Friday, September 12, 2003

MY KARMA IS 0. At Hit & Run Nick Gillespie praises Plastic: "It may not have made money," he says, "but it's great that it's around."

I can't tell you how refreshing it is to hear a libertarian praise something that hasn't been rewarded by the market. It was also a pleasure to be reminded that Plastic is still going, if not going strong, and still good. And the current edition of Plastic contains this bit:
A national survey by Oxford Health plans found that one out of six Americans who receive paid vacation are unable to use it, nearly one-third of employees work through lunch and 19 percent reported feeling obligated to work even when sick or injured. Whether such numbers reflect workers' anxiety or a stronger work ethic, experts worry about the physical and psychological ramifications while policymakers argue over proposed solutions.

Hands up -- who here believes (will you wait till I've asked the question first, please, Mr. Kudlow?) that these numbers reflect a "a stronger work ethic" among American drones? While anecdotal evidence is notoriously shaky, I think it's pretty damn universally observable that most workers don't love their work, and do it primarily if not solely to get paid. Despite what TV commercials tell us, this is not, for most of us, a world of endless options. Kids get born, houses get mortgaged, and before you know it that dream of being a pro skateboarder soon's you raise enough seed money temping is nothing but a rueful memory. And that's speaking of the folks who had a dream in the first place. So you go to work.

Again, this seems self-evident -- a life lesson, not an economic hypothesis. So it's remarkable how gullible (well, willfully self-deceiving is probably more like it) the Wall Street Journal was on the same issue this past Labor Day, taking workers' mildly positive responses to survey questions about their jobs as proof that Americans are work-lovin' happyfaces. Look: how comfortable would you be telling complete strangers that you spend a third of your week doing something with which you feel no connection and, best case, hope to get out of someday or, worst case, have learned to endure by running the theme music from Monday Night Football in your head every time you feel like screaming? Are you the kind of person who will share his private griefs and disappointments with a guy on line at the RiteAid? Most of us aren't. So if Mr. Clipboard asks me how I like my job, I won't say I despise it even if I do (and I don't! Really! I love my job, folks! And you know me, I wouldn't lie about that to swell folks like you!).

No, we don't like to work, and if we don't avail every opportunity to do less of it, it's because we're either politicking our way to a promotion or scared shitless we'll be fired -- which, in our current "jobless recovery," is not an unreasonable fear.

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