On "antiwork" and necessary labor

Ultimately, the problem with the work or die position isn’t that it’s conceptually wrong. It’s that this position has been used by the wealthy to deliberately inflict misery on the poorer classes, in order to keep them desperate and cheap, to direct additional wealth to the already wealthy.

Every advance in working conditions comes via scratching and clawing something from people who already had the power to give it willingly to their workforce.

We are not in pre-civilization, and the point of having achieved civilization, in my opinion, is to eliminate the need to think as though we are. If ‘think as though you’re in pre-civilization’ is how we should be doing things, can you explain why you don’t also support forming a group of my family and friends and then roaming around murdering people to take their stuff, until some other group inevitably does the same to us? Well, because we’re not in pre-civilization anymore, I bet.

My argument is we shouldn’t motivate people through desperation for those things. They should be motivated in positive ways through the compensation offered, rather than through desperation to not be deprived of the basic necessities of living.

People can be plenty motivated to do work through compensating them adequately while also giving them time to enjoy their compensation, and treating them with at least a reasonable amount of respect. And if some people choose not to work, and live their simple, baseline existence, with a roof over their head and food in their bellies and a doctor to treat their illnesses without contributing anything, that’s fine. Not only is it fine, it’ll probably wind up costing society less overall, because many of the social costs on society are created by the desperation of the poor.

I know we’re not in pre-civilization, but that wasn’t my point. The idea that you have to work for survival, or depend on others to work on your behalf, is older than civilization itself. It’s just reality, and a UBI doesn’t change that. If we have a UBI and someone opts out of work, then that means someone else is working on their behalf to support them.

Here’s the thing, I don’t believe most people in the western world are motivated to work simply for the sake of survival. So I don’t buy your premise that we are motivating people through a fear of deprivation of living necessities.

And for those who choose not to work, they can starve so far as I’m concerned. I’m more than happy to help people who cannot work or are unable to find work, but I have no desire to support people who choose not to work. That said, if you can make an argument that UBI will end up costing society less overall, well, I’m open to that. If that’s true, I’d be willing to grit my teeth and support lazy bums for the greater good.

But the idea that if you don’t find someone to pay you enough money for your work society will forcibly remove you from your home (and then criminalize attempts to shelter yourself) is relatively new.

I see and hear of many, many people who would quit their jobs because of a combination of poor treatment and low pay - and it is actually more the poor treatment that drives them to want to leave - but fear doing so because they have to pay bills. Because they ‘have a family to support.’ Because they are afraid that if they do so much as demand that their asshole boss treat them with basic human respect, they’ll get fired and not find another place to work before they can’t pay the rent.

If a person lives ‘paycheck to paycheck’, as many people do (exact numbers seem to vary wildly, with some articles quoting 40% and others quoting as high as 78% but even at the low end that’s a lot of people) then your ability to quit your job is extremely limited. If you were to quit you might well be unable to secure more work before your bills are due.

If you actually mean this, then your position at least seems self-consistent, but very few people do. If you are genuinely willing to shut down all forms of welfare and charity so that people who do not work get to die from exposure and starvation because they’re not permitted to survive without working, then I suspect you’re in a very tiny percentage of the population, because most people who say that do not mean it. Or at least, they only mean it as long as the starving and dying is done quietly and without being noticed.

Also, people don’t just starve. They take things when they need to survive. So your way of doing things is, essentially: ‘create crime.’ Eventually they get caught and imprisoned and then you’re still paying for them, only prison costs far more than it would to simply house and feed them.

But ultimately, the thing is, having a free market for labor does not work if the laborers cannot easily decide that they are not being compensated fairly. If the choice is between ‘unfair, exploitatively low compensation’ and ‘can’t pay rent’, most people will take the unfair, exploitatively low compensation. There is, therefore, no market pressure to increase that compensation. People can blather on about how companies will pay more to retain good talent, but reality has conclusively shown that the vast majority will not, and it’s because in most cases it doesn’t matter. The fields of work in which ‘retaining good talent’ is important are relatively small and specialized, and not something the majority of people can ever be in.

Because someone already did that hundreds of years ago and then convinced everyone that bigger concepts, like God or the Nation-State, justify their position on top, and their monopoly on the use of force. And they’re very good an using force to prevent upstarts like you from doing what their ancestors did.

Then why be against a UBI? By your logic, you’d give people the ability to better negotiate with their bosses bwcause they’re not over a barrel, AND you don’t seem to think it would make most people not want to work. So why not? A handful of freeloaders are surely worth the labor market being able to properly negotiate?

Not to mention, letting people starve in the streets worked out real well for the Romanovs, or the Bourbons…

Which is the culmination of this point, when it’s turned up to 11 due to prolonged pressure -

Honestly, that’s not something to ignore. When I read about how more and more cheaper, smaller single family homes are now owned by investment companies, I shudder. Buying a home is one of the great ways that the average American has always been able to start building generational wealth and getting skin in the game. But nowadays I see that most people in their 20s-30s do not own a home or seem likely to get one any time soon. With staggering student loans weighing them down, getting a home in today’s market is harder and harder.

