The Jobs Myth

The (un)importance of the “economy”

We need to kill this myth that “everyone needs a job.” No they don’t.

Everyone needs some food, water, some clothes, and shelter, sometimes medicine – and there are other things that are nice to have.

For people to be able to have food, water, clothes and shelter, someone has to do the actual work of producing these things, and for people to have those other nice things, someone has to do the actual work of producing those, too. It would be nice if the work was shared equitably amongst all of us.

But that’s not how our economy actually works. The work is not shared equitably at all, and a lot of “work” that’s done just to earn some money to pay for things we need or want is actually pretty pointless or even counterproductive. If we stopped doing the pointless “work” and shared the useful work out equitably, we’d still have plenty of food and clothes and shelter and medicines and nice things – but we’d have a lot less pollution and waste. And more spare time to do things for pleasure, or to do some of the things that would be worth doing that aren’t being done at the moment.

Sharing the work equitably isn’t an easy job, and it’s never going to be done perfectly. But it could be done a great deal better than it is under the present system, which isn’t even trying to do it.

With a Universal Basic Income (UBI), people could stop doing pointless work just to get an income to pay for what they need. Some people wouldn’t bother to do anything – some people, with private wealth, don’t bother to do anything now – but mostly people prefer to do something, and it’s good for them to do something, too. Most people prefer to do something they feel fulfilled in, and for most people that means something that other people appreciate. With UBI, if what they want to do is paid, well and good, and if not, they can volunteer and they won’t starve. Or they can just get on with it on their own initiative.

With no threat of absolute poverty, there’d be some jobs that might be difficult to get anyone to do. You’d have to offer a fair bit more money – on top of the UBI – to fill that sort of job. Which is only fair – under the present system such jobs are mostly actually pretty badly paid.

Go to the pub if you want. Go to the shops if you want. Travel if you want to. But don’t feel obliged to “support the economy”. You don’t owe them a living. If they’re providing a service enough people want that’s fine, but if not? As long as the people who work there get their UBI, such companies going out of business doesn’t affect the things that actually matter: the supply of food, clothes, shelter and medicine.