Unemployment is Miserable and Doesn’t Spawn an Upsurge in Personal Creativity

Yves here. Reader UserFriendly sent this post with the message, “I can confirm this.” I can too. And before you try to attribute our reactions to being Americans, note that the study very clearly points out that its finding have been confirmed in “all of the world’s regions”.

By Bill Mitchell, Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Originally published at billy blog

Here is a summary of another interesting study I read last week (published March 30, 2017) – Happiness at Work – from academic researchers Jan‐Emmanuel De Neve and George Ward. It explores the relationship between happiness and labour force status, including whether an individual is employed or not and the types of jobs they are doing. The results reinforce a long literature, which emphatically concludes that people are devastated when they lose their jobs and do not adapt to unemployment as its duration increases. The unemployed are miserable and remain so even as they become entrenched in long-term unemployment. Further, they do not seem to sense (or exploit) a freedom to release some inner sense of creativity and purpose. The overwhelming proportion continually seek work – and relate their social status and life happiness to gaining a job, rather than living without a job on income support. The overwhelming conclusion is that “work makes up such an important part of our lives” and that result is robust across different countries and cultures. Being employed leads to much higher evaluations of the quality of life relative to being unemployed. And, nothing much has changed in this regard over the last 80 or so years. These results were well-known in the 1930s, for example. They have a strong bearing on the debate between income guarantees versus employment guarantees. The UBI proponents have produced no robust literature to refute these long-held findings.

While the ‘Happiness Study’ notes that “the relationship between happiness and employment is a complex and dynamic interaction that runs in both directions” the authors are unequivocal:

The overwhelming importance of having a job for happiness is evident throughout the analysis, and holds across all of the world’s regions. When considering the world’s population as a whole, people with a job evaluate the quality of their lives much more favorably than those who are unemployed. The importance of having a job extends far beyond the salary attached to it, with non-pecuniary aspects of employment such as social status, social relations, daily structure, and goals all exerting a strong influence on people’s happiness.

And, the inverse:

The importance of employment for people’s subjective wellbeing shines a spotlight on the misery and unhappiness associated with being unemployed.

There is a burgeoning literature on ‘happiness’, which the authors aim to contribute to.

They define happiness as “subjective well-being”, which is “measured along multiple dimensions”:

… life evaluation (by way of the Cantril “ladder of life”), positive and negative affect to measure respondents’ experienced positive and negative wellbeing, as well as the more domain-specific items of job satisfaction and employee engagement. We find that these diverse measures of subjective wellbeing correlate strongly with each other …

Cantril’s ‘Ladder of Life Scale’ (or “Cantril Ladder”) is used by polling organisations to assess well-being. It was developed by social researcher Hadley Cantril (1965) and documented in his book The pattern of human concerns.

You can learn more about the use of the ‘Cantril Ladder’ HERE.

As we read, the “Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale … consists of the following”:

  • Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top.
  • The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you.
  • On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? (ladder-present)
  • On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? (ladder-future)

[Reference: Cantril, H. (1965) The pattern of human concerns, New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press.]

Christian Bjørnskov’s 2010 article – How Comparable are the Gallup World Poll Life Satisfaction Data? – also describes how it works.

[Reference: Bjørnskov, C. (2010) ‘How Comparable are the Gallup World Poll Life Satisfaction Data?’, Journal of Happiness Studies, 11 (1), 41-60.]

The Cantril scale is usually reported as values between 0 and 10.

The authors in the happiness study use poll data from 150 nations which they say “is representative of 98% of the world’s population”. This survey data is available on a mostly annual basis since 2006.

The following graph (Figure 1 from the Study) shows “the self-reported wellbeing of individuals around the world according to whether or not they are employed.”

The “bars measure the subjective wellbeing of individuals of working age” by employment status .

The results show the differences between having a job and being unemployed are “very large indeed” on the three well-being measures (life evaluation, positive and negative affective states).

People employed “evaluate the quality of their lives around 0.6 points higher on average as compared to the unemployed on a scale from 0 to 10.”

The authors also conduct more sophisticated (and searching) statistical analysis (multivariate regression) which control for a range of characteristics (gender, age, education, marital status, composition of household) as well as to “account for the many political, economic, and cultural differences between countries as well as year-to-year variation”.

The conclusion they reach is simple:

… the unemployed evaluate the overall state of their lives less highly on the Cantril ladder and experience more negative emotions in their day-to-day lives as well as fewer positive ones. These are among the most widely accepted and replicated findings in the science of happiness … Here, income is being held constant along with a number of other relevant covariates, showing that these unemployment effects go well beyond the income loss associated with losing one’s job.

These results are not surprising.

The earliest study of this sort of outcome was from the famous study published by Philip Eisenberg and Paul Lazersfeld in 1938.

[Reference: Eisenberg, P. and Lazarsfeld, P. (1938) ‘The psychological effects of unemployment’, Psychological Bulletin, 35(6), 358-390.]

They explore four dimensions of unemployment:

I. The Effects of Unemployment on Personality.

II. Socio-Political Attitudes Affected by Unemployment.

III. Differing Attitudes Produced by Unemployment and Related Factors.

IV. The Effects of Unemployment on Children and Youth.

On the first dimension, they conclude that:

1. “unemployment tends to make people more emotionally unstable than they were previous to unemployment”.

2. The unemployed experience feelings of “personal threat”; “fear”; “sense of proportion is shattered”; loss of “common sense of values”; “prestige … lost … in … own eyes … and as he imagines, in the eyes of his fellow men”; “feelings of inferiority”; loss of “self-confidence” and a general loss of “morale”.

Devastation, in other words.

They were not surprised because they note that:

… in the light of the structure of our society where the job one holds is the prime indicator of … status and prestige.

This is a crucial point that UBI advocates often ignore. There is a deeply entrenched cultural bias towards associating our work status with our general status and prestige and feelings of these standings.

That hasn’t changed since Eisenberg and Lazersfeld wrote up the findings of their study in 1938.

It might change over time but that will take a long process of re-education and cultural shift. Trying to dump a set of new cultural values that only a small minority might currently hold to onto a society that clearly still values work is only going to create major social tensions.

Eisenberg and Lazarsfeld also considered an earlier 1937 study by Cantril who explored whether “the unemployed tend to evolve more imaginative schemes than the employed”.

[Reference: Cantril, H. (1934) ‘The Social Psychology of Everyday Life’, Psychological Bulletin, 31, 297-330.]

The proposition was (is) that once unemployed, do people then explore new options that were not possible while working, which deliver them with the satisfaction that they lose when they become jobless.

The specific question asked in the research was: “Have there been any changes of interests and habits among the unemployed?”

Related studies found that the “unemployed become so apathetic that they rarely read anything”. Other activities, such as attending movies etc were seen as being motivated by the need to “kill time” – “a minimal indication of the increased desire for such attendance”.

On the third dimension, Eisenberg and Lazersfeld examine the questions – “Are there unemployed who don’t want to work? Is the relief situation likely to increase this number?”, which are still a central issue today – the bludger being subsidised by income support.

They concluded that:

… the number is few. In spite of hopeless attempts the unemployed continually look for work, often going back again and again to their last place of work. Other writers reiterate this point.

So for decades, researchers in this area, as opposed to bloggers who wax lyrical on their own opinions, have known that the importance of work in our lives goes well beyond the income we earn.

The non-pecuniary effects of not having a job are significant in terms of lost status, social alienation, abandonment of daily structure etc, and that has not changed much over history.

The happiness paper did explore “how short-lived is the misery associated with being out of work” in the current cultural settings.

The proposition examined was that:

If the pain is only fleeting and people quickly get used to being unemployed, then we might see joblessness as less of a key public policy priority in terms of happiness.

They conclude that:

… a number of studies have demonstrated that people do not adapt much, if at all, to being unemployed … there is a large initial shock to becoming unemployed, and then as people stay unemployed over time their levels of life satisfaction remain low …. several studies have shown that even once a person becomes re-employed, the prior experience of unemployment leaves a mark on his or her happiness.

So there is no sudden or even medium-term realisation that being jobless endows the individual with a new sense of freedom to become their creative selves, freed from the yoke of work. To bloom into musicians, artists, or whatever.

The reality is that there is an on-going malaise – a deeply entrenched sense of failure is overwhelming, which stifles happiness and creativity, even after the individual is able to return to work.

This negativity, borne heavily by the individual, however, also impacts on society in general.

The paper recognises that:

A further canonical finding in the literature on unemployment and subjective wellbeing is that there are so-called “spillover” effects.

High levels of unemployment “increase fear and heighten the sense of job insecurity”. Who will lose their job next type questions?

The researchers found in their data that the higher is the unemployment rate the greater the anxiety among those who remain employed.

Conclusion

The overwhelming conclusion is that “work makes up such an important part of our lives” and that result is robust across different countries and cultures.

Being employed leads to much higher evaluations of the quality of life relative to being unemployed.

The unemployed are miserable and remain so even as they become entrenched in long-term unemployment. They do not seem to sense (or exploit) a freedom to release some inner sense of creativity and purpose.

The overwhelming proportion continually seek work – and relate their social status and life happiness to gaining a job, rather than living without a job on income support.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) allows us to understand that it is the government that chooses the unemployment rate – it is a political choice.

For currency-issuing governments it means their deficits are too low relative to the spending and saving decisions of the non-government sector.

For Eurozone-type nations, it means that in surrendering their currencies and adopting a foreign currency, they are unable to guarantee sufficient work in the face of negative shifts in non-government spending. Again, a political choice.

The Job Guarantee can be used as a vehicle to not only ensure their are sufficient jobs available at all times but also to start a process of wiping out the worst jobs in the non-government sector.

