In “Fuck Work” economic historian, andprofessor of history James Livingston argues that Americans must start totransition away from the idea, that having a job is the only way that anindividual can build character and a sense of self-worth.
Livingston claimsthat mostAmericans define themselves through their work ethic. Americans view work as asource of income and a sense of self-worth. But, belief in this work ethicdoesn’t match the current labor market.
Many jobs simply don’t pay enough toprovide workers with a living wage. Half of all Americans with jobs qualify forfood stamps, and entitlements from the government makes up 20% of all householdincome. Americans’ belief in hard work is based on the assumption that a fairreward will be earned for hard work. While most full-time workers are barelyable to afford to live, others earn ridiculous amounts of money throughquestionable means. Additionally, there just aren’t enough jobs for everyone,and those that are available just don’t pay enough. 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 full employment is unrealistic. This can be a chance toreflect on the current predicament. Why have a job that doesn’t provide foryour basic needs? Livingston believes American’s mustlook 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 purpose of Livingston’sessay is to address a few economic issues, the outlook of America’s workforce,and a possible solution. He examines a workforce that is tired of unemployment,underemployment, stagnant and shrinking wages; a workforce who resents the richwhom they work for; and a polarized political climate. Livingston wants Americansto know that the future workforce does not look good. If the current situationdoes not change that eventually the system will fail. He also wants to persuadeAmericans to believe in a possible solution. That solution being a universalbasic income paid for by taxing corporations.
Livingston argues that, “Taxing the profitsof corporations to finance a welfare state that permits us to love ourneighbors and to be our brothers’ keeper isn’t an economic problem. It’ssomething else – it’s an intellectual issue, a moral conundrum.”