“Ah, Liv,” Alex answered, waving me away playfully, “all jobs are bullshit. That’s the definition of a job: a consuming activity, typically done in a location outside one’s residence, that has no purpose or social benefit.”
“You really believe that?”
“You should by now,” Alex said before I could finish my thought. “I figured it out years ago. I recall the exact moment. It was in business school. In my second year, I had a class with a cranky old Marxist. Why he was teaching at the place was unclear. He did not fit in. He even wore tweed suits—you know, the ones with the elbow patches. He was practically a caricature of an academic.
“One day, he began lecturing about this economist. I forget his name. In the 1930s, this economist had predicted that, based on productivity growth, people would have to work only fifteen hours a week in the not-too-distant future. That’s all that would be necessary. At that point, the class laughed. But here’s the rub: it actually happened. Not the limited hours—we work more today than ever. But productivity rates did increase as predicted.”
“So?” I asked.
“So, here’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question: we’re productive enough to only work minimal hours in order to provide for our basic needs, but we don’t. Why not? That was the professor’s question.”
“Well,” I responded, “maybe because we don’t work just to afford food, shelter, and other necessities. We want more, and we work accordingly.”
“That’s definitely part of it. A few people in class made that very point. But the professor reminded us that if we’re working more than half of the week to pay for those consumer goods and luxuries, then the industrial sector involved in furnishing those same goods and luxuries should dominate the economy. But it doesn’t.”
I had lost the thread, and I was getting hungry. “Okay, what’s your point?”
“My point is,” Alex said, leaning in close, “I understood at that very moment what the old Marxist was implying. I got it.”
“That we really don’t have to work as many hours as we do?”
“Yes, but more importantly, that most jobs don’t have any real purpose or function. They’re not needed. They’re there simply to be there.”
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