Actually, the title of this posting should be, “How Work Can Be Both Fulfilling and Remunerative,” but that doesn’t draw the reader in . . . besides seeming a little crass and materialistic, don’t you think?
Anyway, one of the things John Paul II stressed in Laborem Exercens, his 1981 encyclical on human work, is the fact that work performed for no purpose other than to gain income is degrading to the dignity of the human person. We’re meant for better things, such as (in human terms) becoming better people as people, and (in religious or God-related terms) becoming more what we think (with properly formed consciences) Whoever we worship as God wants us to be.
Since CESJ is not a church, and the Just Third Way is not a religion, we don’t get into areas of faith, except to note that we think it’s important, and the government has the responsibility of providing a proper environment within which religion (or lack thereof) can flourish through the free and uncoerced choice of people. We confine ourselves to matters of economic and social justice in conformity with the natural law.
Given that, we can address the problem of work.
The fact is, as technology advances, one purpose of work gets removed: income generation. As technology takes over more and more of the task of producing marketable goods and services (don’t forget that “production equals income”), owners of technology gain more income, while owners of labor are left with little or nothing.
Is the answer, then, to take income away from owners of technology and redistribute it to owners of labor? That may be necessary as a short term expedient, but there is no way that is a solution. It violates justice in that it takes away from owners of technology what is theirs by right, and violates charity by trying to substitute distribution on the basis of need for distribution on the basis of relative value of inputs.
The answer to the problem of income is to realize that, if owners of technology are gaining income, and owners of labor are losing income, then owners of labor must become owners of technology. That is what Capital Homesteading is designed to do, but without taking anything away from current owners of technology or inflating the currency. We’ve covered this many times before, and you can review it again by clicking on this link.
The issue we’re addressing here, however, is, if work is no longer useful for the purpose of generating income, what good is it? The answer is that, assuming we approach it with the right attitude, work always retains its meaning, but it must also have a purpose. In fact, work without purpose might not even be “real” work at all, regardless how much effort and resources are put into it.
That is where Aristotle’s concept of “leisure work” comes in. There will always be work that is absolutely essential for the purpose of advancing personal growth and the preservation and advance of civilization. The problem is that the most valuable types of leisure work often result in little or no income generation. People need to be taught that the purpose of advancing personal growth and civilization can replace the purpose of income generation where work is concerned. Let the technology we own work to generate our income, while we get on to the important work.
This may be one of the things Pope Francis might want to consider emphasizing — once people can (finally) be convinced that, one, something must be done to keep people alive now, and, two, that emergency measures are not solutions, and a permanent solution, not a temporary expedient, is what is needed.
Maybe it should go into an encyclical on the principles of economic justice.