2 threads on work

All Possums Go to Heaven @AndyinDC1

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(1) On work.

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Last week, I went on a trip to the beach with my kids. I built a sand castle. It was a lot of work! (I build big sand castles.) Sometimes the kids would wander over and help for a bit and sometimes wander off to do something else. Then the waves washed it away.

Opossum with babies

Proponents of capitalism will say: profit is what motivates us! Critics of the safety net will say: fear of starvation is what motivates us, and handouts will reveal our natural laziness!

To which I say: what absolute bullshit.

Yeah, ok, it’s a sandcastle. I get that. But what a wonderfully living, breathing experience it was. No profit, no punishment, no boss, no schedule, no tasks, no checklist, no employees. We just wanted to do it. And then the sea washed it away and we did something else.

The natural human impulse is to make, create, explore, experiment, and play. When we’re left to our own devices, with no other expectations or obligations, we build sandcastles. We can’t stop ourselves.

We don’t need profit to motivate us to do these things, and we definitely don’t need the fear of ruin to discipline us. To work with our hands to shape the world around us in helpful or beautiful ways is our instinct and our birthright.

Imagine if every act could be like building a sandcastle: no coercion, no exploitation, just fun. That’s our natural instinct, and exactly how our ancestors approached the goals they wished to accomplish.

Some modern hunter gatherer societies, the closest analogies to our deep ancestral forms of society, even lack a word for “work” altogether. The concept of toil is alien to them. All activity is merely play.

  • Play Makes Us Human V: Why Hunter-Gatherers’ Work is Play Peter Gray texy

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading–and please go read Bob Black’s brilliant case against work, which helped me enjoy building that sandcastle even more:

  • The Abolition of Work text

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(2) On the industriousness of children and the misery of work.

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If you’ve ever spent time with children, you’ll notice that they’re absurdly industrious. Maybe not in a useful sense, but they’re always doing something.

Leadbeater’s possum

The notion that human beings are naturally lazy, only motivated by profit or the threat of ruin, doesn’t survive the slightest contact with children.

Redistribution is a core feature of every economy that has ever existed. Welfare, charity, handouts, mutual aid, whatever you want to call it. The right will lie and tell you that these things make people dependent and lazy.

Children readily disprove this lie. When adults care of children, those children don’t stop acting. They never stop! They explore and make art and music and tinker and craft. When people mutually care for each other in a community, we could all do the same.

The idea that we might remain idle not by choice, but because of “unemployment,” a lack of demand for labor or an insufficient supply of wages, is a perversion of our natural instinct to constantly act and create.

The ultimate goal of socialism should be the abolition of all work. Not in the sense of “not doing anything,” as our critics naively imagine, but in the sense of compulsory labor.

The ultimate goal of socialism should be to replace work with play, in the way that a child’s industriousness is done for the sheer joy of acting.

Abolishing jobs, wages, the drudgery and compulsion of work does not mean we’ll stop doing things and fall into sloth and ruin. Socialism is not about “free stuff.” It’s about freeing us to act as we will, to care for ourselves and each other as joyously as children.