That can be done by using the JG wage to ensure low-paid private employers have to restructure their workplaces and pay higher wages and achieve higher productivity in order to attract labour from the Job Guarantee pool.

The Series So Far

This is a further part of a series I am writing as background to my next book with Joan Muysken analysing the Future of Work. More instalments will come as the research process unfolds.

The series so far:

1. When Austrians ate dogs.

2. Employment as a human right.

3. The rise of the “private government.

4. The evolution of full employment legislation in the US.

5. Automation and full employment – back to the 1960s.

6. Countering the march of the robots narrative.

7. Unemployment is miserable and does not spawn an upsurge in personal creativity.

The blogs in these series should be considered working notes rather than self-contained topics. Ultimately, they will be edited into the final manuscript of my next book due in 2018. The book will likely be published by Edward Elgar (UK).

That is enough for today!

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109 comments

  1. divadab

    Perhaps I’m utterly depressed but I haven’t had a job job for over 5 years. Plenty of work, however, more than I can handle and it requires priorisation.

    But I am deliberately not part of the organized herd. I stay away from big cities – it’s scary how managed the herd is in large groups – and I suppose that unemployment for a herd animal is rather distressing as it is effectively being kicked out of the herd.

    Anyway my advice, worth what you pay for it but let he who has ears, etc. – is to go local, very local, grow your own food, be part of a community, manage your own work, and renounce the energy feast herd dynamics. “Unemployment”, like “recession”, is a mechanism of control. Not very practical advice for most, I realize, trapped in the herd as they are in car payments and mortgages, but perhaps aspirational?

    Reply
    1. The Rev Kev

      I think what is missing from this article is the term identity. If you meet new people, often the conversation starts with what you do for a living. Your identity, in part, is what you do. You can call yourself a plumber, a writer, a banker, a consultant, a reporter but the point is this is part of your identity. When you lose your job long term, your identity here loses one of its main anchor points.
      Worse, there is a deliberate stigma attached with being long term unemployed. In that article you have seen the word bludger being used. In parts of the US I have read of the shame of ‘living off the county’. And yes, I have been there, seen that, and got the t-shirt. It’s going to be interesting as mechanization and computers turn large portions of the population from workers to ‘gig’ workers. Expect mass demoralization.

      Reply
      1. nonclassical

        …yes…the lives many of us have lived, no longer exist…though we appear not notice, as we “can” live in many of same “ways”…

        ..rather well known psychologist defined some 40 years ago, best to “drop through cracks”…

        Reply
      2. jrs

        well you also lose money, maybe you become homeless etc. as you have nowhere else to turn (if there are kids involved to support it gets even scarier though there are some programs). Or maybe you become dependent on another person(s) to support you which is of course degrading as you know you must rely on them to live, whether it’s a spouse or lover when you want to work and bring in money, or mom and dads basement, or the kindest friend ever who lets you sleep on their couch. I mean these are the things that really matter.

        Privileged people whose main worry in unemployment would be losing identity, wow out of touch much? Who cares about some identity for parties, but the ability to have a stable decent life (gig work hardly counts) is what is needed.

        Reply
        1. jgordon

          I normally wouldn’t comment like this, but you have brought up some extremely important points about identity that I would like to address.

          Recently I had the most intense mushroom experience of my entire life–so intense that my identity had been completely stripped and I was left in a formless state, at the level of seeing my bare, unvarnished animal neural circuitry in operation. Suddenly with a flash of inspiration I realized that the identity of everyone, all of us, is inextricably tied up in what we do and what we do for other people.

          Following from that, I understood that if we passively rely on others for survival, whether it be relying on friends, family, or government, then we do not have an identity or reason for existing. And the inner self, the animal core of who we are, will realise this lack of identity (even if the concious mind denies it), and will continually generate feelings of profound depression and intense nihilism that will inevitably destroy us if the root cause is not addressed.

          Before this experience I was somewhat ambivalent about my politics, but immediately after I knew that the political right was correct on everything important, from attitudes on sex to economic philosophy. People need a core of cultural stability and hard work to grow and become actualized. The alternative is rudderless dissatisfaction and envy that leads nowhere.

          On the topic of giving “out of kindnes and goodwill”, giving without demanding anything in return is a form of abuse, as it deprives those who receive our feel-good generosity the motivation to form a coherent identity. If the parents of a basement-dweller were truly good people, instead of supporting said dweller they’d drag her out by the ear and make her grow food in the yard or some such. Likewise, those who have supported you without also giving concrete demands and expecations in return have been unkind, and for your own good I hope that you will immediately remove yourself from their support. On the other hand, if you have been thoughtlessly giving because it warms the cockles of your heart, then stop it now. You are ruining other people this way, and if your voting habits are informed by this kind of malevolence I’d encourage you to change those as well.

          Anyway the original poster is right about everything. Working and having a purpose in life is an entirely different animal from making money and being “successful” in the government-sponsored commercial economy. Society and government deliberately try to conflate the two for various reasons, primarily graft of labor and genius, but that is only a deliberate mis-framing that needlessly harms people when the mainstream economic system is in catastrophic decline, as ours is today. You should try to clear up this misconception within yourself as a way of getting better.

          Well, I hope this message can give you a few different thoughts and help you find your way out of the existential angst you’re caught in. Don’t wallow in helplessness. Think of something useful to do, anything, whether it earns you money or not, and go out and start doing it. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel about yourself in no time.

          Reply
          1. skippy

            The problem is you said – I – had an extreme experience [burning bush], the truth was reviled to – I – and I alone during this extreme chemically altered state. Which by the way just happens to conform to a heap of environmental biases I collected.

            This is why sound methodology demands peer review…

            disheveled… some people think Mister Toads Wild ride at Disneyland on psychotropics is an excellent adventure too.

            Reply
      3. Jeremy Grimm

        I think your observation about the importance of work to identity is most perceptive. This post makes too little distinction between work and a job and glosses over the place of work in defining who we are to ourselves and to others. I recall the scene in the movie “About a Boy” when the hero meets someone he cares about and she asks him what he does for a living.

        I believe there’s another aspect of work — related to identity — missing in the analysis of this post. Work can offer a sense of mission — of acting as part of an effort toward a larger goal no individual could achieve alone. However you may regard the value in putting man on the moon there is no mistaking the sense of mission deeply felt by the engineers and technicians working on the project. What jobs today can claim service to a mission someone might value?

        Reply
    2. Henry Moon Pie

      Agreed on your points. Wage slavery is nothing to aspire to. Self-determination within a context of an interdependent community is a much better way to live.

      We do our thing in the city, however.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Finding that “interdependent community” is the hard part. My experience has been that this endeavour is almost chance based; Serendipity if you will.
        Here Down South, the churches still seem to have a stranglehold on small and mid scale social organization. One of the big effects of ‘churching’ is the requirement that the individual gave up personal critical thinking. Thus, the status quo is reinforced. One big happy ‘Holy Circlejerk.’

        Reply
    3. UserFriendly

      from the article

      This is a crucial point that UBI advocates often ignore. There is a deeply entrenched cultural bias towards associating our work status with our general status and prestige and feelings of these standings.

      That hasn’t changed since Eisenberg and Lazersfeld wrote up the findings of their study in 1938.
      It might change over time but that will take a long process of re-education and cultural shift. Trying to dump a set of new cultural values that only a small minority might currently hold to onto a society that clearly still values work is only going to create major social tensions.

      Reply
      1. FelicityT

        I would agree about the entenched cultural norms, etc. But not the pessimism and timeline for change. An individual can communicate a complex idea to millions in seconds, things move fast these days.

        For me, it seems that what we (we being UBI/radical change proponents) are lacking is a compelling easily accessible story. Not just regarding UBI (as that is but one part of the trully revolutionary transformations that must occur) but encompassing everything.

        We have countless think pieces, bits of academic writing, books, etc that focus on individual pieces and changes in isolation. But we’ve largely abandoned the all-encompassing narrative, which at their heart is precisely what religion offers and why it can be so seductive, successful, and resilient for so long.

        The status quo has this type of story, it’s not all that compelling but given the fact that it is the status quo and has inertia and tradition on its side (along with the news media, political, entertainment, etc) it doesn’t have to be.

        We need to abandon the single narrow issue activism that has become so prominent over the years and get back to engaging with issues as unseparable and intimately interconnected.

        Tinkering around the edges will do nothing, a new political religion is what is required.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Sorry, I disagree vehemently. Deeply held cultural attitudes are very slow to change and the study found that work being critical to happiness examined a large number of societies.

          Look at feminism. I was a half-generation after the time when women were starting to get a shot at real jobs. IIRC, the first class that accepted women at Harvard Law School was in the 1950 and at Harvard Business School, 1965. And the number of first attendees was puny. The 1965 class at HBS had 10 8 women out of a graduating class of over 800; my class in 1981 had only 11% women.

          In the 1980s, you saw a shift from the belief that women could do what men could do to promotion of the idea that women could/should be feminine as well as successful. This looked like seriously mixed messages, in that IMHO the earlier tendency to de-emphasize gender roles in the workplace looked like a positive development.

          Women make less than 80% of what men do in the US. Even female doctors in the same specialities make 80% of their male peers.

          The Speenhamland in the UK had what amounted to an income guarantee from the 1790s to 1832. Most people didn’t want to be on it and preferred to work. Two generations and being on the support of local governments was still seen as carrying a stigma.

          More generally, social animals have strongly ingrained tendencies to resent situations they see as unfair. Having someone who is capable of working not work elicits resentment from many, which is why most people don’t want to be in that position. You aren’t going to change that.

