Repost: Labor itself should not be a positional good

Pointless labor as a status symbol is fatal to the healthy functioning of a society.  An obsessive fixation with efficiency and automation robs people of the dignity of work.  No, this doesn’t mean we all need to bust sod to be fully human, but we do need to labor and have that labor be connected to our necessaries of life.  Instead, what we have is elites on both the right and the left using labor itself as a positional good, a status symbol to lord over the poor, chronically unemployed and mostly not-white masses.

It’s a ridiculous setup.  It’s derived from the egalitarian Scandinavians, who use pointless labor to obscure wealth gaps.  Don’t look at my mansion, I wash my own car while being a top anesthesiologist!

But their egalitarianism derives from their warband history.  America wasn’t founded by warbands who need a rough sort of egalitarianism to not turn on each other.  And a focus on pointless work that can be dropped at any time just reveals a deep selfishness and fleeing from the responsibilities that used to come with wealth, status and privilege in favor of a false idol of meritocracy where someone “earns” their cushy indoor job publishing policy documents that never get downloaded or read.

It would be better for society if the middle and upper classes went back to hiring a cook  instead of cooking badly as a “locavore foodie”, poorly arranging and preparing one’s expensive, locally sourced organic ingredients and posting the crummily photographed results to the internet afterwards.  But instead we have those same terrible cooks trying to fight for make-work jobs “teaching” poor people to follow their terrible cooking advice and awful recipes.  I use cooking as an example a lot because it’s very time consuming to do correctly for any kind of normal-sized family.  And it’s work one can excel at without “testing well”.  There is a lot of work like that, but it’s being subsumed into “lifestyle” LARPing by the kinds of people who “test well” and have jobs trying to keep women like me from staying home and telling everyone else what to do without the least bit of empirical experience or evidence.

It’s not dignified for people to be denied real work because they aren’t glib SWPLs.  And the glib SWPLs are not dignified when they reduce craft to a caricature of practice and effort while lording their leisure time over the rest of us as “hard work”.





5 thoughts on “Repost: Labor itself should not be a positional good

  1. I wonder if it’s possible that you overestimate the numbers of people who can afford to hireca cook, a maid, etc.

    Or who can afford to offer such a person enough work that it makes any kind of serious economic impact.

    For example, there was a time when people would pay me to make a birthday cake. But those people could never afford to hire me to regularly bake their breads, etc. And that is what would be required for me to make a living from home as a baker.

    I’m rambling. I guess…can you give me an idea (in the context of this economy) what this might look like if the numbers of people who are actually UMC all started hiring out their labor?

    I have given this a fair bit of thought and I can’t see it. Either because I am too American, not rich enough, or both.


    • There is a tech boomlet in doing what I’m talking about, only using an app and never seeing the people performing the services. So even in our society, people recognize the need for this occasional up to but not always frequent labor, they just want it without the messy human interaction and relationship parts.

      For example, there’s a company experimenting with grocery curbside pick-up instead of delivery. Not because pick-up is actually more convenient, but because it can be offered a couple of dollars cheaper than delivery service. But only a couple of dollars.

      People aren’t too poor, they are just greedy and selfish about these things. Paying reasonable rates wouldn’t leave them financially any worse off, but they don’t have to, so they don’t.

      And there’s the whole idea that one family has to support x service entirely or what’s the point, even though people obviously see that sometimes pooling financial resources to buy services is something several families can do when it’s not the emotional flashpoint services of childcare, cooking and cleaning and sometimes homeschooling.

      I live in one of the worst areas in the country for DIY everything even when it’s destroying community ties, and yet there’s private pooling of money and equipment for utilities and buying animal feed in bulk, among other things.

      And yet, of course, they do this kind of thing but don’t think they can have the nicer teenagers from the local high school in a babysitting co-op, which was something that existed even here in DIYland until HIPPIES.


  2. A while back I looked at a newly constructioned house that had a 2000 sq.ft first floor master suite. One of the features that they highlighted was a second washer and dryer built into one of the two ginormous master bedroom closets so that the owners wouldn’t have to carry their laundry upstairs or carry their kids’ laundry downstairs. Even at that price point the assumption is that you will be doing your own laundry. And of course the kitchen is big and beautiful with because you will be playing home chef.

    I don’t see this changing any time soon. We seem to be heading towards being like a third world country where there are large numbers of extremely poor people who are easily exploited. I don’t see very many people paying reasonable wages when they do hire out work aside from nannies and nanny sharing. And that is driven more out of concern for the wellbeing of their own children and bragging rights than out of any sense of decency or concern for the nanny.



      But slightly more seriously, we’ve lived in neighborhoods full of that kind of house. People live out of takeout containers in their untouched kitchens (their homes have giant picture windows for the living room and kitchen, and they all believe blinds and curtains are conservative myths) and heaven only knows what they do about laundry.


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