Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ann Romney and "Work"

I've been trying to stay from the momentous issue of Ann Romney and "work,"  and the more general question of whether she has ever done any--partly because I don't like to have my agenda set by the cable networks.   I'm certainly willing to concede (pace the candidate) that housework is "work," but I can't help but wonder: just exactly what did Ann Romney do to earn her bones as a housewife?

I know what you're thinking: Romney's a guy with something north of $200 million, knocking back something close to a 10 percent annual return: is it likely that she spent all that much time changing the nappies and boiling the potatoes?  Actually, maybe so.  This is also, after all, agood Mormon family,  and they weren't always pig rich.  This is also the guy (no, I'm not going to forget it) who straps his dog to the roof of the car.  Ann seems to be a likeable, uncomplicated person and it is just possible that she has indeed actually poached an egg.

But this is also a family with places to go, people to see, stuff to take care of, and I wouldn't be at all surprised that the real magic word for today is "staff."  A housekeeper. A gardener.  A driver.  An under house parlor maid.  A groom of the backsta--okay, perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.  But now I'm remembering Bertrand Russell as he explains  the meaning of work:
Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind is capable of indefinite extension: there are not only those who give orders, but those who give advice as to what orders should be given.
 It's hard for me to credit that Ann Romney's work has not (at best) morphed from class one ("unpleasant and ill paid") into  class two.  ("pleasant and highly paid").

Yet this insight alone, however important, is not the end of the story.  Class two, however pleasant and highly paid, is surely by some definiton still "work."  Somebody has to tell the rest of us what to do and how to do it; else there is no telling what we might get up to.  Indeed, if you take the responsibilities of management seriously enough, you could quickly persuade yourself that the unpleasant and ill-paid stuff is hardly work at all.

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

I work for a professional services firm as a manager and that means I have to do a lot of work, on close demand and I also supervise a bunch of other employees to do some of this work but also who work for others that I have to support/supervise. My approach is to be the go-to guy for support for my team. In other words, no hierarchy; we are a team. I doubt that this is the Romney model.