Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What If You Don't Want to Work?

Most people feel an ethical obligation to be productive. Some less wise people don't. Still others would like to be productive but feel doomed to a low-pay/low-reward career.

In fact, some people do have dim career prospects: If you're not bright, not driven, have personality issues, and excel at little, your chances of earning a good living aren't great in our ever-more-demanding global economy and with a U.S. empire that's likely in its decline and fall while China and India ascend.

Rather than guilt-trip you on the importance and wisdom of being productive, here I'll simply accept your self-assessment. I find anathema an able-bodied/able-minded person living off the taxpayer. I can more readily accept such people making the effort to become a stay-at-home spouse of a good income-earner. Agree to be a great spouse, homemaker, and perhaps parent in exchange for she or he providing the bulk of the family's income.


Anonymous said...


I certainly don't think stay at home spouses are lazy. They are in fact the exact opposite. I have been one (working from home FY while when my kids were younger) and have also worked outside of the home which I currently do.

Off my soapbox...

But I have to agree with you about those who don't work because they don't want to. That boils my blood because many of those same people in the system also get child care vouchers, free/low cost health care, etc. While I and my husband are killing ourselves trying to live a decent life well BELOW our means.

Now I'm not talking about those who truly can't work due to illness or laid off and actively looking but need food/assistance just to get by until work is found. Rather, I am talking about those who don't work and choose to instead have children, more children, and even more children each time their benefits are scheduled to expire.

I enjoy work and have to admit that I work hard to live a decent life. But there is something to be said of the parent that is sitting at home watching TV all day while their child is in free daycare that I couldn't even begin to pay for for my children without some type of assistance.

I even knew a woman who was on welfare...able bodied, had her HS diploma, and some job skills. The state let her live in a large house with no contribution on her part. This woman chose to put her kids in daycare (free of course for her) all day while she sat at home and then when she got bored...went and did volunteer work in the community. All the while the place she volunteered was hiring and she qualified. They offered her a position there... Her reason for not applying, get this, was that she might get bored working and then she'd loose her benefits!

Awful role model for her children! But she is the second generation to live this way. I pray her kids don't pick this lifestyle up!

Anonymous said...

It seems that you may be assuming one must earn a cash salary in order to be "productive," and that not doing so implies either lack of motivation or incompetence. If so, I don't agree. Maintaining a home, caring for children, preparing meals, organizing finances, etc., etc., etc., require a great deal of effort, intelligence, organization, and self motivation to do well: it's "work" and the result is certainly "productive". Although the common wisdom is that "anyone" could do this, it usually turns out that those who are good stay-at-home spouses probably could have been good at a whole range of other jobs, but chose to give other goals (such child rearing) priority. The job they do in their homes is superior to that of those less motivated. Furthermore, their contributions to the home often allow their spouses to achieve levels of success that they could not if both people worked, and inasmuch as this is so, they deserve credit for those achievements. These people are part of a team; they are not "living off" their spouses or society in any sense. Let us give credit where it is due.

On the other hand, many stay-at-home spouses who are lazy, selfish, and "unproductive" would have contributed equally poorly at "work." These people have not made the choice to focus their contributions at home, but instead are abusing a system in which no one typically checks up on you. They are the same people who take disappear at work when there is a job to be done, or always come up with excuses that are plainly untrue. It is reasonable of society (and their spouses, in particular) to expect better of these individuals. I miss the Marty who would say these people need to get off their rears and contribute!

Dave said...

I'm satisfied with my job, but the reward is only monetary. Let's face it: The vast majority of us are condemned to perform shallow, impersonal, automatic jobs. We are a civilization of slaves on a grand scale that wallow in a practical and superficial lifestyle. What is the added benefit? Most of us are spiritually dead people, after all. Maybe Alvin Toffler was right. Maybe some of us need to step off the wheel and seek sanctuary for an indefinite period of time. The home and the monastery are much more important institutions than we realize.

Anonymous said...

Your born, you have no choice but to work. However, I don't think there's anything wrong with not wanting to work.

You say the wise want to be productive yet the most productive people I know are often the least happy. That includes you Marty (or at least what you have put online). The saddest part is you aren't even stuck in a cubicle. Needless to say there is little hope for the rest of us who aren't as talented or motivated to find happiness and contentment in being productive.

Living off of someone else's hard work is something just about everyone looks down upon, but wanting to work is another story.

Marty Nemko said...

I am not unhappy. I just am critical of myself. And to the extent I'm not as happy as many people, it's mainly a function of my physiology. I'm constitutionally mildly, just mildly sad. I've always been that way. So was my dad whom I am a dead-ringer for. It doesn't matter how hard or not hard I work, that's who I am. I think that's true of most of us--We are who we are. Wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.

Anonymous said...

So, just so I can make sure I've understood you correctly...You are a career and education counselor, and a writer for a newspaper (essentially.)

That makes you an unproductive citizen. Nothing you've done has created wealth, you've only stolen it from those who've created it (like most individuals in the service industries.)

Furthermore, unlike services that create "wealth" by freeing up time so that productive citizens can be even more productive, you don't actually even perform such a basic service function...the only thing you have to offer to the world at large are your thoughts, and to be honest, there's libraries full of any amount of information you could ever hope to grant to anyone, all free of charge.

It's so interesting to see an individual such as yourself proclaiming such negativity towards the "unproductive" masses.

Marty Nemko said...

Dear Anonymous,

While there is a tremendous amount of content out there, I sure do hope that the my six books, 1000+ articles and blogposts, plus 200+ tweets, and the 3,500 career counseling clients I've served represent a productive worklife. I've obsessively tried to make everything I write be fresh and minimally redundant with others' work. Sorry you don't feel I've made a sufficient contribution relative to other workers. That IS important to me.