Work as a four-letter word

Work, it is commonly believed in some circles, is that thing you do to support things you’d rather do instead. This decidedly mercenary approach constitutes denigration, says Francis W. Porretto: work is being defined in terms of its economic significance. This notion is reinforced by endless streams of bogus employment statistics, inflicted on us by an organization — the government — which, despite claims to the contrary, cannot create so much as a single job without depleting the nation’s stores of wealth. (Reminder, not that you need it: government earns no actual money of its own, which is why so much effort is put into inflating the currency.)

There are, indeed, other reasons to work:

He who values money above all else will work at whatever he can do that offers the highest financial return. He who values certain conditions of life, such as the enjoyment he derives from his labors, higher than money will do otherwise. The modern Informational / Industrial Economy allows for both. We are not subsistence-level hunter-gatherers that must follow the bison herds sixteen hours per day, seven days per week, to keep life in our bodies. (To be fair, there might have been Neanderthals who enjoyed it, though I’d bet they kept that fact to themselves.)

In contrast, the denial of the privilege of working, even if cushioned with a comfortable degree of external financial support, is soul-crushing. One’s dependence upon others cannot be concealed, especially from oneself. Worse, one’s irrelevance to others’ well-being is all too plain.

Given the enthusiasm with which some elements of society reject that privilege, I think it’s safe to assume that some souls are so ragged and deformed that crushing them will have no significant effect. How they got that way is open to debate; however, it’s also safe to assume that the persons in whom those souls dwell hotly deny any responsibility for their care.

And what if Bill Quick’s right about the possibility of a “post-scarcity society”?

We’re not going to have magic wands, but there is at least a reasonable chance we will manage strong AI, full nanotechnology, and robust replication systems. The combination of the three just might be all we need… All of the hugger-mugger about how the human race will curl up and die without the goad of getting out of bed in the morning and dragging its ass down to the ditch or the office is, of course, hysterical hooey.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t, but I can speak only for myself.


  1. Dan T. »

    12 February 2014 · 7:28 am

    Hugger-mugger? Interesting word. I’d rather be hugged than mugged.

  2. backwoods conservative »

    12 February 2014 · 8:31 am

    Give me all your money or I’ll hug you to death!

  3. Nicole »

    12 February 2014 · 8:25 pm

    I have no interest in being dependent on anyone else but at the same time I also have no interest in going to work every day. If I could do anything other than work and still be self-sufficient, I’d be all over it. I don’t hate what I do to earn a living but I don’t like it enough for it to be something other than a means to the end of being able to do things I actually do enjoy.

  4. Dick Stanley »

    13 February 2014 · 2:05 am

    Live to work or work to live? Some choice. Got to be a middle ground in there somewhere. Way things are going I think the Democrats are going to help us find it. Then all they have to do is find someone to pay for it.

  5. Roger Green »

    13 February 2014 · 4:25 am

    I thought LOVE was a four-letter word.

  6. hatless in hattiesburg »

    15 February 2014 · 2:36 am

    for me, work isn’t so much the “middle ground” as it is “straddling a chasm”. the job description itself is very well suited to me, the politics under which it must be done is quite the opposite.

RSS feed for comments on this post