Industry Degrees of Connection

A fun parlor game to play with friends while drinking is called “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” also known humorously as “Bacon’s Law.” Kevin Bacon is a famous Hollywood actor, big in the 80s through early 2000s for his roles in movies such as Footloose, Sleepers, Hollow Man, and many more classic films. The game is to figure out in six connections or less, how an actor or actress is connected to Kevin Bacon.

While Bacon’s number is 0, those that worked directly with Bacon have a number of 1, and those that worked with those actors are an additional +1. The further out a person is from Kevin Bacon, the larger their number is with each new degree being an addition of 1. The game assumes that everyone in Hollywood is within six connections or less from actor Kevin Bacon, so the players must provide the chain connection of thespians with six or less connections to Bacon. The winner is typically celebrated with a free drink from those they play with.

The game is a simple reminder of human interconnectedness, and just how small the world, especially a given industry, really is. A normal person may think that they have no chance in another industry, let alone their own. However, out of this game comes the encouragement that within Hollywood, with around 2.5-3 million actors and actresses, with even fewer that are actually making a living acting, a new entry is now only a few degrees away from a well-tenured actor. Some have said that in Hollywood, all actors are only 3 or less degrees from Kevin Bacon. In industries that have even fewer players, the number of degrees away from major industry players dwindles exponentially.

Just as millions of people want to be actors or actresses, those that actually push themselves into the acting industry are far fewer than the number of people who voice their desires or opinions. Maybe you are a political science major and your passion is in the Liberty Movement. In the United States there are around 50,000 people that graduate annually with bachelor’s degrees of political science. The number of currently employed ‘political scientists’ is closer to a total of 8,000 in the US today. Your desire to be an active political scientist is shared with hundreds of thousands of people, but those that get careers are so much fewer. We often get so caught up with the larger number, and do not seem to delve deeper into the actual active numbers, that we lose our confidence and place in the Movement.

With smaller open industries, the interconnectedness is much greater than in a larger industry, and the degrees of separation from a key player is, as a result, much less. This makes for greater opportunity to connect with those persons and to become influential within the industry so long as it is open to others. Smaller open industries also have a negative side effect of allowing for a quicker dismissal and loss of influence because there are more interconnected points. For example, you can quickly enter a smaller populated open industry and become influential, but if anything goes wrong you are much more likely to be ostracized. This is known as social mobility within an industry; that is, the ability to move up or down the given industry’s social hierarchy.

In the Liberty Movement within the US, there are millions of people, but only a few thousand active participants, a couple hundred writers and speakers, a relatively-few major organizations, and maybe a handful of popular voices represented in the mainstream. This indicates that entry is relatively easy, but once something goes awry it can be difficult to work your way out of the social upward-mobility slump created. Just as the division of labor is an essential pillar for the philosophy of liberty, it is also a simple yet practical way of appreciating and understanding social interactions within an industry.

If the labor within an industry are divided, as that is the implied understanding of an industry, and if the goal is to work one’s way up in that industry, it is imperative to treat each interaction with an act of integrity. The way you treat a new member or participant of the industry is the same way you should treat a senior or tenured member, with the same respect and dignity. Sure, you may go out of your way more for someone higher up the hierarchical ladder, but the integrity and respect should remain the same.

Why? Practically speaking, with smaller open industries the mobility to move up or down is much easier, but the movement down tends to be a lot faster than the one going up. So, how we choose to interact with the limited number of people within the industry should reflect the understanding of this greater picture. Learning to improve our communication and persuasiveness is necessary for improving our position within the hierarchy as well as improving the industry and its mission. The division of labor has greater success when each person acts with integrity and appreciates this delicate interconnectivity.

Ethically speaking, how one treats someone who is in a lower position says more about the abuser than it does the abused, and this should be taken into consideration when deciding to work with them. Eventually, the abuser will have to leave their position, whether due to the direct or indirect bad reputation that they have created for themselves. People also grow older, sickness comes, life circumstances change, become less influential, others become the new exciting thing in their work, etc. Industries obviously restructure based on how well that division of labor is perceived to be utilized, as well as by facts of nature.

If you are entering an industry and there is a key player that is preventing your growth, search for other opportunities and keep tabs. It is typical that this is a top-down behavior within their particular organization, and probably not worth working with. If they treat you this way, they will likely treat others that way if not worse. Eventually the organization or member will be replaced, but this should not deter your growth and work in the meantime. The entire industry and Movement surely cannot be thrown out due to a few bad actors. Stay the course, be patient, and remain consistent in your work. Within a small open industry, you can work your way in. By remaining consistent, continuing to produce, working hard, constantly learning, and making positive connections, you will grow upward within your industry. With each of these taken into consideration, you can cut the six degrees in half, and then continue to cut them in half until you get to work with the key player(s) or become the key player yourself: two degrees of Ron Paul.

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Joshua D. Glawson

Joshua D. Glawson is a writer, speaker, and guest lecturer on political philosophy and economics. He resides in California.

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