Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Work And Pleasure

Three pointed articles:

...suggest that the Democrats' attempts to celebrate the disincentives-to-work created by ObamaCare might be as potent a poison to their electoral hopes this coming November as the law itself. The columnists above, and this squib from Ann Althouse:

"Why Do Republicans Want Us to Work All the Time?"

Asks a professor of leisure studies in The New Republic.

When you sort the comments by "best," this comes up on top:

To answer the writer's question, we don't want you to work all the time, we don't give a flying shit what you do.. We just don't want to have to pay for your life of leisure. Do what you want, leave me alone.

...are indicative of the mood among normal Americans who both work and understand the several values of work.

Work is denigrated by being reduced to its economic significance. In Twenty-First Century America:

  • Work builds character and self-respect.
  • Work engenders a spirit of independence.
  • Work establishes oneself in one's community.
  • Work fulfills of our nature as "project pursuers."
  • Work rationally selected and pursued is pleasurable.

That last facet of work in modern America is the one most frequently overlooked.

Because of the extraordinary variety of occupations available in our society, virtually any able-bodied American can find and pursue work that will support him and that he enjoys. I have friends and acquaintances who have voluntarily renounced the possibility of much more lavish standards of living specifically to work at trades they love. No doubt any Gentle Reader could say the same.

It all depends on one's priorities. 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. Note that prison inmates denied work are prone to acting out far more than inmates to whom the privilege of work is available.

There's been much discussion of the downside of the now-dominant two-income family, but little of the non-financial reasons it's become commonplace. One of them is that many women have found work they enjoy, and are willing to pursue it at the cost of forty or fifty hours of leisure time per week. If it costs them time with the kids, or a reduction in their neighborhood involvements, or the dubious fulfillments of daytime television, they endure those sacrifices willingly, and in the usual case with good humor.

Pity the man who has been denied the privilege of work, or successfully discouraged by external disincentives from seeking it. Don't bother to pity the politician who created those disincentives; he'll get his just deserts in November.

The above might sound a bit strange coming from me, as it's fairly well known that I'm near to retiring and anticipating it eagerly. But that's not the whole picture, as I have more than one vocation. I look forward to retirement as a way to liberate time and energy for other productive pursuits, especially the writing of fiction.

Many retirees who attempt total leisure find it unpleasant: boring and pointless. That also applies to persons who think to fill their days with pastimes such as golf. The great difference between such activities and work is seldom appreciated until it's been personally experienced.

Conservatives should hope the Democrats persist in their attempt to portray ObamaCare-induced idleness as a positive good. Americans are still sensible enough, in the main, to react to such nonsense properly. It's my guess that those of us currently unable to find work who'll provide the strongest reaction. And what poetic justice it will be to have Democrats ejected from office pounding the pavement, looking for work in this sluggish economy along with the rest!


The Quiet Man said...

The problem is that those democrats ejected from office won't be pounding the pavement looking for work with the rest of us. Those individuals have managed to insulate themselves, by and large, from the consequences of their policies. When they are replaced they go away with outstanding parting gifts...generous "retirement" and healthcare. And that's not including the well feathered nest they provided themselves with during their time in our employ. I wish that defeating them at the polls would be a punishment and a hardship for them, but the reality is that it's just not.

Shakes said...

The fact that we have to have this discussion tells me we as a nation have completely disengaged from common sense and simple logic.
"Really, it's a good thing to be able to keep a roof over your head, food in your belly and clothes on your back. Even better if you get to make a choice as to the quality of those things you consume and use."

Perhaps if we explain it as if we were talking to five year olds.
No, wait, the government is going to take care of all of that for us. This can't end well.