Having A Decent Life Should Be A Choice Of Being Willing Or Unwilling To Work, But Often It’s Not

DavidGrace
Apr 10 · 5 min read
Image by Grae Dickason from Pixabay

If there are no jobs that will pay people enough to have an OK life then the promise of a decent life through work is a lie.

By David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)

A Functioning Economy Needs Workers

If an economy is going to provide goods and services to consumers, then people have to work to produce those goods and services. Labor in, goods and services out. The two have to balance.

In order to broaden the variety of goods and services an economy produces and to reduce their prices, as well as for many other reasons, it’s in everyone’s self interest that people to have an incentive to work.

Work is good for the individual. Work is good for the economy, and it’s good for the society.

People Need An Incentive To Work

The foundation of that incentive to work is the promise:

If you’re willing to work you can have at least an OK life, and if you won’t work you will have a crap life.”

That’s the carrot and the stick that gets people out of the house every morning.

Of course, skilled workers are more valuable than unskilled ones. We want to give people an incentive to gain the skills needed to perform more complex services and create more sophisticated products.

That incentive takes the form of the promise:

Get better skills and have a good life, or don’t get better skills and have just an OK life.”

Having A Crap Life Should Be A Choice Not A Sentence

If the principle is:

If you’re willing to work then you can have an OK life” then the crucial wealth difference for able-bodied people should be between

  • Those who choose to work and
  • Those who choose not to work.

If the principle is: “Get better skills and have a good life or don’t get better skills and have just an OK life” then the crucial wealth differentiation for able-bodied people should be between

  • Those who have the intellectual ability to learn better skills and choose to acquire them
  • Those who have the intellectual ability to learn better skills and choose not to acquire them, and
  • Those who don’t have the intellectual ability to learn better skills.

Together, the above two rules provide a foundation to incentivize work for an economy and for a society.

Today, Earning Enough To Have A Decent Life Is Often Not A Choice

But if people buy into those promises and then find out that there are no jobs that will pay them enough to have an OK life, that is pay them a living wage, and that there is no realistic way for them to acquire the skills they would need in order to earn a good life, then those “If you’re willing to work hard you can have an OK life” and “Get better skills and have a good life” promises are revealed to be a scam, just slogans that are nothing more than lies.

Those lies kill the incentives we want to give people to get them to work hard and to improve their skills.

In outline form, here’s how the American workforce actually breaks down:

Willingness To Work Is Worthless Without Access To Training

How things really work in this country is that if your family isn’t rich enough to pay the fees required to have you trained for an available good job and also house you, clothe you, feed you and provide medical care while you’re learning those skills then just being willing work will not get you an OK life, leastwise a good life, if there are be no available living-wage or good-paying jobs available to you and there is no training that you can afford to get.

In order for this “If you’re willing to work you can have an OK life” principle to actually be true, then, in outline form, this is how the workforce would need to breakdown

Everyone Having A Chance At A Decent Life Is A Myth

We would like to believe the myth that everyone has a chance to have at least an OK life if they are willing to work, but it isn’t true.

We would like to believe the myth that having at least an OK life or a crap life is a voluntary choice of either being willing to work or unwilling to work, between talented people being willing to study and improve themselves or unwilling to study and improve themselves, but that’s a lie.

If you have the intelligence and talent to perform a skilled job but not the money to acquire the training for that job, then there is no choice involved.

No good life for you.

If you don’t have the intelligence and talent to perform one of the available skilled jobs, then there is no choice involved.

No good life for you.

If there are no living-wage jobs available for you, then there is no choice involved.

No OK life for you.

For many people, having a crap life is not a choice, but with with some changes to the minimum wage, subsidizing useful public-service work and instituting a viable system of job training to talented applicants it could be.

For more details on how this might work, see my column: A Guaranteed Minimum Income Is The Wrong Answer To The Right Question. The Solution To The Shortage Of Living-Wage, Low-Skilled Jobs Is Publicly Funded, Non-Profit Corporations That Will Pay A Living Wage.

— David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)

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DavidGrace

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Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 17 novels and over 200 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

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