A Little Skill is Something to Have

If you work your job probably requires some skill level. Thus it is almost certain that the job or skill will be part of the economy. If it is part of the economy, your skill is going to be compensated by money. Is this really the case? That it is always compensated? Since the skill is a real one, someone needs us, pays us. But, payment or not, the more basic fact is that we have a skill. We are good at something. We are of use to the world at large.

People are good at things. It seems normal enough to continue on to the notion that the skill would be economically viable — expressed through the economy —which amounts to saying through money. In the 1840s Jeremy Bentham (Mill, whomever) suggested a norm. He suggested that money would normatively exchange for utility. It seems to make sense, too. Because a world run by money had already been coming into existence, at that point, for maybe a hundred years or so. Adam Smith had first suggested that persons could be effectively motivated by money. We assume the utility did not just drop out of it all of a sudden at some point. The book about this kind of conversion -from human, or “use” value, to monetary value based on profit-seeking, “Wealth of Nations” -was out; it had been 70 years. However just like the way “seventy” can be abbreviated from seven letters to two numerals - ‘70’ - money seems to abbreviate everything. One concept they use in economics is the concept of efficiency. Everybody seems to want efficiency. Make the thing faster. Pretty soon we are clunking ourselves in the head like a cartoon character. And they are more violent today than they used ta be. I mean the cartoons.

It does not seem to be the case that we get paid for the quantitative utility of the skill or job. For example, the word “efficient,” which originally means a saving of effort or work, comes to mean that it made more money, which is different from meaning that it was a job done well. Are we building a better world? Or are we tryinna “take the money and run” (Woody Allen, Palomar Pictures International, 1969). If a girl is cute every man — every body — likes her. Does that translate to greater efficiency at getting male stares?

Everybody wants to be skilled. Everyone likes to be skilled.

Having a skill means doing something significant. We are skillful persons and therefore we can make money or gain employment. Or, that is the way to should be. That ought to be a reasonable way for a world to have worked.

But if you really think, how often in the real world do you see worthwhile skills at play? We admire James Bond; he is skillful at ordering Martinis. Usually, we get our money - we earn our keep - by flummoxing others, by selling them unnecessary shit, or simply talking others’ ears off with bullshit concerning how we are “libertarians.” That, plus laying out shoe catalogs, accounts for 75% of everything that happens in the economy. But let’s say you build houses. OK; we have finally found a skill but how d’ ya think the persons buying them got the money in the first place? Honest, hard work? Oh, right. The construction workers live in good houses but the money-talking advertiser-phonies have bigger ones. Everything always gets bigger, bigger, bigger but the meaning of the world gets smaller. As Tina Turner once sang: “What’s utility got to do with it?” Oh. Sorry. That was the gas company.

It’s great if you are good at something. So, one might think that you would get paid for what you actually did. That is not how the world works. It’s salesmanship, flummoxing others — yes, that does translate into money.

So, instead of being a straightforward world that translates labor-value into money, it is about as likely as making a baby through your having a sex fantasy. When you are alone in the bathroom? There is a lot of utility in that — if you are speaking the language of an economist! There is a divide: I mean the one between real work and the fantasized world-reality we all live in.

Deep down, in the real sense, we are persons — persons capable of work. We have a real capacity to do something good. We have the capacity to earn the respect of others for what we have done. We could put our lives to good use. Instead we encounter this world that is 96% bullshit. We encounter all this fake stuff, but the fact remains: you could do a real thing.

You could do something of value. But

But no one cares. There is this divide between the genuine worth that human beings have - this may be found in the work that they do, or simply in that they have talent, and will be happy to share it - and having nothing to do, no place to go with that talent because the world doesn’t want you and has a so-called “economic” structure that has no use for what you think sounds useful enough. You can do things, you could build mountains, you could use your mind in ways that really count — the only problem is that the world doesn’t want you to do that. [bummer, Huh?]

In my work, I take a look at a particular American intellectual formulation, a view that says capitalism is “private,” as if there were no public/social aspects