Does work equal dignity?

Photo Credit:  Jose Antonio. 62  via  Compfight   cc

Photo Credit: Jose Antonio. 62 via Compfight cc

Our listeners are brilliant and we can no longer fit all the brilliance in our Friday episodes. So, we are going to start sharing it here on our blog. 

I thought your Welfare reform episode was one of your best. You wove so many facets of the discussion together and represented your respective parties well while remaining nuanced. There were two items mentioned that I wanted to lift out.

First, the federal minimum wage. I agree that the minimum wage should vary across localities, but I still see a role for the federal minimum to guarantee an absolute baseline in whatever county in the US would have the lowest appropriate minimum. I also think we need to rethink the minimum wage because I see low wage paying companies as the true welfare queens in our society. In general, if you're working 40 hours per week (quick aside: I thought raising the issue of how a 40 hour week needs to be rethought was utterly fascinating and a stroke of genius) and still relying on assistance programs, something is terribly wrong. I would love to see minimum wages create a baseline where that wasn't the case. I suppose you could also solve it through a guaranteed income or maybe tax reform, but the minimum wage seems the most obvious and likely vehicle to me.

And finally, while I completely understand the temptation and appeal of equating work with dignity (as someone who has always had some kind of employment since he was an adolescent, I am totally guilty of this) I think it's important to consider trying to move past that attitude. If we really do end up with a largely automated economy and society, perhaps with a guaranteed income, as many people are predicting, there simply won't be enough jobs for everyone. I would hate to live in a society where so many people were considered to be undignified through no fault of their own. I'm not sure how we get to that point because changing such long ingrained attitudes is extremely difficult, but acknowledging the issue when the notion of the dignity of work is raised would be a good start I think.

- Louis