Monday, September 1, 2014
Labor Day Musings
I could go on and on about labor and work. I've a keen interest in it -from an outsider's perspective. It's not that I don't appreciate hard work. A good work ethic is something to be encouraged, especially in other people who are working for you.
Come to think about it, the whole “nobility of work” thing comes not so much from the laboring classes as it does from the ownership classes.
My grandparents were hard workers, slaving night and day in the mills. The best that could be said for their working conditions is that it was better than starving to death on a Quebec potato farm. Those farmers had a lot of kids and the farm could only be divided up so many times before it became impossible to scratch a living out of the thin soil.
Dad did his time in the mills. Eventually, after being laid off too many times, he went in search of something else. Eventually, dad became a firefighter and he loved the work. Maybe that's why I skipped the whole factory labor thing and went directly into the fire service. Like dad, I loved it, but never thought of it as a job.
Drive fast, make noise, and break windows, why it was like a never ending adolescence. For an adrenaline junkie it was a pretty good gig. Some folks join the military for that rush. I felt that rush that only comes from putting it all on the line, got to save people instead of kill them and at the end of my shift went home to my family.
Now I mostly work for myself. Not in the sense of owning a small business. Small business people only think they work for themselves. They work for their customers, the banks, the government agencies that regulate what they do. That might sound bad, but usually it's better than working for some megacorp.
When I say I work for myself, it's my labor directly affecting my living conditions. That's how we all lived at one time. Before we labored for money to buy food and our other necessities, we were hunter gathers. Our needs were supplied directly. Somewhere we messed up and developed agriculture and civilization. Many labored in misery so a tiny elite could live the good life.
Now the ownership classes have found the perfect solution: robots. There's a point beyond where a human worker's wages cannot be cut. He has to be able to at least feed himself as there's very little work to be had from the dead. Robots, on the other hand, are not hindered by that limit. Owners dream of replacing all workers with tireless robots who'll work day and night for almost nothing. Who will buy the products from all this productivity is a mystery as we'll all be out of work. Unless we are given a basic income, the whole scheme falls apart. Factory owners will have extremely low production costs, but their products will still be too expensive for the unemployed to buy. As for the former workers, they'll be reduced to down to hunter gatherer existence.
As so we come full circle.
Enjoy your Labor Day. Hope you have the day off.