In a wealthy society, could you buy a good job?

Let’s say that the world is so wealthy that most people don’t need to work.  Still they might be bored.  They might want to work.

What kinds of jobs could they buy?  Under one view, the resulting jobs would always feel phony.  The customers/laborers would never fear being fired.  They would never have to try very hard, or could never feel that the enterprise really mattered.  You might, for instance, buy a job as a blogger.

Under another view, markets in artificial jobs will be very advanced, a’ la Total Recall.  Maybe it will be only twenty hours a week, but your phony job will feel quite real.  It will feel better and more important than today’s jobs.  Theatre, drugs, and self-deception all can be directed toward this end.

If need be, we can create a separate job in making your phony, purchased job matter (that job surely would matter).  Contract to suffer twenty lashes if you screw up.  Or hire a third party to start sending money to ten poor kids in India.  If you are not a superior producer, the third party will stop sending the money.  He will also send you photos of those Indian children, now kicked out of the orphanage and with distended bellies.  Over time you will see them starve and die.  Of course to accept such terms is, since you will likely work hard, an ex ante act of altruism.

I don’t expect this exact outcome, but only because there are cheaper ways of buying jobs that seem like they matter.  I believe we will be able to buy very good and very fun jobs.  I do not fear that we will all become dissolute recipients of trust funds.

I am indebted to Megan McArdle for a lunch conversation on this topic.


Comments for this post are closed