Monday, July 11, 2005

Work

I had a lengthy post cooked up in my head when I sat down about the utility or disutility of work, when I read this from Will Wilkinson, who seems to have said it all for me. Looks like I've been beaten to the punch.

The point is, work isn't always a huge source of disutility. Sure, many of us would not do the work that we get paid for now if we didn't need the income, but many others would continue to do their work, regardless of what compensation they are getting.

I, for one, find that my work time doesn't cause me much disutility at all, and that I would probably take a much lower wage if I was actually being compensated for the disutility it causes me. Instead, my wage is more determined by market forces and what I could be earning somewhere else, not how much I am put out by doing said work.

My last post on work and leisure was more philosophical, and Will is obviously waxing more economic(al?), but the point is still essentially the same; work is both an ends and a means.

Remember in grade school when people asked what you wanted to do with your life, if money was no object? If you said work on cars, you were supposed to be a mechanic. If you said make cookies, you were supposed to become a pastry chef. And if you said pick up trash, you were supposed to be a garbage collector. The point was that you can do what you like with your life, you can spend your creative energies where ever you'd like to, and your work can become an end in itself. When your work is its own point, then the compensation from it, the means part of your work, loses importance.

We need the compensation from our work to live, of course, and this is one way in which work constitutes our lives, but as a means to survival. Work is also, though, the very point of our existence, as action constitutes living, and thus work becomes an end in itself as well. The best work, and the only work worth doing, is work that is both an end and a means.

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