We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

The reason welfare is bad is not because it costs too much, nor because it “undermines the work ethic,” but because it is intrinsically at odds with the way human beings come to live satisfying lives.

Charles Murray, US author.

(I greatly enjoyed his recent volume, Human Accomplishment)

44 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Lascaille

    I have to disagree… Most people who are long term welfare recipients are basically lazy and unmotivated and are basically ‘satisfied’ with anything they get for nothing.

    I don’t think the average ‘career’ doley finds their life unsatisfying, I think most of them just have exceedingly low aspirations and think that being able to watch TV all day is more than enough for them.

    Getting a (poorly paid) job may well bring them more money but if they have no aspirations, why bother?

  • Got to agree with Lascaille.

  • Brad

    I’m not entirely certain what he means by this. Does the book amplify?

    If he means how people live “satisfying lives” to mean that there is a truncation of values on the one hand (as what one has made and created is diverted by force and disposed by someone else’s system of values) and on the other that it is not satisfying to have your needs met while not having the chance to apply their personal values, then I whole heartedly agree. The only person satisfied by Welfare is he who does the forceful taking, as they purchase a sense of well being and brotherhood (and perhaps a paycheck) by using other people’s money. Even an extorter/distributor of a purely Utilitarian stripe would gain some satisfaction in that their efforts quell revolution and maintain stability, and the cost to the subsidizer and subsidized both is a necessity.

  • I’m not entirely certain what he means by this. Does the book amplify?

    On the assumption that the book is longer than the quoted paragraph, I would assume so.

  • Quenton

    I’ll even third Lascaille. I’ve know plenty of people who work for a living and don’t receive any government benefits, yet let dishes and garbage literally form mountains inside their houses. Welfare doesn’t necessarily make people lazy, but it does let people with no skills and no ambition consume oxygen at my expense.

    Even worse, much like in the UK, many welfare recipients are far from poor. They simply use those benefits to supplement their less than legal income, essentially subsidizing those who would destroy society.

  • Brad

    ***I’m not entirely certain what he means by this. Does the book amplify?
    On the assumption that the book is longer than the quoted paragraph, I would assume so.***

    The book is about mankinds accomplishments in general and all that gives rise to it. Discussing Welfare’s roll in it could be tangential, nothing provided in the links says otherwise. The book wasn’t entitled The Why’s and Wherefore’s of Welfare Making People Unsatisfied.

    The heart of Human Accomplishment is a series of enthralling descriptive chapters: on the giants in the arts and what sets them apart from the merely great; on the differences between great achievement in the arts and in the sciences; on the meta-inventions, 14 crucial leaps in human capacity to create great art and science; and on the patterns and trajectories of accomplishment across time and geography.

    Straightforwardly and undogmatically, Charles Murray takes on some controversial questions. Why has accomplishment been so concentrated in Europe? Among men? Since 1400? He presents evidence that the rate of great accomplishment has been declining in the last century, asks what it means, and offers a rich framework for thinking about the conditions under which the human spirit has expressed itself most gloriously. Eye-opening and humbling, Human Accomplishment is a fascinating work that describes what humans at their best can achieve, provides tools for exploring its wellsprings, and celebrates the continuing common quest of humans everywhere to discover truths, create beauty, and apprehend the good.

    Yep. Apparently goes at length precisely about welfare. My bad.

  • veryretired

    I going to try not to push this too far, based only on the short description Brad posted, but I would like to make a few observations.

    Part of the reason that it may seem that the rate of achievement has fallen off is the “China economic growth” syndrome. By this I mean, we see repeated stories about the huge rates of growth in the Chinese economy, but what is not often mentioned is the low base level that it started from.

    If you go from 1 dollar to 2 dollars, or yuan or whatever, it may be a 100% increase, but the low starting point is a significant part of the equation.

    If one looks at the state of humanity in 1400, whether economically, scientifically, medically, in technology, or just about any other way, the baseline is pretty damn low.

