Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Det ska löna sig att arbeta"

The title means "it should be profitable to work", and it has been a political slogan in Sweden for as long as I can remember - it is funny how communistic it sounds when translated into English...

The statement is pretty uncontroversial, but has been used as an argument from economical liberals for spending less money on unemployment benefits.

I don't regard myself as poor in anyway, but I am still delighted to know that I am not turning a page in my life. After a week in Portugal I will start a real job, as a kind of teacher/teaching assistant. Until now I have been toiling in the most proletarian jobs avaliable for non skilled ethnic Swedes - in daycare with disabled persons. What makes it proletarian is not so much the tasks (that are kind of nice), but the fact that you are paied by the hour, and have no security whatsoever, since you are litteraly not employed when not working. Which makes you work your ass off every month in case you don't get enough hours next month. It is an old story - all over the world workers gathers in the town squares, or at the docks in the morning, to see if they get a job or not,a nd they have done so for centuries.
 Picture: CC by HB Art on Flickr

In such a position a phrases like "it should be profitable to work" sounds like a joke. Especially when it comes from economic liberals. The logic is that socialism has made us lazy, and that we prefer unemployment benefits to work.

On the contrary, I think that socialism is built on a moral that says that you should work, not for your own profit but for society. If I wasn't raised that way, I might have applied for benefits, in stead of keep working by the hour.

Economical liberals think that this is not true. Humans act for their own profit, and we should do so. Society grows richer when private proftis grow. This sounds a lot more realistic than the socialistic idealism, and liberal politicians have succeded alarmingly well in creating a nation of entrepeneurs who try hard to get rich, without a trace of bad conscience.

What is the proper way to react for someone who thinks that humans act for their own profits, when they find themselves in a job without trade strong trade unions and with low wages? They will compare costs/benefits of having the job with the costs/benefits of unemployment, of course. The theory says that if unemployment sucks enough you will take any job. But in reality the reverse is more realistic - if the job sucks enough any kind of unemployment is preferrable. Even if it means living outside the economy.

So if you really want to make it profitable to work, what you should do is to ensure that trade unions are strong, and that salaries increase more than company profits. Which would require heavy legislation and much less freedom for company owners.

The problem is that more or less liberal politicians have done the exact opposite. They have deregulated the economy and weakened trade unions. It would be hard for these entrepeneurs to get rich othewise.

But already Adam Smith realized that this hardly makes work more profitable. In other words, in a deregulated society it is much less profitable to work than it was before the deregulations. In a stark capitalist society, work is very unlikely to make you rich. but it can give you stability and intellectual challenges, which all that counts in the end.

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