2.4.20

Any job you want

Unhappiness is doing a job you don’t like, and worse being denied a job you do.

I’m not talking here simply about everyone wanting to play football or be a Hollywood actor. Plenty of far more mundane fields are saturated. There are a hundred university students majoring in architecture or marine biology for every job available in those fields.

So is that it? Do we throw up our hands and simply say ‘the market rules’, and if the market says that only one person in a hundred who wants to be an architect can be, then the other ninety-nine have to lump it? 

That would depend on your view of what society is for, I suppose. Is society meant to create winners and losers, where the winners become god-level rich, while the rest make do (or not)? Or is society a way of maximising human well-being? The greatest good for the greatest number or the masses as fodder for the ubermensch?  

I’m in the maximising human well-being camp, but if that really is our goal then, so far, we’re doing it wrong. And clearly, if society is a method for maximising human well-being then not being able to do the job you want is a bad thing. Doing work we don’t like is detrimental to mental and physical health

A universal basic income (UBI) would partially solve this problem. Many more people could pursue their dream profession without having to worry about economic ruin. 

But a UBI isn’t going to let anyone who wants to become an astronaut or an airline pilot. Any job that requires large scale infrastructure is still going to be rationed. That problem can’t be solved by anything short of luxury space communism (ie the Star Trek economy).   

But a UBI also wouldn’t solve the problem of job satisfaction. Does it matter if you get to be a musician if no one but your dog ever listens to you play? What point is there in writing papers about your local marine ecology if no one ever reads or acts on them? 

The attention economy would, in this scenario, partially replace the money economy. 

But many jobs don’t need the attention of others, a beautifully flowering garden is all some of us need to be happy. For them a UBI would be sufficient. 

I still believe ‘any job you want even if no one ever knows about it’ is a hundred times better than the alternative, ‘any job you can get or go starve in the street’.

So that’s one argument for UBI, and a better one for luxury space communism. If you ask me, an economy where everyone gets the job they want can’t come soon enough. 

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