In our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.

Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without writers or musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.

Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be.

You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people.

@danso while I agree with you in principle, I'd argue that tube workers are a poor example. If there's any job that can and should be automated, it's train drivers, but these disruptions are used as a means to protect those jobs.

I grew up in Vancouver, where the trains were automated when they were deployed 35 years ago. Older systems can be upgraded for automation to save money, but the workers obstruct this at every turn.

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