Friday, November 16, 2007

On jobs, retirement and slavery

Something I found in my archives, dated Nov 28, 2002.
About the notion of "job".

The ancient Babylonians had a type of slavery in which the slaves worked for their masters and were paid a bit for that. If they so wished, they could sell crafts for themselves to make extra money in their spare time. They also had an option of buying their freedom.

(Slavery conjures images of flogging and hard physical labour, but the above form almost sounds like the life of an employee - you spend 8 hours a day working for your employer.. are free to do what you want in your spare time, even make money for yourself and can retire if you think you have enough money...)

The modern notion of a job was created by the industrial revolution.

In Victorian England, it was scandalous to do a "job". Any self-respecting individual "worked for himself". Obviously the very idea of a job seemed akin to slavery to the people then.

The subsequent boom in "Manufacturing and Services" made the concept of earning a living by working for another socially acceptable.

That brings us to retirement. This is an interesting creation of 20th century America !

In the 20's and 30's, America went into a deep depression. There just weren't enough jobs for people then.

In those days it was customary for people to work as long as they wanted to. It became imperative for the stability of the economy that older workers be replaced by younger ones.

But people just would not stop working voluntarily due to the difficult economic times. Also the elderly who did quit had no hope of gettign a job again because of all the young people in the job market.

So Social Security Act was passed (Roosevelt's New Deal) which made retirement a glorious event - work until age X (59, 60, 55 whatever) and you life after that will be automatically taken care of!

Cessation of work no longer meant abject poverty and penury, instead now there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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