Do What You Love: A Response

According to a Slate article, the “Do What You Love” mantra devalues work.

The author makes clear that devaluing work is a bad thing and their hypothesis claims that advising people to Do What They Love dismisses those who must do whatever they can to keep a roof over their head while allowing the employers of people who have the choice to pursue the career they love to offer less material compensation since the workers will work for social capital.

I agree that Do What You Love devalues work; however, I believe that the devaluation of work is the natural and desirable outcome of industry.

hard_workWe have crossed the threshold at which full employment was necessary and arrived at a point in which full employment may not even be possible. Why is it that we are more and more capable of producing an abundance of goods and services with less labor and yet more people must participate in the work force? In the United States before World War II, women rarely worked outside of their home, and yet all the work that needed to be done still somehow managed to be taken care of despite half the adult population being unemployed slackers. Today, we stigmatize the unemployed whether they have access to jobs or not.

It is time to decouple work from survival.

Right now, there are people working menial, soul-crushing jobs that they hate with sore feet and empty bellies. The narrative refrain is that if you cannot provide for yourself, you are not trying hard enough or that you are not willing to work hard enough. The truth is there are people making over 100k/year who work 40/hour weeks in comfortable offices and other people who work 60/hour weeks at more than one grueling job who make less than 25k/year. As long as that kind of disparity exists, there is no justification to the argument that people are poor because they are lazy. If anything, the more a person makes, the lazier they can be.

Of course, the person may be hard working, but they may not be skilled at a job that society values. In a society where people chose to Do What They Love or not work, a society in which the consequences for unemployment didn’t include homelessness, I believe society would value labor in a very different way.

The fear that underlies the stigma against the disadvantaged is that we would have to pay the person that makes our lunch enough that they could eat lunch themselves. If no one was forced to work or suffer (or to work and still be hungry), who would be willing to feed the rich? Is the service provided by the person who files your taxes really more personally valuable than the service provided by the person who teaches your children by orders of magnitude? How much would you pay someone to take away your garbage if no one was forced by circumstances to accept the low price you currently pay?

The truth is, there will always be someone willing to take away the garbage because they value providing such a useful service. To me, the whole point of Do What You Love is to free up a job at Wendy’s for a teenager that one day wants to be a restaurateur by allowing the musician that is currently flipping burgers to put their efforts into their music.

What is the world missing by restricting the choices of people who have something valuable to offer, but cannot develop their talent because rent is due?

The flip side of that fear is that those who have something to lose would have to make do with less. However, as was pointed out by the author of the Slate article, people who Do What They Love are already willing to work for less monetary compensation in exchange for social capital. There are only so many cars a person can buy. There are hazards to excess that can be alleviated by a willingness to accept less money and more satisfaction.

Businesses would still thrive, but the stock market would no longer give huge returns. Those who live on capital gains alone would face the choice that the poor face now: work or suffer. Or rather, that is the choice they would have to face—if we were not talking about a world in which a minimum level of security was available to everyone so that each person could Do What You Love.

Dana Cooley

Dana Cooley

Contributing Writer
Dana Cooley is an MSU International Relations graduate where she wrote for The Reflector, the MSU student newspaper. She is also a web designer, a mother, and an aspiring marathoner. She can be contacted at: dana.d.m.cooley@gmail.com.
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