          And people need a sense of purpose. There are tons of cases of rich heirs falling into drug addiction or alcoholism and despair because they have no sense of purpose in life. Work provides that, even if it’s mundane work to support a family. That is one of the great dissservices the Democrats have done to the citizenry at large: sneering at ordinary work when blue-collar men were the anchors of families and able to take pride in that.

          Reply
          1. FelicityT

            So a few points.

            Regarding the large number of societies, we often like to think we’re more different than we actually are focusing on a few glaringly obvious differences and generalizing from there. Even going back a few hundred years when ideas travelled slower we were still (especially the “west” though the “east” wasn’t all that much more different either) quite similar. So I’m less inclined to see the large number of societies as evidence.

            Generally on societal changes and movements: The issue here is that the leadership has not changed, they may soften some edges here or there (only to resharpen them again when we’re looking elsewhere) but their underlying ideologies are largely unchanged. A good mass of any population will go along to survive, whether they agree or not (and we find increasing evidence that many do not agree, though certainly that they do not agree on a single alternative).

            It may be impossible to implement such changes in who controls the levers of power in a democratic fashion but it also may be immoral not implement such changes. Of course this is also clearly a similar path to that walked by many a demonized (in most cases rightfully so) dictator and despot. ‘Tread carefully’ are wise words to keep in mind.

            Today we have a situation which reflects your example re: social animals and resentment of unfairness: the elite (who falls into this category is of course debatable, some individuals moreso than others). But they have intelligently, for their benefit, redirected that resentment towards those that have little. Is there really any logical connection between not engaging in wage labor (note: NOT equivalent to not working) and unfairness? Or is it a myth crafted by those who currently benefit the most?

            That resentment is also precisely why it is key that a Basic income be universal with no means testing, everyone gets the same.

            I think we should not extrapolate too much from the relatively small segment of the population falling into the the inherited money category. Correlation is not causation and all that.

            It also seems that so often individuals jump to the hollywood crafted image of the layabout stoner sitting on the couch giggling at cartoons (or something similarly negative) when the concept of less wage labor is brought up. A reduction of wage labor does not equate to lack of work being done, it simply means doing much of that work for different reasons and rewards and incentives.

            As I said in the Links thread today, we produce too much, we consume too much, we grow too much. More wage labor overall as a requirement for survival is certainly not the solution to any real problem that we face, its a massively inefficient use of resources and a massive strain on the ecosystems.

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              I am really gobsmacked at the sense of entitlement on display here. Why are people entitled to an income with no work? Being an adult means toil: cleaning up after yourself, cleaning up after your kids if you have them, if you are subsistence farmer, tending your crops and livestock, if you are a modern society denizen, paying your bills and your taxes on time. The idea that people are entitled to a life of leisure is bollocks. Yet you promote that.

              Society means we have obligations to each other. That means work. In rejecting work you reject society.

              And the touting of “creativity” is a top 10% trope that Thomas Frank called out in Listen, Liberal. It’s a way of devaluing what the bottom 90% do.

              Reply
              1. WobblyTelomeres

                My argument with the article is that, to me, it smacks of Taylorism. A follow-on study would analyze how many hours a laborer must work before the acquired sense of purpose and dignity and associated happiness began to decline. Would it be 30 hours a week of backbreaking labor before dignity found itself eroded? 40? 50? 60? When does the worker break? Just how far can we push the mule before it collapses?

                The author alludes to this: “The overwhelming proportion …relate their social status and life happiness to gaining a job”

                Work equals happiness. Got it.

                But, as a former robotics instructor, and as one who watches the industry (and former students), I see an automated future as damn near inevitable. Massive job displacement is coming, life as a minimum wage burger flipper will cease, with no future employment prospects short of government intervention (WPA and CCC for all, I say). I’m not a Luddite, obviously, but there are going to be a lot of people, billions, worldwide, with no prospect of employment. Saying, “You’re lazy and entitled” is a bit presumptuous, Yves. Not everyone has your ability, not everyone has my ability. When the burger flipping jobs are gone, where do they go? When roombas mop the floors, where do the floor moppers go?

                Reply
                1. flora

                  “WPA and CCC for all, I say. ”

                  +1

                  We could use a new Civilian Conservation Corps and and a Works Progress Administration. There’s lots of work that needs doing that isn’t getting done by private corporations.

                  Reply
                2. Saddam Smith

                  Exactly.

                  Talk of entitlement is a red herring, whether that entitlement is to a guaranteed job or to the “life of leisure” that apparently ensues from a guaranteed income. I see a UBI as the appropriate response to current realities, two of which are rampant technological advance and planetary carrying capacity. Both have zero to do with entitlement and everything to do with adaptation of the Darwinian variety.

                  Work is both inescapable and tricky to define. As a crude example, could we call sleep work as it produces health? Is partying work in that it produces fun? So definitions of work bring with them definitions of productivity. What do we want to produce? More and more consumer items or a stable society? Are these things mutually exclusive? I believe perpetual economic growth and a stable society are mutually exclusive. I further believe that the types of changes that will attend the requisite switch to steady-state economics will also require a radical rethink around how humans come to believe (or feel) they are contributing to societal stability and healthy functioning. Education systems will also have to change radically.

                  In other words, UBI is simply one bright, eye-catching tip of a multi-faceted process that must include a raft of other radical changes to be remotely workable. Simply inserting it into today’s systems, even experimentally, will and does produce mixed results for all the reasons we see on display here, especially of the ‘job = meaning’ variety. This is not to dismiss this challenge. It is a serious challenge, but not insoluble I feel.

                  Reply
                  1. FelicityT

                    Well said.

                    It is the moral obligation of each generation to question the status quo, to attempt to not repeat the same mistakes of generations past.

                    This is of course no easy task. Mother Culture begins whispering in each of our ears from birth about the way things are, the way they should be and must be.

                    It may be that there is a correlation between the relative privilege of an individual and their abiity to resist such imposition. I increasingly see this as true and it has become a large part of what personally drives me. The most selfish thing one could do would be to squander such privileges; to not use the opportunities provided to attempt to destroy (not tinker with) the current power structures which reduce so many to a life of needless hardship that so many seem to glorify.

                    One way or another, the world in the near future will not look and function as it does today. We can either face this head on and attempt to mold it for the better; or we can cling to practices of the past and likely ensure an even more harmful and exploitative reality exists in the future.

                    Reply
              2. nihil obstet

                The outrage at non-work wealth and income would be more convincing if it were aimed also at owners of capital. About 30% of national income is passive — interest, rents, dividends. Why are the owners of capital “entitled to an income with no work?” It’s all about the morality that underlies the returns to capital while sugaring over a devaluation of labor. As a moral issue, everyone should share the returns on capital or we should tax away the interest, rents, and dividends. If it’s an economic issue, berating people for their beliefs isn’t a reason.

                Reply
                1. WobblyTelomeres

                  Why are the owners of capital “entitled to an income with no work?”

                  THIS!!!! So much, THIS!!!! But, what else is a Wobbly to say, eh?

                  Reply
                2. Yves Smith Post author

                  The overwhelming majority do work. The top 0.1% is almost entirely private equity managers who are able to classify labor income as capital gains through the carried interest loophole. Go look at the Forbes 400.

                  The 1% are mainly CEOs, plus elite professionals, like partners at top law and consulting firms and speciality surgeons (heart, brain, oncology). The CEOs similarly should be seen as getting labor income but have a lot of stock incentive pay (that is how they get seriously rich) which again gets capital gains treatment.

                  You are mistaking clever taking advantage of the tax code for where the income actually comes from. Even the kids of rich people are under pressure to act like entrepreneurs from their families and peers. Look at Paris Hilton and Ivanka as examples. They both could have sat back and enjoyed their inheritance, but both went and launched businesses. I’m not saying the kids of the rich succeed, or would have succeed to the extent they do without parental string-pulling, but the point is very few hand their fortune over to a money manager and go sailing or play the cello.

                  Reply
                  1. IsotopeC14

                    Isn’t the brother of the infamous Koch duo doing exactly that?

                    Actually, if all the .001%ers were like him, we’d all be better off…

                    Reply
                  2. nihil obstet

                    Agreed, most people with income do work. That’s why I don’t understand the moralism directed at universal income. Most people would go on working. I understand the argument against giving up “the lash of hunger” (as Johann Most put it) to motivate submission as elite fear of loss of social control, rather like when the hippies went wild during the affluent 60s. But I can’t agree with the notion that the income to private equity managers, CEOs plus elite professionals contributes to society in a morally acceptable way that does not apply to less well connected or less devious people.

                    The grounds of the argument keep shifting, as I guess is usual in discourse on morality.

                    Reply
              3. IsotopeC14

                What’s your take on Rutger Bergman’s ted talk? i think most jobs aren’t real jobs at all, like marketing and ceo’s.

                why can’t we do 20 hour work weeks so we don’t have huge amounts of unemployment?

                Note, I was “unemployed” for years since “markets” decide not to fund science in the US. Yay Germany… At least I was fortunate enough to not be forced to work at Walmart or McDonalds like the majority of people with absolutely no life choices. Ah the sweet coercion of capitalism.

                Reply
              4. FelicityT

                Hmm, not sure why my comment disappeared, and the one I posted after is visible. Just FYI mods in case there’s some bug. Anyway, lets try again.

                Quite surprised at how you’ve interpreted my comment. I clearly state that lack of wage labor does not equate to lack of work.

                Your biases seem most clear with the statement “being an adult means toil.” This is the protestant work ethic talking. There is socially beneficial, necessary work and there is socially harmful, unnecessary work. We have much too much of the second type and it is destroying our only home. I’m not sure how this can be seen as entitled.