    The average person knew very little in any technical sense, couldn’t read or write, lived at a subsistence farming level, didn’t travel, knew only a few hundred people, and generally lived in a world of religious myth, superstitious fairy tales and fears, and survived with whatever practical knowledge was passed down about the particular skills needed to grow crops or raise cattle.

    It is well to remember that something as simple as the steam engine was a world changing invention, and the printing press was still in the future.

    I would suggest that the natural tendency is to look at our present world and think that things are not so good because the problems are all too apparent, and seemingly intractable. While there are few inventions as earth shaking as internal combustion, for example, there are ongoing developments that belong in that league.

    The development of the computerized world culture, from popular silliness to highly technical scientific research sharing, is only one area that may rival the aforementioned printing press in its comprehensive effects on human progress.

    Ideas such as plate tectonics, barely half a century old, have resolved millenia-old questions, and sophisticated scientific and medical researches have unlocked mysteries as diverse as the rise of humans, the fate of previous epochs (i.e. dinosaurs et al), the curing of numerous diseases that have literally plagued humanity forever, and the potential of our expansion into the solar system.

    Norman Borlaug is held by many to be responsible in a very real way for the survival of hundreds of millions of people who would have starved to death in previous eras, and that is just one example.

    I might agree with the author about a great many things, but I find the pessimism of the sentiment as described in the quoted paragraph to be unfounded.

    When I try to look into the future, I find myself responding the same way the discoverer of Tut’s tomb did when asked what he could see through the small opening in the chamber wall— “Something wonderful”.

  • Counting Cats

    Haven’t read the book, so I don’t know the context or the argument, but hey, since when has ignorance been an adequate reason not to express an opinion on the Interwebby thingy? George Monbiot does it all the time.

    He presents evidence that the rate of great accomplishment has been declining in the last century, asks what it means,

    Could it simply be that the low hanging fruit has mostly been picked? Newton pursued his optics experiments alone, with just his mind and a few funny shaped bits of glass. He wrote Principia Mathematica, the most influential book of all time, with little more than Kepler’s laws as data.

    These days, to do new physics you need millions of dollars and a team of people. I am not surprised great accomplishment has declined, it is much harder to do, even for humanities greatest minds.

  • guy herbert

    The quote is the sort of arbitrary pronouncement that would as well fall from the lips of Monbiot: just substitute “capitalism” for “welfare” with the necessary changes. Who the hell is Murray to decide for us whether and how we are satisfied with our lives? What gives him a privileged insight into what (implicitly, all) human beings are like, or ought to be?

    Welfare in its most common forms – I’m not wholly against emergency food and shelter any more than I’m against public funding for fire-brigades or emergency medicine – is wrong for the same reason that theft is wrong. It amounts to someone forcing me to pay for their chosen lifestyle. I don’t care from a moral point of view whether the long-term welfare reciepient spends the money wisely or wildly, any more than I care whether the millionaire is serious and frugal or a vulgar wastrel. Welfare is my money, and the millionaire’s is his. Murray’s objection to welfare is overcome if its recipients live otherwise as he thinks they should.

  • Rob Spear

    Great accomplishment is always hard. Newton was a genius. Accomplishment in the past was driven by the idea of the Enlightenment – the idea that a world driven by reason would be a better place. Since everyone these days cloaks their ideas in reason, that is no longer a inspiring idea, and I don’t doubt that we shall see a return to more primeval ideologies within our lifetimes.

  • guy herbert

    Getting a (poorly paid) job may well bring them more money but if they have no aspirations, why bother?

    Well it could also be absence of hope, or that getting a poorly paid job makes them worse off (as is often the case in the UK system), or that available jobs are so hateful that the marginal gain does not compensate, or that they prefer idleness. I can sympathise with people who take advantage of the system when it is there, and which almost nobody says is wrong.

    I don’t think it is wicked to be idle. I think it is ultimately wrong to be idle at someone else’s expense.

  • guy herbert

    … Just as it is wrong to be busy at somone else’s expense. The “career doley” is less offensive than the career quangocrat, the difference being rather more than the ratio of their income. The welfare-beggar only takes what is given to him; the regulator will leave footprints on your forhead as he works to expand his role.

