Universal Basic Income: Gilbreth and Socrates and the philosophy of work

I had forgotten about this, until it crossed my mind while I was thinking about the earlier article. Cheaper By the Dozen (1948), by Frank Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, was one of the books of my childhood. Gilbreth, Senior, was a time and motion specialist, always seeking a better way, one that would save time. Here’s how the book ends:

Someone once asked Dad: “But what do you want to save time for? What are you going to do with it?”
“For work, if you love that best,” said Dad. “For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure.” He looked over the top of his pince-nez. “For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”

There are those who would look askance at such a life, but they are wrong. When Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living“, he should have gone on to say that this attitude was a social construct, designed to make the elite sons of the aristoi feel good about attending his classes, something unavailable to the bulk of the peasantry. Throughout history there have been untold millions of people who led happy, fulfilled lives despite the fact that none of their achievements ever had the word great attached to them.

In Life you set your own victory conditions, and a perfectly valid life can be had seeking to improve your skills at mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.

 

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