Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Ministry of Happiness

In his book The Moral Economy of Labor, Dartmouth professor James Bernard Murphy argues that business, as it is currently practiced, is an obstacle to human happiness. His solution is to reorganize everything, from the division of labor to ownership and control.

Who should spearhead the grand redesign of our economy? Why, a government agency, of course. Murphy writes:

"Government should be concerned with the distribution of meaningful work not because of a putative right to such work but simply because meaningful work is so fundamental to human happiness and well-being. How should government go about the business of enhancing the opportunities for self-realization in work? The obstacles to self-realization are so deeply rooted in the institutions of our economy that only profound changes in the ownership and control of industry can create the opportunity for greater access to meaningful work. Government can play a significant though indirect role supporting institutional change in our economy -- change that might well be desirable even apart from its role in helping to create meaningful jobs."

He should just call it what he wants it to be: The Ministry of Happiness.

This is a prime example of the intellectual threat to business. This is not the scribbling of some isolated philosopher. He teaches students at one of the most prestigious colleges in the world. His ideas influence the teaching of business and business ethics in many more universities around the world.

Here, a man who has never run a business presumes to recreate not just one business, but the whole social order.

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