Tory MP attacks idleness

31 Dec|Robert Wringham

"Mankind is hard-wired to work. We gain satisfaction from it" - Nick Boles MP

The Idler’s “escape” correspondent Rob Wringham notes that Tory MPs are still slaves to the work ethic

Chances are, you’ve already heard of the Universal Basic Income or UBI. It’s an idler-friendly idea for a low-graft future and it’s been getting a lot of media attention.

The idea is to address the problem of galloping unemployment in the wake of increased automation by granting every adult citizen a monthly sum of money to cover a basic standard of living: rent on a small apartment, fuel and food enough to live. Research shows that we’ll probably carry on working for money anyway in order to increase our quality of life, but part-time work suddenly becomes viable and setting up a small business or artistic practice becomes a lot less risky. Frugal idlers may even want to embrace the challenge of downsizing to a point where their UBI covers everything, not a single finger lifted.

There are, of course, objections. And it’s good to hear these objections now because if we make a balls of implementing UBI, the consequences could be dire. For example, if we replace the current welfare system with UBI, and only later discover that some sort of weird inflation effect would neutralise its benefit, we’d end up with an awful lot of poverty on our hands. And even if we do everything correctly, one might say, it is still potentially expensive and complicated.

I’ve long felt, however, that the practical barriers will be overcome. Given the scale of the prize we’re talking about — all but an end to meaningless work — it is worth thrashing out the practicalities of UBI and pushing for its implementation. Our real enemy in all this is not a practical objection but a moral one: our masters love the fact that we’re forced into work each day and they won’t allow it to become negotiable. Wage slavery is the only model they desire for us. Only those clever enough to find and exploit the offshore tax haven loopholes may escape. Which is why they tow the line that work is spiritually virtuous.

Imagine my lack of surprise — but total delight — this week when a Tory MP called Nick Boles said this:

The main objection to the idea of a universal basic income is not practical but moral.

Its enthusiasts suggest that when intelligent machines make most of us redundant, we will all dispense with the idea of earning a living and find true fulfilment in writing poetry, playing music and nurturing plants. That is dangerous nonsense.

Mankind is hard-wired to work. We gain satisfaction from it. It gives us a sense of identity, purpose and belonging… we should not be trying to create a world in which most people do not feel the need to work.

Isn’t it nice to have confirmed what we always suspected? Just in case anyone thought we were being paranoid, this is what the critics of the post-work society actually think — or are happy to say.

It does not occur to people like Nick Boles that time might be occupied more pleasantly and usefully than with full-time, increasingly-obsolete drudgery

The objection to freedom is not that we can’t have it but that we shouldn’t, because Work — brutal, superegoic knuckling down — is King. Our orders are to carry on toiling, no matter how needlessly, until the whole world is used up.

Destruction of the Work Ethic is is one of four demands in the leftish, accelerationist manifesto of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams. The Idler, as it happens, is one of very few organs directly eroding the work ethic and, as such, plays a vitally important part in projecting us toward the post-work life.

It does not occur to people like Nick Boles that time might be occupied more pleasantly and usefully than with full-time, increasingly-obsolete drudgery, and that “work” is not the only way to find meaning in life. Or, more likely, it occurs to them perfectly well but they must toe the party line that Work Brings Freedom.

Too bad for him that it has led him to spout the absurdity that a life of art, craft and husbandry — a trinity close to the heart of any idler — constitutes “dangerous nonsense”!

Robert Wringham is a writer. Sling him a quid at Patreon.