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Stupid, Pointless Jobs


It’s more evil than CRIME... it’s a greater threat than nicotine... it’s more corrupting than DIRTY words... No, not drugs or paedophiles. I’m talking about pointless, stupid, unnecessary work. We’re surrounded by it... it’s in your mail box (junk mail doesn’t conceive, plan, budget, design, print and mail ITSELF – there are full-time jobs to do these things)... It’s on the phone (have telemarketing jobs ever increased the quality of life for one single human being?).

Then there is the ultimate menace, the absolute evil... Financial Services. Financial Services is a huge industry – banking, credit cards and insurance are bigger in the UK than manufacturing. Financial Services has provided vast numbers of pointless jobs.

No creation of anything useful or worthwhile is involved

Financial Services is pretty much all based on what used to be called usury - the practice of making money from money. No creation of anything useful or worthwhile is involved. No real wealth is being created (to use Buckminster Fuller’s definition of real wealth as whatever “nurtures and accommodates human life”).

All that pointless work. And it’s not just the thousands of unfortunate office wage-slaves. Consider also the buildings that house the Financial Services companies, the computer systems used, the junk mail they send out by the thousand tons.* All of this requires human work to conceive, plan, design, schedule, build, manage, implement, market and deliver. Pointless jobs.

A recent survey showed that 60% of UK workers feel their work is of no use to society. Look around and be aware of the pointlessness of most work. There are examples everywhere – the so-called loyalty cards which every large retail store seems to issue, the over-complex tax system which creates a necessity for accountants (and for people who conceive, plan, design, schedule, write and print the tax form instructions, and the people who make the headache pills for everyone who has to fill in a tax return).

Everybody in my street (except me) has a burglar alarm installed (in spite of the fact that the burglary rate in my area has been virtually zero for years). Try to imagine the amount of human work involved in conceiving, planning, designing, producing, marketing, installing and maintaining all the products and services which owe their existence to our over-stimulated fears of crime and property loss.

Now try to imagine a society where people work only on things that are essential, beneficial or enjoyable. The essential work would probably require only a few hours a week at the most. There would still be unpleasant jobs, but if we had a true labour market, the most unpleasant jobs would be the highest paid jobs.

* Update: According to Dan Ariely's book, Predictably Irrational [p126], the credit-card business alone sends out six billion pieces of direct mail a year.