30 March 2010

Economic oxymorons

Like Damian, I think that this is a good category, worthy of future posts.

Here's an example from the other day: We were hiking around Mt. Cook and passed a girl wearing a t-shirt that said:
Born to freefall [skydiving], forced to work.
This is wrong, of course.*

Except in examples of slavery and fascist regimes, we are not forced to work. We choose to work because we want the wages that come from that work. We may prefer one job over another or one combination of wages, benefits and discretion over another, but -- in the end -- we are free to work or not. As Anne pointed out, the girl wearing the shirt will be prematurely depressed about her work, since see sees it more as slavery than the result of her free choice.

Bottom Line: The glass may be half full or half-empty, but it's your choice whether or not to drink it.
* I will not get into evolution and freefall, except to say that very few wild monkeys are spotted with parachutes.

4 comments:

Josh said...

Bah! I'm going to disagree with you on this one.

The economic problem is scarcity. Scarcity is a problem - that is accepted. The only way to avoid the kind of scarcity that kills or dramatically shortens both life and the ability to skydive, (if one is so inclined, I ain't), then one must work. Ergo, she is forced to work, in order to live and skydive.

"forced" doesn't have to be defined with another human doing the forcing. Life forces all kinds of choices upon us - indeed, it forces economic thinking on us.

Josh said...

I'll add, too, that I am forced to think economically. I enjoy it, too, and being forced doesn't mean it has to be a bad thing (I think that's the main gist of most major religions).

David Zetland said...

@Josh -- your first post doesn't make sense (missing a word), but I'll point out that there is a HUGE difference between force and choice. We choose to work -- we are not forced -- because we want goodies...

Josh said...

What word am I missing?

Goodies like food and water? Clothes and shelter? Would we get these for free?

We may choose to work over a certain amount in order to get goodies, but we must work for even the basics, ergo we are forced (forced = something you must do, or are compelled to do).

We may be quibbling over definitions here, so to be clear: I consider force as compulsion, by anything; and I consider our basic necessities as not "goodies" but requirements to live.