                There is not enough socially beneficial work, especially if we abandon the insistance on wage labor = survival, to fill 40 hours a week for everyone. And why is 40 hours even a goal to begin with? Other ways of organizing a society have gotten by with far less.

                You are correct that being a member of society means contributing. It also means sharing in the rewards. We don’t have the second part. We allow the hoarding of not only wealth but of leisure. Again, not sure how advocating for this to change would make me entitled.

                No where do I claim that creativity would be unnleashed. It is far more likely that kindless and community engagement would. A tool to massively increase creativity and the exchange of ideas already exists: the internet.

                Much of what both the 90% and the 10% do is harmful. It is unnecessary. It is counter-productive. Arguing this and that they should do less of it is not devaluing their work it is simply being honest about the true nature and necessity of it.

                Reply
              5. redleg

                I’ll gladly pay to keep some people out of the work force.
                I don’t want to be their co-worker, manager, or customer.

                I know this makes me sound like a pig.

                Reply
            2. flora

              Your hopes for a UBI are undone by some of the real world observations I’ve made over many years, with regard to how a guaranteed income increase, of any measure, for a whole population of an area, affects prices. Shorter: income going up means prices are raised by merchants to capture the new income.

              Examples: A single industry town raises wages for all employees by 2% for the new calendar year. Within the first 2 weeks of the new year, all stores and restaurants and service providers in the town raise their prices by 2%. This happens every year there is a general wage increase.

              Example: Medicare part D passes and within 2 years, Pharma now having new captive customers whose insurance will pay for drugs, raise prices higher and higher, even on generic drugs.

              A more recent example: ACA passes with no drug price ceilings. Again, as with the passage of Medicare part D, Pharma raises drug prices to unheard of levels, even older and cheap but life saving drugs, in the knowledge that a new, large group will have insurance that will pay for the drugs – a new source of money.

              Your assumption that any UBI would not be instantly captured by raised prices is naive, at best. It’s also naive to assume companies would continue to pay wages at the same level to people still employed, instead of reducing wages and letting UBI fill in the rest. Some corporations already underpay their workers, then encourage the workers to apply for food stamps and other public supports to make up for the reduced wage.

              The point of the paper is the importance of paid employment to a person’s sense of well being. I agree with the paper.

              Reply
              1. Andrew Dodds

                For the vast majority, a UBI would be income-neutral – it would have to be, to avoid massive inflation. So people would receive a UBI, but pay more tax to compensate. The effect on prices would be zero.

                The advantage of a UBI is mostly felt at the lower end, where insecure/seasonal work does now pay. At the moment, a person who went from farm labourer to Christmas work to summer resort work in the UK would certainly be working hard, but also relentlessly hounded by the DWP over universal credit. A UBI would make this sort of lifestyle possible.

                Reply
              2. FelicityT

                I think you’re confusing the results of poor governance with unavoidable consequences.

                If production costs do not increase, there is no moral argument to be made for raising prices. Such actions would be harmful to society as a whole and are precisely the type of actions a government is in place to put a stop to.

                Its also an excellent argument for removing the production of essential goods and provisioning of essential services from the hands of the private sector and place them back in the hands of the community (aka government) where they rightfully belong.

                Do not confuse naivete with refusing to accept the unjust paradigm those currently holding power wish to force on the masses.

                Reply
    4. jsn

      Davidab,
      Good for you, but your perspicacity is not scalable.

      People are social animals and your attitude toward “the herd”, at least as expressed here, is that of a predator, even if your taste doesn’t run toward predation.

      Social solutions will necessarily be scalable or they won’t be solutions for long.

      Reply
    5. Lambert Strether

      > the organized herd… a herd animal… trapped in the herd

      I don’t think throwing 80% to 90% of the population into the “prey” bucket is especially perspicacious politically (except, of course, for predators or parasites).

      I also don’t think it’s especially perspicacious morally. You write:

      Not very practical advice for most, I realize, trapped in the herd as they are in car payments and mortgages, but perhaps aspirational?

      Let me translate that: “Trapped in the herd as many are to support spouses and children.” In other words, taking the cares of the world on themselves in order to care for others.

      Reply
  2. BJ

    Unemployed stay at home dad here. My children are now old enough to no longer need a stay at home dad. Things I have done: picked up two musical instruments and last year dug a natural swimming pond by hand. Further, one would need to refute all the increased happiness in retirement (NBER). Why social security but not UBI? I get being part of the precariat is painful and this is a reality for most the unemployed no matter where you live in the world. A UBI is unworkable because it will never be large enough to make people’s lives unprecarious. Having said that, I am almost positive if you gave every unemployed person 24 k a year and health benefits, there would be a mass of non working happy creative folks.

    Reply
    1. divadab

      UBI seems to me to encourage non-virtuous behavior – sloth, irresponsibility, fecklessness, and spendthriftness. I like the Finnish model – unemployment insurance is not limited – except if you refuse work provided by the local job center. Lots of work is not being done all over America – we could guarantee honest work to all with some imagination. Start with not spraying roundup and rather using human labor to control weeds and invasive species.

      I do agree that universal health insurance is necessary and sadly Obamacare is not that.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        The crux of this problem is the definition used for “non-virtuous behaviour.”
        A new CCC is a good place to start though. (Your Tax Dollars At Work! [For some definition of tax dollars.])
        As for BJ above, I would suppose that child rearing was his “employment” for years. good so far, but his follow-up is untypical. The ‘Empty Nester’ mother is a well known meme.

        Reply
      2. a different chris

        Spendthriftness on 24K a year? Seriously?

        If we are disgorging unprofessional opinions, I will add my own: sloth and irresponsibility are more signs of depression rather than freedom from having to work. In fact, I believe (and I think much of the stuff here) supports the idea that people want to be seen as useful in some way.

        Doesn’t include me! :) .. unfortunately, I have the charmingly named “dependents” so there you have it.

        Reply
        1. BJ

          I lived 6 years as a grad student on 24k a year and would say it was easy. Only thing I would have to had worried about was awful health insurance. A two household each with 24k would be even easier, especially if you could do it in a low cost area. So I am not sure what you mean by spendthrift. But again it will never happen, so we will be stuck with what we have or most likely an even more sinister system. I guess I am advocating for a JG with unlimited number of home makers per household.

          Reply
      3. roadrider

        except if you refuse work provided by the local job center

        And who’s to say that the local “job center” has work that would be appropriate for every person’s specific talents and interests? This is no better than saying that you should be willing to go work for some minimum-wage retail job with unpredictable scheduling and other forms of employer abuses after you lose a high-paying job requiring special talents. I have to call bullshit on this model. I went through a two-year stretch if unemployment in no small part because the vast majority of the available jobs for my skill set were associated with the MIC, surveillance state or the parasitic FIRE sector. I was able to do this because I had saved up enough FY money and had no debts or family to support.

        I can also attest to the negative aspects of unemployment that the post describes. Its all true and I can’t really say that I’e recovered even now, 2.5 years after finding another suitable job.

        Reply
        1. Jesper

          The job center in the neighbouring Sweden had the same function. Had is the important word. My guess is that the last time someone lost their unemployment insurance payout due to not accepting a job was in the early 1980s. Prior to that companies might, maybe, possibly have considered hiring someone assigned to them – full employment forced companies to accept what was offered. Companies did not like the situation and the situation has since changed.

          Now, when full employment is a thing of the past, the way to lose unemployment insurance payouts is by not applying to enough jobs. An easily gamed system by people not wanting to work: just apply to completely unsuitable positions and the number of applications will be high. Many companies are therefore overwhelmed by applications and are therefore often forced to hire more people in HR to filter out the unsuitable candidates.
          People in HR tend not to know much about qualifications and or personalities for the job so they tend to filter out too many. We’re all familiar with the skills-shortage….
          Next step of this is that the companies who do want to hire have to use recruitment agencies. Basically outsourcing the HR to another company whose people are working on commission. Recruiters sometimes know how to find ‘talent’, often they are the same kind of people with the same skills and backgrounds as people working in HR.

          To even get to the hiring manager a candidate has to go through two almost identical and often meaningless interviews. Recruiter and then HR. Good for the GDP I suppose, not sure if it is good for anything else.

          But back on topic again, there is a second way of losing unemployment insurance payout: Time. Once the period covered has passed there is no more payouts of insurance. After that it it is time to live on savings, then sell all assets, and then once that is done finally go to the welfare office and prove that savings are gone and all assets are sold and maybe welfare might be paid out. People on welfare in Sweden are poor and the indignities they are being put through are many. Forget about hobbies and forget about volunteering as the money for either of those activities simply aren’t available. Am I surprised by a report saying unemployed in Sweden are unhappy? Nope.

          Reply
      4. Jeremy Grimm

        What do you mean by virtuous behavior?

        Where does a character like Bertie Wooster in “Jeeves” fit in your notions of virtuous behavior? Would you consider him more virtuous working in the management of a firm, controlling the lives and labor of others — and humorously helped by his his brilliant valet, Jeeves, getting him out of trouble?

        For contrast — in class and social status — take a beer-soaked trailer trash gentleman of leisure — and for sake of argument blessed with less than average intelligence — where would you put him to work where you’d feel pleased with his product or his service? Would you feel better about this fellow enjoying a six-pack after working 8 hours a day 5 days a week virtuously digging and then filling a hole in the ground while carefully watched and goaded by an overseer? [Actually — how different is that from “using human labor to control weeds and invasive species”? I take it you’re a fan of chain-gangs and making the poor pick up trash on the highways?]