  • Let me re-write veryretired’s para:

    The average person knows very little in any technical sense, can hardly read or write, lives at a subsistence welfare level, travels narrowly, speaks to only a few hundred people face to face, and generally lives in a world of media myth, celebrity fairy tales and fears, and survives with whatever practical knowledge was passed down about the particular skills needed to rob and defraud.

    guy – spot on. Qangocrats are a huge menace. I seriously think that people who earn a living from the state should not get the vote, as to do so would be and IS vote-buying.

    However, I do think Welfare corrupts 90% of those who are on it and corrupted and about 10% are just dysfunctional regardless of welfare. Welfare is entropic. The Welfare State funds and houses the poor so they can have many kids (making the aim to “cut childhood poverty a never-ending gravy train) which would be difficult for the working family to afford, especially housing. A key is to NOT give additional housing to those on benefits if they expand their family. If they pop a sprog in a one bedroom apartment…TOUGH. Consequence.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Most people who are long term welfare recipients are basically lazy and unmotivated and are basically ‘satisfied’ with anything they get for nothing.

    As Guy says, remove the welfare, and the laziness will disappear.

    I’m not entirely certain what he means by this. Does the book amplify?

    asks Brad: What Murray means is that welfare, living on the work of others, is not congruent with a long-term happy life, which requires a measure of achievement. The book does not address welfare; I just thought I would mention it as it is one of his more recent books, and very interesting.

    These days, to do new physics you need millions of dollars and a team of people. I am not surprised great accomplishment has declined, it is much harder to do, even for humanities greatest minds.

    I am not too sure whether science does need big teams to explore new areas, or whether the returns for the humanities are in decline; I think Murray has half a decent point in wondering whether the state of our culture has a part to play; I personally think he veers too much towards pessimism.

    Guy Herbert writes:

    Who the hell is Murray to decide for us whether and how we are satisfied with our lives? What gives him a privileged insight into what (implicitly, all) human beings are like, or ought to be?

    Murray is entitled to a point of view, Guy. If he wants to say that he thinks it is not good for a person’s happiness to live on welfare, which, by definition, is paid for by someone else (usually not consensually), that is a valid point of view. It may be true that some bums who live on welfare are happy in a sort of “live for the moment” way but as soon as any thoughts turn to the morrow, they can panic. Hardly a very happy way to live. So I don’t chide Murray for saying what he said.

    For example, I may advise a man that drinking too much, smoking or ignoring exercise is not a good thing; the recipient of my advice is free to ignore me of course, and take the consequences. Murray writes about things like the impact of welfare, has changed public opinion about it, so I am inclined to listen to what he has to say.

    Rob Spiers:

    I don’t doubt that we shall see a return to more primeval ideologies within our lifetimes


    We have already done so: communism and fascism were both forms of tribalistic religions, dressed in secular garb, sometimes using the cloak of science. The interest in “alternative” medicines etc also plays into this. Arguably, the Enlightenment has been in retreat since the end of the First World War, if not before it. I am not as pessimistic as some about the state of the culture; in the West, there are arguably signs of a reaction against religion and irrationalism; consider the book sales of Richard Dawkins, for example.

  • Jacob

    I don’t think it is wicked to be idle. I think it is ultimately wrong to be idle at someone else’s expense.

    Guy said it very well.

    I, too, don’t think it’s wicked to be idle. I’ve been idle for some time during my life and can testify first hand that being a gentleman of leisure has it’s charms. One can read, write, have a rich social, spiritual or intellectual life, pursue one’s hobbies, travel. Definetly better than spending every day 8 hours at a job that you hate. Relatively few people manage to do things they like and also get paid for it.

    Guy is right, the sin is not idleness but parasitism.

  • I agree with Lascaille. I’ll add that the welfare system in the UK makes being lazy a rational choice.

    Veryretired is also right. Accomplishments are not slowing at all. Counting Cats suggests that the low hanging fruit has all gone, but those physicists also have access to better tools than they’ve ever had before. And we’ve hardly scratched the surface of the potential of computing technology.

