The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

A Christmas Memory

| 18 Comments

I posted this on Facebook, but, on reflection, I kinda like the story, so I’m going to post it here as well.

One year when I was, I don’t know, about 12 I guess, someone outside the family gave Mom and Dad a game—one of those, “Read the question from the card and guess how the other person will answer” games. We played it, I think, Christmas afternoon. The question came up between Mom and Dad (I don’t even remember of whom it was originally asked) “How important is your job in making you happy?” and whoever did the guessing got it wrong, and was very surprised, and, it being a batch of Brusts, discussion ensued.

In the end, it came out that Dad’s position was that a person shouldn’t have to devote hours every day to something hateful and oppressive, but rather everyone should be able to do work that was rewarding and personally satisfying, and that was one reason he was a socialist.

Mom, on the other hand, thought that the job you held was unimportant, what mattered was the fight for socialism; being a revolutionary socialist was her profession, and her day job didn’t matter at all while that work was still to be carried out.

Just a matter of perspective.

That was Christmas in the Brust household. Merry Christmas, and long live the Fourth International.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

18 Comments

  1. Aw. Nice memory. Merry Christmas!

    Did Emma tell you we bought a red star for the top of our Christmas tree?

  2. Well, I have contradictory views on working for a living. Working is something that one spends a lot of your time at, so hopefully one can get enjoyment and satisfaction while working. Otherwise it is an emotional waste.

    At the same time, ultimately, a job is a job and you are selling your life an hour at a time. Hopefully you are being paid well enough that it is more or less a fair trade. If not, you need a better job. Unfortunately, too many people cannot get out of a drudge job.

  3. Guaranteed Basic Income would free up folks to pursue opportunities that fulfilled them. It would also end the “work or starve” incentive program currently in place. GBI could save “capitalism” the way the New Deal did, but I suspect most of the masters do not currently think it needs saving.

  4. I don’t know why, but it tickles me that your parents had opposite answers while having a matching / shared political reason.

    Fyi, some of my adult views on job-liking have their roots in your books, started reading as a teenager in the 80’s.

  5. skzb

    Kragar: The New Deal was able to pull off some of that by borrowing against the future. The bank is dry. I do not think it unwillingness; I believe capitalism is too brittle for any such measures to be possible today.

  6. There is plenty of money. The problem is that too much was given as a gift to the already wealthy, who think they deserve more money because they are rich.

    Taxing the rich and corporations, as was done in the past, would solve the problem. Also stop pouring money down the rat-hole of perpetual war. We would have way more money than would be needed for any desired social programs.

    It isn’t a problem of not enough money, it is a problem of how it is distributed. The wealthy want to convince you that there isn’t enough, so that we have to kill the social programs (SS) that exist, and give them more tax breaks. The money ratchet has only worked toward the wealthy.

  7. skzb

    There is certainly no shortage of money, or, more precisely, wealth.

  8. The last estimate I saw of net worth in the US was right around $100T. I would argue that the easiest way to make meaningful gains towards paying a fairer price for labor, and reducing both income and wealth disparity, is simply to STOP providing favorable tax treatment for the ~65% of that $100T that is inherited wealth, as opposed to earned wealth. Capitalism’s distribution of labor mechanism (paying more for unpleasant or highly skilled jobs) is a separate issue from capitalism’s concentration of wealth. I agree that late stage capitalism is a mess right now, but I’d argue that it’s because capital gains taxes and estate taxes are both lower and more easily avoided than income taxes, which hinders mobility, concentrates wealth and power, and means workers have to deal with unpleasant jobs longer, both in terms of hours per day and years of life. If federal and state income and FICA taxes were lower, people could save more or work less and maintain the same quality of life and have more time to do what they want.

    At interest rates equivalent to those earned by the SS Trust Fund (2.9% in 2018), a fund created by seizing 100% of the wealth in the country would generate $2.9T; not enough to support a UBI of $1k/month for all citizens (which would be around $3.9T). It might cover everyone over the age of 18, if the population were stable, but it’d be pretty close if you were looking to that to last forever.

    At some point, producing goods that create value for other people becomes necessary if we want to support current levels of consumption (which, admittedly, might be a trade-off people are willing to make to make if they can do jobs they want). Productivity gains from automation and more efficient energy sources might also change that equation, but those gains will take a lot longer to realize if all the machine learning and clean energy engineers who are motivated by money decide they’d rather develop video games or just sit around the house playing them.

    I think that’s the part where the “everyone does what they want” ideal falls apart for me. I sure wouldn’t be doing what I do today if money weren’t a consideration, but I know the market will never value my writing skills as much as my ability to help lead a company, partly because there are more people who can write as well or better than I can and partly because more people would enjoy writing. You’re a lot more well read on this topic than I am though. How does a “do what you want and everyone makes the same amount of money” society tackle the fact that there probably aren’t enough people who would want to collect garbage, clean up after sick people, or work in pest control?

  9. Well, robots. At least, I think that is what skzb would say. Or everyone takes one shift per month.

  10. skzb

    Yeah, or some combination.

  11. Steve, I know it’s not christmas themed, one thing has been burning at me for a couple years. When Vlad asks Sethra about the Left Hand of the Jhereg, she claims minimal knowledge. Given that they are an order of powerful sorcereresses and she is one of the most powerful sorceresesses in the world, I’m calling BS on that one. She’s involved in the Left Hand somehow.

  12. skzb

    Let me try it this way: In the US, the mob does a tremendous amount of financial dealing–money laundering, &c. Because a particular Wall Street banker is high level and powerful means he might well have mob connections, or know a great deal about them, but it is far from certain; they might well run in different circles.

  13. I could see the Left Hand working to prevent Sethra from learning about their activities, as those activities are often at odds with House of Dragon and Empire if not Cycle.

    And Sethra’s connection to the Jhereg is through it’s Right Hand via Kiera.

  14. Thanks. The one shift per month or “some combination” makes that make a little more sense to me. I still think there’s benefit in people with different skill sets focusing more of their time on what society values, but certainly capitalism doesn’t due a perfect job of sussing that out either. Chiming in on the Sethra Q, as someone pretty experienced in the banking space, I’d tweak Steve’s response say if you define the Fed and the Treasury accurately instead of appropriately, most high-level bankers have mob connections, just not necessarily mafia connections…

  15. skzb

    I accept the correction.

  16. Is there a more vicious gang going than the IMF?

  17. Ah, rhetoric! But what is important is the wonderful fish from this region, superior to all others! When reading this BBC News story today, I could not help but think the reporter MUST have read the Viscount series (style!), and had to share it with you: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200120-indias-brilliant-bombay-duck

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