        What about some of our engineers and scientists virtuously serving the MIC? Is their behavior virtuous because they’re not guilty of sloth, irresponsibility [in executing their work], fecklessness, and spendthriftness? On this last quality how do you feel about our government who pay the salaries for all these jobs building better ways to kill and maim?

        Reply
      1. BJ

        It is a design by David Pagan Butler. It is his plunge pool design, deepend is 14 by 8 by 7 deep. I used the dirt to make swales around some trees. Win win all around.

        Reply
      1. BJ

        The answer is yes my spouse works. So I do have a schedule of waking up to make her lunch everyday, meeting her at lunch to walk, and making dinner when she gets home, but we do all those things on her days off so….

        But again we would need to explain away, why people who are retired are happier? Just because they think they payed into social security? Try explaining to someone on the SS dole how the government spends money into existence and is not paid by taxes or that the government never saved their tax money, so there are not entitled to this money.

        Reply
  3. David Kane Miller

    I hated working for other people and doing what they wanted. I began to feel some happiness when I had a half acre on which I could create my own projects. Things improved even more when I could assure myself of some small guaranteed income by claiming Social Security at age 62. To arise in the morning when I feel rested, with interesting projects like gardens, fences, small buildings ahead and work at my own pace is the essence of delight for me. I’ve been following your arguments against UBI for years and disagree vehemently.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      I feel I would behave the same as you, if I had the chance. *But* no statements about human beings are absolute, and because UBI would work for either of us does not mean it would work for the majority. Nothing devised by man is perfect.

      Reply
    2. tegnost

      first you had to buy the half acre in a suitable location, then you had to work many years to qualify for social security, the availability of which you paid for and feel you deserve. You also have to buy stuff for fences gardens and small buildings. At most that rhymes with a ubi but is significantly different in it’s make up.

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether

      > when I had a half acre on which I could create my own projects

      That is, when you acquired the half acre, which not everyone can do. It seems to me there’s a good deal of projecting going on with this thread from people who are, in essence, statistical outliers. But Mitchell summarizes the literature:

      So for decades, researchers in this area, as opposed to bloggers who wax lyrical on their own opinions, have known that the importance of work in our lives goes well beyond the income we earn.

      If the solution that works for you is going to scale, that implies that millions more will have to own land. If UBI depends on that, how does that happen? (Of course, in a post-collapse scenario, the land might be taken, but that same scenario makes the existence of institutions required to convey the UBI highly unlikely. )

      Reply
  4. Carla

    Very glad to hear that Bill Mitchell is working on the “Future of Work” book, and to have this post, and the links to the other segments. Thank you, Yves!

    Reply
  5. Andrew

    I don’t agree with this statement. Never will. I’m the complete opposite. Give me more leisure time and you’ll find me painting, writing, playing instruments and doing things that I enjoy. I recall back to when I was a student, I relished in the free time I got (believe me University gave me a lot of free time) between lectures, meaning I could enjoy this time pursuing creative activities. Sure I might be different than most people but I know countless people who are the same.

    My own opinion is that root problem lies in the pathology of the working mentality, that ‘work’ and having a ‘job’ is so engrained into our society and mindset that once you give most people the time to enjoy other things, they simply can’t. They don’t know what to do with themselves and they eventually become unhappy, watching daytime TV sat on the sofa.

    I recall back to a conversation with my mother about my father, she said to me, ‘I don’t know how your father is going to cope once he retires and has nothing to do’ and it’s that very example of where work for so many people becomes so engrained in their mindset, that they are almost scared of having ‘nothing to do’ as they say. It’s a shame, it’s this systemic working mentality that has led to this mindset. I’m glad I’m the opposite of this and proud by mother brought me up to be this way. Work, and job are not in my vocabulary. I work to live, not live to work.

    Reply
    1. I_Agree

      I agree with Andrew. I think this data on the negative effects says more about how being employed fundamentally breaks the human psyche and turns them into chattel, incapable of thinking for themselves and destroying their natural creativity. The more a human is molded into a “good worker” the less they become a full fledged human being. The happiest people are those that have never placed importance on work, that have always lived by the maxim “work to live, not live to work”. From my own experience every assertion in this article is the opposite of reality. It is working that makes me apathethic, uncreative, and miserable. The constant knowing that you’re wasting your life, day after day, engaged in an activity merely to build revenue streams for the rich, instead of doing things that help society or that please you on a personal level, is what I find misery inducing.

      Reply
      1. nycTerrierist

        I agree

        If financial insecurity is removed from the equation — free time can be used creatively for self-actualization, whatever form that may take: cultivating the arts, hobbies, community activities, worthy causes and projects.

        The ideology wafting from Mitchell’s post smells to me like a rationale for wage slavery (market driven living, neo-liberalism, etc.)

        Reply
      2. jrs

        Besides how are people supposed to spend their time “exploring other opportunities” when unemployed anyway? To collect unemployment which isn’t exactly paying that much anyway, they have to show they are applying to jobs. To go to the movies the example given costs money, which one may tend to be short on when unemployed. They probably are looking for work regardless (for the income). There may still be some free time. But they could go back to school? Uh in case one just woke up from a rock they were under for 100 years, that costs money, which one may tend to be short on when unemployed, plus there is no guarantee the new career will pan out either, no guarantee someone is just chomping at the bit to hire a newly trained 50 year old or something. I have always taken classes when unemployed, and paid for it and it’s not cheap.

        Yes to use one’s time wisely in unemployment in the existing system requires a kind of deep psychological maturity that few have, a kind of Surrender To Fate, to the uncertainty of whether one will have an income again or not (either that or a sugar daddy or a trust fund). Because it’s not easy to deal with that uncertainty. And uncertainty is the name of the game in unemployment, that and not having an income may be the pain in it’s entirety.

        Reply
      3. FelicityT

        Sadly this breaking down into a “good worker” begins for most shortly after they begin school. This type of education harms society in a myriad of ways including instilling a dislike of learning, deference to authority (no matter how irrational and unjust), and a destruction of a child’s natural curiosity.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t buy your premise that people are “creative”. The overwhelming majority do not have creative projects they’d be pursuing if they had leisure and income. Go look at retirees, ones that have just retired, are healthy, and have money.

          Reply
    2. Yves Smith Post author

      You are really misconstruing what the studies have found and misapplied it to your situation. Leisure time when you have a job or a role (being a student) is not at all the same as having time when you are unemployed, with or without a social safety net.

      Reply
      1. Summer

        Work: that can be me hiring someone to cut my yard, or another type of one-off thing filled with precariousness.

        Job: that less temporary work, but by no means permanent. Just a step up from the precariousness of work.

        Career: that is work in the same field over a long period of time and it is more likely that someone will develop an identity through performing the work. Still precarious, but maybe more fulfilling.

        Sense of purpose: I was always under the impression that is something you have to give yourself. If it can be taken away by someone…what was the purpose?

        Reply
      2. jrs

        one often has a role when unemployed: finding work. But it’s not a very fulfilling one! But if one is trying to find work, it’s not exactly the absence of a role either even if it still leaves significantly more free time than otherwise, maybe winning the lottery is the absence of a role.

        But then it’s also not like we give people a UBI even for a few years (at any time in adult life) to get an education. Only if they take out a student loan approaching the size of a mortgage or have parents willing to pony up are they allowed that (to pay not just for the education but to live because having a roof over one’s head etc. is never free, a UBI via debt it might be called).

        Reply
    3. Lambert Strether

      > Give me more leisure time and you’ll find me painting, writing, playing instruments and doing things that I enjoy

      Nothing to breed resentment of “the creative class” here! Blowback from Speenhamland brought on the workhouses, so be careful what you wish for.

      Reply
  6. Jesper

    Again the UBI vs JG debate….

    UBI won’t happen and JG has been tried (and failed).

    The argument that JG would allow the public sector to hire more people is demeaning to people already employed in the public sector and demonstrably false – people are hired into the public sector without there being a JG. It is most certainly possible to be against a JG while wanting more people working in the public sector.

    The way forward is to have a government acting for people instead of for corporations. Increase the amount of paid vacations, reduce the pension age and stop with the Soviet style worship of work: While some people are apparently proud of their friends and relatives who died while at work it is also possible to feel sad about that.

    Reply
      1. Jesper

        The JG was tried in Communist countries in Europe, Asia and Americas. The arguments then and there were the same as here and now, made by the same type of social ‘scientists’ (economists).

        Would a JG be different here and now as the Republicans and Democrats are representing the best interests of the people? Or are they representing the same kind of interests as the Communist parties did?

        Reply
          1. John

            Yves,

            I’m sorry but the whole Cold War trope that Reagan beat the USSR into submission is blatantly false. I remember in the history of the Soviet Union course I took in college, we had a Republican that tried to make that argument and the professor made him look plain stupid (and none of our readings even mentioned this as a reason).

            There were many causes behind the fall of the USSR. After the economy had finished industrializing and urbanizing by the 1960’s, there wasn’t really anywhere for it to go. When the Western countries reached this point, they started blowing asset bubbles, but the Soviets couldn’t do that. The Soviet government openly promoted consumerism, especially in the Kitchen Debates, and they believed that because socialism was so effective (the USSR from 1945-1965 was probably the fastest growing economy in history), it could beat capitalism in this regard as well. Of course they were wrong, because a centrally planned economy at that time (before the computers of today) could not effectively manage such a market. The other issue is that all of the top job posts were held by the WW2 generation, and the generation that grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s did not see their incomes, job prospects, quality of life, etc. increase in the way that the previous generations enjoyed. They couldn’t climb up the ladder professionally the way that their parents did. This discontent led to falling productivity and alcoholism while the ossified bureaucracy mismanaged resources, and with no real place for the economy to go, the economy stagnated.

