Imagine that work had taken over the world. It would be the centre around which the rest of life turned. Then all else would come to be subservient to work. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, anything else - the games once played, the songs hitherto sung, the loves fulfilled, the festivals celebrated - would come to resemble and ultimately become work. And then there would come a time, itself largely unobserved, when the many worlds that had once existed before work would vanish completely from the cultural record, having fallen into oblivion.
And how, in this world of total work, would people think and sound and act? Everywhere they looked, they would see the pre-employed, employed, post-employed, underemployed and unemployed, and there would be no one uncounted in this census. Everywhere they would love and laud work...An ethos of hard work would be championed as the only means by which success is to be achieved.This is quite a burdensome interpretation of work! Especially for those of us who - in part because we came into this world lacking in "social graces" - experience work as freeing and meaningful. Yet, as Miles Kimball recently wrote:
...it would be a great advance in human happiness if we can figure out how to make the experience of work more like dressing and keeping the Garden of Eden than eking out survival from thorny ground by the sweat of our brows.Indeed. In a time of great tradable sector abundance, one would think the economic results might have been somewhat closer to a Garden of Eden outcome. But instead, societies have inadvertently created their own "thorny ground", via the wealth capture of today's non tradable sector institutions. How much of our excessive work mentality, is simply a response to claims on our time, via the arbitrary expectations (better known as "quality product") in the social designs of our housing, education and healthcare?
Fortunately, we can think differently about these vital products in the future, through the local equilibrium recognition of non tradable sector design. Such an approach would make it possible for us to discover the levels of work we are mentally and physiologically equipped for - especially that which is other oriented - without the excessive sacrifice of our scarce time. When we have the ability to seek out steady and "doable" levels of mutual responsibility, it becomes easier to preserve sufficient time in life for our own personal challenges as well.
Locally designed settings for non tradable sector product, would allow groups to better align common resource use, so that participants can discover similarly oriented patterns of work and play. Individuals would finally be able to set aside time for the public goods they find most important. By creating a broad range of infrastructure concepts, much of today's all or nothing framing of personal responsibility, could finally be put to rest.
Chances are, most people are not inclined to be workaholics, simply because this is what society seems to "expect". Rather, many have ended up as workaholics because there appeared to be "no choice", given today's additional non discretionary costs. With a little luck, those expectations might be reduced, so that all of us can once again seek the levels of work and mutual responsibility that are reasonably within reach.