Return to normality: Ritchie gets it entirely wrong again

Whilst people are complex as individuals what we want is often remarkably consistent, and so predictable.

I suggest:

– People want to work.

This isn\’t, in fact, true. People most certainly want incomes and even more than that they desire the ability to consume. But actual work? No, that\’s not a human desire in the slightest.

If they did there would be no problem with paying them nothing beyond benefits to stock shelves in Poundland, would there? For they are getting something they desire, the ability to work.

Plenty of people do indeed enjoy the work they do: but this is rather evidence of the vast richness of our society, that there are interesting things to do rather than spending one\’s entire life staring at the south end of a pair of oxen moving north.

If we really wanted \”work\” then we\’d destroy all the machines that do work for us. For said machines would be taking away that thing which we desire, work.

29 thoughts on “Return to normality: Ritchie gets it entirely wrong again”

  1. Bloody Typepad!

    “If we really wanted work then we’d destroy all the machines that do work for us. For said machines would be taking away that thing which we desire, work.”

    Pretty much current Green policy.

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    If we really wanted [work] then we-d destroy all the machines that do work for us. For said machines would be taking away that thing which we desire, work.

    Well the workers did. Once upon a time. But the problem is that it is not up to them. It is not the workers but the management that demands machines. As we saw in the good old days when the Unions fought new machines tooth and nail. In coal mines and in newspaper printing offices. Presumably their members were on board with that.

    I know a lot of older gentlemen who want to work. Who miss it when they are forced to retire. Who do not like the idea they are useless. And who usually die fairly quickly once they are forced to stop.

  3. Sorry, Tim, but (for once!) there’s empirical evidence against you and for Richard. It’s generally agreed in the happiness literature that the unhappiness suffered by the unemployed is greater than the loss of income alone would suggest. eg:
    https://www.zora.uzh.ch/1194/
    This suggests that work is desirable in itself, perhaps because not working is associated with greater social isolation or a lower sense of self-worth, as one feels one is not “contributing to society.”
    Personally, I find this counter-intuitive – I’d be quite happy to get my current income without working – but the evidence is quite widely agreed upon.

  4. Chris: most people are largely aimless and want their time structured and filled up. Work does that to some extent. It is that –not toil for its own sake–that is missed by lots of unemployed people.

  5. I’m with Tim here.

    Whilst the unemployed do suffer more than mere loss of earnings and whilst some people do indeed enjoy a certain certain value from working, that is not quite the same as wanting to work.

    There are more happily retired people than there are miserable unemployed. Of course of the things that make them happy a hobby or community activity to keep them occupied, a sense of achievement in life, and the consumption afforded them by their pension, these are all to be added in.

    Work for work’s sake, however, is not a human desire. We simply do not destroy our machines. Rather we sit and type away on them – “express ourselves” if we wish to be precious about it, we call ourselves journalists, bloggers, commentators, contributors and pretend we’re working. Life is good these days; my grandfather would cry tears of joy to see my lifestyle.

  6. There’s no point trying to read too much into such a short excerpt. If Ritchie said the sky is blue then you’d point out that sometimes it’s cloudy and sometimes it’s black.

    I’m with Chris and Mr Ecks, people don’t want to work for its own sake, but it’s nice to have a structure to your day and your week and by being paid for what you do, it makes you feel appreciated (unless your employer is a bastard, which is only a minority).

    Further, you tend to appreciate things more if you’ve worked to earn the money to buy them, rather than just having them handed on a plate.

    There’s one theory that with all the automation and so on, we could manage with only about 15 million people actually working, and so the government created 15 million non-jobs in the public and private sectors (using taxes and red-tape) to ensure that as few as possible are actually – or feel themselves to be – unemployed.

  7. From my own experience (friends and associates) it’s almost a 50/50 split between those who define themselves through their work in terms of social interaction/relationships, where they get to compete and contribute, to get away from their families … and those who can’t wait to get out of the door of an evening. For every character I’ve witnessed skipping off down the lane come retirement, an almost equal number have curled up and died.

  8. Oh, it’s just thick as pigshit Richie caught up in his own narrow definition of work.
    Better to take the physics definition – expenditure of energy. That’s what people want to do. Expend energy. Mental. Physical. Whatever. Rather than vegetate. It so happens we live in a world where we sometimes do that in pursuit of material gain. But most animals at the higher end of the intelligence order do much the same. A sleeping cat wakes up & chases butterfly shadows. It’s wired in to the firmware.

