Putting a Price on “Unpaid Work”

At Deseret, I responded to Helen Hester and Nick Srnicek’s After Work: The Fight for Free Time, and its thought-provoking ideas about how to value “unpaid work.”

Labor-saving innovations don’t make as much sense when the work process is valuable, not just the output. When work is evaluated for the formation it gives us, it’s easier to differentiate drudgery from laborious but humane work. As Jon Askonas notes in “Why Conservatism Failed,” his essay on technology and tradition for Compact magazine, technology is the most corrosive when it breaks the chain of apprenticeship to mastery. It’s easy (and usually cheap) to outsource entry-level work to computers or off-shore workers, but, as Askonas observes, “these technologies knock out the bottom rungs of skilled practice that allow for the development of mastery in the first place.”

Parenting is one of these kinds of work. Caring for a child obviously means shepherding a child along his or her own progression toward mastery — of the body, of emotions, of conscience. But the parent often goes on a parallel journey.

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