is the right work being done?

Apologies in advance, but the thinking in this week’s post is even more underdeveloped than usual.  But it covers something I’ve been grappling with, and want to keep grappling with, so thought that was a good enough reason to turn it into a blog post.

I’m going to start with two premises that I expect most people would agree with:

  • There are activities which (directly or indirectly) improve the world and people’s lives by being done.
  • People need resources to survive (and thrive)

It is important to have a system that enables these.  Unfortunately, our current market system is flawed, over-rewarding some jobs and under-rewarding others.

Historically we have implicitly acknowledged that in a few ways, for example:

  • At an individual level we split the day into work time and leisure time. Calling it leisure time is a bit misleading, and maybe we’d be better calling it non-work time, but the basic idea is that it gives us permission to do those things that the market isn’t paying us to do.
  • We’ve developed the the template of marriage, where one person, usually the woman, does the majority of the things that need to be done but which the market won’t pay for, and is financially supported by the other person who focusses on the paid work.

I don’t think these are bad approaches, and I believe they’re much better than everyone devoting all their time to maximising how much the market will pay them.  But I’d like to think we can do better.

I don’t think the answer is as simple as saying “we need more markets” or “we need to restrict markets”.  There may well be policies that help (though I’m sure there are policies that are well-intended but would end up doing more harm than good).

But as a first step, we need more open discussion about what makes us and our world better, and how we can make that happen.  We all have choices about what we spend our time doing, and what we spend our money, and if we don’t spend it on the right things, we’ve got no reason to expect good outcomes.

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