An No One Shall Work For Money
( Originally Published 1916 )
IT is usually put forth as a knockdown argument that if men did not have to work for bread and butter they would not work at all.
It is assumed as a matter of course that money is the representative of the only universal motive of human energy, and that if all were assured a good living nobody would turn a hand.
I do not believe this. I believe that money is not a legitimate motive at all. To illustrate, let us imagine that state of the world, to which we will come some day, where wages exist no more.
Let us suppose we have so developed the state that every child is assured of care and due training. No ignorant, unskilled, or criminally defective beings are brought into the number of in-dependent adults. If incapable of decent life on arriving at manhood they are taken care of in proper institutions.
Let us suppose also that every person is fed, housed, and clothed by the state. No man or woman needs to labor to make a living. The entire motive of subsistence is eliminated.
Instead of this resulting in the paralysis of all energy, it would be but the beginning of progress. As Moryd Sheridan says: "When our existence is comfortably assured, the battle of life will have begun in earnest."
Men, with their present stock of ideals, would of course drop into idleness under such circumstances; but men now differ from men then almost as much as a hog differs from a man. It is frankly to be admitted that altruistic feelings and civic conscience must be greatly strengthened. Conditions now are the only practical ones for half-barbarous creatures such as we are at present.
But let us be specific. What motives precisely will supersede personal gain?
Instead of work for money there will be craftsmanship for the joy of it. People now love to make, do, and manage things, for fun, when the things are what they enjoy doing. The problem of civilization is to change labor into craft, and thus into play.
Machinery is more and more replacing the drudgery of hands. The steam dredger does the work of a hundred hand shovels; carry that on a hundred years and imagine the vast amount of disagreeable effort that will be taken from men.
There will be the enthusiasms of art, of music, of letters and science. Even now the best work here is not at all for money and is poorly paid.
The joy of home making is not a money-paid pleasure. The wives and mothers of the future will be as busy and as happy as now.
We are all sensitive to public opinion. The scorn of our fellows is a sharp whip. As we progress it will grow sharper. Men will be ASHAMED TO BE IDLE. Human beings work as hard to avoid contempt as to get money. To have the esteem and praise of the community will move men as powerfully as to make gain.
In a wage-free democracy we shall not only have better poems and paintings and scientific discoveries and music, but street cars will be run better, groceries and milk will be of better quality and better distributed, meals will be better cooked, clothes will be better made, and all the little, necessary work of the world better done, because al-ways a large part of the people can do these things and cannot write poetry nor compose music.
You remember Tom Sawyer's getting the boys to whitewash his fence, when he made it SEEM FUN to them?
That is plain human nature. And I believe all men will do more and better work when they shall work because it is fun to them, and when not to work will only mean the contempt of their fellows.
And, take it now, the people who never have to care for bread or clothing are about as energetic as the farm-hands, with, of course, notable exceptions among the perverts of society and of "society's" hangers on.