Tuesday 14 August 2012

Wrong to work?

Hmm, I happened upon an interesting discussion yesterday in which a lawyer was arguing with a benefit recipient about the relative merits of their respective endeavours. The lawyer pontificated about the apparent lifestyle choice of the supposed scrounger and its validity, resting on the principle ‘wrong to work’.

The benefit recipient, quite rightly asked what (if anything) positive came from the lawyer's work. The lawyer lost the argument (soundly, it appeared to me) when the only response mustered was 'achieving equality for clients'. This was countered with the accusation that, as an intangible benefit, equality didn’t count as value.

Then, naturally, the labels started flying, starting with something like commie, which resulted in the lazy and obvious retaliation of fascist, swiftly followed by Tory, red, chav, scum, toff and all the usual suspects and before you could say ‘giro’ the whole argument was a busted flush.

If the validity of somebody's existence lies in the sum of 'worth' they provide to the world, it could very easily be argued that lawyers, as a ‘species’, contribute very much to the deficit. In fact the best paid lawyers are generally retained by those whose own actions are highly questionable – that’s antimoral leverage in action. It is no accident that many US politicians and presidents have practised law, a trend becoming ever more popular over here.

So, stalemate? I don't believe in rewarding idleness - how could any rational thinker? But I actually quite like the idea of 'wrong to work' in a sense - it is often said that if you find a job you love you never have to work again. And if more people were happy there would be less need for bloody lawyers in the first place!

I understand and support the idea of a financial safety net – instant evictions and suchlike would only create yet more work for lawyers, after all – but any such system will always be open to exploitation by the unscrupulous. We’ve seen it happen time and time again.

But, rich or poor, fit or lame, the concept of earning a living still applies. If you earn your place by graft or talent or by the largesse of those around you it shouldn’t matter until you are perceived as taking the piss. This applies as much to tax-avoiders being ostentatious as it does to those fraudulently ‘on the sick’. Nobody should get a free ride (although you should be allowed to coast in the slipstream from time to time).

Self-sufficiency is a laudable aim and moral self-sufficiency is a grand idea, except for the huge lack of self-awareness that man displays, but unless you want to cut yourself off completely it can rarely work. Bartering a few eggs or an occasional sack of spuds is hardly likely to fund a Sky subscription. For that you need money.

And there’s your problem, right there. Even if you reset everything and money became merely an intermediary currency, it would take no time at all for human avarice to re-establish, then accelerate, the wealth gap. In a grown-up world, I guess you just have to accept that and choose which course of living makes you least unhappy.

Is it so wrong to work? (Comments below)

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