    For real optimisim about human progress, see Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.

  • Counting Cats

    For real optimisim about human progress, see Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.

    Absolutely, I have been convinced of the singularity for many years. It will happen, and I hope I am here to see it. Although it could even mean the death of humanity, it could also mean it’s immortality. No one knows, or can know. I guess that is why it is called the singularity.

  • Midwesterner

    What Murray is saying is what researchers of humans and animals have known for ages. Happiness relies on a perceived ability to control your environment.

    Welfare separates cause from effect, and removes any perception of ability to control their environments. If anything, recipients become puppets getting their strings yanked by sometimes malicious puppeteers.

  • Nick M

    Let us please not get into the low-hanging fruit debate. Please! Otherwise we get into the “was Feynman smarter than Newton” schtick and that gets us nowhere.

    Science is about understanding. If it doesn’t make sense there is bugger-all point to it. The fact that you can run a computer simulation and get “answers” you don’t understand or could never understand no matter how smart you are is completely irrelevant. There is a role of computational physics (I’ve done enough of it myself) but it’s one screwdriver in the tool-box. We seek to understand the universe, not model it. Modelling is for engineers (and very useful it is too) but it’s not and can never be the complete picture. If I wanted a complete picture of the universe then I’d just go outside and look.

  • Sunfish

    Let us please not get into the low-hanging fruit debate. Please! Otherwise we get into the “was Feynman smarter than Newton” schtick and that gets us nowhere.

    They both were far smarter than I am. No getting around that part.

    I think the complaint is that the recent advances in physics are really not within the grasp of the layman. A soft-headed clown who studied a softer field within life sciences can intuitively understand much of what Newton wrote. On the other hand, the past century’s work in physics will quickly cause my eyes to glaze over and my head to spin.

    I suspect that the low-hanging fruit is called that because it hangs within reach of, well, me.

  • arch

    unfortunately this thread begun slightly on cross-purposes, and then struggled to recover.

    ‘Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800BC to 1950’ is a very interesting and useful book, a controversial methodology to some, but covering much more of our accomplishment than “just” quantum physics.
    to my recollection, welfare and laziness is not the thrust of Murray’s argument. yes, obviously he does have a lot to say about culture, so will touch on the satisfaction principle, but he takes a wider, more all-encompassing view of achievement and excellence. i would say his main theme, among many, was his notion of ‘organising structures’ and ‘transcendental goods’. (… which sometimes flirts uncomfortably close to theism for many readers, but still, with a bit of care, a mature, contemplatative, anti-nihlistic secular argument can still be retrieved from it.)

    but he has also written extensively on welfare and government’s interaction with the individual … i first read him years ago in David Boaz’s ‘Libertarian Reader’, amongst all the classic heavy-hitters and brand-names, his essay ‘The Tendrils of Community’ was one of my favortites, the the big light that got switched on for me, and helped consolidate my first uncertain steps in my new worldview … so i’ll admit it, on that basis i’ve a bit of soft spot for ol’ Charles.

    interesting video of Murray launching book and speaking at Cato (2003):

  • J

    Welfare is a bit like a mental hospital. If you didn’t really need it when you started, you sure as well will after a few years inside.

    I’m amazed how in this day and age, being unemployed (even voluntarily, without drawing any benefits) makes it extremely hard to find a job again. Try telling an employer that you took a 6 month holiday to write a book or something and they look at you like you’re some kind of deranged hippy who might walk out at any moment. Of course if you tell them you did it to ‘spend more time with my young family’ that’s A OK, but I figure they’d find out I was lying pretty easily.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    unfortunately this thread begun slightly on cross-purposes, and then struggled to recover.

    I guess this shows the dangers of using a quote and then making a reference to a book by its title. However, I think most folk get the thrust of what I meant to convey.

  • Paul Marks

    Most people who take government benefits do not think they are on welfare.

    “I paid for my pension [Social Security in the United States] with my national insurance contributions [payroll tax payments]”

    “I paid for this health care [N.H.S. or Medicare and Medicaid] with I paid taxes”.