            But as bad as the 1980’s were in the Soviet Union, there was a referendum held regarding its dissolution. Nearly the entire population voted, and the response was overwhelming: 77% wanted to preserve the Soviet Union. But Yeltsin and his cronies knew that if capitalism was introduced, they stood to make a ton of money, so he met with the presidents of Belarus and Ukraine in secret to sign a treaty to dissolve the USSR. And the rest is history.

            Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author

              With all due respect, your unsourced chart proves nothing. And that seems to be the foundation of your argument, the assertion that someone had accurate data. It’s bullshit. And on top of that, it shows Soviet spending at half the proportion of GDP that official US sources estimated at the time. So it looks as if you and your professor went out of the way to pick non-mainstream sources to support a non-mainstream thesis.

              No one knows what we spend on the military. Seriously. There is a huge black budget and on top of that, the accounting for spending within the various branches of the military is so bad as to be non-existant. One contact is working on a project to get a handle on a very small corner of the spending, and he could probably ride it into retirement. No one wants this problem solved, plus he gets all kinds of cross-eyed responses to basic questions.

              And needless to say, we had even less information about the USSR’s total spending. From a discussion at the Federation of Scientists website:

              In 1988 military spending was a single line item in the state budget, totaling 21 billion rubles, or about US$33 billion. Given the size of the military establishment, however, the actual figure was at least ten times higher. Western experts concluded that the 21 billion ruble figure reflected only operations and maintenance costs. The amount spent on Soviet weapons research and development was an especially well-guarded state secret, and other military spending, including training, military construction, and arms production, was concealed within the budgets of all-union ministries and state committees. Apart from considerations of state secrecy, this allocation of military spending to ministries other than the Ministry of Defense reflected the Soviet approach to managing resource allocation. Weapons produced by agencies such as the Ministry of General Machinebuilding [missiles] or the Ministry of Shipbuilding Industry [ships] were essentially provided as “free goods” to the Ministry of Defense.

              Since the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union devoted between 15 and 17 percent of its annual gross national product to military spending, according to United States government sources. Until the early 1980s, Soviet defense expenditures rose between 4 and 7 percent per year. Subsequently, they slowed as the yearly growth in Soviet GNP slipped to about 3 percent.

              https://fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/agency/mo-budget.htm

              In addition, contrary to your claim, scholars at the time who had been following geopolitical strategies not only saw the US strategy of forcing the USSR to continue a high level of military spending as successful, but replicated later in Yugoslavia.

              From a post at Defend Democracy:

              Sean Gervasi (1933-1996) spent the latter part of his career exposing the role of the United States and Western powers in the breakup of the USSR and Yugoslavia. He was working on a book,Balkan Roulette, at the time of his death.

              Gervasi was an economist trained at the University of Geneva, Oxford and Cornell. His political career began when he took a post as an economic adviser in the Kennedy administration. He resigned in protest after the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

              After his resignation, Gervasi was never able to get work again in the United States as an economist, despite his impressive academic credentials. He became a lecturer at the London School of Economics after leaving Washington. Notwithstanding his great popularity, the school refused to renew his contract in 1965.

              During the 1970s and 1980s he was an adviser to a number of governments in Africa and the Middle East, helping them navigate the hostile and predatory world of transnational corporations and megabanks. He also worked for the UN Committee on Apartheid and the UN Commission on Namibia.

              In addition, Gervasi was a journalist, contributing to a wide range of publications, from the New York Amsterdam News to Le Monde Diplomatique. He was a frequent commentator on the listener-supported Pacifica radio station WBAI in New York. In 1976, Gervasi broke the story of how the U.S. government was secretly arming the apartheid regime in South Africa.

              In the late 1980s, Gervasi began to focus on the Cold War and what he called the “full court press,” a basketball term for a highly aggressive “all in” strategy. In an article published in the Covert Action Information Bulletin in early 1991[iii], when the breakup of the USSR was imminent, Gervasi showed how the Reagan administration’s strategy of economic isolation, a gargantuan arms buildup with the threat of a nuclear attack, overt funding of internal dissent, and CIA-directed sabotage had been decisive in bringing down the USSR. Gervasi backed up his analysis with careful scholarship and documentation.

              Gervasi was widely respected as a leading independent figure in the left, but his views were contrary to the fashionable dogma that attributed the USSR’s collapse almost exclusively to such things as failures of leadership, centralization of the economy, the black market, Chernobyl, or independence movements, and not to external hostility. These are the subjects which he addressed in the following lecture given to a small audience in January 1992. The lecture can still be found on internet video sites, but the thesis of this lecture still remains marginal and obscure two decades later, even though it is highly pertinent to the Cold War replay that is underway in the second decade of the 21st century—one in which Russia stands accused of turning the tables and doing a comparatively very tame version of the propaganda war waged on the USSR in the 1980s.

              Gervasi’s bottom line:

              The Soviet Union today, in the absence of this extraordinarily crafty, well-thought-out, extremely costly strategy deployed by the Reagan administration, would be a society struggling through great difficulties. It would still be a socialist society, at least of the kind that it was. It would be far from perfect, but it would still be there, and I think, therefore, that Western intervention made a crucial difference in this situation.

              http://www.defenddemocracy.press/video-how-the-u-s-caused-the-breakup-of-the-soviet-union/

              I would hazard Gervasi knows this subject areas vastly better than your professor did.

              Reply
    1. tegnost

      As long as people argue that “it’s not fair” to fix the inequality issue and employ things like debt jubilee or student loan forgiveness, or if we fix the ridiculous cost of health care what will all those insurance agents do then we will wind up with the real kind of class warfare, rather than the current punching from the top down, the punching will come from the bottom, because the situation is not fair now, it’s just TINA according to those who profit from it. In my own life there is a balance of creativity and work, and I find work enables my creativity by putting some pressure on my time, i.e., I get up earlier, I practice at 8:30 am instead of sleeping til 10 and winding up with S.A..D., I go to bed rather than watch tv or drink to excess.. in other words i have some kind of weird schedule, I have days off sort of…When I’ve been unemployed I feel the way s described in the article. I find the arguments in favor of ubi tend to come from people who already have assets, or jobs, or family who they take care of which is actually a job although uncommonly described as such. The only truth I see in real life is that the unemployed I am intimately familiar with first are mentally oppressed by the notion that to repair their situation will require they work every waking hour at substandard wages for the rest of their life and that is a major barrier to getting started, and that is a policy choice the gov’t and elite classes purposefully made which created the precariat and will be their undoing if they are unable to see this.

      Reply
  7. hunkerdown

    Disappointing that there’s no analysis in this context of less employment, as in shorter work weeks and/or days, as opposed to merely all or none.

    Reply
    1. Vatch

      Interesting point. I read a science fiction story in which the protagonist arrives for work at his full time job at 10:00 AM, and he’s finished for the day at 4:00 PM. I can’t remember the name of the story or novel, unfortunately.

      Reply
    2. jrs

      Agreed. And they already have it in places like Denmark. Why don’t we talk about that? It actually exists unlike utopian schemes for either total UBI or total work guarantee (government job creation is not utopian, but imagining it will employ everyone is, and I would like the UBI to be more widely tried, but in this country we are nowhere close). Funny how utopia becomes more interesting to people than actual existing arrangements, even though of course those could be improved on too.

      The Danish work arrangement is less than a 40 hour week, and mothers especially often work part-time but both sexes can. It’s here in this country where work is either impossibly grueling or you are not working. No other choice. In countries with more flexible work arrangements more women actually work, but it’s flexible and flexible for men who choose to do the parenting as well. I’m not saying this should be for parents only of course.

      Reply
  8. Otis B Driftwood

    My own situation is that I am unhappy in my well-paying job and would like nothing more than to devote myself to other interests. I’m thirty years on in a relationship with someone who grew up in bad financial circumstances and panics whenever I talk about leaving my job. I tell her that we have 2 years of living expenses in the bank but I can’t guarantee making the same amount of money if I do leave my job. She has a job that she loves and is important and pays barely 1/2 of my own income. So she worries about her future with me. She worries about losing her home. I suppose that makes me the definition of a wage slave. And it makes for an increasingly unhappy marriage. I admire those who have faced similar circumstances and found a way through this. Sorry to vent, but this topic and the comments hit a nerve with me and I’m still trying to figure this out.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      Otis;
      We are presently going through a period where that “two year cushion” has evaporated, for various reasons. We are seeing our way through this, straight into penury and privation.
      Take nothing for granted in todays’ economy.

      Reply
      1. jrs

        yes find the lower paying job that you like more first. If you just quit for nothing in the hopes of finding one it might not happen. Of course unemployment also happens sometimes, whether we want it or not.

        Reply
      1. bronco

        The newer generations are worse when it comes to lifestyle. Those of that are older can at least remember a time without cellphones internet streaming services leasing a new car every 2 years etc.

        What about the young? My niece and her husband should be all set , his mom sunk money into a home on the condition she moved into a mother in law apartment. So far so good right? 2 years in they are imploding even with the free child care she provides. Combined their wireless bill a month is over $300. The sit on the couch side by side and stream netflix shows to dueling iphones in front of a 65 inch tv that is not even turned on. Wearing headphones in silence.

        Both driving new vehicles , both have gym memberships they don’t use . They buy lattes 3 or 4 times a day which is probably another 500 a month.

        My uncle passed away recently and my niece asked if she was in the will. It was literally her only communication on the subject. They are going under and could easily trim a few thousand a month from the budget but simply won’t. No one in the family is going to lift a finger for them at this point they burned every possible bridge already. I have seen people living in cars plenty lately but I think these will be the first I see to living in brand new cars .

