The idea that Everyone Should Have a Job is so Common we Forget to Question it

My latest piece for Quartz at Work begins this way:

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “We must create full employment or we must create [basic, guaranteed] incomes.” More than 40 years later, we talk a lot about the last half of that statement: Technology entrepreneurs like Y Combinator’s Sam Altman and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes have campaigned for universal basic income (UBI)—the idea that everyone should receive a regular, unconditional, government-issued stipend that would be sufficient to cover one’s material needs—to the point at which it’s become a trendy topic.

There is much less talk about the philosophical underpinnings of King’s other idea—“full employment.”

This view that every able-bodied and able-minded adult should have—and, what’s more, should want to have—a job has become so widespread that it is almost invisible. In our work-obsessed society, most people would say that of course everyone should have a job….

But the claim, I believe, warrants just as much debate as UBI.

After we decouple the claim that “having a job” is an unalloyed good from the desires to survive, to leave some traces on the world, and to make a reasonable contribution to the lives of others, we might see that having a job is at least a sacrifice, if not a Faustian bargain.

You can read the piece in its entirety here.

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