Us & Them, What the Difference Is (Using Two Examples)

NEW – June 3, 2022

A lot of water has flowed since the introduction of the first packages of sanctions against Russia because of Ukraine, but it was then that some systemic differences became visible against the background of the global crisis, although it was still a pathetic semblance of today. This topic, in my opinion, is extremely interesting, including its ambiguity.

If we go from the general to the private, then the crisis primarily hits the system and the one that does not have internal mechanisms for compensation of damage suffers the most. There are no ideal systems, but everything, as usual, is learned in comparison. So, despite the massive offensive of the West on all (hybrid) fronts, it turns out that the Russian economy obviously turned out to be noticeably stronger than the Western one, having the potential ability to extract the pros from the cons.

Of course, it’s not evening yet and all the main things are ahead, but at least today this is an indisputable fact by all indicators. And this is despite the fact that Russia, apart from rare counteraction measures, has not yet taken any significant offensive action, keeping the main trump cards at a low start in order to turn them on at the right time, in the right place, completing the process of global redistribution of the world.

That’s when we will see the most interesting, where it will be clear who is worth what, although future winners and losers are already being viewed, as evidenced by the appointment of Russia as the main enemy of the West.

And here it is just interesting to talk about the difference in systems, when, in my opinion, modern Western is focused on uninterrupted logistics based on a deep division of labour, for which people are trained to operate professionally with a maximum of “one button”. It concerns absolutely all industries: from food to light and heavy industry and everything around, including the entire humanities, including education.

In order not to theorise a lot, I will describe some signs on a couple of living examples, one of which I myself was a participant in.

1. It was in 2011 on the English Isle of Wight, where the race of sports sailing yachts “Fastnet 2011” took place. During the qualification, when the English Channel expressed serious dissatisfaction, a gust of wind and at the next tack, the boom of the mainmast was strongly bent – this is such a massive (seemingly) horizontal beam of the largest mast of the vessel. In fact, the boom is a not very heavy hollow structure made of light alloy, which is not so easy to straighten out (due to the fact that it is hollow) without any means, preferably at least some kind of equipment.

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In the evening, we took off this 4-meter thing and dragged it on our shoulders to the nearest workshop, where, as we learned, there are a lot of all sorts of different machines, from lathes to some massive bending machines and a bunch of repairmen-bakers who probably know how to shoe even a flea, even an elephant. Who knows what was on the production line, but we came around 18:00 in full confidence that for a good fee these miracle craftsmen would easily return the championship gloss to our bolide.

What astonishment there was in two moments:

  • their boss, in a company with a couple of hard workers, looked carefully and said that they only produce specific parts here for a serious customer and nothing more.
  • and in general, after 15 minutes the working day ends and the workshop closes.

In short, it was clear that none of them would lift a finger even for a good fee, because they simply do not know how to do anything outside of the operation and those skills for which they are imprisoned in some big scheme.

Well, we, without any means, nevertheless (albeit not to the ideal), returned the boom to the desired form, but the sediment remained.

So, then an interesting picture began to emerge in the world: in the crisis in the West, the middle class, which includes, among other things, such hard workers, is flocking to the square. Some of them even have one machine at home, on which they sharpen some kind of conditional washer all their lives, without even knowing where it will be used. All these conventional washers, paid for like clockwork, according to proven logistics, arrive at a large warehouse, being included in a massive catalog of standardised parts, which (catalog), in turn, is in every manufacturing corporation. For example, a conditional Boeing, where the purchasing manager regularly points his “finger” at the right parts and they magically arrive in the assembly shops, has it.

In this chain, no one cares at all what comes from where, it just exists and, most importantly, at the right time in the right place, because it can not be otherwise.

