Mindy rescues cats. She has recently been involved in an heroic rescue of 75 semi-feral cats. I would argue that Mindy’s work has more social value than the work of a banker. Therefore the work of all cat rescuers who do their work voluntarily without pay has greater value than all investment bankers. I think it’s a point worth arguing.
Utilitarianism – Measuring Social Value
“it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong” (Jeremy Bentham)
How can we put a social value to a job? It is subjective. I’d like to refer to a jurisprudence concept called ‘Utilitarianism’. It is a theory which states that the best action is the one that maximizes the well-being of sentience entities. In other words if what you do generates more happiness and contentment in sentient beings than the work of another person then your work has more social value than the work of the other person.
The Value of Jobs
A study attempted to put numbers on the value of jobs. The study concluded that medical researchers add £9 of social value for every pound that they are paid. Conversely, a city banker destroys £7 of social value for every pound they are paid. Obviously, you can substitute pounds for US dollars if you live in America. And if every corporate lawyer went on strike nothing would happen. However, if nurses went on strike for a long time there would be a catastrophe. It begs the question therefore why we pay nurses far less than we pay lawyers.
Cat Rescue Has High Social Value
People who volunteer to do cat rescue are paid nothing. The work that they do brings them happiness and contentment. They’re doing something tangible to help sentient beings: to make them happier, to improve their well-being. They succeed. Their work improves the well-being of the worker and the well-being of the rescued cats. The work is actually morally obligatory because people created the feral cat problem.
If we agree that corporate lawyers and investment bankers have a negative social value as described above then quite clearly Mindy’s work has more social value than that of any city banker. Of course, we have to set against the well-being of the cat rescuer and the cats, the annoyance of some individuals in the community. Some individuals don’t like cat rescue because they don’t like cats. In turn this is because they think that feral and semi-feral cats spread disease. Of course they are incorrect. Humans spread more disease humans and there are few zoonotic diseases. I would like to discount this negative aspect to the weighing up of social value.
It is said that up to 40% of of people in work are in bullshit jobs. That’s a phrase used by David Graeber. He is a Prof of anthropology at the London School of Economics. He argues that capitalism creates worthless jobs and it does so because it’s the only way to keep the capitalist model alive.
The Ruling Class
David Graeber says that: “the ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger”. I see the point. The ruling class has to keep the masses down and occupied because if they have time on their hands and they start thinking they are going to become anarchists.
In the higher levels of corporate and investment finance the men in grey suits make millions by doing nothing at best and at worst they achieve something harmful. An example of high level bullshittery: the chief executive of a bank in the UK, TSB, Paul Pester was due to be awarded a £2 million “integration bonus” (a phrase which is meaningless BS) until the bank’s IT systems went into meltdown. Bryan Appleyard in his article in The Times today asked why he should be getting a bonus in the first place. Graeber says that finance is a system for “getting other people into debt and extracting money from them”.
Mindy’s work has more social value than the work of bankers. This is quite clear to me.