Travis because there’s not enough work to go around,

Travis Smith

Professor Small

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January 28, 2018

and Critique of Livingston’s Fuck Work

“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. He is
wrong to make this assumption. 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? In conclusion, Livingston’s argument for universal basic
income will not work in todays politically charged and polarized society.


James. “What if jobs are not the solution but the problem? – James Livingston |
Aeon Essays.” Aeon, Aeon, 25 Nov. 2016,