May 24, 2023Liked by Seth Jordan

This essay is a gem. I listened to it. Pithy and clear. Vocation, labor, support vs. pay. The key question I was left with is what is the "government"? Or what level of "government" would I entrust with guiding my labor to where it is most needed? I will say that thinking of my own gifts as if from the outside is helpful to me. From that point of view it is obvious that teaching children is my vocation and someone more gifted and experienced should fix my house. I split my attention in a hundred ways because the "labor market" puts a lot of "services" out of my reach. And so I do most things myself and teach a lot less.

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That's a great question about the government, Stu, and it helps me to try to draw out these distinctions a little further for myself. My short answer is that I definitely think it's an overstep for the government to guide or direct labor, but I'll try to clarify it with an example.

Today, lots of people think that a basic income is the way to go. Ideally it gives people the freedom to determine their own work (they have more flexibility) and it perhaps even gives them the choice not to work if they don't want to (they'd just have to live on the bare minimum). But in a sense we're trying to leave it in their hands.

Now if we think of unfettered capitalism - capitalism that doesn't have any labor laws restricting it - it kind of does the opposite: it puts the power to decide what a person does in the hands of the capitalist. They control what people are payed, so they can demand people work endless hours in brutal conditions.

But whose hands should it be in? Imagine if we lived in a small, self-sufficient community - a hundred people on a desert island. And imagine that there were a handful of people who were really great at farming, hunting, weaving, building, etc., and so it made sense to let them direct those activities - they know what they're doing, and we have limited resources, and it's a matter of survival. So we let them direct the work. But should we also let them tell people how much time they have to work, under what conditions, and what they'll receive? Should they be free to take as much of the goods as they want and then divide up the rest as they see fit?

Or on the other hand, should people on the island be able to do whatever they want, including not work at all, and demand a share of the goods that those people have produced? Because if someone receives a basic income and decides not to work, someone still has to feed them. Someone is being forced through taxation to work on their behalf.

Steiner's picture, as far as I understand it at this point, is that the community of adults come together on the island and decide what the general hours and conditions of work should be and then also look at people's individual situations - this person is old or injured, they should have to work less, etc., etc. Then the economic life still functions as it would otherwise - there's still management and direction by those who have the expertise (not only that though, we'd of course try to make the most out of everyone's capacities), but still, economic management can't overstep the decisions that the community has made concerning people's labor.

In Towards Social Renewal, Steiner says that it's possible that it won't be enough labor and that the community therefore won't be able to produce the goods they need. In that situation, the community should gather again and re-access the situation: Do we need to work more in order to prepare for winter, etc?

It's hard to translate this directly to the level of a state or national government. I would imagine some decisions about hours and conditions could be made at higher levels, but then the more individual decisions should be made at a more local level.

From what I can see, this already happens to some extent in Camphill communities. I think everyone's situation is taken on an individual basis - they meet with a group that represents the whole community and talk about their capacities, aspirations, and needs and together they decide what their work schedule will be. Of course, they all have some sense for how much work is needed for the community to thrive, and they hopefully believe in the mission of the community, and so they try to give what they can without running themselves into the ground... Of course, that might differ from community to community, but that's been my sense for how it works.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Stu. Hope all's well.

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