  9. People want to achieve, to contribute, and to be recognised for both of these things.

    Stocking shelves in Poundland doesn’t feel like any of that.

  10. “As we saw in the good old days when the Unions fought new machines tooth and nail …. in newspaper printing offices. Presumably their members were on board with that.”

    As my wife found when she worked for a newspaper, if she hadn’t been “on board” she would have had a leg broken. That seemed to be the burden of the threat.

  11. I like my work most of the time because it is interesting but millions outside the chattering classes only work because they need to do so. If most people wanted to work for work’s sake then there would have be mass protests about the Minimum Wage that puts people out of work and it would be hellishly difficult for a shop steward to win a strike vote (yes, it’s more difficult now that you have secret ballots but if everyone wanted to work then there would not be enough extremists to intimidate the majority, especially if you have one guy who hates bullying and is strong enough to casually pick up the extremist.
    How many kids volunteer to stay in after school to do extra homework? In most schools you can count them on your thumbs!

  12. It seems to be a deliberate attempt to confuse ‘work’ (in an economic sense) with ‘work’ (in a philosophical sense).

    There is no benefit whatsoever from economic work being done by any but the bare minimum of workers. A hole dug by one person in one day is better than the same hole dug by ten people in ten days. (Unless you’re a member of the Green or Socialist Workers party). Anything else is non-jobs: A concept Ed Milliband and Ritchie don’t get.

    Work on the other hand; writing a novel, helping a friend, doing abstract scientific research, philosophy etc, is something completely different. It may be completely fulfilling, but it requires others to do economic work to support it.

    Individuals (and society) can gain moral or psychic benefit from either of these categories of work. But they are not the same. The second is dependent on the first.

    One hundred climate change advisers do not generate the income to employ a nurse, or a hole digger.

  13. “People want to achieve, to contribute, and to be recognised for both of these things.

    Stocking shelves in Poundland doesn’t feel like any of that.”

    I’m sorry you feel that way about your time spent stacking shelves, Andrew. I enjoyed mine thoroughly but different strokes, I guess.

  14. @Andrew Ducker

    Stacking shelves in Poundland is an entry level job, not a career. It’s a good way for young kids to learn the connection between getting up in the morning, and doing something you don’t really want to do, and getting money, as opposed to being given it by their parents.

    ‘Stacking shelves in Poundland’ has become the new ‘flipping burgers in McDonalds’ – another perfectly respectable job for youngsters which has been demonised by leftie fuckwits, who hate to see people with the slightest bit of get up and go getting up and going, because in the long term that’s not good for leftie fuckwits.

  15. Yes, I hate work which must be why I mow the fucking lawn that Mrs. V wants to have. Maybe there’s some point Tim the oilman (non-afficionado of barely legal Russians) and IanB can make about pussy access in there. Or maybe I could start a new political party devoted to reducing property taxes for those filthy rich enough to have lawns (however small) because maintaining there is unpaid labour.

    Part of me, having done drudge glasswashing jobs in pubs as a teenager, can regret the notion that poundland shelf-stacking is now a career option for the great unwashed. The other part of me recognises that the rewards of such (thanks to consumer surplus if not wages) are greater than a lifetime of slaving at a real coalface in return for a week of thin gruel, one piss-up a week, and access to Norah Batty’s wizard’s sleeve on those weeks when the week’s rent money hasn’t been pissed up on said Friday night.

  16. @ Interested
    Yeah
    The difference is between “work” and “a career”. Those with “a career” often want to continue whereas the large majority who work would be happy if given the same income without it.
    As an example my first job after leaving school was as a trainee programmer, the summer before that I worked as a “bar porter” at Butlins – with 3 or 5 (according to taste) A levels I was too young to pull pints – and I should definitely have taken the option of retiring if I was still a bar porter – but I have not.

  17. I love my job – I really do.

    It’s generally quite interesting, varies a fair bit from day to day, I work with several really decent blokes and a great boss etc etc.

    If I inherited a huge fortune (somewhat unlikely), I’d probably carry on in the same line of work (I restore steam engines) – but it wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t be dragging myself out of bed almost every morning at 6am to be in work for 7am, or stay till 7 or 8 pm at night so I can book down 11 or 12 hour days to keep enough money in the kitty to pay the mortgage.