    The numbers show that the above beliefs are mostly false – but people still believe them (or pretend that they do).

    Ditto with government education – the days when a little school board (there used to be a school board for every little area) paid for education from local property tax are long over (these days school boards are mostly massive, they do not cover local communities, and most money comes from State and Federal taxes anyway), – but people still act as if government schools were not welfare.

    They are of course (which is one of the reasons illegal immigrants in the United States are so expensive – their children go to schools for which their local property tax, assuming they pay it, covers only a small fraction of the cost), but people do not think of government schools as welfare.

    Marketing and packaging is also very important.

    For example, the “earned income tax credit” is welfare.

    People who do not even pay the Federal income tax get cheques from Uncle Sam (and some of those who do pay some income tax get cheques that are bigger than the tax they pay) – how is this not welfare?

    Yet people do not think it is, and people like the billionaire “independent” Mayor of New York city think that expanding this scheme is a good “nonideological” way of “reducing poverty”. Everyone should agree on with expanding this (and other) welfare schemes – it should not be a “political” matter.

    As for the C. M. quote.

    Well I suppose it was talking about how a person needs work to have a meaningful life.

    It is false on two grounds.

    Firstly a “gentleman” (i.e. someone with an independent income) can have a very meaningful and satisfying life. Of course such a person (if they are to have a meaningful life) will have to have objectives – but they could be to “make my garden look nice”, “visit interesting places”, “study history”, “bring up my children well” (and so on and so on).

    Earning a living by the sweat of one’s brow does not have to be part of a meaningful life.

    There is also the other ground.

    Many people do indeed have paying jobs – and their lives are about as “meaningful” or “satisfying” as a tissue covered in snot.

    I was a security guard for many years – I know what I am talking about.

    And, with the greatest respect, Charles M. does not. He knows about a lot of other things – but he has not been in a dead end job for year after year, there is no “satisfaction” there, and there is no “foot on the ladder to other things” either (some people can find “social mobility” but this is not a majority thing).

    It reminds me of one of Milton Friedman’s mistakes.

    He used to say that if there was 50% replacement level for his “negative income tax” then that would produce all the incentive to work that was needed.

    Again with the greatest of respect this was bullshit.

    Milton Friedman calculated his “negative income tax” (something a bit like the “earned income tax credit” – although, to his credit, Milton Friendman at least wanted to get rid of the other welfare programs, not introduce a new one on top) at what would produce a “decent income”.

    If people had a “decent income” without working millions (many millions) would not work. And saying “but you will only lose 50 cents of negative income tax for every Dollar you earn” would have just produced a laugh.

    Milton Friedman assumed that because he basically enjoyed his job (teaching economics) most people basically enjoyed their job (at least did not hate it) – whereas, in reality, for many (perhaps most) people work is “Adam’s curse” (terrible pointlessness and humilation), which they will only do if they (or their familes) suffer real hardship of they do not.

    For example, if I had a wife and children depending on me I might well go back to security guard work (in spite of “licensing” – I would find a way round that). Or do some other dead end job (working in a warehouse looking after imported goods, or whatever). Much though I hate dead end jobs – I would hate the sight of my wife and children starving to death more.

    But if the government was just handing us a “decent income” – forget it.

    Stilll, at least, Charles M. is not in favour of the “negative income tax”.

    But he should be open and say.

    “people have to face real suffering, hunger and so on, or they will not work – and we can not afford to keep millions of people depending on the taxpayers”.

    Not come out with bullshit about how dead end jobs (which is all most of the people on welfare are going to get), are somehow “satisfying” and meaningful – they are not.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course if there is “satisfying” meaningful work out there please let me know, but I do not think I will be told of any.

    “This is something one has to find for one’s self”.

    O.K. – so the many millions of us (perhaps the majority) who can not get such jobs are just shit-for-brains, or lack “motivation” or a “positive mental attitude”.

    Fair enough, fine.

    Next subject please.

  • Paul Marks

    I have finally got around to looking at the comments – Guy Herbert’s was the best (mine was too full of personal bitterness).

