Bad Jobs

Let’s define, for the moment, a “bad job” as one that’s not pleasant or fun, and doesn’t teach you any obvious skills that have any value outside the job itself. It might also be boring and/or dangerous. Outside of financial concerns, is there any value in having such a job?

It seems to me that responses to this question fall into three categories, though this is not usually recognized. The three possible answers are:

1)      No, there’s no value in having a bad job. You do it if you have to, in order to get money, but if you can avoid having a bad job and still get what you want you should.

2)      Yes, there is value in having a bad job, because it’s good for you. This could be for moral reasons—for example, it will teach you humility, which is a morally good quality—or for pragmatic reasons—because, for example, it is a practical skill to know about the world and how it works, and a bad job may not teach you useful skills but you’ll learn things you wouldn’t know otherwise. Just because a job doesn’t teach you any obvious skills doesn’t mean you won’t learn things that will someday come in handy. Or a bad job might help teach you the value of a dollar (or other currency unit), so you’ll be smarter with your money.

3)      Yes, there is value in having a bad job, because some people have to have bad jobs. This too could be for moral reasons—for example, it will teach you empathy, which is a morally good quality—or for pragmatic reasons—you’ll be able to better understand and fit in with other people who have bad jobs. Or working a bad job now will make it easier to work a bad job in the future, if you find yourself needing to.

Answers 2 and 3 are not normally distinguished, and indeed the need to distinguish them becomes clear only if we imagine a world where no one has to have a bad job. Maybe this world will someday come to be, maybe not, but it’s not impossible, or at least not unimaginable—we could have robots to do all the bad jobs for us.

If we came to live in such a world, so answer 3 was no longer relevant, and someone tried to argue answer 2—that people should do some of the bad jobs even though there’s perfectly good robots around to do them—I would consider that a pretty extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary support.

Cross-posted from Empire Avenue.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: