, I fear, is here forever. This is the recession of the industrial age, the receding wave of bounty that workers and businesses got as a result of rising productivity but imperfect market communication.

In short: if you're local, we need to buy from you. If you work in town, we need to hire you. If you can do a craft, we can't replace you with a machine.

No longer."

Eloquent, perceptive and accurate. We ARE in a rapidly expanding shift toward global manufacturing channels that develop and shift with breath-taking frequency. I see these small manufacturers every day, with their eyes caught in the headlights. AND I see entrepreneurs with access to amazing manufacturing assets they could have never imagined 10 years ago.

You also nailed what that shift really means to us all:

"The lowest price for any good worth pricing is now available to anyone, anywhere. Which makes the market for boring stuff a lot more perfect than it used to be.

Since the 'factory' work we did is now being mechanized, outsourced or eliminated, it's hard to pay extra for it. And since buyers have so many choices (and much more perfect information about pricing and availability) it's hard to charge extra.

Thus, middle class jobs that existed because companies had no choice are now gone."

You go on to point out that protectionism and stimulus and bitching won't fix squat. (Right again.) And that there are "significant" opportunities to be had for the most clever among us. (Preach it, Seth!)

But then, you went and done something I wish you hadn't - you flew completely off the rails:

"The networked revolution is creating huge profits, significant opportunities and a lot of change. What it's not doing is providing millions of brain-dead, corner office, follow-the-manual middle class jobs. And it's not going to." (Emphasis mine)

For God's sake, Seth ... you seem to have missed some important points in this "recession" that someone with your background (several startups, corporate & consulting experience, acute entrepreneurship) should get by now:

  • Change can and should be managed - The invisible hand is all well and good, but the invisible hand didn't get us into this recession, and it certainly didn't shift manufacturing (middle-class, "brain-dead") jobs overseas, pall mall. To identify this as some sort of natural order is inaccurate and lazy. These people aren't entirely Luddites any more than you're entirely wrong in your observations. We can do better to compete in the global manufacturing economy, and we should.
  • Not everyone is entrepreneurial - You should know from where you were raised that there are salt-of-the-earth folks with remarkable intelligence. But they're no more equipped to shift into entrepreneurship or "creative" knowledge-based work than you are to program a part accurately and feed it through a 5-axis Mori Seiki. Much less make a happy living doing it. Do you have people that work for you, Seth? Are they all Seth Godins? Will they ever be? Does that make them "brain dead?"
  • Manufacturers aren't (and have never been) "brain-dead" - I don't know for sure, but I'll bet you've met more successful, "brain-dead" executives and knowledge workers than I have. To suggest that these jobs are mindless is exclusionary and insulting, particularly to manufacturers (seeing as how you set up the post that way from the 3rd paragraph). A person makes a job "brain-dead," not the other way around. Unless we're talking about governments. Then, I'll give you that one.

Look, maybe it was just a regrettable choice of words. We've all been there. But along with the premise of the post those words seem to portray a "let them eat tech," wide-eyed naivete that's all-to-common among the Ivy-League MBAs that never managed a lemonade stand.

And adding to that misperception - that we can just snap our fingers and evolve to some higher order without managing it, and those that don't "get it" somehow deserve to be sacrificed - is even less helpful than any frustration and anger.

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