    Taking money by the threat of violence and giving it to other people is what is wrong with the Welfare State.

    Not people getting the money not having “satisfying lives” (or whatever).

  • RAB

    Paul, I am going to ask you a question that has probably occured to many here, but we have all been to timid in various ways, cultural and personal, to ask.
    Why was a bloke with a brain like yours doing menial jobs like security?
    Surely you should have been in charge of the operations whatever they were, rather than walking the perimiter fence or whatever?
    Frankly I think you should be Minister of Education!
    By the way though. I agree with what you say. Most jobs are tedious and out of our control for most of us, however well you are paid.
    I have been very well paid in my time but bored stiff. So I decided to change jobs. I have changed jobs many times. For more money and less, depending on the satisfaction the jobs gave me.
    I have changed direction entirely too. Johnathan Pierce mooted doing a post on this subject a long while back I seem to remember, but has yet to post it.
    Is it the lack of personal flexibility that limits us, or the facts of the limited market we sometimes (often) find ourselves in?

  • Johnathan

    RAB, let Paul answer the question himself but I’d add that he is every bit as smart as he appears in print.

  • RAB

    I’d add that he is every bit as smart as he appears in print.
    I have never doubted it from the first word he wrote that I read Johnathan.
    That post is still a good idea though. Perhaps I may have clumsily stimulated it?

  • The Dude

    These days, to do new physics you need millions of dollars and a team of people. I am not surprised great accomplishment has declined, it is much harder to do, even for humanities greatest minds.

    That and alot of very real technological developements is done in either very esoteric fields (where there is little non-specialised interest) or by Private Industry.

    I.e. alot of discoveries now aren’t readily understandable without several degrees worth of education first.

  • “I guess this shows the dangers of using a quote and then making a reference to a book by its title.”

    I wasn’t going to say it, Johnathan, and I didn’t say it yesterday.

    That’s because I attempted to make the point about precision citation only a few days prior and it went over like a fart in an elevator.

    But you’re right.

  • Paul hits the nail.

    I had a long exchange with “social creditors” who kept trying to brand one a “puritan” as if it were a sort of mental illness if you thought that work was better than dependence and that many people given enough to live would not work. (note to self: must fisk Douglas’ “shoemaker’s house” and “motor plant metal-bashers” “examples” one day).

    This is one reason why I am wary of Citizens Basic Income, but prefer large-ish personal allowances (so minimum wagers would skip income tax – £12k p.a.) and flat tax.

  • Gabriel

    Paul, I think you’re missing something valuable in what Charles Moore is saying. Forget about “fufillment”, you’re right it’s a silly idea, but there does exist, in empirical fact, a growing class of people of people in Britain who are making other people’s lives miserable (especially the poor) and it happens to be the case that they are all (or at least almost all) on welfare.

    Moore’s point is actually ripped straight out of New Deal ideology and for that reason it’s most BS, but there is a kernel of truth and if I was to have a stab at it, it would go like this:
    If you don’t have to work for a living then you have a lot more time to hang around on street corners taking drugs and abusing (verbally and increasing physically) random passers by.

  • Gabriel

    Further, I rather suspect that the guy who stole £4000 from my family’s house to exchange for £100 worth of ketamine does lead a rather unsatisfying life. Whether or not getting a job would help him, I could not say (my suspicion is that going to church a bit would be the best thing), but the phenomenon of mass underclass hopelessness and despair is very, very real and, sooner or later, something has to be done about it.

    (I keep thinking of things to add). A friend of mine was doing teacher training at one of those real sink schools that middle class people move house to avoid and even I was quite shocked when she told me that students would respond to her exhortations to do some work by responding that it didn’t matter because they were just going to go on benefits anyway. (True, strictly speaking, they should want to learn for the love of learning in order to become remotely civilized human beings, but that’s probably too much to ask.)

  • Whether or not to have a meaningful life is something that each person decides for himself, every day of his life. This is why some people with hundreds of millions in the bank are miserable and some people with terminal illness and no material possessions are as happy as if they’d just won the lottery.

    What we do in life matters so much more than what we think, feel, or believe. Some people have decided to do what will give their life meaning, others have not.

    It is funny that Paul mentions being a security guard. I was talking with a friend earlier this week here in the US who is a similar age to Paul and at times in his life has held what are regarded as respectable positions. He is now a security guard, works three days each week, and is happy as Larry.

    His boss said to him: “No offense, but do you ever think about being somebody? Do you have any ambition at all?”

    My friend replied: “Have you ever been on a retreat? You go to thought-provoking lectures, have conversations with interesting people, take long walks, read good books. I’ve shaped my life into a full-time retreat. I picked a job, on purpose, that lets me read while I work. I take lots of walks, discover new corners of the city every day, and help others by sharing my life’s worst trials with them. I’m pretty happy with the way things are now.”

    His life has purpose. He has decided what the purpose is and to pursue it. The “dead end” nature of his job is a feature, not a bug – because he has decided that for himself.

    How many of us have taken an active role in deciding the purpose of our lives?

  • Nick M

    The Dude,
    Err… no. It depends on the field. Particle experiments and observational astronomy are (usually*) pricey but many areas of solid-state or atomic physics and other stuff are accessible with very little cash. Theoretical stuff doesn’t cost much and not all computational physics needs a super-computer. I’ve known people who got PhDs in computational astrophysics using bog-standard Dells running Linux. Pure maths costs very little.

    BTW, have you recently had a rug urinated upon, a rug that “really tied the room together”?

    If Paul was CEO of a massive business I very much doubt we’d get anything like as much access to his wisdom and erudition and the world (or at least the Samizdatista part of it would be poorer). As far as I and thousands of SD readers are concerned I’m glad he’s got a bit of time on his hands.

    Speaking personally, I’m taking up a job (which will leave plenty enough time for my business) as a warden of a religious building. It will mean that I get to live in an idyllic cottage, in and idyllic village and not pay rent. I shall have to spend a few hours a week (c. 5) cleaning and gardening and stuff. I do not regard this as “beneath” me. I’ll actually be able to have more time and the luxury of taking my business where I want it rather than desperately working my socks off just to get the rent at the end of the month. For me it’s pure Micawberism. I’m down-sizing to up-size or I may just decide to let it all slide.

    My current landlady is utterly useless. She’s got a job, several houses to look after, three kids and her husband mainly works abroad. She’s so “busy” “firefighting” problems as they arise that her life (and by extension sometimes mine) is chaotic. She frequently pays the monthly rent cheque in three weeks late and it plays havoc with my budgeting for big purchases.

    *a great many astronomical discoveries are still made by amateurs with a few grands worth of kit.

  • Paul Marks

    A 12 hour shift structure would mean I did not write anything at all Nick M.

    Life would be a matter of sleep and work. Especially as “12” hours does not mean 12 hours.

    You get picked up for work long before your shift starts and you get picked up from work long after the shift ends.

    “Drive yourself” – security guards who can drive should still not drive themselves to or from work (think about it – do you want people who are only semi awake on the roads?). In London it is a bit different – London is the only region where public transport to a site is practical (but people who think they can be guards in London will find that it will grind them down eventually).

    Why did I do it?

    Because I am against the dole RAB. Rather absurd now as my council “allowance” is basically a dole (it is even much the same amount of money).

    Besides one tells lies to oneself (I will not bore people with them).

    “But surely you wanted to be something else, what personal vices prevented you”.

    Sure I did.

    As for personal vices: I did not drink, smoke, or chase women (or boys), and I studied hard.

    Never did me any good.

    Let us speculate about what would have happened if the University of York had granted me my D.Phil.

    I doubt it would have made any difference. Universities do not exactly fall over themselves to hire anti statist folk (no reason why they should – after all they are state financed), and free market institutes and other such are looking for a certain type of person (the sort of person I could no more be than I could grow a tail).

    From an employment point of view what I should have done was not try for anything useful at all (certainly not teaching – I waited for many years for a P.G.C.E. course and then got accepted to one in Bolton that was a farce).

