[Paleopsych] welfare and the meaning of work

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Mon Nov 29 18:26:32 UTC 2004

I did low wage work when I was young and working
my way through school.

The value of such work is that it gives you the
money you need to buy necessities and it provides
an economic base while you are trying to get to
what you really want to do.

I also know that many people in the bottom rungs
have no ambition, and are content just to get by
doing as little as possible.  They make babies that
usually have the same outlook.

Lynn mentioned "Joe and the Volcano" in one of
his posts.  Outside of the jumping scene, my
favorite lines in the movie come from the Eddie
Albert character, when he talks about the fact
that most of the people in this world are asleep.
"For the few who are awake, the world is a fantastic

Steve Hovland

-----Original Message-----
From:	Michael Christopher [SMTP:anonymous_animus at yahoo.com]
Sent:	Monday, November 29, 2004 10:01 AM
To:	paleopsych at paleopsych.org
Subject:	[Paleopsych] welfare and the meaning of work

>>I believe in reducing welfare and creating workfare
programs because I believe people are more fully alive

and vital when they are producing something valuable
to the group.<<

--I absolutely agree with you that people need a sense
that they are contributing something of value to the
world. I question whether many minimum wage jobs
provide that sense of meaning. I've known too many
fast food workers who felt they were doing nothing of
real value, working purely for the money, and spending
the money on drugs to avoid feeling the alienation of
their place in society. I myself have always found it
far more rewarding doing volunteer work (even when I
really couldn't afford to work for nothing) for people
I respected than to work at a job doing something with
little real value to the world.

I'm also concerned that treating people as if their
only value is in serving an economic machine is
alienating in itself, more so than being on welfare
where time, a precious commodity, is preserved and
left for the individual to manage. I do agree that
there should be programs to connect people to job
training, volunteer programs and community programs
designed to provide a sense of meaningful
contribution. But many of the people who want to end
welfare seem as isolated from the real world of
minimum wage work as the "ivory tower academics" they
condemn. In order to make changes in a social system
(it's as much "social engineering" to end welfare as
it was to create it) you have to be in touch with
reality on all levels, not rely on economic theories
or ideology about what humans need. Every change has a
ripple effect, and people who are isolated from
realtime feedback can make disastrous decisions,
purely because they feel someone else made bad
decisions and it's their mission to correct them.
Liberal policies are undoubtedly flawed... but that
does not automatically mean anti-liberal policies will
succeed. The best policy in many areas may be a
"states' rights" platform enabling states to
experiment and see what works and what doesn't, before
institutionalizing changes on the national level. At
least then, people can move from one state to another
if things go wrong. 


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