This Incorrect Assumption About Essential Workers

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We hear much these days about “essential workers” and how they’re somehow different from the rest of us. The problem with this idea being that it’s not actually true. There is no useful definition of essential that doesn’t include everyone working in the economy at any one time.

Sure, over time that definition changes as we change what the economy produces but it is still true that everyone working is essential at any one time:

“Disposable workers” doing essential jobs

We can see where people are trying to go with this essential moniker, can’t we?

Millions of Americans are risking their lives to feed us and bring meals, toiletries and new clothes to our doorsteps โ€” but their pay, benefits and working conditions do not reflect the dangers they face at work.

Ah, yes, there it is, already in the first paragraph.

The aim is to say that these workers here, they’re special. As such they should have lots of lovely job protections, higher pay, paid leave, presumably their employer should come around and tuck them in each night.

The problem with the idea is that any pattern of production requires all the workers that go into that pattern of production. That’s what it means. Thus all workers working in an economy are essential to whatever it is that economy produces.

Sure, we’ve changed what this economy does produce. Rather less ballet than we used to have, more food delivery. OK. But it’s still entirely true that if we go back to having the live arts then ballet dancers are an essential part of their provision.

All workers are essential workers.

So let’s not allow ourselves o be fooled by this latest linguistic change in favour of labour union propaganda.

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ANNRQBloke in North DorsetMrVeryAngrybloke in spainLeo Savantt Recent comment authors
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Spike
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Spike

The original effort to have gov’t define “essential” (down to taping off individual aisles in Walmart to prevent “non-essential” purchases) was never about contagion, except to hope to slow it by compelling us to curtail as much of our lives as wouldn’t immediately cause new problems. (Remember the questioner who actually asked Trump why he didn’t shut food stores?) Not about “public health” but letting Governor Backslapper feel like a master of triage.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Does this essential quality apply to unproductive over paid workers, for instance in over “personed” council offices?

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

Now that is a good question. Does a ‘diversity officer’ or an ‘equalities czar’ have any place in a productive and free society. IMHO? No.

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

Well, it nice they’re recognising ” essential workers” aren’t purely the public sector, for a change. If the entirety of the public sector including the NHS had self isolated, you’d have hardly noticed their loss. Without the food supply industry you’d be looking at 10-20 million dead & the end of civilisation

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

This whole ‘key workers’ claptrap stems from the tenure of the egregious G Brown. Not only is it Wrong. It is deeply insulting. It also demonstrates colossal economic ignorance, which is not doubt why it stems from G Browns unlamented tenure.

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

Take away the IT support teams that keep the food logistics and delivery services going and see how long it is before they’re nee,ed “essential” workers. Or what about the managers who ensure that all these tools are available for those IT support workers, trucks get serviced etc.

Remember the old joke about the brain and the a***hole arguing about who was in charge? It wasn’t long after the a***hole closed up that the brain struggled to function properly.

ANNRQ
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ANNRQ

Basically, they need to read โ€œI, Pencilโ€ to understand how every part of the economy relies on and is connected to every other part. Everyone consumes and produces.

No one stands alone, except the Grizzle-wrestling mountain man who lives in a cave, eats twigs and freezes to death in the winter.