Great essay, Chuck. I particularly liked this comment of Bob Black's:
"Twenty years ago, Paul and Percival Goodman estimated that just five percent of the work then being done -- presumably the figure, if accurate, is lower now -- would satisfy our minimal needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Theirs was only an educated guess but the main point is quite clear: directly or indirectly, most work serves the unproductive purposes of commerce or social control. Right off the bat we can liberate tens of millions of salesmen, soldiers, managers, cops, stockbrokers, clergymen, bankers, lawyers, teachers, landlords, security guards, ad-men and everyone who works for them. There is a snowball effect since every time you idle some bigshot you liberate his flunkeys and underlings also. Thus the economy *implodes*.
"Forty percent of the workforce are white-collar workers, most of whom have some of the most tedious and idiotic jobs ever concocted. Entire industries, insurance and banking and real estate for instance, consist of nothing but useless paper-shuffling. It is no accident that the "tertiary sector," the service sector, is growing while the "secondary sector" (industry) stagnates and the "primary sector" (agriculture) nearly disappears. Because work is unnecessary except to those whose power it secures, workers are shifted from relatively useful to relatively useless occupations as a measure to assure public order. Anything is better than nothing. That's why you can't go home just because you finish early. They want your *time*, enough of it to make you theirs, even if they have no use for most of it. Otherwise why hasn't the average work week gone down by more than a few minutes in the past fifty years?"
Too much of the discussion on this list strikes me as the just the mirror image of the tiresome corporate yadda-yadda I hear at the office all day long. Farting around with economic statistics is ultimately not the grounds for radical action. Contemplating the absurd nature of most work today and pondering how to change that does point toward meaningful change.
BTW, one figure I do find intriguing is the "Paul and Percival Goodman ... [estimate] that just five percent of the work ... being done ... would satisfy our minimal needs for food, clothing, and shelter." By my reckoning that estimate is now 35 years old. Are there any more recent estimates along these lines?
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