At Work & Economics 101

IFWE’s Midweek Memo – 04.24.13

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Offering you the latest news, analysis, and opinion on all things faith, work, and economics.

Why Tim Keller Wants You to Stay in That Job You Hate  This Is Our City

If you’re doing a lot of stuff that’s just useless, it’s only useless in the short term because in the long term you might be getting skills with which you might help people. You can go to a better company or start your own, but for a period of time, if you get too squeamish about doing useless stuff, you may never get good in your field at all. You’ll never be salt and light in it later. –Tim Keller

Does God Care Where You Work?  Relevant

 […] because we are made in the image of a Creator God, our work also has the power to bring good things to life. It is our choice how we put our gifts and skills to use. Using your time and skills that ultimately come from God, you can create something that can fulfill a societal need. –Kyle Stewart

How do you take down poverty? One toy block at a time.  AEI Videos

If we truly care about helping the poor, we should prioritize economic growth, which is the key to lifting whole societies from poverty to prosperity. In the AEI book “Economic Growth: Unleashing the Potential of Human Flourishing,” three professors provide a compelling moral and economic case for growth. The authors write: “Economic growth marks a boundary between wealth and human flourishing, on one side, and poverty and degradation, on the other.” –Values and Capitalism

 Danes Rethink a Welfare State Ample to a Fault.  The New York Times

The Danish model of government is close to a religion here, and it has produced a population that regularly claims to be among the happiest in the world. Even the country’s conservative politicians are not suggesting getting rid of [the current welfare state]. […] But few experts here believe that Denmark can long afford the current perks. -Suzanne Daley

What is Real Compassion?  FEE

In every election campaign, we hear the word “compassion” at least a thousand times. One political party supposedly has it, the other one doesn’t. Big government programs are evidence of compassion; cutting back government is a sign of cold-hearted meanness. By their misuse of the term for partisan advantage, politicians have thoroughly muddied up the real meaning of the word. –Lawrence Reed

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  • Nathan

    Tim Keller’s quote about “useless” work is really grating. First, the payoff he proposes doesn’t sound very reassuring: “you MIGHT be getting skills… you MIGHT help people”. Second, “useless” is a strong word and I don’t think there’s any argument to be made for literally useless work unless it’s put towards joining a fraternity and then it’s called hazing. Lastly, I would be more interested in a rigorous argument combining comparative advantage with the knowledge problem which goes something like “Be encouraged that you can provide value while doing seemingly ‘useless’ work by presumably freeing your more experienced colleagues to do what they do best. Your work is probably highly motivated to position you to be productive even if you can’t see it. While it may be tempting to go to a better company or start your own… a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; in other words don’t underestimate the risk of uncertainty.”

    I skimmed the interview of Tim Keller and this was only one of many points. Also, more people need encouragement to stick it out with jobs when they are unfulfilling even though sometimes unfulfilling jobs do need to be abandoned. Tim’s comments struck me as more distracting than helpful.

    • Nathan, I couldn’t agree more. Keller could have made a better distinction between useless and “seemingly useless” because no work is useless, though it’s sometimes easy to think that way. Some positions make just make it more difficult to see the end product, but even the factory worker repeating the same task over and over is adding value to the world even if they never see the masterpiece their hands help create.

    • Nathan, I decided to write a blog series on this. Here’s the first post: http://blog.tifwe.org/is-your-work-useless/

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