Would you still do your job if it wasn’t paid, and you didn’t need the money? If you got paid anyway regardless of whether you turned up. It’s an interesting question I often ask myself to test how much I really like my job, and why I do it. Working “for nothing” is taken to mean working for no money. Unpaid work. Voluntary work. I like working. If I wasn’t getting paid and didn’t feel the need to earn money, I would still do my current paid job. And I already do plenty of work “for nothing” too. It’s not working for nothing, because I get other things from my work that are not money.
Lottery winners often give up their jobs. But some carry on, because they like their work. There is a certain fulfilment about doing the right kind of work with the right people, sharing, teamwork, creativity, usefulness, achievement, purpose, being needed. Many people say they would carry on with their jobs, but do less hours, if they won the lottery. Some people would change their job to one that they had always wanted to do but that didn’t pay well. A life of total leisure, being provided for like an infant, soon becomes dull, pointless, meaningless, and some lottery winners ruin their lives this way.
Suppose EVERYONE was working for no money, then no money would be needed! Noone would need to charge for any services or goods, because there would be no one to pay.
Most work in the world at the moment is paid, and it’s about making weapons for war, waging war, banking, insurance, tax collecting, government, factory production, and making excessive useless things for the overconsuming West that noone really needs. The more we buy into this system, the more it spirals out of control.
What would the world look like if EVERYONE on the planet was doing the work they wanted to do for the right amount of hours that suited their life at that time? I think the world would start to be shaped by what we collectively believe in, not by the things that the elite few want us to do for them.
My guess is that people would slow down, and demand would have to meet supply. Would anyone want to work in a factory unpaid, or be a prostitute? How many people would work 40 hours a week for free? How many people would commute 2 hours a day every day in the rush hour? How many highly paid people would carry on with their jobs?
Possession is 9/10ths of the law. Most of our laws apply to money, ownership and trading, so they would nearly all be obsolete. No need for all the elite controlled organisations, the banks, the advertisers, the tax collectors, the debt collectors, the cash machine makers, the invoicing department, accountants. Less lawyers, less crime, less prisons. Imagine how many working hours would become available to do other more meaningful things.
If all work is unpaid, then the rate of pay is not a deciding factor in what people choose to do. So things like care are on a level playing field with things like being a CEO, both unpaid. The things that get done depend on how much they need doing and who wants to do them.
If we had no paid work, would the essential work get done, the cleaning, the caring, the growing of food, the cooking, the fetching of water, the building of homes and making of clothes? Or does it only get done by forced labour, by making people desperate for money so that they do anything to get it? That’s our fear, isn’t it? that the essentials would not get done, we in the West would not have what we need, because we would not be able to make people elsewhere provide for us.
I think this fear would dissipate, as we discovered the joy of being more self reliant, and the value of community. And we would be lightened as we rid ourselves of our deep down subconscious knowledge that we are exploiting hidden people in remote countries for our Western lifestyle. We would start to organise ourselves better in our communities, instead of waiting for the council and government to do things for us, we would to do it ourselves.
This is a Utopian ideal. It seems impossible that this could happen across the whole planet. But once upon a time, maybe life was like that, life without money, life with fulfilling work. The good news is that you don’t have to wait for someone to declare a new law of Unpaid Work, or wait for the banks to collapse, or for everyone else to think the same as you. As usual, the answer is within. The ideal is simply an idea, a direction to work towards. Anyone can make small changes right now in the direction they want to go in. My personal preference is to Spend Less, Earn Less, so my attachment to the system of paid work is slowly but surely reduced over time.
The training to work for money starts at school with kids trained to work for rewards or points or A grades, or praise, rather than for the joy of the work itself. If that’s the only thing that will get kids to work at school, it doesn’t say much for what sort of work they have to do.
(See also earlier posts: The Gift Economy, Why I Need Money, The Moneyless Society, Demand and Supply, The Cost of Money, Monasteries and Mothers, The Pyramid Game, Profit from Prisons, Child Care Profits)