In “Fuck Work” economic historian, andprofessor of history James Livingston argues that Americans must transitionaway from the idea, that having a job is the only way an individual can buildcharacter and a sense of self-worth. Livingston claims most Americans definethemselves through their work ethic, however, this work ethic doesn’t mean anythingin todays workforce. Many jobs simply don’t pay enough to provide workers witha living wage.
Half of Americans with jobs qualify for food stamps. American’sbelief in hard work is based on the assumption that a fair reward will beearned for hard work. While most full-time workers are barely able to afford tolive, others earn ridiculous amounts of money.
Simply put, there just aren’t enoughjobs for everyone, and those that are available just don’t pay enough. Livingston says, “These beliefs are no longer plausible. Infact, they’ve become ridiculous, because there’s not enough work to go around,and what there is of it won’t pay the bills.” There have been 0 net jobshave been created in recent years. Also, per one estimate, up to half of Americanscurrent jobs might disappear due to robots within 20 years. The idea that governmentpolicies can restore the country to full employment is unnecessary.
This can bea chance to reflect on the current predicament. Why have a job that doesn’tprovide for your basic needs? Livingston believes American’s must look beyond jobs for other ways to build character,income, and self-worth.Livingstonwrote this essay, targeting readers who are unemployed and looking for work,and those who work a full-time job that just does not pay enough. One couldalso argue that his target audience is all Americans. The essay was publishedby Aeon Digital Magazine, a publisher of articles involving ideas, philosophy,and culture.
It makes sense that this article would be published here becauseof the target audience. The purpose of Livingston’s essay is to address a feweconomic issues, the outlook of America’s workforce, and a possible solution.He examines a workforce that is tired of unemployment, underemployment, stagnantand shrinking wages; a workforce who resents the rich whom they work for; and apolarized political climate. Livingston wants Americans to know that the futureworkforce does not look good.
If the current situation does not change thateventually the system will fail. He also wants to persuade Americans to believein a possible solution. That solution being a universal basic income paid forby taxing corporations. Livingston argues that, “Taxing the profits of corporationsto finance a welfare state that permits us to love our neighbors and to be ourbrothers’ keeper isn’t an economic problem. It’s something else – it’s anintellectual issue, a moral conundrum.
” Livingston wants Americans to imagine alife without work because he believes it is inevitable. Livingstondoes a good job persuading the reader that Americans need to change the waythey view jobs. He presents compelling market and economic statistics, andhyperlinks to outside sources that support his arguments to persuade thereader. He also does a good job presenting the reader with, what he believes tobe, the solution to the problem. Livingston attempts to persuade the readerthat we need to move to a universal basic income system. He tried to persuadethe reader by asking, “What would society and civilization be like ifwe didn’t have to ‘earn’ a living—if leisure was not our choice but our lot?Would we hang out at the local Starbucks, laptops open? Or volunteer to teachchildren in less-developed places, such as Mississippi? Or smoke weed and watchreality TV all day?” Many aspects of Livingston’s essay are agreeable and very persuasive,such as Americans workforce problems, workforce resentment, and politicalpolarization; however, the idea of a universal basic income is not. Universalbasic income will never work because Americans will never support it. As longas Americans believe their hard-earned tax dollars would be going to supportsomeone sitting around on their couch all day watching television, they will neverget behind it.
After all, why should someone else have to work hard at a lowpaying job only to have their paycheck taxed to help pay for someone who doesnot work. Now, if universal basic income was supported with funds from thegovernments sale of goods and resources, then and only then would therepossibly be enough support for the idea of a universal basic income.