Thinking of Quitting?

A new study looks at lottery winners, which seems to be a better experiment, since the winnings are enough to approximate the lifetime fixed annuity that UBI pays. And guess what? People earn less, take less demanding jobs, and if they start a new business, it’s likely not going to be a good one

Thinking of Quitting?

By Capital Thinking • Issue #891 • View online

I’ve never bought into the whole “bullshit jobs” hypothesis.

Maybe it’s the economist in me, but if someone pays you to do something, then it must be valuable to someone and therefore to society as a whole.

-Allison Schrager

Do we really need to work?

Allison Schrager | Known Unknowns:

I may not understand every job, like why we need so many diversity consultants—do they increase productivity, or reduce it?

But from another perspective, jobs like that provide tremendous value, and if done well can ensure a fair and equitable workplace (whatever that means). And that sounds good—maybe that means more productivity in the long run.

And even if I don’t get it, I’d bet that even a mediocre diversity consultant believes that their job is important, and that they feel good about it. After all, work is important—it provides purpose and dignity, and of course, if you’re paid for it, there’s obvious economic value too.

The past 18 months have led us to rethink many aspects of our working lives. I wrote about a friend of mine who is thinking of quitting his job.

It was never going anywhere, even though it paid pretty well (though less than the market rate), but the glamour of travel and just a general sense of complacency had kept him in the job for more than a decade.

But then a year at home forced him to face what was wrong with the job, and he’s not alone in that. People are quitting their jobs at record numbers, and companies up and down the skill spectrum are now offering bonuses to keep people from doing so.

Quitting has been trending down for decades, but it’s actually an important part of a dynamic economy.Perhaps my friend has forgone years of being more productive and pursuing further advancement. But I’m still pessimistic about the possibility that all of the quitting will last.

We’ve become accustomed to a state of languishing, and going back to our old routines may feel good, at least at first. And I suspect the bonuses that aim to get us back in the office are counting on that. Never underestimate the power of passivity.

The good thing about working from home is that it forces you to assess your own productivity as well. You waste a lot of time chatting with people in the office and whatnot, so no wonder everyone is excited about a new study with Icelandic civil servants working a 4-day week and being more productive and happier because of it.

But don’t we already have a better experiment in the form of France with its 35-hour work week? It didn’t go so well in the private sector if you actually care about income growth.

Besides, I’m also starting to think that there are positive externalities to wasting time at the office.

My enthusiasm for jobs—all jobs—may be why I’ve always been a UBI skeptic. And I’ve always thought that all of those “studies” where people find their productive true selves are flawed.

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Known Unknowns
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