Sunday, July 08, 2012

On parallel pursuits

Let's follow on the theme of both Thursday's column and the Mound of Sound's post with a closer look at the corporatist "there are no bad jobs" philosophy - which serves as the obvious foundation for constant attacks on wages, unions and workers even if it's been walked back as a direct statement of principle from Jim Flaherty. And for a frame of comparison, let's look at another concept that carries similar significance both in personal fulfillment and in public policy.

Most people will spend the vast majority of their time and effort building two aspects of their life: a career and a family. Both can take countless different forms, including some which may be problematic based on power dynamics which aren't easily addressed through public policy. And both are directly supported by public policy - partly out of political calculation, and partly out of a theory that society as a whole is better off if people are able to engage in them.

So what would we think if a government were to announce that it believes there's no such thing as a bad domestic partnership? And that in its moral judgment, the goal of anybody lacking a spouse through no fault of their own should be to settle for whoever will have them - with government policy then developed toward that end?

My guess is that we'd rightly see such a declaration as even more jaw-droppingly outrageous than the slip of the mask that got Flaherty in trouble. But I'm not sure we should differentiate all that much between the two.

Yes, by and large we should provide conduits for people to seek out careers which contribute to the world around them - just as we provide incentives for family structures. But there are plenty of circumstances which make it desirable for an individual to be able to pursue other options without feeling it's necessary to suffer in order to cling to one's livelihood, whether based on outright abusive employers or a simple lack of any match between the two parties. And we most certainly shouldn't tolerate the power of the state being used as a means to force anybody to accept what they don't want at the expense of their ability to chart a viable course for their future.

Instead, we should be looking to provide supports for the "precariat" who may be particularly vulnerable on both fronts. And anybody who's instead focused in forcing people into what can indeed be bad relationships - whether personal or employment-based - should be been as downright dangerous to meaningful individual choice.

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