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To have a job or not should be a real choice

By Brian Holden - posted Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I was informed by my dad that the reason that the ancient Greek culture broke new ground in analytical thinking was due to theirs being the first civilization to have a sizable leisure class. But to an increasing number of us, the word 'leisure' means a spell to recover between periods of near-exhaustion.

Do we have to work as hard as we do? What are we really working for? Why do the majority have to spend the best part of their lives doing what they do not want to do? Why are those who cannot get a job feeling so disenfranchised from society? This cannot be the way we are meant to live.

It seems that for the First Peoples of this continent there was plenty of free time for everybody to play and tell stories once the communal hunting and gathering had been done. It was a care-free life while there was still water in the creeks. The wretched crew of HMS Bounty in 1789 who were born into an economy of laissez-faire capitalism discovered in Tahiti what life should be all about.


Now, if a generally good life was possible to be had by all in 18th century low-tech Tahitian society, it would seem to logically follow that a better life could be had by all in this country of vast natural resources which is also technologically capable of treating human mental and physical disorders and over-riding natural threats such as prolonged droughts. So, what went wrong?

What went wrong is that we have a culture of excessive consumption which has been created by big business to suit big business (and ably assisted by development-minded politicians). Because it is the culture which wires our brains to interpret what is normal, our brains have been wired to believe that the capitalistic system we have is good for us. We are now in the trap capitalism needs us to be in for it to function.

Of course, communism was guilty of exactly the same manipulation of the thinking of the masses. Unfortunately, the dismal history of communism has almost killed-off interest in the possible good socialism is capable of delivering. Socialism, when it works as it should, is the enhancement of community-think at the expense of individual-think.

A silly idea which makes sense

When I was a young adult there was some speculation that in maybe 30 years, only half of the adult population would be employed. They would be the core who must have a structured working life to be happy. That half would be so productive that the remaining half would form a leisure class kept content and active with study and crafts and voluntary community work and sport.

The grand idea all those years ago was that if those who don't wish to be employed can fully share in the wealth generated by those who do wish to be employed, there would be no unemployment problem. There would be nobody feeling rejected and very few feeling envious because we would have the economic freedom to chose or not to chose to have a job.


In this new economic order where one can be adequately paid to stay out of the workforce, there can be no doubt that a lot would take the job option. I know a man who is still in his professional job at age 80. There can also be no doubt that a lot would take the no-job option. I have been a member of the leisure class since 1988, and have enjoyed the experience far more than I ever enjoyed having a job.

By the dawn of the new millennium, long forgotten was that utopian idea born in an era when anybody who wanted a job got one (and when every job I had was easy). In place of the dream was a reality in which working hours and the pace of work was steadily increasing for those in a job - with many of those out of a job facing an existence feeling humiliated and without hope.

In the capitalistic world, to share in the nation's wealth above the level of a welfare handout, requires one to be of economic value. You must be a contributor in the provision of goods and services. Our values define what is an 'economic activity'. For example; we define a nail manicurist who charges for the service as a real contributor to the economy, but not the voluntary delivering of meals-on-wheels. What is viewed as being good for the free-market economy can take precedence over what is good for society.

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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