        Somewhere along the line they got the impression that the american dream was a leased car a starbucks in one hand and an iphone in the other .

        Confront them with the concept of living within a paycheck and they react like a patient hearing he has 3 months to live.

        Reply
          1. bronco

            Well thats just it though, they both work full time jobs. She is in healthcare and he does some sort of roving computer consulting. But the spending is like water going over Niagara falls .

            As a builder it reminds me of the way people would over spend on huge houses in the mid 2000’s . You knew they were not going to hold onto it for the long haul. But those fools were at least pouring money into a house , everything these two spend on is rapidly depreciating or worthless to begin with.

            Reply
    2. JBird

      Yeah being poor, never mind growing up poor, just well and truly sucks and it can really @@@@ you up. Gives people all sorts of issues. I’m rather like her, but I have had the joy of multi-hour commutes to unexciting soul crushing work. Happy, happy, joy, joy! However don’t forget that with the current political economy things are likely to go bad in all sorts of ways. This whole site is devoted to that. My suggestion is to keep the job unless you have something lined up. Not being able to rent has it own stresses too. Take my word for it.

      Reply
  9. Thuto

    I may be engaging in semantics but I think conflating work and jobs makes this article a bit of a mixed bag. I know plenty of people who are terribly unhappy in their jobs, but nonetheless extract a sense of wellbeing from having a stable source of INCOME to pay their bills (anecdotally speaking, acute stress from recent job losses is closely linked to uncertainty about how bills are going to be paid, that’s why those with a safety net of accumulated savings report less stress than those without). Loss of status, social standing and identity and the chronic stress borne from these become evident much later I.e. when the unemployment is prolonged, accompanied of course by the still unresolved top-of-mind concern of “how to pay the bills”.

    As such, acute stress for the recently unemployed is driven by financial/income uncertainty (I.e. how am I going to pay the bills) whereas chronic stress from prolonged unemployment brings into play the more identity driven aspects like loss of social standing and status. For policy interventions to have any effects, policy makers would have to delineate the primary drivers of stress (or lack of wellbeing as the author calls it) during the various phases of the unemployment lifecycle. An Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) like we have here in South Africa appears to address the early stages of unemployment, and the accompanying acute stress, quite well by providing the income guarantee (for six months) that cushions the shock of losing a job. What’s still missing of course are interventions that promote the quick return to employment for those on UIF, so maybe a middle of the road solution between UBI and a jobs guarantee scheme is how policy makers should be framing this, instead of the binary either/or we currently have.

    Reply
    1. TroyMcClure

      Lots’ of people think they’re unhappy with their jobs. Let them sit unemployed for 9 months and ask them if they want that job back.

      The usual parade of anecdata is on display here in the comments. Mitchell’s real data and analysis in the article above still stand.

      Reply
      1. Thuto

        If you’d read through my comment, and not rushed through it with a view of dishing out a flippant response, you’d have seen that nowhere do I question the validity of his data, I merely question how the argument is presented in some areas (NC discourages unquestioning deference to the views of experts no??). By the way, anecdotes do add to richer understanding of a nuanced and layered topic (as this one is) so your dismissal of them in your haste to invalidate people’s observations is hardly helpful.

        Reply
      2. jrs

        Yes people many not like their jobs but prefer the security of having them to not. Yes even if the boss sexually harasses one (as we are seeing is very common). Yes even if there is other workplace abuse. Yes even when it causes depression or PTSD (but if one stays with such a job long term it ruins the self confidence that is one prerequisite to get another job!). Yes even if one is in therapy because of job stress, sexual harassment or you name it. The job allows the having health insurance, allows the therapy, allows the complaining about the job in therapy to make it through another week.

        Reply
  10. Democrita

    When unemployed, the stress of worry about money may suppress the creative juices. Speaking from experience.

    People may well ‘keep looking for jobs’ because they know ultimately they need a job with steady income. The great experience of some freelancers notwithstanding, not all are cut out for it.

    I would love to see some more about happiness or its lack in retirement–referenced by stay-at-home dad BJ , above.

    I wonder, too, about the impact of *how* one loses one’s job. Getting laid off vs fired vs quitting vs involuntary retirement vs voluntary, etc feel very different. Speaking from experience on that, too. I will search on these points and post anything of interest.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      There are also other things that are degrading about the very process of being unemployed not mentioned here. What about the constant rejection that it can entail? One is unemployed and looking for work, one sends out resumes, many of them will never be answered, that’s rejection. Then if one is lucky they get interviews, many will never lead to jobs, yet more rejection. Does the process of constant rejection itself have a negative effect on a human being whether it’s looking for jobs or dates or whatever? Isn’t it learned helplessness to if one keeps trying for something and keeps failing. Isn’t that itself demoralizing entirely independent of any doubtful innate demoralizing quality of leisure.

      Reply
  11. freedeomny

    I am not so sure if I agree with this article. I think it really depends on whether or not you have income to support yourself, hate or love your job, and the amount of outside interests you have, among other things. Almost everyone I know who lives in the NYC area and commutes into the city….doesn’t like their job and finds the whole situation “soul-crushing”. Those that live in Manhattan proper are (feel) a bit better off. I for one stopped working somewhat voluntarily last year. I write somewhat because I began to dislike my job so much that it was interfering with my state of well being, however, if I had been allowed to work remotely I probably would have stuck it out for another couple of years. I am close enough to 62 that I can make do before SS kicks in although I have completely changed my lifestyle – i.e. I’ve given up a materialistic lifestyle and live very frugally. Additionally I saved for many years once I decided to embark on this path. I do not find myself depressed at all and the path this year has been very enriching and exciting (and scary) as I reflect on what I want for the future. I’m pretty sure I will end up moving and buying a property so that I can become as self sufficient as possible. Also, I probably will get a job down the line – but if I can’t get one because I am deemed too old…that will be ok as well. The biggest unknown for me is how much health insurance will cost in the future….

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Tha article made clear that the studies included “unemployed but with income” from government support. It is amazing the degree to which readers ignore that and want to make the findings about “unemployed with no income”.

      Reply
      1. JBird

        That’s because we Americans all have work=good=worthy=blessed by God while workless=scum=worthless=accursed by God engraved into our collective soul. Our politics, our beliefs, are just overlays to that.

        Even when we agree that the whole situation just crushes people into paste, and for which they have no defense regardless of how hard they work, how carefully they plan, or what they do, that underlay makes use feel that this is their/our fault. Any suggestions that at least some support can be decoupled from work, and that maybe work, and how much you earn, should not determine their value, brings the atavistic fear of being the “undeserving poor,” parasites and therefore reprobated scum.

        So we don’t hear what you are saying without extra effort because it’s bypassing our conscious thoughts.

        Reply
      2. freedeomny

        Are you writing that the article is clear that this is about people who become unemployed and receive income from government support as opposed to people who become unemployed and have their own resources (income, assets) to survive? Because that is not clear at all. This study is very ambiguous – it never mentions those close to retirement, voluntary unemployment, etc – and so the overreaching conclusion is that anyone without “work” is miserable. This is ridiculous. And yes, you can have “work” without getting an “income” in the form of a paycheck. I know one out of work voluntarily person who has made his current life’s “work” as an activist for animals – he does not get paid for this and feels that this is “his life’s work” (his words). I don’t find this study clear at all – I find it inherently skewed by the facts/scenarios it never even mentions.

        Reply
  12. Jamie

    Add my voice to those above who feel that forced labor is the bane of existence, not the wellspring. All this study says to me is that refusing to employ someone in capitalist society does not make them happy. It makes them outcasts.

    So, I say yes to a JG, because anyone who wants work should be offered work. But at the same time, a proper JG is not forced labor. And the only way to ensure that it is not forced labor, is to decouple basic needs from wage slavery.

    Reply
  13. Left in Wisconsin

    I am critical of those who distinguish between the job and the income. Of course the income is critical to the dignity of the job. For many jobs, it is the primary source of that dignity. The notion that all jobs should provide some intrinsic dignity unrelated to the income, or that people whose dignity is primarily based on the income they earn rather than the work they do are deluded, is to buy in to the propaganda of “passion” being a requirement for your work and to really be blind to what is required to make a society function. Someone has to change the diapers, and wipe the butts of old people. (yes, I’ve done both.) It doesn’t require passion and any sense of satisfaction is gone by about the second day. But if you could make a middle class living doing it, there would be a lot fewer unhappy people in the world.

    It is well known that auto factory jobs were not perceived as good jobs until the UAW was able to make them middle class jobs. The nature of the actual work itself hasn’t changed all that much over the years – mostly it is still very repetitive work that requires little specialized training, even if the machine technology is much improved. Indeed, I would guess that more intrinsic satisfaction came from bashing metal than pushing buttons on a CNC machine, and so the jobs may even be less self-actualizing than they used to be.

    The capitalist myth is that the private sector economy generates all the wealth and the public sector is a claim on that wealth. Yet human development proves to us that this is not true – a substantial portion of “human capital” is developed outside the paid economy, government investment in R&D generates productivity growth, etc. And MMT demonstrates that we do not require private sector savings to fund public investment.

    We are still a ways from having the math to demonstrate that government investment in caring and nurturing is always socially productive – first we need productivity numbers that reflect more than just private sector “product.” But I think we are moving in that direction. Rather than prioritize a minimum wage JG of make-work, we should first simply pay people good wages to raise their own children or look after their elderly and disabled relatives. The MMT JG, as I understand it, would still require people to leave their kids with others to look after them in order to perform some minimum wage task. That is just dumb.

