Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Our culture has a strange obsession with work. I've written about this from a number of angles including our Culture of Insatiability, how a shorter work week would benefit us all , and the impact of this job preoccupation.

Daniel Quinn, one of my favorite authors, wrote Work, Work, Work, a children's book that follows a mole that spends his days digging. From sun up to sun down the mole digs holes, without any thought as to why he spends his life digging nor any appreciation of the fantastic world around him. All he cares about is his work - digging holes.

I bring this up since I was reading this morning's headline that the Tea Partiers would be looking at defense spending cuts as part of their deficit reduction plan. Clicking through to the story, I knew the article would mention the "jobs" trump card. (Our societal trump cards seem to be safety, security, children, and jobs. Just pull those into any discussion and they trump every other consideration.)

And there it was, in the second paragraph of the story:
"Cutting defense and canceling weapons could mean deep spending reductions and high marks from tea partiers as the nation wrestles with a $1.3 trillion deficit. Yet it also could jeopardize thousands of jobs when unemployment is running high."
These marginal defense jobs provide little societal value since we can't eat, wear or beneficially use the output. We'd be better off paying these displaced workers to do community volunteer work which would leave them gainfully employed, with income to spend, creating societal benefits that would be palpable.

If a job is a job is a job, why not pay these folks to dig holes? I suspect most people would see this as a waste of government resources and yet what about the hole digging jobs we'd lose as a result?

In the end, we all need to contribute to our society and there are many ways to do this beyond paid remuneration.

I hope you'll consider these ideas whenever you hear the "Jobs" trump card pulled out in a debate or discussion.

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