How important is work?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Why Do Americans Work So Much?

Economist Benjamin M. Friedman studied why “increased productivity has not translated into increased leisure time”.  One reason may be that because of economic inequality, the gains of increasing productivity are not widely shared.  But that’s not the whole explanation, because rich people work very hard.

… he theorized that for many top earners, work is a labor of love. They are doing work they care about and are interested in, and doing more of it isn’t such a burden—it may even be a pleasure. They derive meaning from their jobs, and it is an important part of how they think of themselves. And, of course, they are compensated for it at a level that makes it worth their while.

Is there a danger in eliminating the need for work?

Mickey Kaus fears a future in which robots do all the work and we, consequently, have no basis for self-respect.
“Evolutionarily, we are designed for work. We are unhappy when we’re not working. We become a sociopathic bachelor herd…. What do we do with all these people who have no productive work?”

Even if robots don’t eliminate the pressing need to work for money, would a universal basic income cause more people to forego employment?  Earlier this month Switzerland overwhelmingly rejected a plan to give a guaranteed monthly income to all residents.

The Dream—Or Is It a Nightmare?—of No Work

Work gives people something welfare never can. It’s a sense of self-worth and mastery, the feeling that we are in control of our lives. This is a source of abiding joy…. Studies show that people who receive public support are twice as likely as those not receiving public support to report feeling worthless. “Very happy” people work more hours each week than those who are “pretty happy,” who in turn work more hours than those who are “not too happy.”

Some people find it hard to imagine a fulfilled life without doing paid work or playing a key role in raising children.  Others find fulfillment in volunteer work.  What do you think?  How important is work?  Is it vital for self-respect and dignity?  Do we “need” to work?

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