    Reply
    1. jrs

      Maybe it’s dumb, it’s certainly dumb in a system like the U.S. where work is brutal and often low paid and paid childcare is not well remunerated either. But caretakers also working seems to work in countries with greater income equality, good job protections, flexible work arrangements, and a decent amount of paid parental leave – yea Denmark, they think their children should be raised by professionals, but also work-life balance is still pretty good.

      Reply
  14. Whiskey Bob

    My take is that capitalism has made the benefits and malus of having a job so ingrained into culture and so reinforced. Having a job is so closely linked to happiness because it gives you the money needed to pursue it.

    A job affords you the ability to pursue whatever goals you want within a capitalist framework. “Everything” costs money and so having a job gives you the money to pay for those costs and go on to fulfill your pursuit of happiness.

    Analyzing whether people are happy or not under these conditions seem apparent that it is going to lead to results heavily biased towards finding happiness through employment.

    The unemployed are often living off someone else’s income and feel like an undeserving parasite. Adults are generally ingrained with the culture that they have to grow up and be independent and be able to provide for a new family that they will start up. Becoming unemployed is like being emasculated and infantile, the opposite of what is expected of adults.

    There’s also that not having a job is increasingly being punished especially in the case of America. American wages have stayed either largely static or have worsened, making being unemployed that much more of a burden on family or friends. Unemployment has been demonized by Reaganism and has become systematically punishable for the long term unemployed. If you are unemployed for too long, you start losing government support. This compounds the frantic rush to get out of unemployment once unemployed.

    There is little luxury to enjoy while unemployed. Life while unemployed is a frustrating and often disappointing hell of constant job applications and having many of them lead to nothing. The people providing support often start to become less so over time and become more convinced of laziness or some kind of lack of character or willpower or education or ability or whatever. Any sense of systemic failure is transplanted into a sense of personal failure, especially under neoliberalism.

    I am not so sure about the case of Europe and otherwise. I am sure that the third world often has little or no social safety nets so having work (in exploitative conditions in many cases) is a must for survival.

    Anyways, I wonder about the exact methodologies of these studies and I think they often take the current feelings about unemployment and then attempt to extrapolate talking points for UBI/JG from them. Yes, UBI wouldn’t change culture overnight and it would take a very, very long time for people to let down their guard and adjust if UBI is to be implemented in a manner that would warrant trust. This article seems to understand the potential for that, but decides against it being a significant factor due to the studies emphasizing the malus of unemployment.

    I wonder how different the results would be if there were studies that asked people how they would feel if they were unemployed under a UBI system versus the current system. I know a good number of young people (mostly under 30) who would love to drop out and just play video games all day. Though the significance of such a drastic demographic shift would probably lead to great political consequences. It would probably prove the anti-UBI crowd right in that under a capitalist framework, the capitalists and the employed wouldn’t tolerate the unemployed and would seek to turn them into an underclass.

    Personally I think a combination of UBI and JG should be pursued. JG would work better within the current capitalist framework. I don’t think it is without its pitfalls due to similar possible issues (with the similar policy of full employment) either under Keynesianism (e.g. Milton Friedman sees it as inefficient) or in the USSR (e.g. bullshit jobs). There is the possibility of UBI having benefits (not having the unemployed be a burden but a subsidized contributer to the economy) so I personally don’t think it should be fully disregarded until it is understood better. I would like it if there were better scientific studies to expand upon the implications of UBI and better measure if it would work or not. The upcoming studies testing an actual UBI system should help to end the debates once and for all.

    Reply
  15. redleg

    My $0.02:
    I have a creative pursuit (no money) and a engineering/physical science technical career (income!). I am proficient in and passionate about both. Over the last few years, the technical career became tenuous due to consolidation of regional consulting firms (endemic to this era)- wages flat to declining, higher work stress, less time off, conversation to contact employment, etc.- which has resulted in two layoffs.
    During the time of tenuous employment, my art took on a darker tone. During unemployment the art stopped altogether.
    I’m recently re-employed in a field that I’m not proficient. Both the peter principle and imposter syndrome apply. My art has resumed, but the topics are singular about despair and work, to the point that I feel like I’m constantly reworking the same one piece over and over again. And the quality has plummeted too.

    In some fields (e.g. engineering), being a wage slave is the only realistic option due to the dominance of a small number of large firms. The big players crowd out independents and free lancers, while pressuring their own employees through just-high-enough wages and limiting time off. Engineering services is a relationship- based field, and the big boys (and they are nearly all boys) have vastly bigger networks to draw work from than a small firm unless that small firm has a big contact to feed them work (until they get gobbled up). The big firms also have more areas of expertise which limits how useful a boutique firm is to a client pool, except under very narrow circumstances. And if you are an introvert like most engineering people, there’s no way to compete with big firms and their marketing staff to expand a network enough to compete.
    In that way, consulting is a lot like art. To make a living at it you need either contacts or a sponsor. Or an inheritance.

    Reply
  16. ChrisPacific

    I would be interested to know what the definition of unemployment was for the purpose of this study (I couldn’t find it in the supplied links). If it’s simply “people who don’t have a job,” for example, then it would include the likes of the idle rich, retirees, wards of the state, and so on. Binary statements like this one do make it sound like the broad definition is the one in use:

    When considering the world’s population as a whole, people with a job evaluate the quality of their lives much more favorably than those who are unemployed.

    The conclusion seems at odds with results I’ve seen for some of those groups – for example, I thought it was fairly well accepted that retirees who are supported by a government plan that is sufficient for them to live on were generally at least as happy as they had been during their working life.

    If, on the other hand, the study uses a narrow definition (e.g. people who are of working age, want a job or need one to support themselves financially, but can’t find one) then the conclusion seems a lot more reasonable. But that’s a heavily loaded definition in economic and cultural terms. In that case, the conclusion (people are happier if they have a job) only holds true in the current prevailing model of society. It doesn’t rule out the possibility of structuring society or the economy differently in such a way that people can be non-working and happy. The existence of one such population already (retirees) strongly suggests that outcomes like this are possible. A UBI would be an example of just such a restructuring of society, and therefore I don’t think that this study and its result are necessarily a valid argument against it.

    Reply
  17. subgenius

    The system producing the merch for the punters to blow their wages on is what is killing the planet. It seems that the solution is less merch, thus less jobs and less ‘profits’ – all the way back to sustainable levels. With 7+billion, that is subsistence if you’re lucky…

    But no, everybody is still clamouring for their fair share (more) of what they have over there…

    Reply
  18. nihil obstet

    Which makes a person happier — being considered worthless by one’s society or valuable? How many studies do we need to answer that question? Apparently, a lot, because studies like this one keep on going. The underlying assumption is that jobs make one valuable. So if you don’t have a job you’re worthless. Now, who’s happier on the whole, people with jobs or the unemployed? That’s surely good for a few more studies. Did you know that members of socially devalued groups (minorities, non-heteros, and the like) have higher rates of dysfunction, rather like the unemployed? Hmm, I wonder if there’s maybe a similar principle at work. And my solution is not to turn all the people of color white nor to change all the women to men nor to “cure” gays. Well, maybe a few more conclusive studies of this kind will convince me that we must all be the same, toeing the line for those whom it has pleased God to dictate our values to us.

    I am convinced that we shouldn’t outlaw jobs, because I believe the tons of stories about happy people in their jobs However, I also believe we shouldn’t force everyone into jobs, because I know tons of stories about happy people without jobs. You know, the stories that the JG people explain away: parents caring for their children (JG — “oh, we’ll make that a job!”), volunteers working on local planning issues (JG — “oh, we’ll make that a job, too. In fact, we’ll make everything worth doing a job. The important thing is to be able to force people to work schedules and bosses, because otherwise, they’ll all lie around doing nothing and be miserable”), the retired (JG — “that’s not really the same, but they’d be better off staying in a job”). And this is all before we get to those who can’t really hold a job because of disability or geography or other responsibilities.

    I support the JG over the current situation, but as to what we should be working for, the more I read the JG arguments, the more paternalistic and just plain narrow minded judgmental they seem.

    Reply
    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Jackson Browne put it well decades ago:

      Everybody’s going somewhere
      Riding just as fast as they can ride
      I guess they’ve got a lot to do
      Before they can rest assured
      Their lives are justified
      Pray to God for me baby
      He can let me slide

      https://youtu.be/HoI9FD_HK1A

      Reply
  19. Lambert Strether

    Data like that provided by Mitchell is important to demolishing the horrid “economic anxiety” frame much beloved by liberals, especially wonkish Democrats.* It’s not (a) just feelings, to be solved by scented candles or training (the liberal version of rugged individualism) and (b) the effects are real and measurable. It’s not surprising, when you think about it, that the working class is about work.

    * To put this another way, anybody who has really suffered the crawling inwardness of anxiety, in the clinical sense, knows that it affects every aspect of one’s being. Anxiety is not something deplorables deploy as cover for less than creditable motives.

    Reply
  20. False Solace

    Let’s face it, jobs suck. Being told what to do all day by social climbers sucks. Let’s also be truthful here and admit that today’s jobs are an aberration in historical terms, introduced by industrialization.

    Before the modern period most people “worked” out of their own homes and shops. They had to deal with taxes and the taille but they controlled their own work day, decided when and how much work to do, and definitely weren’t under anyone else’s thumb hour after hour. So even if we’re now in a situation where people salivate after “jobs” and feel crappy without them, let’s be clear that the jobs people think they need involve laboring under far worse working conditions than was the case over most of the historical period.

    This also explains why depression and stress levels are off the charts compared to 100-150 years ago, a trend which shows no sign of decelerating….

    Reply

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