In “Fuck Work” economic historian, and
professor of history James Livingston argues that Americans must transition
away from the idea, that having a job is the only way an individual can build
character and a sense of self-worth. Livingston claims most Americans define
themselves through their work ethic, however, this work ethic doesn’t mean anything
in today’s workforce. Many jobs simply don’t pay enough to provide workers with
a living wage. Most full-time workers qualify for food stamps because they do
not earn enough to survive. American’s belief in hard work is based on the assumption
that a fair reward will be earned for hard work. While most full-time workers
are barely able to afford to live, others earn ridiculous amounts of money. Simply
put, there just aren’t enough jobs for everyone, and those that are available just
don’t pay enough. Livingston
says, “These beliefs are no longer
plausible. In fact, they’ve become ridiculous, because there’s not enough work
to go around, and what there is of it won’t pay the bills.” There have been 0 net jobs
have been created in recent years. Also, per one estimate, up to half of Americans
current jobs might disappear due to robots within 20 years. The idea that government
policies can restore the country to full employment is unnecessary. This can be
a chance to reflect on the current predicament. Why have a job that doesn’t
provide for your basic needs? Livingston believes American’s must look beyond jobs for other ways to build character,
income, and self-worth.

Livingston
wrote this essay, targeting readers who are unemployed and looking for work,
and those who work a full-time job that just does not pay enough. One could
also argue that his target audience is all Americans. The essay was published
by Aeon Digital Magazine, a publisher of articles involving ideas, philosophy,
and culture. It makes sense that this article would be published here because
of the target audience. The purpose of Livingston’s essay is to address a few
economic issues, the outlook of America’s workforce, and a possible solution.
He examines a workforce that is tired of unemployment, underemployment, stagnant
and shrinking wages; a workforce who resents the rich whom they work for; and a
polarized political climate. Livingston wants Americans to know that the future
workforce does not look good. If the current situation does not change that
eventually the system will fail. He also wants to persuade Americans to believe
in a possible solution. That solution being a universal basic income paid for
by taxing corporations. Livingston argues that, “Taxing the profits of corporations
to finance a welfare state that permits us to love our neighbors and to be our
brothers’ keeper isn’t an economic problem. It’s something else – it’s an
intellectual issue, a moral conundrum.” Livingston wants Americans to imagine a
life without work because he believes it is inevitable.

Livingston
does a good job persuading the reader that Americans need to change the way
they view jobs. He presents compelling market and economic statistics, and
hyperlinks to outside sources that support his arguments to persuade the
reader. He also does a good job presenting the reader with, what he believes to
be, the solution to the problem. Livingston attempts to persuade the reader
that we need to move to a universal basic income system. He tried to persuade
the reader by asking, “What would society and
civilization be like if we didn’t have to ‘earn’ a living—if leisure was not
our choice but our lot? Would we hang out at the local Starbucks, laptops open?
Or volunteer to teach children in less-developed places, such as Mississippi?
Or smoke weed and watch reality TV all day?” Many aspects of Livingston’s
essay are agreeable and very persuasive, such as Americans workforce problems,
workforce resentment, and political polarization; however, the idea of a
universal basic income is not. Universal basic income will never work because Americans
will never support it. As long as Americans believe their hard-earned tax
dollars would be going to support someone sitting around on their couch all day
watching television, they will never get behind it. After all, why should someone
else have to work hard at a low paying job only to have their paycheck taxed to
help pay for someone who does not work. Now, if universal basic income was supported
with funds from the governments sale of goods and resources, then and only then
would there possibly be enough support for the idea of a universal basic
income. Livingston assumes that the government has the ability and means to
support a universal basic income. The government has shut down numerous times
because congress cannot agree on a budget. If the government can’t agree on a budget
how will they ever agree on passing a budget that would include something like
universal basic income?

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