Godfrey’s musings: Why are people poor? (Part 17)

When we were growing up, many of us had parents who told us to study hard, so we can get a good job, and earn a stable living.  The keyword is stable.  They didn’t say get rich.  They say stable.  Being stable inevitably means being employees.  Who are employees?  An employee is a person who’s hired to do something for a wage.  An employee’s biggest asset is not his skills, but his time.  His time translates to money for his bosses.

Employees are dispensable

An employee is dispensable.  A managing partner once (“jokingly”) told me, “Other than me and [the other managing partner], everyone at our firm is dispensable.”  Ain’t that the truth.  An employee can be easily replaced.  If the employee is hard working, then he can take up the work of two employees.  This helps the bosses lower costs.  The bosses don’t care who they hire (unless you’re the client’s son).  The bosses only care about profit.

What is poverty?

There are many different definitions of poverty.  The HKSAR Government has artificially set a “poverty line.”  Everyone below the “poverty line” is in poverty.  I’ve always joked that to eradicate poverty, the government only needs to re-define the “poverty line” such that no one will be categorised as “poor”.  But there is so much more than the poverty line.  Some have written that poor people “choose” to be poor.  That’s a little extreme.

People can choose to think rich

What makes poor and rich people different isn’t just how much money they have.  It’s how they think.  Poor people think about saving money.  Rich people think about making more money.  I think the ideal is to do both — save and make money.  May people say that money doesn’t give you happiness.  That is true.  But the reality is that you need enough money (be it passive income) for financial independence.  Independence gives freedom.

Difference between rich and poor

A poor man spends most of his time working to make others rich.  A poor man has nothing other than his time to offer.  He works overtime to makes his bosses richer.  He simply trades at least 10 hours a day in exchange for a meagre salary.  In other words, he trades his time for a fixed wage.  Life is fair — no matter how rich you are, you only have 24 hours a day.  Bosses know this, and that’s why they hire employees — for their time.

Time is money (it’s true)

If an employee works 10 hours a day, and an employer hires 10 employees, effectively the employer will have 100 hours a day of productivity.  All he has to do is pay the lowest wage that is just enough to keep the employee from quitting his job.  This is what Karl Marx calls exploitation by the bourgeois.  This is a fact of capitalism — time is money, and your time is your bosses’ money.  What the bosses have is a system that works for them.

People are poor not because they don’t have money.  They are poor because of their mindset — they want to live a stable life, meaning to comfortably live a painful life.  Poor people use their entire lives to make rich people richer and themselves poorer.  Poor people don’t rebel against their employers so long as they are paid just enough to buy just enough bread to sustain their survival so they can live another day.  This is called employment, something that the rich have invented to make them richer, and the poor, poorer.


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