But then some unexpected crisis comes and the same Boeing and others with it slightly slows down the production process. It seems like nonsense, but conditional washers, the demand for which is falling sharply, arrive at the warehouse in the same flow, starting to overflow the stands and shelves, and at some point a forced “stop” is pressed. That’s all, a hard worker who can’t do anything else and doesn’t even understand for whom he sharpened this stuff and how a complex production is arranged (he doesn’t need it), packed into a web of logistics schemes, finds himself in forced downtime and, since he can’t do anything else, goes with a placard to the street.

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Then, of course, the conditional Boeing will be flooded with money, some of this money (what remains of what was embezzled) will go down the chain and everything more or less calms down.

The moral of this fable is as follows: an economy based on a system of in–depth division of labour is extremely effective in quiet times, but it is generally not adapted to crises, where built-in manual control mechanisms are often important, therefore, over time, when crises began to become more frequent, it developed the only anti-crisis tool – the printing press and its monetary derivatives.

2. I heard this story the other day from the horse’s mouth.

As is known, many Western companies have left the Russian market. Some completely, some suspended activities, some continue to support employees, and some left altogether, slamming the door. And everything would be fine, but this, one way or another, threw many thousands of former employees of Western companies who were left out of work into the labour market. The details are not important here, another thing is important: the labour market was instantly overflowing with free hands of different qualifications, take your pick.

In particular, it is known that the American company Starbucks suspended its work and closed its coffee shops. Suspended temporarily or completely, I repeat, this detail is not important, we’ll see further. The story is like this.

A former purchasing manager (or supply manager) of the central office of Starbucks comes to an interview with a purely Russian fast food company (very high-quality, by the way) to offer their qualified services. This is really a very high-ranking employee who received, attention, 1.5 million rubles a month! A similar rate at the Russian network where they came is 350,000, therefore, purely by external indicators, it looked like the Starbucks supplier was doing a specific favour, courageously going for a more than 4–fold reduction in personal income. That is, the person came to really bless and raise a new (for themselves) company to the skies.

During the interview, it turned out that the candidate for the position does not meet the criteria at all, because they do not know how to do anything at all. Their whole job was to receive applications from all coffee shops once a month, summarise the positions (which is next to nothing) and bring them into one list, then press the right button and not even think about what happens next, where the list flew through electronic channels, where suppliers begin to move, for which logistics schemes are starting to move. The main thing is that at the right time everything will be without alternative in the warehouse in accordance with the list, to the comma. Then another person presses their button and everything is automatically delivered from the warehouse to coffee shops. The circle has closed, everyone is happy, it’s possible to start a new one, no different from the previous one.

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When they tried to explain to the candidate that one mustn’t forget where one is and it’s necessary to move one’s brains, look for suppliers oneself, it is desirable to have several of them and know them personally so that they don’t get impudent, haggle prices, build logistics oneself, see the full picture of the financial and economic situation, without losing sight of the main goal – the profit of the entire enterprise, they did not understand at all what was being said. It is clear that the elite supplier did not pass the interview.

I repeat: there are no ideal systems, but practice shows that in a crisis, the one where not only anti-crisis mechanisms are laid down, allowing not to do cosmetics in the form of an uninterrupted printing press, but there is a vertical of power and manual control mechanisms that allow to keep fundamental indicators, as well as where people themselves are accustomed to multitasking and overcoming difficulties independently.

Naturally, I am not generalising at all (this is not my method) and I know perfectly well how our large holdings took Western experience and were filled with “one button” people according to other people’s patterns. In addition, this was facilitated (and is being promoted) by the notorious Bologna education system, which trains narrow specialists without breadth of knowledge. I also know that, over time, in Russian realities, such companies began to slip and had to redo everything in a local, purely specific way, where personal contact is very important, and not the right button being pressed at the right time. Primitive artificial intelligence can also cope with this.

P.S.

Once Aleksey Kudrin (regardless of what one thinks about him), who was related to the reforms of the 90s, conveyed the words of an American group sitting in the White House and trying to spread American-style capitalism in the Russian expanses:

“you Russians have some other anatomy…”

So much for universal values. What can be said about the Chinese and other such aliens…


Aleksandr Dubrovsky

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