Much of the GNP serves no need at all, other than the need for job, career, status, wealth, and power of those who provide it. Nobody wants to read advertizing or to see TV commercials. Few people would have asked to pay, or if asked would have agreed to pay for the space program, the hydrogen bomb, nuclear programs, MIRV, or the Asian war, to name only a few. Another large part of the Gross National Product meets human needs that are wholly artificial—needs that can only be created and maintained by psychological pressure, intense, unrelieved, and destructive. If you do not use our product, you will go right on being what you are now—ugly, smelly, friendless, sexless, loveless, a joke, a disgrace and a failure. But for this merciless pressure most of the cosmetics would stay on the drugstore shelves, the high-style clothes on the racks, and the wild-animal named cars, power mowers, snowmobiles etc in the dealer’s lots. No sensible person believes anymore the lie that industry gives the public what it wants. Buckminster Fuller has rightly said that it would pay us many times over to give all construction workers a good lifetime pension—buy them off, so that we could begin to work seriously on the really vital task of building efficiently the housing we so desperately need. The fear that may once have made our economy run now keeps it from running.a
I have offered a guess that we could do the work we now do in 2/3 of the time or less if we did it as well and efficienly as we could— this would give us a work week for those working of twenty to twenty-five hours, but we protect these work weeks, these jobs, these livelihoods, by excluding in various ways many of our people from the job market—the young, the old, a great many women, millions in the armed forces and millions of the unemployed-- the young we shut up in schools, the old we force out of the job market with retirement, which for many people comes at fifty, not sixty-five, and which forces many people against their will into idleness and poverty. We exclude women from many jobs, and we make years of useless schooling a requirement for many jobs that could be done as well or better without it.
If everyone who wanted to could do a share of what we now consider the work, how long would they have to work to do it? Twenty hours a week, or more likely fifteen, or ten. And if our economy became truly humane and efficient, if we quit the business of meeting non-needs, or of creating needs so that we could meet them, or defining real needs so that they could only be met in the most expensive ways, the average work week might be less than ten hours—if we define work in the old Puritan sense of something unpleasant we have to spend a large part of our time doing whether we like it or not. Most people will not have to work at all. Whatever truly unpleasant or dangerous work there is, we can divide up fairly among many people, or pay so much for that some people will be glad to do it, or learn how to do it with machines. Work for most people can then become what it should be—what they do because it seems worth doing. In our society we go to great trouble to preserve the “moral purity” of work-- we do not care much whether work is useful-- and we are scandalized by the thought that it might be interesting, pleasant, even joyful. We cling instead to the belief that work should be unpleasant, disagreeable, boring-- that it should take up most of a man’s [sic] waking life, and that he should do it only under the pressure of greed and fear.John Holt,
Escape From Childhood AAA
If the only way for most people to have a decent livelihood in a given society is to have a job, and if there are many more people than jobs, then clearly many people w
ill have to depend on some jobholder for support. Today about half the women in the country, many of the old and all of the young are in this position. As long as they remain so, to talk about their in dependence or their equal rights is to some extent unrealistic. If they can only get the things they need from someone who holds a job, then that jobholder or breadwinner is going to feel he has the right to tell them what to do. And to a large degree, whatever the law may say, he will be right. They have little choice but to do what he tells them, because they have nowhere else to go.
In our society when we talk about equal rights for women or children we are necessarily talking mostly of the upper-middle and wealthy classes, where women and even the young are more likely to have some money of their own or where it will be easier for them to get some of whatever jobs there are or where they can more easily get help from other people who do have money. Most people do not have these choices. Lower-middle class and poor women and children will remain locked into dependency on some jobholder, unless they can have some sure source of income of their own.
For this reason the right of everyone to choose to be independent can hardly be fully meaningful except in a society that gives everyone some guaranteed minimum income.
What I propose is that such an income should be guaranteed not just to all adults, male or female, single or married, but to all children as well, down to an early age - as early as the child wants to receive it. For, obviously, the right to leave home, to travel, to seek other guardians, to live where they choose, and alone if they choose, cannot be an active or meaningful right for most young people unless they can get the money they need to live. Some will object that this much financial independence might weaken family ties. But the state ought not to use the threat of poverty as a glue to hold the family or other personal relationships together.John Holt,
Escape From Childhood