    What I should have done is stay a civil servant in the Prison Service.

    The biggest mistake I ever made was leaving the bureacracy. It was a terminal error.

    And it was an error I made on C.M. grounds (and it is not Charles Moore, Gabrial). I did not want to sit about chatting all day waiting for “morning trolly”, lunch and “afternoon trolly”. I wanted to do something useful.

    There is no way back, but if I had my life over again you would not have got me out of that office without a crowbar.

    But then I only went into the Home Office (the Prison Service was part of the Home Office then) because with a first class B.A. and an M.A. I could not get anything else (other than security guard work which I had done for years).

    “But with a D.Phil things will change – people will employ me”.

    No they would not have done.

    People sense that I am about as flexiable as bit of cast iron – and they are right.

    When I once said (or another thread) that Dr Tim is right about all the things he says to people about me I was not being scarcastic (although I can understand that he was a bit disturbed that I knew about all the things he said), he IS right.

    But these are not things I can change.

    “Only because you do not want to”.

    Perhaps so (I do hate and despise the characteristics that make people employable in the modern world) – but at my age it is a moot point anyway.

  • RAB

    Thank you Paul.
    You are the last person on this site I would ever wish to piss off. I have too much respect for you.
    I have had misgivings ever since I posted that post.
    It’s just, well you talk about age. I’m a decade older than you and I was brought up to pass exams and go to univeristy and get a top job and, and well you know onwards and upwards!
    Well as soon as we all hit the real world, we know instantly that life isn’t like that dont we?
    I do not earn a living by dint of the degree I studied for, nor does Nick M and many others here, but we make out the best we can and in a way that suits us, like you.
    I just think you could do with a bit more money in your account.If you ever write a book, on whatever subject, I will promise you to get it published.
    Us bears of little brain have bumped into a few folk in our time that could help.
    Alas it is the same old story Paul.
    Not what but who you know.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not think my thesis (on Edmund Burke) would be worth a publisher’s time. I do not see a market for it. But it was kind of you to offer RAB.

    As for writing other books – that is the sort of thing that a person who is around university libraries and uses his brain to make a living does. The man I might have been, but not the man I am.

    On money: I will be telephoning a local newspaper on Monday. One of their people put a bit of paper through the letter box today about their need for people to deliver newspapers – and I am putting on weight (so could do with some walking).

    Still if I had a decent job the town of Kettering would miss me at “Town Forum” on Monday and “planning subcommittee A” on Tuesday.

    “But surely you would still go”.

    I think the time of arrival back from London (decent jobs tend to be in London) by train would make that impossible – also the fact that such meetings do not tend to serve a useful purpose is a point against them.

  • Midwesterner

    to deliver newspapers – and I am putting on weight (so could do with some walking).

    I have twice taken minimum wage jobs for my health. I enjoyed both jobs, but one of the jobs was 3 of the absolute best summers of my life. Around here one often sees middle aged persons of either gender delivering newspapers on foot. It is apparently a sometimes fashionable way to lose weight and get exercise.

  • RAB

    My wife has some great recipes for cider and pork Paul.
    I’m not sure it works as well with beef.
    For a tasty Beef stew, that we call a carbonade, Ness uses Mann’s Brown ale (pathetic alcohol content and hard to find these days) for it’s sweet nutty flavour.
    She puts cobblers on top, kinda scone mix triangles.
    Bloody delicious!

  • RAB

    Oops! What a prat!
    Wrong thread- Sorri !

  • Rab-my local pub serves ice-cold Mann’s Nut Brown.
    Now, Guy.
    If you withdraw the compulsory provision of welfare, ie restore property, what, exactly, are these alternative lifestyles you seem to think exist?
    How would they work, and would you consider them?

  • Paul-I’ve just finished three years delivering papers.
    I did it in a newspaper van, and delivered about 500000 copies.
    I also wrote 2 novels when I was isolated and unemployed.
    All it takes is time, and the will to amuse yourself.(A word processor helps too).
    What’s the worst that can happen?
    Get refused?
    I did!