Saturday, August 26, 2017

On Income and Idleness

A great deal of harm is being done in the modern world
by belief in the virtuousness of work

— Bertrand Russell

Ayn Randers go ballistic when Silicon Valley billionaires suggest a universal basic income would drive innovation and equality.

Can underwritten idleness ever be virtuous?

Watch an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and you'll say no.

But philosopher Bertrand Russell—spared an encounter with Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall and Kylie—thought it could.

In his 1932 essay "
In Praise of Idleness," Russell argued that overwork is overrated; and idleness, underrated.

With automation, he believed, people need work no more than four hours a day to keep civilization going.

Four hours a day would let them contribute fairly and earn their keep—and leave them ample time to study, think, play, and practice crafts. And as they do, innovation, charity, happiness and peace would flourish.

Sound utopian?

It isn't.

Russell's hope was simple: after millennia of "overwork for some and starvation for others," it was time for people to "stop being foolish."

And Russell was describing our future: a time when the "
shared economy" creates enforced downshifting (provided the 1% don't win out and revoke the 13th Amendment; a strong possibility, in my opinion).

When you consider the fact most gigs in a shared economy pay too poorly to offer complete liberation, the Silicon Valley CEOs might be right: a universal basic income makes sense.

For the Ayn Randers and others who think overwork confers moral worth, I have just three words.

Get a life.
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