    I’d love to be able to go “stuff that, I’m off for the afternoon” when presented with a particularly nasty job, rather than gritting my teeth and carrying on (how many of these trendy lefties that rattle on about the joys of work have had to use a 9″ angle grinder solidly all day for 11 hours – my arms were so shot after that day I struggled to drive home).

    And thus that is the difference between working (because you need the cash) and playing at work (cos it’s stimulating).

    As I say – I’ve got a great job and really enjoy it (and having done really boring jobs managed by phycopaths – I’ve every sympathy for any poor souls with jobs like that), but in practise I wouldn’t do it the same way if at the end of the say I didn’t need the cold hard cash.

    Of course none of this addresses the question of wether humans are naturally benefitted by working (I personally think it’s good for people) – it only answers the question – do humans naturally desire to do work (apart from because need the money).

  18. In other words, if you won or inherited a lot of money you’d spend less time working and more time sowing your seed. And would have to widen your preferences to include hormonal Russians, who would presumably be up for a legover with a moobed dustman if he had the correct resources.

    Just neoliberal evolutionary shit, all trade-offs, no solutions and stuff.

  19. I know a lot of older gentlemen who want to work. Who miss it when they are forced to retire.

    Indeed. Most people don’t like change that much. Habituation, even institutionalisation, is a powerful moulder of human behaviour. This is a significant contributor to the ex-military homeless and jail population issue – remove a strong structure and many people can’t cope.

    This discussion is also ignoring the socialisation issue – many people go to work for the interaction with others rather than the expenditure of effort. Hence charity and volunteer work – it isn’t just for the perceived status.

    Are not a lot of hobbies really unpaid work?

    Inefficient too. Look at fishing 🙂

  20. SMFS,

    I know a lot of older gentlemen who want to work. Who miss it when they are forced to retire. Who do not like the idea they are useless. And who usually die fairly quickly once they are forced to stop.

    One of the benefits of freelancing. No-one gives a shit about your age. I’m currently doing two projects for people, neither of whom has met me. I could be 80 for all they know.

    We recently got a guy in at a site I was at and he was 68, and a business analyst. He’d retired and was bored. He’d spent some time making his garden nice, done some holidaying, but how many days a week do you actually need to be in the garden to keep it nice? So, what he was doing was working, but doing 6 months of the year, mostly winter months, then having more money to spend in summer enjoying himself.

  21. There are more happily retired people than there are miserable unemployed.

    I suspect this says more about feeling justified and valued than it does about wanting to work/not work. If you are retired with a reasonable pension, enough diversions and can afford those diversions, and good health you are probably going to be fairly happy. After all, you’ve done your however-many years and presumably feel like you’ve earned your rest.

    Whereas if you are on benefits and have a certain amount of self-respect it must be difficult not to feel that you’re living on others’ largesse, especially if you want to work and can’t.

    and then, of course, there’s the issue of agency. A lot of retired people are retired because they chose to retire. A lot of unemployed people have not chosen that state.

  22. also, incidences of drug dependency seem (anecdotally, and yes I know about the plural of anecdote not being data) to be highest amongst people who are unemployed; either because they can’t get a job, or because they’ve inherited Wiltshire. This could, of course, be cart-before-horse* stuff in that you need to be unemployed in order to really devote yourself to drug addiction, but it does also suggest that you don’t feel brilliant about life. I mean you could devote yourself to, say, learning the bagpipes or similar.

    *yes, pun intended.

  23. also, incidences of drug dependency seem to be highest amongst people who are unemployed

    Well, you tend not to notice the drug dependent who are holding down (sometimes with the aid of the drugs) their jobs.

    or because they

  24. or because they’ve inherited Wiltshire

    Ah – reporting bias. J Average drug user isn’t newsworthy unless they run amok, slaughter their children or get a gig on some horrid reality tv experience.

    Whereas being the Viscount of Erehwon is, apparently enough to make you ‘in the public interest.’

  25. Defining what people want is strangely problematic. For most of us, the decisions we make as to what to do at any given moment – write comments on the internet – are not always the same as the decisions we would like to have made – get on with writing that novel.

  26. Well, you tend not to notice the drug dependent who are holding down (sometimes with the aid of the drugs) their jobs.

    Fair point. And I do remember reading about (no idea where, would love to have this confirmed or otherwise) a tv series that was going to follow a group of heroin addicts that had to be shelved when it turned out that many were comparatively successful and healthy, just addicted to heroin.

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