And the people who don’t have student loans because they didn’t go to college are even less likely to be able to afford a home.

We are creating an underclass of people who simply put have no skin in the game. They have a severely hampered ability to get into our system of generational wealth because we refuse to give them decent paying jobs unless they take on massive student debt, and if not we give them shitty jobs with crummy benefits and low pay. When they get sick, our health insurance system extracts as much wealth from them as possible, even though they’re supposedly “covered”. And their largest expense is likely rent (which at the end of the day mostly just covers someone else’s mortgage - the bank always wins…)

Meanwhile, more and more of our wealth gets concentrated at the top. It’s a big problem. When you create a whole class of people who can’t realistically participate in what makes our society tick except as the lowest level peons, what incentive do these people have to participate in our society as contributing and functional members, rather than turn to crime or worse?

And a lot of those are demanding college degrees. Even for jobs that don’t actually need a degree.

See, you say that, but then, you immediately turn around and say this:

As of about 3 weeks ago, drone delivery/Jetsonian America is still mostly a dream.

Do they program those or does someone have that job? Because piloting them sounds like it would be a fun job…

On the other side of the coin, I once worked at McDonald’s. I think my record (worst employee) still stands. I thought market forces dictated how much they paid their employees. If they were operating on such a thin profit margin there was little hope of a raise. I felt bad for my co workers because a lot of them were adults with no alternatives; I was working my way through college, just passing through.

Today? I don’t think this is only in NC…our local McDonald’s has this on their “marquee”

So at least they’re getting paid more for the onerous work. I don’t know if that will drive prices up; maybe they’ll give smaller portions for the same price.

Do you think that there is a reason why McDonald’s is trying to entice people with a quick one time payment of $500 rather than actually improving the terms of emplpyment to making working there enticing long term? And do you think maybe there’s a reason why it isn’t working?

Because they think it’s a temporary worker shortage. Once the right party gets in and it’s “work or starve” wages will go down again.

Sure. And there’s an argument to be made that most people don’t have any other option but to participate in society. If you want to opt out of work, you can’t just go walk into the wilderness and live the old hunter gatherer lifestyle.

This is true. Even before the pandemic, employees who are disengaged rarely cite pay as the primary reason why their miserable at work. Of course they have bills to pay. And bet most of them are living a lifestyle higher than the bare minimum to survive. They stay at those shitty jobs because they want to continue providing their families with nice things. They want to provide them with a lifestyle better than mere survival.

I didn’t write that I had a desire to shut down all forms of welfare. What I wrote was, “And for those who choose not to work, they can starve so far as I’m concerned.” I’m happy to have a safety net to assist those who cannot work due to disability, ailments, or some other problem and for those who are having difficulty finding work. I’m not so keen on paying someone who decides they’d rather stay at home and watch television all day.

I think unions are more effective than UBI when it comes to protecting workers. But I could grit my teeth and live with supporting worthless people who just want to sit on their asses all day if I thought it was for the greater good of society. I need concrete benefits to make gritting my teeth worth it.

Mrs. L and I figured they would probably make you put in 6 months before paying out the $500. As for “why it isn’t working” I don’t know if it is or isn’t…did you read something that indicated it isn’t?

Restaurant work seems like one of those fields where the work has always been, hard and it doesn’t pay well. If the conditions don’t change but the pay goes up, at least that’s some reward for the worker.

I read complains from business owners that the mean odl employees are working for them for 3 months or w/e to earn the $500 bonus then dipping out and grabbing Jack in the Box’s sign in bonus too. Rinse repeat.

In other words, they’re upset that people are responding to exactly the incentive that they created, and the free market is working for someone else, for once.

Interesting. Mrs. L worked in HR and says that at 1080 hours, the employee has to offer some benefits. Dividing by 52 weeks it means a little over 20 hours per week. When I worked there, few people worked more than 20 hours—they just didn’t give you the hours and then they didn’t have to worry about benefits.

Assuming that’s still true, 3 months = 13 weeks. They work 260 hours (max) to get a $500 bonus. That’s like paying $2 per hour more, temporarily.

Yep. I have no sympathy for McD’s really. They always paid low wages because they could get away with it…now they have to pony up because workers can get away with it.

Rush wrote a song about this.

I’ve been thinking about your reply and I’ve changed my mind to come a lot closer to agreeing with your point of view. The question I have is this. What can we offer people to positively entice them to clean toilets or pick vegetables or whatever other unpleasant jobs need to be done? It seems like doing so is going to be a matter of wealth redistribution. Either we all pay more for things, or the owners take a smaller cut of the business profits. The latter seems like it’s the (much) better option, but I’m not sure how we accomplish that.